The sickening accident which brought Ryan Ratcliffe’s Mugello 12 Hours to a sudden halt is not even a month in the memory, but the Welshman has already put it to the back of his mind and fixed his attentions on the British GT season-opener at Brands Hatch this weekend.
Ratcliffe, Joe Osborne and Flick Haigh had been in contention for victory in the 24H Series event when a recurrence of an earlier gearbox problem struck with around an hour to go, leaving the Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS stranded by the side of the road as Ratcliffe frantically attempted a system reset.
But before he could get the car going again, the Audi was rear-ended at speed by a Porsche that had failed to spot the yellow flags – which soon turned to red, such was the extent of the damage.
Ratcliffe describes the incident as most frightening of his career, but vowed that it won’t affect his confidence.
“I wouldn’t say it was the biggest shunt I’d ever had; I had one at Silverstone where the tyre blew on the pit straight which was pretty big, but I’d definitely say Mugello was the scariest one,” he said.
“Looking in the mirror I could see the Porsche coming straight towards me at 100 mph-plus and I was kind of a sitting duck. It was a pretty scary incident to be involved in and I’m just glad that myself and the driver of the Porsche got away from it unscathed.
“When the car was with Audi they found a pipe had split going to the gearbox, so we’re confident we’ve found what the issue was and that it’s not going to happen again. I think if something had happened while I was driving it might have knocked my confidence a little bit and I would have been nervous about driving the car again, but I know that I was just sat on the side of the track and it wasn’t anything that I did.”
The car required extensive rear-end repairs, but the fortunately rest of the chassis was undamaged, so ‘Adele’ will be back this weekend, crewed by Ratcliffe and Will Moore, one of the standouts in the GT4 class last year.
The pair are the only Silver Cup entry in GT3 and will have to carry a 70 kilo weight penalty to compensate, but Ratcliffe recognises that the short-term pain will make him a more-rounded driver in future.
“If we’re not Silver Cup champions at the end of this year then there’s definitely something wrong!” he joked. “Doing Blancpain last year really opened my eyes to the calibre of driver in GTs – I came out of it thinking ‘bloody hell, I need to be in a car every weekend to be able to compete with these guys.’
“I’ve been very fortunate to be in the car as much as I have – it’s been a good pre-season to iron out all the little issues we might have had with the car, so I’m looking forward benchmarking myself against Joe [Osborne], Sims and that lot. It’s not going to be easy to go up against the Pros with 70 kilos extra, I’m not going to kid myself, but I’m not going to improve unless I put myself up against competition like that. If I can mix it with the Pros with the weight on then I know I’m doing a good job.”