Barcelona 24H revisited 2014
Roll back the clock 12 months and we were on our way back from Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, subdued and disappointed, both SVDP-Racing and Memac Ogilvy Racing teams had surrendered huge class leads due to bad luck and component failure and would end the afternoon empty handed after 24 hours of racing, motorsport can be very cruel…
Fast forward again, this year was somewhat different in that both teams had returned with unfinished business. It was to be an interesting few days at the track and once again, we would see the highs and lows of endurance racing. For one team, glory, champagne and a class win to their name and silverware to add to the collection. Unfortunately, for the other, the same disappointing end having been so close once again!
Having arrived in Barcelona airport we finally took charge of our luggage which had been delayed for over an hour due to a cargo handling machine breaking down, good omen or bad? -we would see.
Having stuffed the hire vehicles to the max with both bags and bodies, we made our way to the circuit which nestles away some forty minutes’ drive away in the beautiful hills of Catalunya. The circuit was already buzzing when we arrived mid-afternoon. Race transporters and cars already unloading and paddock tents being erected. Everyone mindful of their job in hand, we all got to work. It wasn’t too long before night dropped in and we were done for the night. Returning back to the same hotel we stayed in last year, I quickly started downloading images and updating our social media sites with the first afternoons stories.
Thursday morning we returned to the track, today was to be filled with finishing touches being made to the SVDP-Racing BMW 120D, a car that had recently triumphed in Holland at the Zandvoort 12H race. The afternoon would see the car turn out on circuit for its first shakedown test run. All went well with final adjustments being made and new race decals being applied to the car. The clock was ticking fast but the team had everything under control and in hand, a new level of calm professionalism in the pit!
That evening we planned on staying at the circuit in our new 6×4 Meter tent, complete with 7 x inflatable beds, a new level of comfort for us and altogether an experience in team bonding! Now, with the hot and humid conditions, sleeping was always going to be an issue but, nothing had prepared me for the noise levels both inside and outside of the tent. A 2 stroke scooter revving up next to your ear at 1.00 am was bad enough but when that was drown out by the snoring of what sounded like two Gardner V8 engines from the corner of our tent, I decided that I would rather leave them to it and moved out of my accommodation and into the hire car, not great but better than nothing!
So as quick as Friday came, breakfast eaten, the serious stuff started. Friday was all about practice, qualifying and then night time practice. Little did we know what was in store for us! During his practice session, Jason O’Keefe lost the back of the car at turn 8 and subsequently hit the wall, returning back to the pits with the cover off of the wing mirror, he claimed that the car had taken heavy damage to the whole of the right side and front corner, the atmosphere in the pit was suddenly very tense. In what seemed like an age, the car returned on a breakdown truck, initially, the car didn’t look too bad but the right hand front wheel was pointing in the opposite direction to the left, not good! The front bumper was handed over to us and the car was rolled into the pit for further investigation.
Within 2 hours or so that car was good to go, what had seemed a race ending crash to Jason was actually some fiberglass damage and a steering rod….End of the race indeed Jason and wear your new ‘crasher’ hat with pride!
As the night rolled in and it was time for the first night time practice sessions to start, the weather had rolled in too. Thunder and lightning was all around us but as of yet, no rain! With the cars on circuit, we were treated to what I can only describe as the best lightning show I had ever seen. The sky was lit up every few seconds with either sheet or fork lightning but yet no rain…Then, it started, the rain started to pour down and had cars making their way into the pit for tire changes but within minutes it turned into a massive hailstorm, the likes I have never seen before. It was just as if someone was giving us all at the circuit the now famed ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’ the hailstones were as big as ice cubes, cars found it impossible to run on the circuit and had to literally crawl back to the pits which were now awash with water, the paddock tents were being whipped up in the high winds and tossed around the place, sadly, our tent also took a hammering along with the kit and clothes inside which were now completely soaked.With practice cancelled and after a lengthy clean up, we all headed down to the hotel for a decent night’s sleep, some race preparation this had turned out to be!
Race day morning, everyone was up early, still trying to get things sorted out after the storm, the track was once again basking in bright sunshine, storm, what storm? As the 12.00 noon start neared, all teams gathered on the start grid, 66 cars would start the race; over 70 cars had entered but some had not survived the previous two days and were already on their way home.
The rolling start down the long straight with the famous clock tower reading 23.55 hour remaining, the cars thundered through the first turn in anger.It was all very polite and clean with not one incident, a fact that would change very soon with a few laps under the drivers belts. It wasn’t too long before our two Dubai based teams had edged out small leads in their respected classes. Into the night there were no real dramas and everything was running smoothly. Daybreak was the same story with both teams having huge lap leads. As we know, this accounts for nothing, last year’s disappointments still in mind!
All too soon there was a familiar air of tension in the Memac Ogilvy pit as their car had an issue, the car was returned to pit for the crew to try and find the problem. It appeared to be a fuel issue but at that point they were unsure. The frustrations grew as their lead once again evaporated and they dropped down their class and out of contention for the win.
For SVDP-Racing, the mighty BMW kept on plugging away and maintained its lead until the finish at 12.00 noon on Sunday. As the car crossed the line and passed in front of the crew who were jumping for joy on the pit wall, the taste of success was once again theirs, finally taking a class win at the Barcelona circuit at the third attempt…Great job guy’s !
As the team took their place on the top step of the podium, raised their trophies and sprayed the champagne, I felt for the team and crew of Memac Ogilvy and the Seat Supercopa and wondered just what they have to do to break the Barcelona jinx, will they try again next year, I hope so and I hope I am back to see them lift the trophy in doing so but, for now, I can celebrate with the whole team of SVDP-Racing, for a few hours at least, images have to be downloaded and sent, a story to be written…
Same again next year? Hope so!
Northern Ferret – AKA Darren Rycroft
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