A couple of weeks’ ago, Darryl O’Young, team director and lead driver of the Craft Bamboo Racing team, drove a Mercedes-AMG GT3 powered by 300V to victory at the legendary Macau circuit. Even at the best of times, Macau is a challenging track to drive, but for Darryl and the team, this proved to be a victory like no other. Darryl picks up the story…
Darryl, congrats on a superb race. We hear it was a challenge just getting to it…
I’ve been racing at Macau for 17 years, but this year was a really big challenge. Even before we got to the race weekend, I had to go into a 21-day quarantine because I was arriving in China. I came out of quarantine one day before going on track. It’s been a really tough time for the sport. And because of the travel restrictions, the first time I drove a racing car this year was at free practice at Macau. Leading up to the race itself there was a lot of emotion.
Your team collaborated with Motul for the Macau race. Why was this significant, and why this race?
It's really great the race was able to be held, and working with Motul was really fitting. Motul has such a long history, and this is the 50th year of 300V. Macau is one of the most historical races in the region and is celebrating its 68th year, so it was a nice coincidence. So I was really proud to have Motul branding on the car and also the products in the car. It was our team’s first time using Motul.
As for the race itself, this didn’t start smoothly. In fact, it was almost over before it began. Can you share the story?
The race was truly unique. It’s quite ironic [laughs] that I slipped on oil and crashed. A car had blown its engine (it mustn’t have been using Motul [laughs]) and left oil everywhere. Even before the car had stopped spinning and I hit the wall, I immediately thought the weekend was over because of the size of the impending impact. And at Macau, you aren’t allowed spare cars, so anytime you replace a chassis it’s game over. I’ve crashed at Macau and I knew the chassis was quite damaged. With impacts like that before, usually the race was over. When we brought the car back to the garage, and after everyone (including the engineers dialling in remotely from Germany) looked at it, the crew on the ground decided we should go for it and try and fix the car. The team was committed, and they started going through the processes of rebuilding the car. When the car was ready, the chassis was still bent and we didn’t have any time to do set up work. Even though I had crashed in the qualifying lap, the red flag after my crash meant I kept my second position. So, I could start from the front row, and that was the most important part because we still had a chance to win this. The car arrived on the formation grid 30 seconds before the start and the fans were lined up outside our garage waiting for us to emerge.
Well done for getting the car to the grid. How did the race go?
Once I pulled up, my full focus was on the start. In the formation laps, I knew the car wasn’t perfect: turn one way it understeered, the other way it would oversteer. It was quite a handful. But knowing Macau, I knew that if I could overtake the pole car on the start, I could possibly hang on to the lead because it’s difficult to overtake in the top sections. On the higher speed sections, the car seemed to improve because the aerodynamics were good and it seemed to overcome some of the mechanical issues. Thankfully, I had the perfect start. I changed my strategy and it worked. In fact, it was such a good start, the pole position driver protested after the race that I jumped the start – but, of course, the officials checked afterwards and I hadn’t [laughs]. From there, it was all about defending through the hills and maximum attack through the bottom section to keep them behind. When I crossed the finish line, I’ve never had such an emotional win. I guess because of the support of everybody and also the teamwork - they just didn't give up. It's important to note that we actually had a skeleton crew (only three mechanics) because of the pandemic, which makes the rebuild all the more remarkable. They had tears on the grid before we’d even won the race. They basically didn’t stop for 28 hours.
We’d imagine it’s quite a difficult car to race at the best of times, but with the damage, what was it like to drive?
Yeah, especially because being out of alignment eats the tyres. Early on the car felt quite reasonable, but for the last five laps the car was struggling on its tyres. That was the biggest challenge and you could see the cars behind start to attack me more.
This is the first time this car has used Motul. What difference do you think that made?
We had to have a lot of trust in the product because we didn't actually get to do that much testing with it. But when we put the oil in the car, instantly everything was perfect. We found that the engine and gearbox were running smoother than normal. I think this is something that really helped us through the weekend. With this being a sprint race, it’s less about reliability and more about performance and every tenth of extra performance you can get is a big bonus.