Devon Modell concludes Blancpain campaign with great recovery drive to eighth

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Devon Modell and his Oman Racing Team battled to eighth place in a stonking recovery drive from the back of the field in the 2016 Blancpain Endurance Series finale at the Nurburgring (17-18 September), concluding a season in which misfortune was tempered by massive highs.  

Conditions at the mythical German racetrack were typically treacherous, as fog blanketed the Eifel Mountains and caused a significant reduction in visibility for qualifying on Sunday morning.

The first two segments of the three-part qualifying session were cancelled as a consequence of the atrocious weather, so it was left to Modell’s Pro teammate Jonny Adam to take the #44 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin out into the gloom for a run at pole position.

Some of the competition faltered and a red flag stoppage meant there were just 11 minutes for Adam and his 52 rivals to find clean air on the 5.1km grand prix circuit and record a time when the green light shone at the end of the pit lane.

The order changed incessantly but Adam stood at the top of the Pro Am Cup timesheets when the session was halted again with approximately one-minute remaining to seal pole position and sixth overall.

All three drivers were satisfied with the setup honed in testing and that was validated when Adam achieved Motorbase Performance’s best ever Blancpain qualifying result, but track conditions and the handling characteristics of the #44 Aston Martin changed again on Sunday and made for a tough race.

Victory and second place in the Pro Am standings was the objective, but the Oman Racing Team was forced to reassess its goals when Ahmad Al Harthy was tipped into a spin in an unfortunate first-corner collision.

The Omani gentleman racer tumbled from sixth overall to 53rd and last in one corner and he and his teammates would have it all to do to recover a meaningful result from the final race of the 2016 Blancpain Endurance Series.

The going was tough on a green and slippery track, but Modell stepped in towards the end of the first hour and drove flat out to get in among some tense tussles on his way to eighth in the Pro Am classification.

Adam followed and initially lost ground when Pro Am rivals capitalised on a full course yellow to carry out their final driver-changes, but the Scotsman moved forward while negotiating backmarkers and took the chequered flag in P8.

Having been punted out of contention for a class victory or podium finish, Modell and his teammates ended up fourth in the Pro Am Cup Drivers’ standings, with the Motorbase Performance-run Oman Racing Team sealing fifth in the Teams’ classification.

Reflecting on a season of ‘what ifs’, Modell said: “It has been a difficult and unfortunate season in the Blancpain Endurance Series, but it has been error-free from mine, Ahmad’s (Al Harthy), Jonny’s (Adam) perspectives and it’s comforting to know that we could have been looking at a very different picture had luck been on our side.

“However, it’s all experience and playing a part in achieving Motorbase Performance’s best result at Silverstone was a very proud moment. All-in-all I feel Ahmad, Jonny and I have gelled really well as teammates, Motorbase performed brilliantly and I feel I’m a better and well-rounded driver because of the experiences I’ve accumulated this year.”

Modell added: “Working with somebody of Jonny Adam’s calibre is always a pleasure. He’s a consummate professional, he knows what he wants and he’s also nurturing, taking time to make sure his less experienced teammates are happy and comfortable while giving advice that will help you improve. Ultimately, the Blancpain Endurance Series is the hardest championship of its kind in the world and it’s positive that we can say we’ve had missed opportunities, as it shows the quality and ambition within the team and us drivers.”

Modell hits the road once again for a one-off appearance in the VW Fun Cup at the scenic Anglesey Circuit on the Welsh coast (24-25 September).

Originally conceived in 2002, the championship has gone from strength to strength, with more than 160 cars turning out for the headlining Spa 25 Hour race and regular grids topping out at around 30 in the UK.

Modell will share a car with former Aston Martin teammate John Gilbert and rapid lady racer, Sarah Reader.