Engine misfire denies inception racing’s chance to shine

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There were highs, and there were lows for inception racing this weekend (July 31 to August 1) at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, the opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.

Ultimately the eighth position in the Pro-Am class, and 28th overall was not the result that the Optimum Motorsport run team had desired, nor feel they deserved. But after 537 laps, an engine misfire issue, the survival of atrocious weather conditions within sight of the chequered flag, everyone was more than content and happy with the team performance – if not the outcome - of this very demanding, world-famous GT3 event.

Brendan Iribe and Ollie Millroy were joined for the event by Kevin Madsen and Jordan Pepper. Only the latter had raced in the event before and therefore, once the mechanical issue had been overcome, the team were more than happy to continue the event in order to provide the opportunity of gaining experience for the remaining three drivers.

Having worked through the practice and qualifying session to start sixth in class, 44th overall, the determining factor to the outcome of the event overall came three hours into the race when Ollie reported a stutter power-wise shifting through the gears on the main straights. The issue got progressively worse after he handed over to Brendan, and duly the American pitted to have the issue rectified.

An engine misfire is not an easy diagnosis or fix and it took just over 20 minutes for the team to find the issue and replace the coil pack and associated spark plug. It was unfortunate that something so relatively simple effectively ended any real challenge for a meaningful result.

From that early point on, the team could either continue to race having lost eight laps to the field ahead, or park the #70 McLaren and retire from the event. They opted to continue, mainly because as a group of four racers, they wanted to be out there in the event, learning, experiencing and fundamentally enjoying their race craft in a super-quick car.

Both Brendan and Kevin enjoyed plenty of both night and daytime running, while Ollie and Jordan completed the bulk of the running through the various cycles.

Just when it seems that the race result was assured, Brendan jumped in for the final stint, only for the clouds to burst and the circuit became saturated. He boxed to be sure of the result, with Jordan back behind the wheel to finish eighth in class on a day that could have been. The significance of finishing the event should not be lost, especially with three of the four racers new to the challenge and it is is the team’s first finish at the Spa 24 as well, bringing us a step closer to the ultimate objective.

The team now continue preparations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with testing at Paul Ricard, followed by the official test day at Circuit de la Sarthe.

Kevin Madsen

“I was really excited to compete in the 24 hours of Spa. It was cool for me to jump into the car for the first time in what was a night session in qualifying, that was really exciting. In the race, a mechanical issue unfortunately set us back and again my first time in the car came at night and the track was a little messy with debris and then later I was in for a double stint in the car which saw me return to daytime running. It’s been great, you can see the huge experience that Optimum Motorsport has in this business, and it shows. It’s been my first Spa 24 and it’s been awesome.”

Ollie Millroy

“It was for most of us, our first Spa 24 and it’s been a rollercoaster and a lot for us to learn. Bas (Leinders, Team Manager) has so much experience of this race both racing and in running teams, so that was especially helpful. To have that car issue so early in the race was a shame, so we need to look at that and take learnings. Credit to the team, we race week in, week out, and they always put in maximum effort and the level that they are now at is incredible. I’m pleased we could finish the race but it’s definitely not the result that everyone deserved.”

Jordan Pepper

“We got turned around on lap one, but it was alright as there was no damage to the car and I was able to make some early progress. Then there was the accident that was scary to see and then we started to work the strategy and we put Brendan in to get some stint done early on. We then had the issue and it’s just good that everyone was able to get back on track to continue to learn together and having fun which is important. I did a triple stint in the night that was pure driving pleasure. I thoroughly enjoyed that and made some good passes and enjoyed fighting with some of the leading pro-cars. It was awesome to see the performance of the car, but sad that we couldn’t get a good result. Huge thanks to the team for their great effort and I have really enjoyed their warm welcoming.”

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