Racing at the world-famous Spa circuit was that to be ticked off of Toms bucket list as he would be racing at one of the most iconic circuits on the world. With the temperature in the mid to high twenties it would be a tough weekend.
Free Practice 1 and 2 were tricky for Tom, learning a completely new circuit in the space of not much more than 10 laps. Despite this, by the end of FP2, Tom was matching his teammates who had been there the season before, which boded well for timed qualifying.
Qualifying was shortened to just 6 minutes, meaning Tom only had enough time for two timed laps. This was to due to one of the Tolman McLaren’s having a big crash at the unforgiving Eau Rouge corner. On Tom’s flying lap he set sectors good enough for the top 5, but he caught a slow Ginetta in completely the wrong place on track and was baulked. This meant Tom qualified 7th in his qualifying group but 10th overall for the race.
Tom was set to start the two-hour race. Track temperature was near 50 degrees C and air temp was in the low 30s. It was to be a psychologically and physically draining race with the in-car temperature creeping into 40-50 degrees as the race got underway.
Tom made a great start jumping his teammate Will Moore and getting right on the tail of the main pack. Although a scary moment with one of the Aston Martin GT3 catching on fire! The field remained behind the safety car for 15 minutes. After the safety car Tom made his way through the pack. First re overtaking his teammate Will, and then the Nissan. They both worked brilliantly together and caught the pack in front up in the space of around 4 laps. Just as Tom got in about a second of the squabbling McLaren, Ginetta and BMW in front disaster struck round the famous Blanchimont corner as Tom’s tire suddenly fell ill to a puncture. Luckily Tom was close to the pits and made an early tire change for the right front. He lost around 20 to 30 seconds. Tom was back down in 13th place and set about catching the pack up again. He kept setting fast and consistent lap times which were 7 seconds a lap quicker than the car in front. He came from 25 seconds behind and passed the Mercedes for 12th place on the road. With 10 minutes to go in his stint, Tom managed to hunt down a struggling Tolman Motorsport McLaren which put the 61 Academy car into 11th place. Tom made his pitstop after driving the car for over an hour, and handed it over to teammate Jan.
The Academy pit crew made a brilliant pit stop, meaning when the safety car came out - due to a McLaren on fire, they gained 3 positions and were back in contention for a strong result in the race. With 40 minutes of the 2-hour race left, the safety car came in and Jan set about making up some positions. But just 2 laps later disaster struck as the car got yet another puncture, this time at Pouhon. Jan limped the car back to the pits but fortunately only lost one position. Jan settled down after the pit stop, nursing the car to the finish and did a great job of setting consistent lap times. Tom and Jan ended the race in 9th place earning points despite the two punctures.
Tom Wood “It was a very tough race physically and mentally. The heat was a big challenge for everyone and hurt our tires which may be why the punctures happened. But after these punctures we just had to push and push and this strong mentality we had to possess was the reason we achieved a top 10 finish. I can’t forget the amazing experience of racing round one of, if not the most iconic circuits in the world. I’ve had a brilliant time!”
The next round of the British GT Championship takes place at Brands Hatch GP on the 4-5 August, for the penultimate round of the 2018 Championship.