Pull shows his class in Blancpain GT season finale
In hot and humid race conditions inside the cockpit, James and his team-mates Sandy Mitchell and Jordan Witt put in a fantastic overall performance to complete their 2019 campaign with a P8 finish, despite a drive-through penalty for pit stop infringements spoiling the trio’s chance of a class victory and the runner-up spot in the Silver Cup championship.
After an exciting year of on-track action, the Blancpain GT Series came to an end in Barcelona, and James was determined to end the year on a high.
James and his team-mates had a solid qualifying session, although felt that they didn’t manage to achieve their full potential due to the traffic on track and the interruption of red flags. It was decided that James would take part in the first qualifying session, and he posted a best time of 1:46.006s, to put him fifth in the silver class and only 0.3 seconds off the pole-man’s time.
With Sandy and Jordan also having a good session, the team qualified in a very respectable third in class and 19th overall.
“It wasn’t our best qualifying session but we were still P19 overall, which was a good effort in the 46 car field,” said the Barwell Motorsport driver. “We knew that we had a pretty strong race car so we were all excited for the race.”
With the curtain ready to come down on the 2019 season, James was confident of a strong finish for the trio.
Jordan started the three-hour race and gained two places to run 17th overall in the first stint. Then, the trio were hit with a long safety car period of 40-minutes, which prohibited them from going on the charge.
The team decided to pit earlier than the cars in front to try and achieve an undercut. James got into the car and the strategy worked perfectly with the #78 car gaining several positions over its rivals. With James’ consistently quick driving, the British-Malaysian racer took to the front and led the silver class during his stint, achieving consecutively fast lap times as he closed the deficit to the overall front runners.
After an hour in the cockpit, the team called James into the pits with the car still in control of the silver class and P8 overall.
“The pace was really good,” James said. “In my stint, I kept the nose of the car clean and focused on closing the gap to our competitors in front. I just did what I needed to do and I was rewarded.
“The conditions in the car were really tough. We had an airflow problem and the air con wasn’t working. This made for a real challenge for all three of us. It was the toughest race physically that I have ever competed in.”
Sandy was the last of the three to handle the car and he returned to the field still in the lead in the silver class. Managing to get up to P6 overall, the team was unfortunately hit with a drive-through penalty for a minor technical pit stop infringement with only minutes left on the clock.
With the penalty served, James’ chance of a wonderful victory had slipped from his and his team-mate’s grasp. After an intense three-hour race, the #78 Lamborghini crossed the line eighth in class and 18th overall.
“We lost an overall top-five finish and a silver class victory,” James said. “It is such a shame and very unfortunate that such a small thing cost us the win. As a team, we did everything in our power to try and get the championship, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Everyone worked so hard and put their all in. Sandy and Jordan have been fantastic this year as have the whole Barwell team. It has been a pleasure to have worked with all of them."
After an exciting race season across five countries, James ends the season fourth in the silver class championship on 61 points, with the highlight of a sensational victory at the 24 Hours of Spa on debut in 24 Hour racing.