After withdrawing from the Blancpain Endurance Cup amid concerns over the state of Pro-Am, Richard Abra and Mark Poole plan to use this weekend’s Barcelona 24 Hours to help them decide their future plans.
The MP Motorsport by Barwell pair had sat on the sidelines for two months after engine issues in their Lamborghini Huracan blighted a one-off British GT outing at Silverstone in June, but made their return to competition in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup at Paul Ricard last weekend. Despite damage sustained in contact with Salih Yoluc’s TF Sport Aston Martin, Abra managed to prevail in an entertaining battle with Jonny Mowlem’s FF Corse 488 en-route to a sixth place finish.
Abra and Poole are joined in Barcelona by their Blancpain co-driver Joe Osborne and Lamborghini specialist Jeroen Bleekemolen.
“The idea behind us doing these races is to look and see what we enjoy the most,” Abra told Racing.GT. “The GT3 Le Mans Cup is a great championship and it’s definitely something we’ll look at, but we’re looking at all options to see where a proper Pro-Am driver line-up sits, because it’s definitely not in championships like Blancpain and even British GT is getting a bit questionable. We’re just trying to find a championship which suits us and do some competitive racing.”
Abra admits that the time out disrupted their rhythm at Paul Ricard, but is optimistic that the additional tracktime at Barcelona and expertise of Bleekemolen will set the team on the right course in a competitive 18-car A6 field, featuring 24H Paul Ricard winners Herberth Motorsport, Scuderia Praha’s 488 Ferrari and a HTP Mercedes driven by Maxi Buhk and Bernd Schneider.
“It’s never nice, especially mid-season when everyone else is still racing,” he said. “You almost have to start again after not being in the car for so long, so we felt we had a bit of catching up to do speed-wise compared to everyone around us, but after Barcelona we’ll be a lot happier and more comfortable in the car.
“Jeroen’s experience is exactly what we need this weekend because he knows what it takes to win a race like that. The car has moved on a lot in the meantime too, Barwell are still running cars in Blancpain and British GT and learning more every time which is always nice.
“We’ve got a good car and a good set of drivers, so what we don’t want to be doing is crashing into people and spending time in the pits. Our gameplan is just to stay out of trouble and get through the night then go racing in the morning if we need to.”
Barcelona will be Abra’s second taste of the 24H Series this season after he and Poole, alongside Barwell boss Mark Lemmer and Timur Sardarov, contested the touring car-only Silverstone 24 Hours in a JJ Motorsport BMW M235i. With Osborne stepping in to perform team manager duties and Abra playing fireman in the refuelling zone, he’s hoping for a more routine weekend this time around!
“In the 24H Series there’s a rule saying you can keep the engine running on a turbo car if you have another guy there with a fire extinguisher,” Abra explained. “At the time we were pretty close for sixth and we wanted to save a few seconds, so I had my race suit on and just ran down there and pretended to be a fireman for the last stop. Thankfully I won’t be doing any of that this weekend, that’s for sure!”