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Race Report Round 6 Blancpain Endurance Series Navarra 13th to 14th October

Draper signs off maiden Blancpain season with points finish

#60 VON RYAN RACING, JULIEN DRAPER
FINISH POSITION: 19th overall, 9th in Pro-Am class
START POSITION: 25th

The sixth and final round of the 2012 Blancpain Endurance Series saw Julien Draper finish in the points with a hard fought ninth place in the Pro Am class of the three-hour event at the Navarra circuit in Spain.

Driving the #60 Von Ryan Racing McLaren MP4-12C GT3 car, Julien and his all-British driving crew comprising of brother Matt and former Porsche Carrera Cup GB star, Stephen Jelley, secured the best result of their 2012 season in a race dogged by torrential rain.

In a season that has seen both the team and drivers learn a new car, championship and circuits, to finish in the points was a real high point to end the year on, something all parties agreed on.

 

Free Practice

Despite still suffering the effects of flu which prevented the London-based driver from a strong finish last time out at the Nürburgring, Draper didn’t let his illness show, rapidly getting up to speed in free practice.

Going out first in free practice, Julien got up to the speed of the leading cars, getting to grips with Navarra’s tricky 2.4 mile mix of high and low speed corners in a sunny, but chilly session. Before heading out in the McLaren, Julien set himself a challenging target of getting into the 1:40s on old ‘scrub’ tyres, and narrowly missed out on this, but got close enough to find a solid setup for qualifying the next day.

Strong performances from Matt and Stephen saw the Von Ryan team leave the circuit on time and with full of confidence heading into Sunday’s qualifying and race action.


Qualifying

Sunday morning brought dark clouds over Northern Spain, and the rain held off for the opening qualifying session, where Julien would run the Von Ryan car on brand new Michelin rubber for the first time over the weekend.

Arguably the McLaren was one of the cars to have around the Navarra circuit, with five MP4-12cs in the top twenty one cars, but Audi had stepped things up a gear in their quest for the overall title and had four R8 LMS Ultra’s in the top-six of the grid.

Julien’s lap of 1:40.438 was good enough for 21st overall, ninth in class, and the Brit was pleased that he had a higher average speed than the quickest car, the Audi R8 of Frank Stippler.

Session two saw rainfall, albeit just a little, and Matt did a couple of quick laps to ensure he qualified for the race, making sure Stephen had a car that was in the best possible shape to do the hot lap. Unfortunately, Stephen, was held up by a slowing car while on his flying lap (a 1:38.560), which compromised his time, but ensured the #60 Von Ryan car would be in a good position to challenge for a top position (25th on the grid, row thirteen).
 
 
Race
 
A handful of hours later, the stellar collection of forty cars lined-up to compete in this, the final Blancpain Endurance Series round of the year. With the title still to be decided in all classes, there was a tense air up and down the grid; one mistake could prove costly. For Julien, this race was the final opportunity to display everything he had learnt this year. Stephen would start the race, Matt would do the middle stint, and Julien would get his first opportunity to finish a race.

A super start from the thirteenth row and some ballsy overtakes catapulted Stephen up the order just before the rain came down. Three laps of rain caused a little chaos down the order, but Stephen kept at it, and the McLaren acclimatised well to the changeable conditions. Up front, another McLaren was leading the way, the Hexis Racing car of Portuguese sports car star and former F1 test driver, Alvaro Parente.

On lap 41, Stephen pitted from eighth place and handed over the car to Matt. A great pit stop from the Von Ryan team ensured Matt was on his way quickly and he re-joined in fifteenth place overall.

From here Matt settled into one of the best stints of his season. Matt was able to keep a consistently quick pace, catching the opposition in front, and passing for position. It was looking very good for a podium finish, until the rain started.

Julien’s race got going on lap 65 when the team pitted Matt from sixteenth place to change onto wet tyres, in perfect time for the heavy rain. Keen to make up for a disappointing race in Germany a few weeks before, the young Brit charged back into the race, desperate to secure the seemingly elusive Pro Am class podium.

