Former Formula Renault British champion and Star Mazda champion, Adam Christodoulou has been one of the first drivers to be selected to compete in the brand new McLaren MP4-12C GT3 race car, taking part in the Total 24 Hours at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend in Belgium.
The 12C GT3 is the first race car converted from a McLaren road car to make a 24 hour race debut since the McLaren F1 GTR at Le Mans sixteen years ago, and the welcome return has been long anticipated. Over seventy cars and dozens of manufacturers will be battling out on track to claim the crown at this prestigious 24 hour endurance race.
Also racing in the three McLaren’s this weekend are CRS Racing Team Principal Andrew Kirkaldy and McLaren Automotive Chief Test driver Chris Goodwin. The enterprise is led by McLaren Group CEO Martin Whitmarsh and includes McLaren Racing Head of Vehicle Engineering Mark Williams.
A Director of the new McLaren GT company, Chris Goodwin said: “I’m delighted with the quality of the drivers we have enlisted as we take the 12C GT3 to its first 24 hour race.
„This level of endurance racing is a crucial test for the car technically, and we need the best possible team working with us to ensure we receive intelligent, objective feedback on the 12C GT3 driving experience. We will use this feedback as we continue to develop the car in readiness for customers to go racing next year.“
The race runs from 30th-31st July 2011, starting at 4pm on Saturday, and television coverage will be on Motors TV.
Imola’s world-famous Italian track was the location for the racing action last weekend. A six-hour blitz around one of the most scenic and poignant circuits in motorsport, British racing driver Adam Christodoulou was looking forward to the challenge.
The facilities at the Italian based circuit are world-class, and the track is renowned for it’s enjoyable layout, however a hot and humid testing session was cut short when the weather turned nasty and prevented the team from making critical balance adjustments.
Saturday began with a below-par six-position qualifying (on a 1:46.8 lap), but after reviewing the data and video footage, Christodoulou was confident he could improve on his lap time, and prepared for the main race event.
An over-heating cockpit meant an unexpected penalty just as the car was brought onto the grid, but with no time left to make changes to the insulation before the lights changed, it wasn’t the most promising way to head into the race.
A crowded battle in the first few laps of Christodoulou’s debut at Imola made it an exciting start. The cars ahead were bunched up, and on some of the narrowest parts of the track there were often three abreast through the straights. At the end of the first Christo had managed to muscled up and into 4th place and the car seemed to be handling much better than it had done in practise.
However, when Christodoulou handed over to his team mate, Klass Hummel, the team’s fortune faded quickly, and a tyre blow out brought the car back into the pit lane. Hummel was able to swap his tyres for a fresh set and completed his run, before handing over to third CRS driver, Phil Quaife who was able to claw back some of the time lost in the pits.
Once more Christodoulou took the wheel, and the decision the team had made to try out a different tyre compound seemed to pay off. The car instantly gained stability, and quickly he found himself hot on the heals of the third and fourth placed contenders.
Despite the progress, there was trouble brewing, and race control identified that the cockpit in the car was once again running above the acceptable temperature. Not wishing to be penalised again (or risk disqualification) the team pulled the car back in to the pits for the essential emergency cooling, but the ultimate cost was the race advantage. Back out on track Christodoulou tried to rescue the lost time, but it was too late and the chequered flag placed them in fifth overall.
The result was disheartening for the whole team; it had been yet another race where there had seemed to be a strong chance of a podium result, but unfortunately events had conspired against them, and a much sought-after victory failed to materialise.
The next Le Mans Series race is on British soil at the home motorsport, Silverstone, and happens on September the 9th to 11th. It’s a track that all three drivers know well, and expectations are running high.