Speedworks Motorsport enhanced its endurance racing credentials and roared into 2015 in fine style with a double podium finish in the prestigious Dubai 24 Hours, the opening round of the new FIA International 24H Series.
Speedworks boasts an excellent pedigree in long-distance events, and clinched the class spoils on its Dubai debut in 2014. Buoyed by that performance, the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit – an established top ten contender in the fiercely-disputed and hugely popular Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) – returned 12 months later for the race’s tenth anniversary edition with a two-pronged assault.
The trusty Hughes Safety Showers-backed Ginetta G50 was joined in the closely-contested SP3 class by the Global Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4, a recent addition to the Speedworks stable. The Ginetta was crewed by team sponsor and former BTCC points-scorer Tony Hughes, Warburtons Bakery Executive Director and historics competitor Ross Warburton, Ginetta GT4 Supercup front-runner Tom Oliphant and tin-top battler Ollie Jackson.
On the other side of the garage, the Aston Martin was shared by Global Insurance Management MD and track day regular John Gilbert, accomplished female sportscar racer Flick Haigh, BTCC race-winner and ITV4 presenter Paul O’Neill and promising young gun Devon Modell.
Both crews worked hard during practice and proceeded to line up respectively 50th (Ginetta) and 54th (Aston Martin) on the grid amongst nigh-on 100 international entries. From there, the Ginetta featured at the front throughout in a tight tussle over the top spot in class. Having run faultlessly for the majority of the race, the #169 car was poised to launch a late challenge for victory when gearbox issues intervened almost within sight of the chequered flag, calling off the chase.
At the end of a tense final hour, Jackson valiantly brought the Ginetta home, carefully nursing it to the finish line with only fourth gear at his disposal to claim 22nd position overall and a superb second-in-class, as Oliphant missed out on fastest SP3 lap by less than a tenth-of-a-second.
Despite being thrown straight in at the deep end – making its competitive bow in what is renowned as one of the toughest races in the world – the Aston Martin similarly stood up to the test, progressing well through the field and like its sister entry, only falling foul of gearbox woes. Third place in class and 29th overall for the iconic British sportscar was just reward for a determined display.
“Whenever you arrive at a circuit, deep down, you’re always hoping for a podium, but in a round-the-clock race, you can’t take anything for granted since there are just so many variables and specific demands,” reflected Speedworks team principal Christian Dick. “Our primary objective in Dubai was simply to reach the finish, because there’s nothing worse than putting the car back into the trailer when your rivals are still going round.
“Endurance racing is not so much about outright pace; that’s still important, of course, but it isn’t the absolute be-all-and-end-all like it is in shorter races. It’s more about strategy, consistency, managing the tyres and looking after the car and – ultimately – reliability. Pre-event preparation back at the workshop is crucial, because the cars need to complete more hours in a single race than many complete in a whole season! The cars that spend the least amount of time in the pits are the ones that will come out on top.
“You have to play the long game, and that’s a challenge we all enjoy – everybody inside the team performed a vital role. The engineers, mechanics and pit crew were first-rate and the drivers were flawless, controlling their pace, keeping their noses clean throughout and pushing when the need arose. Everybody did everything we asked of them. To see all of our drivers up on the rostrum afterwards was a very special moment – I was speechless, and it’s not very often you can say that!
“We entered two different cars from two different manufacturers, and to get both of them not only to the finish but actually on the podium was a phenomenal achievement. It was testament to all the hours and hard work put in by the guys and girls in the team – I can’t pay them enough credit for what was an immense effort.
“I’m tremendously proud of everybody for such a stunning weekend and I’m over-the-moon that we managed to pull out the result that we did. What a fantastic way to start the year! Hopefully we have begun 2015 as we mean to go on...”