Speedworks Motorsport has its eyes on the prize as it begins the defence of its hard-fought crown in the FIA International 24H Series this weekend (14-16 January), targeting a strong start to the campaign with its Global Racing-branded Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the 2016 edition of the 24H Dubai.
This time last year, Speedworks’ iconic British sportscar made its competitive debut in Dubai, with a third-place finish in the fiercely-disputed endurance racing championship opener sparking an extraordinary run of five consecutive rostrum results that culminated in the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit lifting the SP3 division laurels come season’s end.
Twelve months on, both team and car are back, with further glory – and a breakthrough class victory – firmly in its sights. Behind the wheel will be Global Insurance Management MD and track day enthusiast John Gilbert, promising young gun Devon Modell, ex-Formula Renault BARC Champion Ollie Hancock and new recruit Will Schryver, whose previous experience includes single-seaters and lower-level GT racing.
With the dependable Aston having scarcely missed a beat last year and an upgraded seven-speed gearbox being trialled in the 2016 curtain-raiser, hopes are justifiably high for a memorable Middle Eastern odyssey.
“Being a round-the-clock race, Dubai is a tough start to the season,” acknowledged team manager Amy Dick, whose squad is also an established top ten regular in the immensely popular, ITV4 live-televised Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).
“The first challenge for all the boys is simply staying awake for that length of time! Maintaining razor-sharp concentration throughout is essential, and the car must be mechanically sound to minimise the number of issues you encounter along the way. You need a combination of slick driver changes and quick pit-stops, and with 100 cars on-track, you also have to be careful to stay out of trouble. Ultimately, the key is to spend as little time in the pits as possible.
“The Aston ran almost faultlessly last year – not only was it reliable, but it was very robust and stood up well to any damage – and we’ve got a strong driver line-up again. Both Devon and Ollie are FIA ‘Silver’ standard competitors with a wealth of experience, John now has a full year under his belt in the car so he feels very comfortable and we are all really excited about what Will can bring to the team.
“We have no doubt that they will all work well together and do an excellent job, and we’ve received plenty of interest from a host of other drivers from all over the world with regard to subsequent events, which is really encouraging going forward.
“There’s no question we’ve got a lot to live up to this year, with a big grid in the SP3 class and a high-calibre field of drivers and cars. We’re under no illusions that it will be a tall order to replicate 2015’s achievements and successfully defend our title, but that’s certainly the goal.”