After a period of reflection, JMW Motorsport PR Beki Hobbs tunes in with her final wimbling from the dramatic European Le Mans Series title showdown.
Once upon a time, there was a race in Estoril… It’s taken a while to write these wimblings. Well, it is hard when you are rocking in a foetal position. After all, no-one told us the final round of the 2016 season was to be directed by Tarantino.
Everyone jetted into Portugal knowing the GTE title was technically up grabs, although surely it would have taken misfortune like never before to snatch it from JMW Motorsport, who came into the weekend with a 20 point lead and on the back of a trio of wins. I mean, they would have seriously had to piss off the Gods when simply finishing in the top seven (of an eight car class) would be enough to see them skip into the sunset with the spoils…
It all started off so well for JMW, as Rory Butcher made his way up the grid to take the lead and was merrily ahead of Alex MacDowall’s Beechdean Aston Martin, the only other team who could snatch the title from them. For those of us with JMW links, it was feet up and cuppa time to enjoy the last hoorah of the season. Then it all went horribly, horribly wrong.
Let’s not stretch it out over paragraphs, as it was stretched well over 90 minutes in the race; let’s pull the plaster off instead. JMW’s first pitstop for was excruciatingly slow, as it become obvious all was not well with the team’s trusted Ferrari 458. The gremlin of doom was lodged in the gearbox. The car was in and out of the pits like the hokey-cokey. Then it had flames, then it slowed down, stopped, started again, then it took a prototype headfirst into the passenger door. Surely, it must be over? No, Rob Smith remained at the wheel and dragged the battered and bruised Ferrari back to the pits at the speed of a milk float.
There were flashlights, duct tape, screw drivers, worried looking Italians and team members turning more and more puce. Watches and clocks were watched, calculators and abacuses twiddled with because if, just if, they could get back onto the track with only six GTs doing the rounds, they could finish within 70% of the leader and those points for 7th place would be enough. And the clock watching went on and on…
Meanwhile, the Beechdean Aston Martin was sitting pretty in the lead, knowing nothing less than victory was needed to take the title. Cue a steady stream of challengers (some of the Ferrari flavour) coming along to have a go. But as soon as anyone got close, it was as if the Aston was emitting some magical pixie fart from its exhaust pipe, as each challenger befell their own crisis. It was all going so well for the No. 99 crew, one began to imagine they must have made some huge sacrifice to the ice cream Gods – perhaps they torched Mr Whippy in a giant wafer cone a la the Wicker Man.
As the camera crews panned back to JMW, it was clear the sands of time were up and a lowly figure kneeled forlornly on the garage floor. Thankfully that’s where the footage cut off as the theme of the day continued for JMW and Negan came in with his barbed baseball bat to pulverise the last remnants of hope. It was just that kind of day.
The Beechdean trio of MacDowall, Andrew Howard and Darren Turner took a flawless win and the title, followed home by the No. 56 AT Racing and No. 55 AF Corse Ferraris. And for final dramatic measure as the chequered flag fell, the rain started to fall. Or it could have just been the tears from the JMW garage, it was hard to tell.
To remind the rest of motorsport how it’s done, following the dramatic race there were plenty of congratulations, heartfelt commiserations and all round superb sportsmanship. Sorry, we just don’t have time for navel gazing and tantrum-throwing in ELMS.
Beechdean were generous in victory, JMW gracious in defeat and all lived happily ever after.
For more reaction to the European Le Mans Series, including Rory Butcher’s blog, click here.