The perfect start to my 2018
Ben recounts his victorious season opener in Bathurst and explains why his future could lie in the US
Those of you who follow international motorsport closely will already be aware of the result of the Bathurst 12 Hours, but I’m pleased to reveal to everyone else that the 2018 season got off to a great start for yours truly.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love Australia, and the Mount Panorama circuit in particular, so winning there with Grove Racing last month was the cherry on top of the icing on the cake. This was my fourth appearance at Bathurst with Grove and the second time the #4 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car has come out on top of its class, so that’s not a bad strike rate.
The excessively patriotic yellow and green machine began to feel more to my liking through practice, and I was able to claim pole position half a second faster than I managed in 2017 and well ahead of our nearest rival to secure a place in the middle of a 50-car grid for the 5.45am start (yes, really). Starting a race in the dark at Bathurst is beyond mental and certainly wakes you up, even at that silly hour, but we survived the initial chaos and that set the tone for the rest of the event.
Although avoiding trouble on track meant that the race was relatively smooth, we did have to overcome an unexpected twist when one of my teammates, Brenton Grove, was taken ill behind the wheel. The team was able to draft in experienced Porsche racer Dan Gaunt to ensure that the remainder of the event ran smoothly. The #4 eventually reclaimed the lead with four hours remaining and went on to win by three laps.
The 12 Hours has become one of the ‘can’t miss’ events of the year – especially on my calendar – and is the perfect warm-up to the rest of the season, but it always proves to me that I’m definitely not a cold weather kind of guy! After enjoying a taste of the Australian summer, heading home to a bleak and blustery Blighty is never a comfortable experience – which is just one reason why I’ll be heading off to Florida just before you get to read this…
Rest assured, however, that this isn’t just another holiday, as I’ll be heading to one of the world’s most famous races to do some important networking for the future. Having sampled life in the IMSA Sportscar series with the GB Autosport team a few years back, I’ve always hankered after a return, but I know that I can’t just rock up Stateside and expect someone to put my bum in a seat. Endurance racing in the USA, as in the rest of the world, is enjoying something of a resurgence and the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship is flourishing at the moment, so it’d be good to get involved.
It’ll be strange to be at a race meeting and not actually be racing, but I’ll keep myself engaged in the weekend by supporting a couple of entries with whom I’ve had history. Occasional teammate Egidio Perfetti is competing in one of the support races, while one of my sponsors, Montaplast, is backing the Land Motorsport Audi R8 in the headline 12 Hour event, so there will be plenty to keep me occupied. The FIA WEC visits Sebring in 2019, too, so there is no harm in familiarising myself with the circuit either.
My main reason for being there is to get my face and name known in US racing circles, and
I’ll be working the paddock hard in search of an opportunity to take my talents back to that side of the Atlantic sometime soon. Wish me luck…