“Now we really can start digging deep for the remaining time!” – Simondet makes confident start to 2024 BEC campaign with MacG Racing

(Photo: Charlie Shattock)

Arthur Simondet made a confident start to his 2024 British Endurance Championship campaign when, alongside teammate Jonny MacGregor, the pair brought the #83 MacG Racing Ginetta G55 home for victory in Class G and an overall 7th-place finish in Round One at Donington.

Friday’s two-hour contest was the Texas-raised driver’s first experience of endurance racing in GT4-spec machinery. Simondet spent 2023 competing in Citroen C1s, finishing fourth in the Student Motorsport Challenge, part of the CityCar Cup Championship, with QE Motorsports in addition to selected outings in the Silverlake C1 Endurance series.

Simondet and MacGregor had tested at Donington on the Thursday and mixed conditions throughout the day enabled the Derby-based team to experience the Ginetta across its full range of tyres.

The popular condensed format of the British Endurance Championship meant that the team would be practicing, qualifying and racing across one day with Simondet getting the lion’s share of the seat time during the morning’s 30-minute practice session. Simondet got his times down into the 1:42s before handing over to Jonny MacGregor who went qualify the #83 car with a 1:38.655 to put the MacG Racing Ginetta 10th on the overall grid and second in Class G.

(Photo: EnduranceandGT)

A clutch changed was required before the race and the MacG Racing team worked flat out to complete the task with minutes remaining before the #83 car was due out on the grid at 3.20pm.

MacGregor took the start with a threat of rain in the air and moisture on the track meant the rolling start took place behind the safety car. MacGregor made up three places on the opening lap and was up to 4th overall after seven laps before being passed by the #68 McLaren driven by Aaron Morgan.

MacGregor came into the pits to hand over to Simondet with 80 minutes remaining. Simondet rejoined in 11th overall and second in class and, despite his lack of seat-time in the Ginetta, showed supreme consistency with a series of laps in the 1:40s before briefly dipping into the 1:39s. With an hour remaining, the #83 car as up to 10th overall and just over nine seconds behind the class-leading #15 Ginetta driven by Ray Harris.

Jonny MacGregor took over for the final stint and moved up to 8th, taking the class lead after the #15 car was served with a penalty for a fuelling infringement. With 20 minutes remaining MacGregor was 7th overall and holding on to the class lead but there was drama in the final six minutes as heavy rain started to fall.  The MacG Racing Technical Director called on his extensive GT experience to keep the slick-shod Ginetta on the racing surface to take the chequered flag in 7th place overall, just over seven seconds behind the #25 Breakell Racing Mercedes AMG GT4.

(Photo: Charlie Shattock)

Commenting on Arthur Simondet’s first competitive outing in a GT4-spec car, Jonny MacGregor was delighted at how the day had progressed.

“Yes, I’m very happy,” said Jonny MacGregor. “Arthur did a brilliant job! It was a really solid stint. He was consistent throughout. There were things going on that he had to deal with on-track, and I think he just did a really solid job, bringing the car back in one piece which allowed me to finish the race quite easily.

“We set the car up quite soft for this weekend. I think we will stiffen it up a bit for the next round because we didn’t know how well Arthur would adjust to it. But obviously he’s done an exceptionally good job so we can stiffen it up for Snetterton.”

Arthur Simondet was very pleased at how the race had gone bit but admitted that the opening round had presented a huge learning curve.

“It would have been nice to have done a full test day with MacG Racing but the timing never really made sense and the weather didn’t look right to test on the Wednesday,” said Simondet. “When we did test (on the Thursday) I had to learn big chunks of things at a time. The brakes are more powerful than anything I’ve experienced and that was the hardest thing. It was just getting accustomed to braking much later than all of the references I had at Donington.

“So, I had to work hard to get over the mental hurdle on the brakes but I’m happy to say that by the end of my stint I think I got there. Not starting the race took a piece of pressure off that, in the end, I was better off without. Taking the middle stint was good. We know the pace was around a 1:38 and I was in the 1:40s, and dipping into the 1:39s, in the race so there are still some things to find out, but I can live with that for the first weekend. Now we’re really going to start digging deep now for the remaining time.”

Simondet was very pleased at how the driving relationship with Jonny MacGregor developed over the course of the opening round.

“Jonny’s great because not only is he a great driver, he can also be very detailed on what needs to be done to get the best out of the car. I can basically step into it and it’s perfect exactly the way it is. I was happy to see that we gave relatively similar feedback and that makes me think I’m catching on to a thing or two which is good to see. Jonny, I think, is going to make a great pairing for the season.”

Round two of the 2024 British Endurance Championship takes place at Snetterton on April the 13th.