BMW Z4 GT3 driver Joe Osborne, of 888 Optimum Racing, gives an illuminating account for Racing.GT about his team’s British GT experiences last weekend.
Rockingham was host for Round 2 of the British GT championship. The format for the weekend was a single 2 hour race, meaning there would be a pitstop for fuel, tyres and a driver change. Same format as last year when I took victory with Steve Tandy in our Trackspeed Porsche. Our tails were up coming into the weekend after a successful test in the week at Snetterton, where we really started to understand our BMW Z4 GT3 with some serious gains found in our pace.
We had a two practice sessions both of which I had a handful of laps to simulate Qualifying runs and it saw us finish P4 in the first session and P2 in the second session, both times behind varying amount of Trackspeed Porsches. The 2nd session saw Nick Tandy in first and myself second, both of us hail from the same school; Sharnbrook Upper School in Bedfordshire (hope our names get read out in assembly). Another trivial fact, Oliver Gavin also went to Sharnbrook Upper School, hopefully I can follow my elders and become a factory-backed driver.
Anyway we headed into Qualy quietly confident we could be the best Non-Porsche car. The Porsche was the clear favourite despite inheriting a “massive” 5kg (0.4% of total weight) weight penalty from the 1st Round. With the format of Qualifying for the longer races the “Pros” get two sets of new tyres so get a couple bites of the cherry. The rough surface of Rockingham meant that you only got one flying lap in before the new tyres started to drop off in pace. I headed out on my first go with the mentality of getting a banker lap in early so I could use my second set of tyres in a Banzai style. I got a slow car in my way on my lap which hurt my time which was only good enough for P8. Bolt on another set of “boots” and my balls firmly ready to hang out I headed out for the last crack of the whip.
The BMW has a live delta time which keeps you up to date on how you are doing on your previous best lap time. After a few moments on my lap I was 7 tenths up. Into the last fiddling chicane, deciding not to get greedy I held my time gain through the last few corners and crossed the line with a 1.23.2.
I kept pushing to see if I could squeeze another lap of my tyres after turn 4 I was two-tenths up again, I noticed the lap previous a bollard had been knocked down so I could shortcut the corner across the grass. More Bonsai than Banzai as I took to taking all 4 wheels across the grass, it felt super fast. I looked down at my delta time expecting to see fireworks instead I lost half a second in doing that. I pitted that lap and was told my time was good enough for P5.
It was one, two, three to the Trackspeed Porsches and 4th for the rapid McLaren factory driver Alvaro Parente, I was happy with that. 4 tenths of a second up from my nearest BMW Z4 GT3 rival.
The two-hour race would see the Amateurs start from the position the Pro had put them. Always interesting as it’s not generally where they might be, Lee had shown good pace so I was happy putting him on the 3rd row next to drivers that are vastly more experienced. I was confident that if he stayed out of trouble on the first lap he would stick on the tails of the cars in front leaving me the easy job to pick them off as our BMW cares for it tyres well compared to our rivals.
As the lights went to green Mark Patterson got an awesome start and demoted us to P6, no problem as Mark is one, if not the fastest Amateur so a good target for Lee to follow. As Lee headed into Turn 3, Zak Brown who had run wide at the previous corner went for an optimistic lunge on Lee which possibly would have worked if Rembert Berg hadn’t done the exact same thing to him. It meant we were 3 wide and we were the widest getting 2.5 tonnes and 700,000 UK pounds-worth of GT3 forced into our side. Our little BMW is a tough girl the only damage was a puncture, Lee pitted and got a new tyre on and headed out.
This was still an extra pitstop and 2 minutes lost. Game over for a decent result it was damage limitation now. Lee handed the car over to me in 22nd and in my 70 minute stint I halved the deficit to the front, P11 the first non-scoring place. Another non-point scoring factor was I got the fastest lap of the race always good to see. So on reflection, no points but we now have a pace that week clearly lacked at Oulton Park at the first race. Silverstone next 3 hours, bring it on, I love that place.