Max Bird opened his 2018 racing season in style winning his class in the Creventic Dubai 24-hour GT Race.
The 17-year-old college student from Chichester was driving for Ciceley Motorsport in their first GT Endurance race, and they were clear winners of the A2 class for cars up to two litres – with an eventual winning margin of more than 30 laps of the 3.5-mile circuit.
The challenge for Bird, who finished fourth in the Ginetta GT5 championship in 2017, was that he had never raced a front-wheel drive car, never raced at night and never raced for more than 20 minutes at a time. But despite this he was immediately on the pace in the day and night practice and drove four stints of more than 1.5 hrs each during the race.
Driving a Renault Clio IV Cup car, they started third in class but a tremendous start put them into a lead on the first lap, a lead they never lost throughout the 24 hours of racing.
At times it was very close with the second-placed car running only two laps behind – but with less than two hours remaining the second-placed car ran into trouble which enabled the Ciceley Renault to open up a significant lead that even enabled them to make a pit-stop to change the front brakes with just over an hour to go, just as a precaution.
The meticulous preparation of the car by Ciceley Motorsport paid off because it ran faultlessly for the whole 24 hours, never missing a beat and covering 509 laps of the circuit a total distance of more than 1,700 miles at an average speed of 71mph. Other than looking a bit dirty it looked as good at the end as it did at the start.
There were more than 90 cars entered for the race, ranging from the Lamborghini Huracan, Mercedes AMG GT3, Porsche 991 GT3 to numerous BMW M4 GT and others.
The Renault Clio finished 50th overall in front of some much more powerful cars that either had mechanical issues or were involved in crashes.
Driving a car that has less than a third of the power of some of the leading cars is especially challenging when at night you have two or three cars dicing at more than 180mph in your mirrors, their headlights blazing and you are having to keep an eye on them in your mirrors and race at the same time, but the young drivers kept their heads, stayed out of trouble and won a very deserving class victory.
With the next race a 12-hour race at Silverstone in March, the Ciceley Motorsport GT team, sponsored by Mac Tools UK, plan to be on the grid.
Bird hopes to race with them again before the start of his championship challenge in the 2018 Ginetta GT5 championship, starting at Oulton Park at the end of March.
You can follow Bird’s progress at www.maxbird.co.uk or on Twitter @maxbird35 or at www.facebook.com/maxbirdracing