British GT Championship, Rounds 3&4 - 2x1 hours, Monday 30 May
Photo: Jakob Ebrey
Matty Graham started the no. 42 Aston Martin from 8th on the GT4 grid and, as the lights changed at the rolling start, grabbed a place immediately.
After barely 10 minutes of racing, the Safety Car was scrambled to allow clean-up work following an accident. At the restart, Matty was again on the attack, leaping up the order into 3rd, as rivals tangled ahead of him, then chasing down the top two cars, right up to the mid-race pit-stops.
Knowing that the stops would be critical the team had thoroughly rehearsed their driver-changes and when Matty handed over to team-mate Jack Mitchell, the swap was a great one, moving them up another spot, as Jack charged back out into the race in second position.
Jack still had a battle on his hands for the remaining portion of the race, hanging onto second place, while trying to keep the pressure on the leader. He drove a fast and error-free stint, bringing the no. 42 home in second, delightedly claiming the team’s first-ever podium finish, in just their third motor race.
“I got a decent start,” beamed Matty Graham, after the race, “I was really alert and made up a place right away. Before the restart [after the Safety Car] everybody bunches up and there was a collision, which I managed to avoid, as I took third place.
“Then I was catching the leading pair, setting good fast laps. We nailed our pit-stop driver change – it was really fast – and we made up another place.”
Team-mate Jack Mitchell took over the car – the first time he’s ever done that in a race. “It’s certainly a different experience,” he laughed. “The tyres were already half an hour old, so they were a bit more worn than I’ve had before and we had a little problem with understeer.
“I had to drive around that, trying to put in as many consistent laps as possible and stay ahead of the chasing pack. The car was a little bit stiffer than in practice and had a little bit more grunt too, which made it even better around Oulton Park and it was just fantastic to see the chequered flag, knowing we’d claimed our first-ever podium as a team.”
There was no change to enjoy the champagne, however, as there was the small matter of the second one-hour race; another chance to prove their mettle.
At the start, Jack found himself stuck behind a slower rival, which took a few laps to get past - the no. 42 Aston in 7th position when he came in to hand over to Matty.
The podium finish in Race 1 meant their pit-stop would be 7 seconds longer than most of their rivals, so Matty had a job on his hands to catch the cars in front – made tougher when the no. 42 Aston Martin jammed in 4th gear, then stopped altogether. A trackside reset corrected the electronic glitch and Matty was attacking for 6th when a red flag brought the race to a premature end, leaving the Generation AMR Macmillan Racing Aston Martin in 7th.
“I was catching the McLaren [which eventually finished 4th,]” said Matty, “when I got stuck in 4th gear. Then the electrics packed up altogether, so I pulled off. With the reset button, I managed to get the car running again and then everything was OK but I’d lost a lot of ground to the front-runners.
“I was closing in on the Aston in 6th, about to make a move, when the red flags came out, ending the race. A little disappointing, as we might even have challenged for a podium but I’m happy to take the points.”
“It’s been a fantastic day for the team,” smiled Macmillan Racing team principal David Macmillan. “Of course, you dream of the big results but – especially after two very tough weekends to start the season – you have to keep your fantasies in check.
“For Jack and Matty to be beaming down from the podium, in only the third race ever for the team, is a very special moment. I can’t thank them or the team enough – it’s been hard work, dedication and determination that has got us here and we’ve proved that we’ve got what it takes.
“We all know there will be highs and lows along the way but I think the trophies we have earned today will serve as further inspiration for us all.”