It was a mixed weekend for round seven of the FIA GT1 World Championship at Paul Ricard. After a challenging Qualifying Race, the Sumo Power GT team bounced back in style to take valuable points and a fourth place finish in Sunday's Championship Race.
Everything went well in qualifying to leave us fourth on the grid for the Qualifying Race. I felt it was all a bit too tight heading into turn one, so I decided to take evasive action to avoid a potential incident. I turned in early for turn two, which meant I went over the white line and on to the blue run-off area, causing me to lose a place.
My Sumo Power GT team-mate, Jamie Campbell-Walter, was doing a great job running in fifth when he lost the rear end and had to shortcut a corner towards the end of his stint. He backed off to make sure he hadn't gained an advantage on the car behind but, unfortunately, the stewards felt what he did was wrong and we got a drive-through penalty.
That came quite late in the race so Jamie took the drive-through on the last lap - but the stewards didn't like that either and we got a 30-second penalty as well! Then I also got a penalty of three grid places for short-cutting the corner at the start!
We are slightly mystified by the decisions as we showed that Jamie backed off and cars behind me made up places after making far bigger shortcuts than I did, but no penalty was served to them. Yet I got one even though I lost a place, so that was extremely disappointing.
Otherwise, we were on fairly strong form. We struggled a little with understeer and didn't have a very good pit-stop, as Jamie and I didn't get something right. Tyre degradation was also a factor in the heat and our tyre pressures were too high. Although that didn't affect me so much, as I had such a short stint due to the safety car, it certainly caused Jamie to suffer towards the end of his session.
Because of the penalties, we started eleventh for the Championship Race, when we should have been starting in the top six. Starting that far back, it was always going to be tough to get on the podium, but we gave it a good shot.
Jamie did a great job to put us in a very strong position. We had a cracking pit-stop, one of the best of the year and second fastest of the field. We had a really quick driver change and the Sumo Power GT guys changed the wheels in impressive time.
We jumped a few places and I came out right behind Peter Dumbreck in the JRM Racing Nissan. I struggled a bit with grip and the balance but, once the tyres started to come in, the Sumo Power GT Nissan GT-R came into its own and we were one of, if not the, fastest car.