This weekend saw one of the most famed 24 hour races on the motorsport calendar, when the world’s best GT drivers take to the track at Spa-Francorchamps to contest the Total 24 Hours of Spa. Teaming up with Barwell Motorsports once again, alongside his teammates Sandy Mitchell and Jordan Witt, James Pull engaged in a fearsome battle against the elements and a 73 car field, to claim his greatest career victory to date, winning the Silver Cup at this year’s prestigious race.
Ready for the challenge, James carved his craft in the 3 Hours of Monza, 3 Hours of Silverstone and 1000km of Paul Ricard earlier this season, in the Silver Cup class of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. Having rapidly made a name for himself in GT racing since his debut only last year, this year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa saw James make his 24 hour debut, with glittering success.
No stranger to racing through the mighty Ardennes hills at Spa-Francorchamps, the Lamborghini Young Driver took to the wheel of the #78 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo on Thursday for practice and qualifying sessions, before testing his night driving skills later in the day. With strong pace from the off, the #78 crew ran consistently at the sharp end of the session times throughout the day. But falling victim to red flags and traffic, the team struggled to really showcase their pace in qualifying, but still earned 3rd in class starting position for the race.
“We did not have an ideal qualifying as there were issues with red flags and traffic, which was really frustrating as we wanted to get off to a good start, but nevertheless we knew we had 24 hours ahead of us”
“Night practice at Spa was crazy, it felt like a sensory overload, with no floodlights and 73 supercars driving around through the night, it was pretty overwhelming. But I actually felt comfortable quite quickly, which gave me a confidence boost going into the race.”
The baking hot conditions of Thursday were a distant memory, when it came to race day, with a deluge of rain soaking the track on Saturday afternoon, it was clear that James had a tough challenge ahead. As the cars lined up for the start at 16:30 CEST, the decision was made to start under safety car, due to the treacherous conditions. But when racing went green and the track began to dry, the battle commenced, the team certainly ready for action - and the race did not disappoint. With his first ever 24hour race underway, the British-Malaysian driver focused on keeping his head down and learning as much as possible, with an onslaught of challenging conditions to tackle, it proved to be no easy feat. Under stormy skies, the field found themselves battling to keep cars on track and powering through limited visibility. With plenty of experience racing in the wet, James relished the opportunity and made sure to trust his natural racing ability as the race entered the night stage.
"The changeable conditions throughout the race meant that quite often you’d be on the wrong tyre, because it would either be really wet, or dry out quite quickly. It was extremely difficult, especially during the night, with limited visibility and traffic to contend with. Probably the worst possible conditions for my first 24 hour race, but for me, that just made it more exciting.”
As morning broke, the weather worsened and a lengthy red flag period added to the pressure, with time ticking down, it was a nail-biting time for the James and the team, who knew they had a real chance of a strong finish. Eventually as racing resumed at 11:30am, just 5 hours remaining on the clock, the countdown was on and it was all about keeping their nose clean and maximising their pace. Running in P2, they managed to secure the lead through strong pit stop strategy and their battle with #90 Mercedes really ramped up. At the wheel for the final stint, James had the hardest job of all, to maintain their position and open the gap up to their chasing rivals. Where despite the pressure, he drove a faultless run to the flag, climbing as high as 15th on the road, fending off competition from a catalogue of experienced GT drivers.
After 24 gruelling hours, thwarted with yellow flags, safety cars and tense red flag periods. James Pull brought the #78 Black Bull-backed Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo over the finish line, to take the Silver Cup victory in his first 24 hour race.
With determination and a strong head on his shoulders, James tackled no less than three triple stints throughout the race, a mighty task by even the most seasoned endurance drivers.
Speaking of his achievement, the 19-year-old recapped on a chaotic, but thrilling race:
“I was there to experience the race, take in the atmosphere and learn as much as I could.
We knew the pace would be strong, but didn’t know what to expect, because a 24 hour race is so different to every other race I’ve ever done in my career. It was incredibly mentally and physically draining, not least from the 24 hours itself, but with all the additional challenges thrown at us.”
"Together we worked incredibly well as a team, from the drivers to the mechanics, we all kept our heads down, made the right calls with pit stops and that meant we were in a good position to fight. Sandy and Jordan both had amazing drives and the Barwell guys were superb. The result shows that not only did we take the class win, but that we finished P15 overall, against the best of the best in the GT world. It feels incredible, we beat some really talented guys out there, to be honest it hasn’t really sunk in yet, I’m sure it will soon”