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Chris Harris's race report from Silverstone
TG telly man raced a Bentley Continental GT3 in the Blancpain cup. Here's what happened
Blancpain GT Endurance Series, Round 2, Silverstone
Car 30: Bentley Continental GT3
Drivers: Chris Cooper, Chris Harris, Derek Pierce
A zero points haul in Monza wasn’t the ideal start to the season. So myself and team mates Chris Cooper and Derek Pierce headed to Silverstone last weekend knowing at the very least we had to come away with something to show for our efforts.
Qualifying was ultimately a little disappointing. We’d chased some different set-up routes during the Saturday tests and hadn’t really got anywhere, the suspicion being that running tyres that had endured two heat cycles was so detrimental, that we weren’t able to make the back of the car work regardless of making big damper changes.
We ended up in 46th position overall (in a 51-car grid) and 3rd in the AM class. Good enough to be in touch with the leading AM cars, and hopefully able to make some progress in the race.
I have never before started a race quite like the one I did on Saturday. There are over 50 cars on the grid, and each of them appears to be driven by a driver who cares very little that even the smallest carbon flicks protruding from the (even more expensive) body panels costs thousands. It really is a just a game of survival.
There were no big hits into turn one, but after that there were Lambos and Ferraris and all manner of other machines facing the wrong way and affecting costly-looking limps. I think I made up five places just sitting behind the Porsche in front as it all kicked off.
The car felt good, if a bit prone to oversteer, and on lap 2 I squeezed past another car and then dropped into a decent rhythm. That helped us into a position in the 30s, and after half an hour I think we were running around 35th when the car suddenly felt much more loose at the rear coming out of Vale.
It snapped sideways and did so again out of the next two low-speed corners. Clearly the tyres were going through some kind of weird phase, but muggins here figured he could still navigate the high-speed Maggots/Beckets section unabated and this resulted in a spin. I lost around 10 seconds, but already had a 20-second class lead, so all was not lost.
But the rear grip wasn’t good and I just couldn’t launch the Continental GT3 from slower turns effectively. It was still mega in the quick stuff, strong under brakes and very fast in a straight line, however. We got the lead back to around 25 seconds when I pitted after an hour.
Then came the world’s worst pit stop.
Just as I was aiming the vast Bentley onto its marks, the neighbouring team decided to emerge from the garage and it was a case of kill a German or miss my marks. I opted to avoid homicide, a choice my team-boss Stuart Parker still hasn’t forgiven me for. The fuel rig didn’t reach because I was too far out, the change was slow, and Chris Cooper’s radio wasn’t in properly.
It was comically bad - we lost over two minutes and Chris emerged 4th in class. Initially he caught the 3rd place AM car, but then the times faded just as mine had, and for the same reason. To complete the ‘copy what Harris did’ effort, he too had a small spin at Stowe and with that went all chances of a class podium.
Derek jumped on board and enjoyed a spirited stint closing the gap on the leaders, but we’d left him too much to do and we ended 4th in class and 40th overall. Not the result we wanted, but a good salvage operation at the end of the day.
Championships are won by maximising the potential of your worst days, and I sincerely hope we’re much better next time out at Paul Ricard. That takes place on June 24 and 25.