A few minutes on track and Julien was immediately on the pace and went from fifth to fourth in class and had eyes on third. However, the safety car was deployed due to the conditions, which were now monsoon-like, halting Julien’s progress. After several laps the safety car was pulled in and Julien was racing again. Unfortunately while lapping a slower Audi, the driver of the Audi lost control tapping the #60 Von Ryan McLaren into a spin that caused Julien to lose five places.

Understandably annoyed, Julien kept calm and chased after the cars that had got past, but overall the incident saw #60 lose 80 seconds, an unfortunate accident by a backmarker, and costly for Julien’s quest to get onto the class podium.

Shortly after the incident, and with more rain another safety car period was declared and so the field of remaining cars snaked their way around a now highly treacherous lap of Navarra.

Eight laps. That is the amount of racing-speed laps Julien was given in his stint. The safety car, already in its second appearance in the race didn’t leave the circuit and remained on track until the race was red flagged by the race director after 89 soggy laps; a sorry end to a race that offered so much and finally showed the true pace of the McLaren and Julien together.

“That was a great weekend to finish on,” said an upbeat Julien, fresh out of the car.

“The guys at Von Ryan were great, Stephen did an amazing stint and Matt did really well with some very steady times. It was a bit frustrating that I didn’t get to actually race much, especially given that I was a victim of the incident with the backmarker, but sometimes these things happen. What would’ve been fifth in class was suddenly ninth in class, but I’ll take that. It’s great to get some points and show the pace that we’re capable of producing.

“I have to thank Dave and his team, the car this weekend was spot-on and it was a pleasure to drive. I was a bit disappointed with my performance in free practice and qualifying as I felt I could’ve gone a little quicker, but it was my first time racing here and I’m pleased with my pace overall.  When you consider some of the bad luck we’ve had this year we got off lightly this weekend and I’ll take the points happily. I’d also like to congratulate the championship winners and Stef (Dusseldorp) for winning the race today. Stef was a massive part of our Spa 24 weekend and I know he is a bit of a star!”

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Race Report Round 5 Blancpain Endurance Series Nurburgring 22nd to 23rd September

Draper shows pace on Nurburgring debut despite illness.

After a lengthy two month break since the last round of the Blancpain Endurance Series, action got underway in Germany for round five of the championship where Julien Draper and the Von Ryan Racing team continued their chase for a class podium and win.

The infamous Nuburgring circuit in Germany is steeped in motorsport history, due in part to the longer “Northern Loop” track (the Nordschleife), which was built in the 1920s around the small village and medieval castle of Nurburg.

While both Julien and Von Ryan had limited experience of the track that has played host to the German and European Grand Prix, Julien’s team-mate Stephen Jelley had driven on the GP circuit with mixed fortunes in recent years; his experience of the track would prove highly valuable.

 

Free Practice

Ensuring that he wouldn’t use his race weekend to learn the circuit, Julien spent time before the weekend acclimatising himself to the 2.8 mile circuit, despite fighting off a viral bug that proved to be an unwanted distraction and pain point all weekend long. Despite this, the London-based driver carried on with preparation for the weekend and managed to get a handful of laps under his belt. The time spent by Julien learning the circuit by way of a hire car paid off handsomely, and allowed Julien to spend free practice working on setup of the McLaren MP4-12c and bedding in components like the brakes. Despite September being technically summertime, the famous Nurburgring microclimate ensured teams had to cover their bases setup wise.

Freezing temperatures earlier in the day mixed with periods of sunshine and the expected rain made for a jumbled first session. Julien capitalised on the mixed conditions and posted the seventeenth quickest time, tenth fastest in the highly competitive Pro-AM class. Hopes were high as the day came to a close, could tomorrow be the day to really crack the top of the class?


Qualifying

With qualifying taking place on the Sunday, conditions differed again and the Eiffel Mountains basked in cool summer sunshine. At the sharp end of the grid, Audi and BMW dominated having seemingly found chunks of time. This raised eyebrows, but the Von Ryan team took the sensible approach of not chasing a one-off lap time, rather working on a race setup that would see the maximise opportunities during the three-hour race later that day. The usual downside to a large grid, traffic, did add to the team finishing lower than they would have liked in 24th overall, but all parties were hopeful of better things come the race at 2:30pm local time.
 
