Monday, March 4, 2024

Ross Wylie Column: Reflecting on a Championship Triumph and Shifting Gears for a Thrilling 2024 Season

Can’t believe Christmas is only a month or so away and that I’m already busy trying to organise various programmes for 2024.

The good thing is that I’m talking to teams and sponsors coming off the back of a very successful 2023 season which makes a massive difference when negotiating deals.

It was one of my best seasons in motor racing, no question, running with great teams and having fantastic partners supporting me.

I picked up two championship titles and just missed out on another so all of the hard work, on and off the track, paid off and that’s why it’s important to get everything in line and organised for next season as soon as possible.   

So, looking back, let’s start with the title success. For the first time, I claimed overall GT Cup Championship honours along with car owner and “sporting driver” Paul Bailey. In the end, we finished over 50 points ahead of our nearest pursuers in the outright title race and a very healthy 185 points to the fore in the GTO category which I also won in 2021.

Looking back, I had nine podiums, including six wins, and four class fastest laps in a variety of GT cars and that despite missing races due to clashing Porsche Carrera Cup GB commitments.

I did 10 “pit-stop” races and drove three different cars prepared by Kendall Developments – a Brabham BT62 Competition plus a Mercedes AMG GT3 and latterly a Lamborghini Huracán – I’d never previously driven the Merc or the Lambo.

It was a pleasure sharing the various cars with Paul again while the Kendall team always provided both of us with super competitive cars throughout the season.

It was challenging having to switch cars in the series as they had totally different characteristics.

Credit: Porsche GB

Additionally, I was having to acclimatise to these cars having raced my Glenturret Porsche in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB championship throughout the year which made things a little more difficult.

But that in itself was an enjoyable experience for me and makes me especially proud of what I achieved this season.

In an ideal world, defending these titles is something I’d like to do but it’s down to a number of factors including whether Paul continues to race in this series. Fingers crossed.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB the way I’d hoped in that I ultimately finished just seven points behind the Pro-Am class winner in the final standings.

Reflecting, I actually finished in the Pro-Am top-five on 13 occasions in the 16-race series, including nine podiums and six wins. In eight qualifying sessions that set the grid positions for the opening races, I claimed front-row positions on six occasions – including a pole position at my “home” Knockhill event in August.

But I just came up short despite the Redline team giving me a great car all season – in fact, another Redline driver, Max Bird, won the title – and congratulations to him. 

I missed out on “pole” and an extra point in the final minutes of qualifying at the final event in October by a mere 0.045 seconds around the Brands Hatch GP circuit, lining up second in class for the opening 25-minute race.

Race One was shortened and featured only five racing laps, the remaining seven completed behind the Safety Car after an on-track incident and I brought the Glenturret Porsche home second in class.

Unfortunately, I was pushed wide on the opening lap of Race 2 costing me five overall places and a vital class place, dropping to third in Pro-Am – a position I kept until the chequered flag after 17 laps.

But despite missing out on the championship, overall it was a good and enjoyable weekend. I honestly couldn’t have done any more – I pushed until the very end in the hope of snatching the title but it wasn’t to be. I scored more class wins than anyone else so I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. Again, this series is one I dearly want to contest next year, especially having recently collected my silverware at the Porsche Night of Champions held at the Grand Hotel in Birmingham.

Credit: Porsche GB

I must also mention competing in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup race supporting the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone in the summer.

It was a one-off race in a Richardson Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car but a massive adrenaline rush for me, recording a top-16 placing and being the best-placed British driver with no prior Supercup experience. I’d never witnessed anything like the atmosphere before.

Make no mistake, I couldn’t have competed at these levels without the backing of some of Scotland’s great and the good supporting me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with The Glenturret, Scotland’s oldest working distillery, which has been my main sponsor/partner this year. I’m immensely grateful to them – their enthusiasm has been incredible.

Since the summer, I’ve also been supported by another iconic Scottish company, family confectioners Tunnock’s. Additionally, local Dumfriesshire companies AL-2 Teknik UK, PyroDry and Carronbridge Sawmill have remained loyal to me all season.

What was especially nice was that the support also came in the form of representatives from each of my partners physically attending races during the season.

So, onwards and upwards towards another exciting ’24 programme. Hopefully, I’ll keep you posted early next year on how things are shaping up. Have a good Christmas and of course Hogmanay!

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