Earlier in the year we reported on British driver Chris Froggatt’s dominant victory in the European Ferrari Challenge Series championship, which was backed up by a further two victories at Finali Mondiali at Monza in November. As this was only his second ever season of competitive racing, it was clear that Chris was a natural talent.
Last month the 25-year-old, doubtless still fuelled by adrenaline after such a faultless season, chose to make the rather large step up into GT3 racing. The race weekend in question was the inaugural FIA GT Nations Cup held at Bahrain International Circuit, and we decided to tag along to see exactly what it takes to step out of a one make series and into a £600,000 488 GT3 with a Le Mans class winner as your teammate (Chris Buncombe), all while representing the UK.
Qualifying races, driver changes, racing at dusk, and competing against a wide variety of cars and drivers each with their own strengths and weaknesses would all be things that Chris would have to contend with for the first time in the desert heat. However, at no point in the race weekend did he seem fazed, smiling and posing for photos on the starting grid, where others (ourselves included) might have been pacing up and down, nervously anticipating the laps that lay ahead. Chris’s repeated success in the Challenge Series - failing to finish off the podium all season kept him constantly in the limelight - might have prepared him for such an occasion.
Chris and Chris, representing Team United Kingdom, qualified second for the final race after impressive pace earlier in the weekend. A first corner incident, thankfully not involving any of the leading cars, saw the safety car brought out on lap 1. Froggatt, the starting UK driver kept his cool and made an impressive overtake on the Team Turkey AMG GT3 at the safety car restart. Froggatt continued to lead the race, building an increasing lead, until the driver change. Chris Buncombe took over midway through and continued in first place ahead of the Turkish AMG. However, team UK’s 488 GT3 began to suffer from tyre degradation much sooner than the chasing Mercedes, and soon the large lead began to fall away. Turkey were able to easily regain the lead over the struggling Ferrari with 12 minutes of the 60 minute race remaining.
As the chequered flag waved, UK finished just 3.311s behind Turkey, and ahead of Team Denmark who were also racing a 488 GT3. Second place for Buncombe and Froggatt was an impressive result, especially given it was Froggatt’s GT3 debut. Team Russia finished in fourth, with China, Italy, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Argentina and Thailand completing the top 10.
Chris Froggatt hopes to carry this momentum into next year, already having a number of race weekends lined up for 2019. After the race he told us: “I really enjoyed sharing the car with Chris (Buncombe). I’ve fallen in love with the more endurance-based platform and can’t wait to compete in some championships next year. The weekend was a great format and it was an honour for me to represent the UK and come home finishing second overall.”