 
Race
 
While Julien’s younger brother Matt had started the majority of races, everyone wanted to try a new option from the start. Matt’s driving style works well from the off, but on a circuit like the Nurburgring it can be advantageous to be more aggressive and challenging at the start. Big heavy braking areas and chicanes2 allow for overtaking to occur; as such Julien, despite suffering with a virus that “definitely wasn’t man flu” began the race.

From the off Julien was fired up and making up places from the lowly twelfth row position. On the exit of the turn 1, a misunderstanding with a BMW Z4 tapped Julien into a spin that caused him to lose a handful of places initially, but more than twenty as he waited to safely re-join the race. After a quick pit stop to get the thumbs up from the team, Julien headed back out and immediately set about a fight back that would see the 27 year-old rocket through a very able field.

Following his handover to Matt on lap 19, Julien fed back information to Stephen who would be next in the car, taking the McLaren to the flag. Elsewhere in the field there were issues for the title contending Marc VDS Racing’s BMW Z4, while the Black Falcon Mercedes team led both the Pro and Pro-Am classes with their two entries.

With Stephen now in the car, Matt and Julien watched patiently to see how the former BTCC and Porsche Carrera Cup GB driver would improve their position. Come the end of the race, the team’s efforts had resulted in a 28th place finish, eighteenth in class and just a few laps away from taking fellow McLaren team Boutsen Ginion and their drivers Edouard Mondron and Jerome Thiry. The finishing result saw the drivers of car #60 come home as the fourth best McLaren finisher out of six.

“It was a really difficult weekend for several reasons,” said Julien post-race. “Earlier in the week I started to feel unwell and rested a lot before coming over to Germany. Stephen and I got here a day earlier to do a track day and learn the circuit and I didn’t feel so bad, but by the time Saturday came I felt dreadful. I’m not sure what happened between free practice and qualifying, but the teams at the very front made a giant leap forwards and the McLaren teams suddenly no longer were on the pace. We focused on a good race setup and that would’ve paid off had it not been for the contact on the opening lap. It was a racing incident, but it ruined our race as we were on the back foot trying to get back up there.

“Matt did a super job and was quick throughout the weekend, and Stephen’s experience from the Porsche races here was so useful to me personally. Luckily we’ve got Navarra only a couple of weeks away now so the aim is to go out on a high, hopefully taking a podium in the process. The team have been great this weekend and again produced a car that has pace and reliability in spades, bring on Navarra.”

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Race Report Round 4 Blancpain Endurance Series Spa 24 Hours 27th to 29th July

Free Practice


Free practice was the first time Julien would drive at the famed Spa Francorchamps circuit in a GT3 car, and it took the young driver a few laps to get a feel of the circuit. With only five laps running in the car under his belt, Julien had figured out Eau Rouge, Blanchimont and Pouhon, three of the fastest and most tricky sections of the track. read more

Qualifying

Qualifying should have been a relatively trouble-free exercise for the Von Ryan team, however Stephen was unlucky as he had two red flags when he was set to go quicker. As a result Stephen had to set his quickest lap under fading light which meant the team wasn’t able to be as high on the grid as perhaps it should’ve been. Stef, Matt and Julien all had valuable time in the car ahead of the race, but a change of the turbo in the #60 car meant the team would have to serve a stop/go penalty within the first three laps of the race, having qualified 33rd overall in a grid of almost 70, 21st in class.
 
 
Race
 
Race day arrived and all talk was centred on the weather. As cars took to the grid for the 64th running of the 24 hours of Spa the Belgian circuit was basked in scorching sunshine, but rain was on the way, it was just a case of how much and more importantly, when.

Following the cancellation of Super Pole the day before, due to over 30mm of rain hitting the track before the session and an impressive electrical storm the night before, there was rain in large quantities circling.

