Monza played host this weekend to the first round of the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series. A packed grid of 60 cars lined up for the season opener and amongst those was Blancpain rookie, Daniel McKenzie, driving for Beechdean Motorsport with team mates Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam.
Despite a difficult qualifying session fighting for position on a crowded track, Daniel managed sixth place within the Pro Am class; his co-driver then went on to secure a slightly faster time in Q3 which placed them third in class.
Weather conditions on Sunday were ideal and Daniel set about making his mark during the first stint of the race. The first corner was incredibly tight but, remarkably, all cars came out the other side unscathed. Daniel did, however, have to relinquish a couple of places.
He said: “It was pretty difficult because it was my first rolling start. Being used to standing starts in single seaters, this was a new challenge for me – making sure I was close to the guy in front while still leaving myself space to react was difficult. The main priority was to get that first corner out of the way safely, which I did, then focus on the next three hours.”
Daniel’s share of the three hours was 65 minutes, and during them he took every opportunity open to him. He pulled the car back up to seventh position overall (third in class) just as all the pitstops began. Team strategy was to stay out for a few extra laps which saw Daniel front of the pack in the 99 Aston Martin, after which he handed the car over to a co-driver and got his first taste of watching a race from the sidelines.
He said: “It’s strange having a race ongoing where the position and result is still in the balance. Being away from the controls is an awkward situation. It’s almost more nerve-wracking watching the other guys drive than it is to be in the car yourself. Every place matters, and it’s like you’re in the car with them all the time. Ultimately, it’s where you’re going to end up finishing even though you’re not in the car.”
A few minor accidents disrupted the remaining laps of the race, as well as a couple of appearances from the safety car which resulted in the Beechdean team dropping back a few places, but they fought hard and brought the number 99 over the line in 11th place (fourth in class).
Daniel said: “It was a great first race weekend in the Blancpain series and a really positive start to the year. The team did a great job with perfectly timed pitstops and everyone has made me feel very welcome.
“Working with a new team, it’s always going to be difficult finding your feet but fortunately things went very well and there were no mistakes. I take my hat off to the team. Our next round is back in the UK at Silverstone and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do in front of the home fans.”