With a strong driver line-up, Century Motorsport arrived at the 2018 Hankook Dubai 24 Hour race with the unmitigated desire of maintaining their running streak of podium finishes after their success over the past two years at the Dubai Autodrome (finishing with a first in class in 2016 and a second in class in 2017). In October 2017, when Jon Barnes confirmed that he would be driving with Century in this race, alongside his driving partner of over three years in British GT Championship, Mark Farmer, and 2017 GT Cup Champion Dominic Paul, his words were: “What’s the worst that could happen?” No one could have predicted the sheer anguish that the team would endure during the Dubai 24H, despite still managing to get the #229 Ginetta G55 across the finish line, achieving fourth position in class and also managing to achieve fastest lap in SP3, set by owner and driver Nathan Freke.
The weekend started really well, with all four drivers putting in impressive lap times, leading onto Barnes achieving outright pole position (TCE Series) for Century during the qualifying session with a breath-taking time of 2m07.871s. The chance of a repeat podium finish was looking promising.
As the race got underway, the team stuck to their strategy of a slower lap time with more fuel in each pit stop. All was going well until an unforeseen engine failure nine hours into the race.
Barnes (BRDC Member and driver coach) said: “I fully expected us to be out of the race when the engine blew up. It was a huge testament to the fantastic team that Nathan has built – that instead of giving up and packing everything away, everyone showed their professionalism, determination and true grit to get the new engine in the car and get us back out on circuit – where we came agonisingly close to clawing back a podium finish.“
The team replaced the engine and got the car back out within just two hours. The drivers all put in fantastic stints throughout the night to pull back the deficit to fifteen seconds off third place until to their dismay; a drive line issue meant a visit back to the pits with a 15 minute delay, unfortunately dropping them from contention of a podium finish.
Getting the G55 back out and so close to a podium finish after the night’s ordeal, Freke (BRDC member) and his hard-working team, along with Paul, Barnes and Farmer (having completed their first 24 hour race) all have plenty to be proud of.
Farmer’s final words on the race: “It was the first major reliability problem that Century Motorsport had had in several years competing, and whilst the boys performed heroic acts to get us back out, we lost too much time to remain in contention. I guess, as they say, this is endurance!”
Three days after the race, catching up with Barnes, he speaks with a sore throat from when the marshals sprayed the fire extinguisher after the engine had failed. He says: “I think we all feel that we have unfinished business and we enjoyed our time in Dubai, so I hope to be back again in 2019!”
Finally, Freke talks of his experience of the Hankook Dubai 24H: “It was a tough race for us. I see both sides of the coin from a driver perspective and a team boss perspective. The driver line up was a race winning line up, but we just didn’t get the rub of the green this time around. Code 60’s fell at bad times for us, and then the engine failure really put pay to any chance of a great result.
I’m proud of the team around me who dug deep to change the engine in such a quick time. The drivers have been a joy to work with and I really hope we get to come back in 2019 together and get the result we all want.”