Stephen began the race and after serving the stop/go penalty before handing over to Matt who got the car up to 45th place. Julien would contest the third hour and as he left the pits the heavens opened in a big way. The circuit was awash with rain; La Source, the first bend was flooded. Unfortunately for Julien, on slick tyres, La Source would present a problem and his car aquaplaned off, hitting the tyre wall with a hefty thump.  Von Ryan got the car back out and Julien rejoined on wets behind yet another safety car period in 54th place.

After four hours of racing the safety car had been on track for 71 minutes – longer than some of the race cars! Julien, still on track completed a competitive stint and handed over to Stef Dusseldorp with the repaired car on pace with those around it, making inroads into those around them would be hard. Dusseldorp, with his experience of the McLaren in the world GT1 championship was able to push on and was soon up to 44th place. Matt again took over and got the car up to 41st place, a good effort given the tricky conditions and near endless safety cars.

After over twelve hours of safety car madness, Julien was 37th overall having gained four places in his penultimate stint and was hot on the heels of the Sainteloc Audi R8 of Dino Lunardi. Great driving from Stephen promoted the McLaren further up the order and another strong stint from Matt soon moved the Palawan press-backed drivers up to 26th overall, just outside the top-ten of the Pro-Am class in which they compete. Up front, Audi’s littered the top four places and were proving their dominance at the event.

After a tricky opening few hours, a stronger race to the twelve hour halfway-mark gave everyone confidence that the Von Ryan-prepared McLaren would make the finish, despite it getting through a vast amount of oil in the early morning hours of the race.

Sunday morning brought sunshine and arguably the strongest section of the race. Julien was now up to 24th overall, 13th in class and was keeping a consistent pace around the 2:25 mark, and continued the steady progression of the #60 car through the field until disaster struck – a niggling engine issue again appeared and Julien pitted to allow the Von Ryan mechanics to evaluate the problem. Ten minutes later, Stef took the car back out on track and resumed in 25th position, having only lost around ten minutes in the pits.

A couple of hours later and the #60 McLaren was back in the pits with a similar issue relating to the engine. Von Ryan team boss, Dave Ryan decided that to ensure the car could complete the famous final lap of the race the team should spend the remaining hour trying to fix the problem, allowing Stephen to complete the race for the team.

With a little under five minutes or so remaining, that is exactly what happened. Stephen exited the pits for the final time and carefully drove the car home to the flag, finishing 30th overall, and a superb 18th in class.

The result was of huge importance to Julien, but also the team, for they were the only surviving McLaren MP4-12cs, and the fact they brought home two cars, was a real testament to their efforts and knowledge. For Julien, the opportunity to drive the McLaren in a 24-hour race and to add to his ever-increasing experience was invaluable.

“The race went really well apart from our turbo change on Saturday, which caused us to lose a few minutes of the race by way of the stop-go. Matt did really well and was flying, Stephen and Stef were great, and I wanted to continue that form but unfortunately got caught out by a sudden monsoon-like downpour while on slicks and aquaplaned off. I’ve never ever have that happen before and I just knew there was no way I wouldn’t get away unscathed, but I managed to steer the car to the left so the impact was taken by the right-hand side of the car, which limited the amount of damage significantly.

“Immediately afterwards I just felt like I had let the team down and was pretty upset with myself, but within half an hour the car was out again and seemingly running fine. To finish the race was huge, especially after the shunt I had.  The car made it and credit to McLaren for that, and more so to Von Ryan Racing for preparing two cars capable of finishing. Stef has been a great addition to the team, extremely mature and fun when needed. His ability in the car and experience last year has been invaluable.  We now need to look ahead to the Nurburgring because this car, the team, the drivers, we all deserve a good result after our efforts this year.”

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Race Report Round 3 Blancpain Endurance Series Paul Ricard 29th June - 1st July

Free Practice

 
A warm Paul Ricard welcomed the Von Ryan team on Saturday and preparations for the third round of the championship began in earnest. As normal Julien and his brother Matt took part in the sixty-minute bronze driver session and a top-ten combined finish in practice was a good marker for the McLaren, given it was the first time on the circuit for Julien. With twenty-two laps under their belts, Julien and Matt finished as the top Pro-AM McLaren.

