Editor’s note: Sean Rayhall, one of America’s rising driving talents, will file a series of blogs throughout the year chronicling his season in the European Le Mans Series, with Zak Brown’s United Autosports team in its Ligier JS P3 Nissan. His first looks at a dream start to his campaign, where he and co-driver John Falb won Saturday’s 4 Hours of Silverstone.
Hello everyone! Here is a small recap of our week in Silverstone!
From my base in Atlanta, we had a nice flight over to London Heathrow, and thankfully Delta hooked me up with an upgrade to business class, which doesn’t happen often. I met up with my teammate John Falb at the airport and we headed to Oxford for a quick bite before getting situated at the track for our test Monday. John told me if I wasn’t P1 this week that he was sending me to the chopping block!
We had a very productive test Monday with United Autosports, which was important going into the race weekend. The car seemed good on the long runs which was our main concern going in, and we turned a quick lap or two that made us happy with our setup.
It’s rare you get time off during a race week so we went to London for a day to check out some things there. To be honest, it’s pretty cool seeing things that we hear about in America but don’t always get the opportunity to view in person – case in point, Big Ben and the London eye were pretty special to see!
Our team owner Zak Brown arranged a tour of the McLaren Technology Centre just for us Wednesday morning which was
amazing. When you get to see cars Senna and Hunt drove and learn personal stories about Bruce McLaren at this facility, it’s surreal because these are things you just don’t get to do every day. It was an eye-opening experience for sure!
Once back at the track, we had practice and qualifying over the next few days and this went really well for us. The car was handling even better than our test on Monday thanks to some final touches by the United crew, which put us near the front every session. We qualified second, and the thought of two Americans sitting on the front row for this European Le Mans Series race at Silverstone was surreal to John and I because there aren’t many of us competing in Europe at the moment.
Race day came on Saturday and I couldn’t have been happier, because a week of anticipation staying in England was starting to get to me. We had a strategy to just basically push 100 percent like a sprint race the entire four hours, but to conserve tires that we had to do two hours on each set. So, you have to put a lot of thought into that; going flat out is tempting but you also have to have the tires underneath you to run the same pace for a full two hours.
At the start of the race, I made the pass for the lead going into Turn 3 and shut the door on the polesitter and never looked back. We actually had a small fuel consumption issue that changed our strategy, so I was on fuel save mode the entire two stints while trying to leave the field. We ended up with an 1:30 gap to P2 when I got out.
John had two great stints! He was very quick and maintained a good gap to the field. That being said, when you’re watching from the pits, it was the longest two hours of my life!
We were able to grab the win and I hugged my engineer G-Baby (Gary Robertshaw). I just call him that because he hates it, until he made me get off of him on the pit lane. Also, our teammate Filipe Albuquerque was able to make a pass for the win in LMP2 in the last 3 minutes of the race! So it was a double win for United Autosports, and all three of our cars ended up on the podium! (The No. 3 car got promoted to third in class at the end of the race -Ed.)
Words can’t describe the feeling of that day, the amount of support from our team, my girlfriend Danielle, family and friends, as well as, the best fans I could ask for was remarkable and I am beyond thankful for each and everyone of you!
Thanks for reading! Will have one of these articles for each Euro trip this year! Back to work for Monza 🙂