Garry Findlay finally broke his run of bad luck in the 2014 VdeV endurance series, as a charging recovery drive was rewarded with a post-race promotion to the podium in round four at Dijon-Prenois.
The Briton had long maintained that fortune had been the missing piece of a puzzle that had already seen the #32 CD Sport squad put together potential podium runs in the opening rounds at Barcelona, Le Mans and Paul Ricard, but early in the three-hour event it once again appeared that luck may have turned against them. Instead, the battling performance was rewarded with a late twist of fate, this time in favour of the multi-national line-up.
Although Findlay hadn't been too Dijon for three years, he was quickly back into the groove and, living up to his newly-confirmed 'elite driver' status, produced the best qualifying time of the #32 CD Sport trio. However, with his new status came a greater handicap for the squad, and the combined times used to determine grid positions left the orange-and-white machine down in ninth place.
“Being promoted to 'elite' status has pros and cons and, while it is good recognition of my ability, it makes it harder for the team in both qualifying and the race,” Findlay commented, “It is unlikely that we'll be able to repeat the sort of top four starting position we enjoyed at the start of the season, but at least I'll be able to go for it from now on!”
With co-driver Ines Taittinger nominated to start the race, Findlay had to bide his time before getting back behind the wheel and, when his moment came, it was with the #32 down in 24th position and the weather proving as changeable as it had at Paul Ricard three weeks earlier. Taittinger had been forced to switch from slicks to wets between leaving the pit and taking the start and, when Findlay took over, the track remained damp in places. Despite that, and deciding to run on slicks, he was quickly onto the pace and picking up places, eventually setting a fastest lap of 1min 14.207secs that would remain unbeaten to the end.
Such was the Briton's pace, it took him just 35 minutes to pick up 20 places, before dropping back again when the #32 made a scheduled stop for fuel. Although he was quickly able to regain the lost positions, his stint ended with the return of the rain, ensuring he had to concentrate before pitting under the safety car to hand over to Kevin Besancon for the run to the chequered flag.
“The last five minutes were particularly tricky, as the amount of moisture on my visor wasn't representative of the amount on the track,” Findlay admitted, “Fortunately, I was still able to make good time and pass people to bring us back up to fourth position before handing over to Kevin. With Ines having taken our additional drive-thru' handicap under an earlier safety car, it meant that Kevin could focus on getting to the end of the race without having to pit and that meant we were able to maintain a good position.”
Again, the #32 moved from eighth to fourth, but Besancon appeared to have reached the ceiling of the team's potential as the end of the race neared. Despite his best attempts, he could not close sufficiently to put the third-placed car under pressure, and crossed the line one spot shy of the podium. Unbeknownst to the three drivers, however, the team immediately ahead had failed to make the mandatory number of driver changes and was hit with a 40-second post-race penalty, dropping it to sixth and promoting the Findlay/Besancon/Taittinger combination into third position.
“We gambled slightly in sending Kevin out on my set of slicks, but the damp track had saved a little in terms of degradation and he didn't appear to struggle as he regained the places we lost in the stop,” Findlay claimed, “The strategy also saved us a little in terms of time spent in the pits and that made the difference in the end as we would have finished third had the #56 car made the right number of driver changes.
“After the blows we suffered in the first three races of the year, it is nice to see fortune finally shining on the #32. Fourth place would have been a good result in itself, but it was nice to learn that we had been bumped up into a podium position. Although it would have been better to have actually been able to get up there and accept the trophies, we'll take the result and the points and use them positively going into the next round. It has been a good weekend all round, with fastest lap another plus to take away, especially from the first meeting where I've been classified as an 'elite' driver, and I'm already looking forward to Aragon.”