Free practice enabled Julien further time in the McLaren and his times steadily improved, as he grew more accustomed to the former home to the French Grand Prix. A position within the top 30 wasn’t a fair reflection of the pace of the British trio, but a lot was learnt and Julien was happy going into qualifying which would take place on a Sunday, a change to the normal schedule.

Qualifying

Sunday brought a familiar factor to the Blancpain series, rain. While it didn’t bare down on the track, its threat loomed large and was enough to get teams talking about differing strategies for qualifying and the race. Having the two most important sessions of the day within hour of each other puts pressure on a driver, but Julien and the Von Ryan team were hopeful of good performances in both.

Matt entered Q1 and his knowledge of the track proved valuable. A highly competitive session saw the #60 car placed 14th. Julien’s session again avoided the poor weather and saw a host of Ferraris driven by the continent’s finest talent litter the top ten positions. More time to setup the McLaren would’ve resulted in a time good enough for 33rd on the grid, a 2:01.312. Stephen drove the final qualifying period and ended up 38th, albeit only 1.8 seconds off the pole time in the session – incredibly close!

The combined qualifying result for the #60 McLaren would be a 27th place start for the race later that day. In a field of almost 60 cars, a position in the top half of the field gave the team an opportunity to obtain a top-twenty finish in the race.
 
 
Race
 
In a change of strategy, it was decided that Stephen, the most experienced driver, would start the race, thus allowing the Draper brothers to hopefully benefit from a competitive race position from which to complete the three-hour race.

A short shower on the grid created some re-thinking on tyres, but as soon as it had arrived, the rain had stopped.  A busy set of opening laps saw Stephen drop down the order to 32nd in the 58 car field. Up front Ferrari led the way.

With Stephen making his way through the field with relative ease in the McLaren, it was another McLaren that would halt his charge. The United Autosports team’s Pro-Am entry had a huge accident with the #40 Audi R8 competing in the Gentlemen’s Trophy.  Both drivers were okay, but neither car would take any further part in the race. A lengthy safety car period followed.

Once the safety car had disappeared off track some fifteen minutes later, the pit window for first stops had opened and a number of cars began to make the first of their mandatory stops. With Stephen being the most experienced driver, it made little sense to pit, so the Von Ryan team kept Jelley out on track. This worked well and the Leicestershire-based driver was up to twelfth overall and seventh in class.

When Stephen was brought in for his stop, he was sixth overall and crucially past the sister Von Ryan McLaren of Rob Barff. Matt took over driving duties and the second of the Palawan backed drivers began his stint with gusto, quickly taking the scalps of some slower cars ahead of him, moving up to 35th place.

Surprisingly, Matt’s time were not that far off the leaders; a brief weekend in a Formula Renault two years ago is hardly adequate preparation, but the youngster flew, regularly keeping his times in the 2:04s, while those around him were two to three seconds off his lap times.

Forty minutes into his stint, Matt was now twenty-fourth and past the Goethe driven Gulf McLaren, holding off the attentions of the rapid #17 Insight Ferrari 458 Italia. Julien would takeover form 17th and rejoin in 25th; he knew he had to push on to make sure the team finished in the top twenty and would face a steep challenge ahead of him.

Initial progress saw Julien rise up to 23rd and within grasp of the elusive top twenty.  As the sun beat down on Paul Ricard, Julien fought on and extended his lead over the Bleekemolen Mercedes AMG SLS. Bleekemolen, was soon caught by Aaron Scott’s Audi R8. Scott began to close in on Julien, but the London-based driver responded and extended the gap between himself and the reigning MSA Endurance Champion.

With less than five minutes to go, Julien’s valiant attempts to real in the next car, the #17 Insight Ferrari, were not enough and he took the chequered flag in 23rd place overall, 16th in the Pro-Am class and the fourth best McLaren finisher.  

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Race Report Round 2 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone 2 – 3 June
 
Free Practice
 
Under a threatening sky at Silverstone, the Von Ryan prepared McLaren MP4-12C of Julien, Matt and Stephen, finished on top of the time sheets ahead of the #50 AF Corse Ferrari 458 of Jack Gerber and Raeffele Giammaria with a lap time of 2:01.286.

