Some stories are best told linear: beginning, middle and end. Others you need to jump around the timeline to appreciate the drama and so it is with JMW Motorsport's opening round in the 2016 ELMS Championship.
The team, with drivers Andrea Bertolini, Rory Butcher and Rob Smith, have lived and breathed the Ferrari 458 in recent years and come to this year’s Championship as strong contenders and so it appeared at the opening round at Silverstone (April 16th)
A day that started with snow flurries and that never warmed beyond 'refrigerator', started well with 3rdon the grid for the afternoon's 4-hour race.
And it ended even better with the drivers atop the podium taking a hard fought win however as with many a fairytale there was to be a twist.
The team were later excluded on technical infringement grounds. From the ELMS organizers "In post-race scrutineering the no66 Ferrari was found to be in breach of article 2.2.1a of the ELMS LMGTE Am Technical Regulations, which means it didn’t conform to the homologation papers. The front splitter was found to be incorrect and the JMW Motorsport Ferrari was excluded from the results"
Having been asked for further clarification by our supporters we would like to explain the situation as best as we can in layman’s terms. On the front floor of the car there are turning vanes which redirect airflow. Whilst we had 2, the 2016 regulation is for 6. This was a genuine oversight due to our use of the Le Mans spec for which we naturally take full responsibility. Somewhat ironically, the greater number of vanes is more beneficial and therefore we were actually at a disadvantage with this set up. Whilst we were greatly saddened to lose the win for the team and supporters, we accept and abide by the decision but stress this was a non-performance enhancing issue.
And so we return to the middle of the story and the many positives to be taken away from the weekend.
From 3rdon the (very cold) grid Rob put in a seamless first stint keeping the team upfront in the action before handing over to Rory to carry on the good work. Rory had to keep his wits about him as traffic was busy but a full course yellow made for a quick change to pitting plans and nipping in to hand over to Andrea at the optimum time.
Andrea proved himself to be the safest of hands though his stint was made more challenging with a front left tyre issue. After handing over to Rory to bring the car home, attention turned to the skies which had run through all varieties of precipitation throughout the day. A last quick splash and dash ensured Rory could steam to the chequered flag safely and allowed the team a few hours of celebration.
The team’s performance throughout the weekend cemented their intention to hit the track running and one very clear observation was the comradery of the drivers, supported by a dedicated team.
Rory expressed his delight to be back with the team "I really enjoy working with the team and must thank Jim [McWhirter, Team Principal] for inviting me back. Rob and Andrea are great team-mates and all the team has worked so hard."
Andrea was also full of praise for the team "The team has worked very hard since the beginning of the week. I have worked closely with Rory and Rob, and we are very focused. To come back to JMW feels like coming back to family. As with everyone our target is to the end the year on top. Since 2013 I have won each Championship I have entered and I want to win again this year! In fact, this year feels like the most important because I want to win for Jim and for JMW."
Rob, ever growing in confidence, is relishing working with Rory and Andrea. "We have such a strong line up. I truly think Rory is the best Silver driver on the grid and we have a Ferrari driver! Andrea is so generous in sharing his knowledge and I am learning so much! I don’t want to be the weakest link so am taking on everything I can – my brain is like a sponge!"
A bitter-sweet start to the year has not diminished the team's spirit, on the contrary, all are raring to get to Imola (May 15th) more fired up than ever!