Tom looked forward to the 3rd round of the GT4 European championship in the south of France at the Infamous Paul Ricard Circuit. Tom’s prep before testing started on Thursday afternoon was 2nd to none and Tom felt very confident as he jumped in the car. The championship saw the biggest entry of the year with a staggering 42 cars entered.
Thursday and Friday consisted of a four-hour open pitlane session and two one-hour sessions respectively. It was to be an odd couple of days testing for everyone as Pirelli had just completed a four-day wet tyre test so the track was stripped of the grippy rubber. The track was very unpredictable so Tom and the team worked as best they could on set up. The highlight of the two days was Tom posting a time good enough for 4th overall, although other drivers put new tyres on which eventually demoted Tom down to 10th. Nevertheless, Tom was satisfied with the overall pace as he went into qualifying on Saturday morning.
It emerged in the morning, the car had an issue which the Academy Motorsport team thought they had conquered, came back just before qualifying began. This meant that, sadly, Tom and Fiona could not get out for the session meaning they would both have to start 42nd and last on the grid.
Tom was to start Race 1. He made a great start already overtaken a McLaren off the line and then managed to squeeze past the Mercedes.
On the first lap alone Tom made his way past no less than 15 cars. Incredibly, in only 10 minutes, Tom had made his way past 28 cars and was battling for podium honours in class with the number 35 Alpine. He then caught the Pro Sport Aston Martin, and made a late dive up the inside up into the blind Turn 13. He was now in 13th place chasing P12 and P11 ahead.
Over the next 15 minutes, he set some blistering lap times and caught the No 55 McLaren. The Alpine made a move through turn 5 and Tom swiftly followed but had to defend down the Mistral straight as the McLaren had a huge advantage down the straight. Tom managed to hold off for another few turns until the Ginetta behind past the McLaren and then made an overly ambitious move into the last corner on Tom which ended is disaster.
The incident caused a puncture and damage to the track rod which was too much damage to carry on, and Fiona was forced to retire the car.
Race 2 was started by Fiona. Fiona managed to bring the car in in 38th place overall, avoiding a lot of incidents. The pitstop went perfectly with the pair setting one of the best pitstop times of the weekend. Tom overtook two cars out of the pitstops and set about putting his head down to catch the cars ahead.
Within 15 minutes he had overtaken the Am McLaren for 20th place overall. 10 mins later he managed to catch the Porsche in front, again showing brilliant pace. The Porsche suddenly had a blowout on the penultimate lap which Tom had to swerve to avoid.
Tom finished a fairly lonely 19th overall over the finish line however, due to the steward’s decisions, Tom and Fiona were promoted 3 positions overall which meant they finished 16th overall and then 5th in class.
Tom Wood “Overall I am satisfied with what we managed to salvage this weekend. It was never going to be easy from last on the grid, but I think we did everything we could to make the best of a bad situation. I’d just like to thank the team as they worked day and night over the weekend to try and make the car right before qualifying and I think they definitely deserve a beer (or two)! I’m very much focused now on debriefing, learning from this weekend and taking it into the next round in a months’ time at Misano.”