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Garry Findlay showed few signs of rust from a near two-year hiatus in his racing career after producing a storming return to action at round four of the 2018 European Le Mans Series at Silverstone on Saturday.

The Briton resumed his nascent sports prototype career following a late call to complete the Graff-run G-Drive Racing line-up and, despite not having raced at the Home of British Motorsport since his single-seater days, immediately proved capable of turning in competitive lap times in the #40 ORECA-Gibson.

After playing himself in during the opening practice session on Friday, Findlay closed the gap on team regular James Allen during the day’s second session, establishing himself as a match for the Australian as the 41-strong ELMS field headed for qualifying on Saturday morning. Driving duties in the short, ten-minute, LMP2 qualifying session still fell to Allen, but the team felt confident enough in all three of its drivers to entrust Findlay with the final double stint in the afternoon’s four-hour endurance event.

“This chance to get back on track might have come at short notice, but I was ready to take advantage of it,” Findlay smiled, “It was great to get back into an LMP2 car – and a rapid one at that – and nice to do it at Silverstone, which might have changed massively since I last raced there nine years ago, but still presents a huge challenge to a driver. Practice on Friday was obviously something of a learning curve, especially as the ORECA is a very different beast to the open-top LMP2 car I drove for Murphy Prototypes in 2016, but I was quickly able to lower my times until there wasn’t much between myself and James, which gave me great confidence ahead of the race.”

Having qualified the #40 car on the third row, Allen also took the start under overcast skies on Saturday afternoon, and proved that his pace was no fluke by holding down a place in the top six throughout his near 80-minute double stint, rising as high as third on the road at the end of the opening hour. Unfortunately, the team’s race began to unravel thereafter, with the orange-and-black G-Drive machine developing a misfire and dropping out of the top ten through the middle two hours, leaving Findlay looking at P13 when he joined the fray with a little under an hour-and-a half remaining.

Despite having to make up laps on the cars ahead of him, and struggling with an ill-fitting seat that failed to  prevent him moving about under braking, the ELMS returnee revelled in his task, quickly getting down to a competitive pace and making inroads into the deficit. Handed just one place by retirements ahead of him, Findlay’s charge was highlighted his rapidly closing the gap to the eleventh-placed car as the chequered flag neared. Having set his personal fastest lap early in his run, the Briton was able to produce similar times right to the end, eventually reducing the margin to the car ahead from nearly 40secs to just over a tenth at the flag, crossing the line with his quarry in sight, but no more time to continue the chase.

“It’s a shame that I wasn’t contesting a top-six position there at the end, but that didn’t stop it being an exciting race,” 28-year old Findlay admitted, “James and Jose [Gutierrez] did a good job of keeping the car competitive through the early part of the race, especially with the misfire setting in just after Jose took over, but we fell too far behind to get the result that the #40 deserved. The two laps we lost while the Gibson guys tried to trace the problem meant we had a mountain to climb, even in a four-hour race, and we didn’t get any help from other cars retiring.

“Although the misfire was never completely cured and I didn’t get the chance to run on new tyres, the car ran reasonably well throughout my stint, and I was able to turn in some good, consistent lap times, on a par with all but the very fastest guys. Some of the biggest names in the class – Jean-Eric Vergne, Norman Nato and Tristan Gommendy among them – were all on track at the same time as me, so all but matching them is encouraging going forward. And, of course, although the weekend was always something of a glorified test session for me, chasing down the #25 also meant that there was some excitement right to the end… All I needed was another lap or two!”

With no further outings on the horizon, despite two rounds remaining in the 2018 European Le Mans Series, Findlay will return to planning a full-time return for 2019, but hopes that his Silverstone performance may open a few doors for this season as well.

“I really enjoyed myself this weekend, and want to thank Graff and G-Drive for the opportunity to return to racing a little ahead of schedule,” he noted, “I’m still determined to be back on the scene full-time next year…. but, if anyone needs a driver before then, I’m listening!”

The European Le Mans Series is shown live and in highlight form on both Motorsport.TV and www.europeanlemansserries.com.

Garry flies on LMP2 return