Phil Quaife (Tunbridge Wells, Kent) reasserted his authority – and that of the Memac Ogilvy Duel Racing team – at the head of the 24H International Endurance Series TCR class standings with a strong podium finish at the Hankook 24 Hours of Silverstone last weekend (April 2-3).
The McLaren Test and Development Driver arrived at the home of British motorsport on the back of a dominant victory at the season-opening 24 Hours of Dubai in January, where he and his co-drivers – Nabil, Ramzi and Sami Moutran – established a healthy gap at the top of the TCR points tables.
Nevertheless, with several competitive TCR entries taking to the British Grand Prix venue for the touring car-only round, Quaife and his fellow co-drivers would need to deploy the title-winning speed they used to such great effect in the Arabian Desert.
Things looked promising from the outset of Thursday’s test session, in which Quaife and the Moutran brothers focused on optimising a versatile set-up for both qualifying and the race. Favourable weather conditions during the test and Friday free practice gave the defending champions the opportunity to do just that, and their work was rewarded with class-leading lap times nearly half a second quicker than their closest rivals in each session.
The four drivers were unable to fully exploit the fruits of their labours in Friday’s hour-long qualifying shootout, which was halted on several occasions by a Code 60 period, during which a speed limit is imposed on all competitors in lieu of a safety car, and red flag suspension.
With valuable running time also taken up by Duel Racing’s own preparations, elected qualifier Quaife was left with only one competitive flying lap with which to replicate his pole-winning performance in Dubai. The team’s aspirations were frustrated even further by cold track temperatures, which combined with the limited track running to make the job of sufficiently warming the car’s tyres a particularly challenging endeavour. Nevertheless, Quaife extracted every ounce of performance from his #1 SEAT Leon Cup Racer to qualify third in class.
Having been promoted to pole position after the first and second-placed qualifiers were penalised for ride-height infringements, Quaife took the wheel for the start of the day-long contest and quickly became embroiled in a fierce battle for the class and overall lead, which rumbled on throughout his stint and into the evening hours.
Solid stints from both Sami and Nabil after darkness fell were marred by wet weather, which prompted the two Moutran brothers to adopt a safer, more conservative strategy to consolidate the team’s progress. However, with increasingly wet track conditions and descending fog sending the #1 machine down the order as the clock neared the seven-hour mark, Quaife and Ramzi were tasked with rescuing the squad’s podium chances through a series of back-to-back night shifts.
Come the dawn the duo had brought their Leon Cup Racer up to third in class and handed the reins to Sami and Nabil in a bid to chase down the category leaders. By the time Quaife jumped aboard with four hours to go the squad had climbed to second in class and third overall, and a Herculean effort from the 30-year-old Briton helped them secure yet another podium and a valuable haul of points to extend their lead at the top of the TCR standings and move them into second in the overall points.
“The 24 Hours of Silverstone was ultimately a very rewarding one for us, especially with the excellent boost it has given our championship hopes for this year,