Devon Modell and his Oman Racing Team raced at the front in Round 3 of the 2016 Blancpain Endurance Series, but hopes of a podium finish or class victory in the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km (25-26 June) were dashed by an inopportune mechanical issue.
The Aston Martin Evolution Academy recruit and his Oman Racing Team followed a fourth place result in the opening round at Monza with a podium on home turf at Silverstone, therefore hopes and expectations were high going into the third round of the season in Le Castellet.
Preparations took a knock when an engine issue limited the Motorbase Performance-run team’s practice mileage; Modell’s Pro teammate Jonny Adam could only muster the 24th fastest time in a hotly-contested qualifying session that saw the top 11 covered by less than one second, but the Scotsman felt he had another two tenths in him and that was ultimately all that separated him from 13th overall and fifth in the Pro Am Cup classification.
The #44 Oman Racing Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 would be promoted to 23rd on the 57-car starting grid when a rival received a penalty, and Omani Am Ahmad Al Harthy kept pace with his class rivals during a solid opening stint, before giving way to Modell.
A double stint followed and it was supreme, consistent pace and inspired strategy calls that vaulted Oman Racing to second in class when Adam stepped into the breach with two hours of the 1000km enduro remaining.
The Scot settled into the race and continued in pursuit of the leaders, only for a broken front-left wishbone to thwart his charge. He toured back to the pits and a quick turnaround by the Motorbase mechanics saw the car return to action after a 20-minute delay, but the time-loss proved costly and hopes of a second consecutive podium were dashed.
It was testament to the skill and determination of the Motorbase Performance pit crew that the #44 Aston Martin reached the finish at all, and Modell reflected on finishing the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km in 13th in Pro Am and 33rd overall by saying: “It’s obviously disappointing when a mechanical issue denies you a potential podium or even a class win, but this is motor racing and nothing could have been done to prevent the problem.
“We had the engine out after the Bronze test and I thought we would have to change it, but the Oman Racing Team managed to carry out repairs. We lost track time and an opportunity to fine-tune our setup for the high temperatures in FP1, and Jonny (Adam) did a great job once again in a qualifying session that was so close; another two tenths would have seen us move up several places on the grid.”
Modell added: “Ahmad (Al Harthy) started the race and kept it tidy with good pace, bringing the car in for me to do a double stint. The Oman Racing Team was brilliant in the pit stops and made some good tactical calls during yellows, but then disaster struck. The mechanics did a phenomenal job to change the suspension, but we were too far behind by then. Nevertheless, we still demonstrated that we are a consistent podium threat and we can be more than happy with our pace.”
The 2016 Blancpain Endurance Series resumes with the headlining Total 24 Hours of Spa, in which Modell has previously finished on the podium (28-31 July).