Goff rocks around the Barcelona clock

with impressive endurance racing debutMax Goff has set out his stall for a successful career in endurance racing after his debut in the Barcelona 24 Hours saw him outpace and outperform a good many adversaries with infinitely more experience than him – and in so doing, come within a whisker of snatching a brilliant victory.A regular front-runner and podium finisher with Zest Racecar Engineering in the French SEAT León Supercopa Championship this year – his maiden campaign of car racing off the back of a glittering national and international karting career – Max’s superb form brought him to the attention of rival outfit Team Clairet Sport, keen to bolster its driver line-up for the Barcelona round-the-clock encounter.Having been impressed, too, by the talented young Northants speed demon’s eye-catching car racing bow around Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya in late 2010 – charging through the field from the rear of the grid to an excellent seventh place at the chequered flag in treacherously wet conditions, and setting fastest lap along the way for good measure – Team Clairet Sport team owner Jean-Marie Clairet approached Max to enquire about his availability for the 2011 edition of the 24 Hours.“I thought it would be a really exciting opportunity, particularly since a 24-hour race is something I’d been wanting to experience for quite a while,” enthused the highly-rated Brigstock-based ace. “Endurance racing really interests me, and to get the chance to do something like that at such an early stage of my career was brilliant. I’ve always been a pretty consistent driver, too, so that boded well.”Be that as it may, having not previously competed in any race longer than 40 minutes, Max was well aware that he would need to brace himself for rather a culture shock. What’s more, although the car he was driving was in many respects similar to the one he is used to racing, it did have a more potent engine and brakes and a different manner of power delivery – but he adapted to it all in double-quick time. With two of his three team-mates similarly Barcelona 24 Hour rookies – as was Team Clairet Sport – the team was undeniably up against it, but in a 66-strong field, Max and his fellow matadors were in the mix right from the outset. As the 17-year-old acclimatised to lapping a race circuit under cover of darkness for the first time with admirable ease, the quartet went on to qualify 13th overall and an excellent third in the A3T class – one including 2010 MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, no less! From there, a top five class finish was the goal – but they would do rather better than that.“There was a really good vibe inside the team, and everybody was determined that it was going to be fun,” affirmed the MSA Academy member and Loughborough College Elite Athlete. “Although the race is obviously long, once you get into a rhythm, the time just flies by, to be honest. I was the second driver out in the car, and when I took to the track for the first time, we were ninth overall.“During my first two-hour stint, everything went pretty smoothly with no major issues. The only real difficulty was the fact that it had been quite wet at the start, and after I came into the pits to change to slick tyres, it was still really slippery off-line, which made overtaking difficult. By the time I got out of the car, though, we were up to sixth outright and second-in-class. “During my next stint, the rain began falling again, but not heavily enough to warrant changing back over from slicks. To make matters even trickier, the windscreen wipers stopped working 20 minutes in, and with the darkness and the circuit lighting, all the droplets that fell onto the screen just lit up. That was probably the hardest two hours’ racing of my life! “After that, though, everything went fine, without any real hiccoughs – apart from an incident during my last stint. Going down the pit straight, there were two BMW M3s in front of me that I was coming up to lap. I was a lot quicker and was slipstreaming them as I lined up to overtake – but then when I went to brake, the pedal went straight to the floor! That sent me through the middle of them and straight on. “Fortunately, you can straight-line the first corner at Barcelona without doing any damage, but I then had to complete the rest of the lap back to the pits without any brakes, so in that sense, it was the worst place it could have happened – though equally, if it had been somewhere else around the lap, it might have been a big ‘off’...” Bravely wrestling the #40 car back to the pits, once the necessary repairs had been effected, Max and his team-mates went on to take the chequered flag second-in-class and a praiseworthy sixth overall – though it could, he acknowledged, have been even better. Having led the A3T class for the vast majority of the race – and holding a theoretically commanding six-lap margin over their nearest pursuer heading into the closing stages – the team suffered two further brake failures, the second of them cruelly on the very last lap as they were homing in fast and eyeing one final bid for victory.“I think we deserved a little bit better than we ultimately came away with, but we were still really pleased,” stressed the former Monaco Kart Cup winner, “especially as the next car in-class was several laps behind. The whole weekend was a steep learning curve for all involved, but the team handled it brilliantly and we massively exceeded our expectations.“Everybody seemed to be really impressed with how well I did and my consistency out on the track given my age and level of experience, because I’m certainly still very young for endurance racing. Overall, it was a fantastic weekend, I thoroughly enjoyed it all and I’d love to do it again!” And who knows, perhaps it was just the beginning of a successful long-term career...