Phil Quaife enjoyed a debut drive for Apex Motorsport which was filled with positives at the opening meeting of the 2008 FIA GT3 European Championship at Silverstone.
The 22-year-old Kent-based driver completed a late deal to race one of the team’s Jaguar XKRs and rewarded them by qualifying on the front row and leading race 1 before settling for a strong points haul alongside co-driver Stuart Hall. While race 2 saw the pair finish down the field after a string of misfortune, they showed enough pace to be hugely encouraged with their weekend’s work.
Quaife starred in qualifying to take second place on the 43-car grid, just a tenth of a second off the pole time of Mickael Forsten in the Prospeed Porsche 997. At the start he blasted into the lead and pulled out a healthy advantage in the early stages. His lead was wiped out after 15 minutes of the hour-long race when, under braking, Quaife hit a patch of oil and ran wide at Stowe and found himself back in the clutches of Forsten.
A terrific fight for the lead followed, but a period of sustained drizzle dampened the track and blunted Quaife’s challenge, as the Jaguar’s handling became difficult in the worsening conditions. After dropping to third, Phil pitted after 32 minutes to hand to Hall for the second half of the race. As the conditions became wetter, Hall dropped back to sixth, although a stop/go penalty for the Trackspeed Porsche 997 saw him move back to finish fifth at the chequered flag.
Phil said: “Things looked very promising as we pulled away in the lead early on, but the Jag wasn’t as easy to drive in the wet conditions. To score points though is a great start to the season and if it hadn’t have rained I’m confident that we could have scored a podium at the very least.”
Hall took the start for race 2 and made decent progress from his grid position on row eight. He continued to move through the field in the early stages but was then barged off the track by one of the Aston Martin DBRS9s, the impact causing bodywork damage which eventually led to a puncture.
The incident occurred before the driver change pit window opened, meaning Hall had to pit once for new tyres and again soon after to hand to Quaife, losing a lap in the process. As Phil rejoined, further misfortune struck the team as they were adjudged to have exited the pit lane before the minimum time of 70 seconds allowed for each driver change had elapsed. The resulting stop/go penalty put the pair a further lap off the pace, and while Quaife posted some very competitive lap times in the closing stages, he could only recover to 31st at the flag.
Phil said: “We didn’t have much luck with the puncture and the penalty, but we have to be pleased with the weekend as a whole. After the stop/go I came out of the pits just behind the front three and, even though I was a couple of laps down, I kept on their pace right until the finish.
“The Jaguar is excellent to drive and has a great engine. There weren’t too many cars out there quicker than us down the Hanger Straight and at an even faster circuit such as Monza in the next round I’m sure the boys can get a podium. Sadly I won’t be there as it clashes with my Porsche Carrera Cup GB commitments, but after everything Apex Motorsport has been through, I wish the guys all the luck in the world.”
UK viewers can watch highlights of both races on Motors TV on Saturday 26 April at 5pm. Full listings information can be found at motorstv.co.uk.