RAM Racing’s John Ferguson and Raffaele Marciello produced a brilliant fightback during the final round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship at Donington Park, with the pair so nearly scoring a third podium finish of the year.
A tricky qualifying in mixed conditions, plus a grid drop penalty, left Ferguson and Marciello starting down the order in 14th for Sunday’s two-hour season finale, but the combination of consistent pace, strong strategy and a fine final stint from Marciello so nearly helped the #15 Mercedes-AMG charge back to the podium.
The opening day of the Donington Decider would be largely unrepresentative, with intermittent rain making conditions treacherous all day, but with the track forecast to be dry for Sunday’s race. Marciello made his mark by going second fastest overall during second practice, which signalled good things ahead of qualifying.
With the car not carrying any pit stop success penalty during the race, a strong starting position would be key to Ferguson and Marciello fighting for the win. But the conditions conspired to make that a big ask. The rain stopped before the start of the session, leaving the choice between slicks and wets on a knife edge. Ferguson was sent out on slicks as the team gambled, but it didn’t pay off as a lack of grip and then a red flag curtailing the session left the #15 down the order and out of the fight for pole, regardless of what magic Marciello could work.
But things would be much brighter in the race, as a solid opening half from Ferguson gave the team something to really build on. Starting 14th, and with no championship pressure, Ferguson made early progress by passing a handful of cars and benefiting when others around him hit trouble.
Ferguson ran eighth by the time a second safety car neutralised the race right before the pit window opened, and the team now had another gamble: Dive in at the first chance to switch drivers and risk being delayed in the busy pitlane, or stay out and enjoy a quieter stop. The team took the second option, and when many cars that stopped early got blocked in and lost time, RAM’s engineers got the car serviced, Marciello installed and the Swiss star back out in fourth place.
That quickly became third when Jules Gounon slid off the track at Goddards, allowing Marciello through. From then on Marciello chased down the race leaders, but lacked the ultimate speed in the car to make a move further into the podium places.
While he would lose out to the charging Dan Harper in the Century Motorsport BMW that would eventually go on to win the championship overall, Marciello was still comfortably clear of the chasing pack in a strong fourth place.
The result means Ferguson and Marciello finish the season seventh in the final GT3 drivers’ championship.
John Ferguson said: “I’m happy with that. If you’d have offered us fourth ahead of the start, when we were in 14th on the grid, we’d probably have taken it, so it’s a good way to end the year after a drive like that. I just tried to keep things tidy and let the race come to me during the first stint as people were starting to hit trouble, so I took what chances I could and got the car into a good position to hand to Lello. The team did a great pitstop, and that really got us into the mix. The BMW was just too fast this weekend, so there wasn’t much Lello could do to defend, but I’m delighted for Dan Harper, who’s a good friend, and want to congratulate him on this title success. It’s all eyes on what we do for next year now…”
Raffaele Marciello added: “We’ve been chasing something in the car for quite a lot of the season, which has just been holding us back from getting the best lap times from it, and I think that showed today because I didn’t have the speed to fight with the BMW. John drove a very good opening stint and we moved forward a lot, but it’s a shame not to end the year on the podium. But I’ve still enjoyed my first year of British GT.”
RAM Racing now enters the winter off-season, with plans to return to the British GT Championship in 2024.