The trio completed almost 30 laps in the sixty-minute session that teams use to begin the set-up process for the weekend ahead. The position was a superb early result that showed the fruits of their extensive testing and development programme since the last race, several weeks ago in Monza, Italy.

Qualifying

A strong qualifying performance saw the British trio placed eleventh on the grid for Sunday’s race.  This was a great result, but didn’t truly reflect the efforts of the three drivers during the various sessions leading up to qualifying.

Bronze-ranked drivers Matt and Julien dominated the Pro-Am class, storming to first in both sessions. Overall Matt qualified seventh and Julien fifth; Julien’s result saw him outqualify the professional pair of McLarens run by United Autosports and Boutsen-Ginion. With an array of ex-Formula 1 drivers in their ranks; a strong performance indeed.

In the third and final qualifying period, Stephen drove exceptionally to qualify the car sixth in class, eleventh overall against a field of highly competitive professional drivers. With a clearer track, Stephen was confident that he could’ve got more from the car, but it wasn’t to be.     

Upon reflection, everyone agreed it was a huge step in the right direction and all minds were focused on the following day’s three-hour feature race on home turf.
 
 
Race
After Saturday’s good weather, Sunday brought rain; a lot of it. For the second Blancpain Endurances Series race in succession, the race would be dominated by poor weather and start behind a safety car yet again.

However, as the home race for all three drivers of the #60 car, there was confidence in the Von Ryan garage. Matt would start the race; Julien would follow, which allowed Stephen as the professional driver to finish the race. Not all teams follow this logic, which only serves to add to the excitement of the endurance race.

Fifteen minutes in the safety car left the 50 strong  field to race. Matt made up two places and was riding high in ninth place. Contact with a couple of other competitors further into his stint would halt Matt’s charge and allow rivals to get past the Palawan backed McLaren.

An hour in, Matt was down in twenty first place; the team called him in for the mandatory handover and a problem-free stop saw Julien re-join down in a lowly 37th place. Being one of the first to pit would allow the #60 car to capitalise on the fact a lot of drivers still had to stop.

Sure enough, five minutes into his stint, Julien was 26th and rising. While the McLaren was struggling for pace against the lead cars, the young Londoner was consistently posting times in the low 2:26s; a comparatively quick lap compared to those ahead of him.

Thirty minutes into his stint and Julien had made light work of the field. Before pitting to hand over to Stephen, Julien passed the #70 BMW Z4 for 20th place and crucially, tenth place in the Pro-Am class.

Stephen had his work cut out. A drying track played havoc with the tyres for all competitors. Not wet enough for the wets to be of real use, but far too slippery for slicks, Stephen powered on through and kept the #60 McLaren out of trouble.

At the three hour mark Stephen crossed the line 20th overall, and twelfth in class, a sizeable leap forward from the performance in the first round of the series. Notably the Palawan trio would again be the second best McLaren finisher, and again had the beating of the sister Von Ryan prepared car of Jordan Groger, Leon Price and Rob Barff.

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Race Report Round 1 Blancpain Endurance Series Monza 13-15 April

After only a couple of shakedown test days, the three Palawan Racing drivers, Julien Draper, Matt Draper and Stephen Jelley, headed off to Monza for the first round of the Blancpain Endurance GT Series. Run by Von Ryan Racing, the McLaren MP4-12C GT3 car, resplendent in its new two-tone blue colour scheme, would take to the track for race one of the six-race championship at the famous Monza circuit, the home of the Italian F1 GP.

This was a brand new car developed by McLaren from their road car, a brand new team run by Dave Ryan (ex-McLaren sporting director) and a brand new driver line up that had not raced together before; a real baptism of fire, but a team of excellent professionals who could, and would, rise to the occasion.

Friday Free Practice and Pre-Qualifying

Friday would be chance for the drivers to get some proper testing laps in, with two 90 minute sessions against all the other GT3 competitors in the 55 car field.
 
Due to the late delivery of the car, which resulted in the boys missing the official Paul Ricard test last month, there had only been time to get some very limited testing in at a couple of British circuits.. Each driver would have 30 minutes in the car in each of the two sessions, to learn the track and set the car up. As the most experienced driver of the trio and the only one to have raced at Monza before, there was a lot of responsibility on Stephen’s shoulders to find a good set-up for the car. With 55 cars running it was also very busy out on the track.
 
After the first session it became clear that the lack of proper testing and seat time was making it difficult for the drivers to set good lap times. There were the usual teething problems with a new car and due to an under-steer issue, it was proving difficult to get a quick lap. The team worked very hard on the car during the break and in the second session the lap times started to improve resulting in a finishing place of 25th, leaving us reasonably confident for the Qualifying the next day. The set up was far from ideal and with only limited running it was hard for everyone involved to produce a perfect handling car.


Saturday Qualifying

On Saturday each driver would have 15 minutes to qualify the car with a 7-minute break between the sessions. The running order was Julien, Matt and Stephen. Stephen, as the most experienced driver, would aim to set the fastest lap in the session by going last as the car would be lighter on fuel and therefore quicker. Julien had a trouble free run and set a good time handing over to Matt. On Matt’s out lap he felt a clunk from the rear of the car and came into the pits. The team quickly checked the car and sent Matt out again. He managed one flying lap before he came in with a brake problem. As he had done his mandatory flying lap the team chose the use the extra time to try and sort out the car before Stephen’s session.  After a steady run in traffic, Stephen managed one flying lap positioning the car in 40th   place; an excellent job under the circumstances. Qualifying was so close that there was only just over a second that divided 10th place from 40th place. It was decided that Stephen would start the race on Sunday and go for as many places in his hour long stint.
 
 
Sunday Race Day

Early Sunday morning and the rain poured down as the team left their hotel. It looked like this was going to be a very wet race.

As the preceding races had started under a course car and the rain showed no signs of easing up, it looked like the Blanc Pain Endurance race would start under the same circumstances.

At 2.15 the race duly started with Stephen at the wheel under the course car in torrential rain. In fact the whole field was held under the course car for some 9 laps which meant Stephen had a very short stint at the wheel to make up places. As the pace car pulled in, the 55 cars started the race and Stephen began scything through the field. Passing cars lap after lap, the Palawan Racing McLaren moved up the order until the team was lying in 24th place at the first pit stop where Stephen would hand over to Julien. The pit stop was a bit slow due to problems with the fuelling rig and Julien rejoined in 38th place. By now the rain had got heavier and it was difficult for any of the drivers to see through the spray. Amazingly, taking into account these terrible conditions, there were very few racing incidents. After one hour and a consistent stint, Julien came in for a fuel and tyre stop and to hand the car over to Matt. Once again the team were hampered by a problematic pitstop, however Matt settled down to a steady pace in the still appalling conditions. After 3 long hours of hard driving and terrible conditions Matt brought the car across the line in 21st place in class and the second McLaren to finish out of 10 cars entered.

It was a very tough weekend for the whole team, drivers, mechanics and race engineers alike.   Everyone involved performed brilliantly in the circumstances, and although the boys would have liked a better result, the car finished without a mechanical problem and in one piece.
 
Now the team have organised an extensive test programme before the next round at Silverstone, on the first weekend of June. The aim will be to finish on the top step of the podium at their home race.

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Great news for the 2012 season!


Julien will be teaming up with his brother Matthew and BTCC star Stephen Jelley in a Von Ryan Racing run McLaren MP4-12C GT3, to contest the Blancpain Endurance Series.

The boys have unfortunately had limited time in the car due to a delayed build process, however the overall feeling is very positive going into the first round at Monza on the 15th April.

“I’m really excited about this year and it’s going to be great driving with both my brother and Stephen. We all get on well and I think should be a strong team, especially with Von Ryan Racing behind us. It’s a privilege to be driving for Dave Ryan, he’s got a great team and knows how to compete at the highest levels. I can’t wait to get out there at Monza and see what this car is really capable of!”



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