Epic end to Pepper’s GT Masters year
South Africa’s Bentley Boy Jordan Pepper ended his 2016 ADAC German GT Masters championship on a brilliant if bittersweet note as he drove the yellow Deutsche Post Abt Bentley Continental GT3 he shares with young German driver Daniel Abt up from 22nd to ninth in the 13 minutes remaining following the series finale being restarted. Pepper was handed a late reprieve when a red flag brought the race to a halt after the championship-leading Corvette crashed out late in the race and driver Jules Gounon broke a leg.
“Today was my best race of the year and definitely one I will never forget,” Jordan admitted after hustling the big yellow Bentley up the field in brilliant style. The race could have ended differently for Pepper and Abt however, after the tiniest of pit lane indiscretions saw Jordan having to serve a drive-through penalty to drop him down to the field. “Our pit stop was all of 0.17 seconds quicker then the regulation minute,” Jordan explained. “That earned me a drive through penalty, which dropped us back to 22nd.
“It was a bit of a bittersweet ending I’d say, in that we had the pace to challenge for victory were it not for that penalty — a win was certainly on the cards considering our pace later in the race, but to come from 22nd to end up 9th in such a short time was still a very special experience for me.”
Pepper and Abt has shown good pace in Friday practice as everything went to plan. “Then Saturday came along and it was wet.” Jordan explained. “We took a gamble as a team to change to slicks when we thought the track was dry enough and unfortunately that did not pay off and we ended up starting the first race way down the grid.”
Pepper however enjoyed a really good opening stint in the wet to move into the top ten before handing over to Abt, who rejoined in tenth. “Daniel struggled a little on the tyres as the track dried and he fell back a little to finish 14th and out the points,” Jordan explained. “Not quite what we’d hoped for, nor do I really think what we deserved.”
Sunday however proved significantly more dramatic for the Number 7 Bentley duo. “Today was a perfect summary of our year,” Jordan reflected. “We really had the car right and Daniel had a great qualifying to start 8th to hand the car over to me in the same position. Unfortunately that’s when we were stung with that penalty and I ended up down in 22nd.
“Then Jules crashed and the race was red flagged and I knew that I had a chance to move forward and when the restart finally came with 13 minutes left to race. “I just put my head down and drove the wheels off the car — it was handling absolutely superbly, which allowed me to put it exactly where I wanted it to be and those last laps were filled with awesome overtakes.
“Yeah I took some chances, but it all paid off and I ended up in ninth right behind Connor de Phillippi’s Audi, which was about to win the championship with a couple of laps to go, so I opted to follow him home rather than try be heroic in what had already been quite a hectic race for the championship contenders.
“So yes it was bittersweet, but today was the best race of my life,” Jordan concluded. “It also reflected our overall 2016 season —it’s been a super-tough year, but we have learned so much from it and we are really on top of the car now, so the future looks very good. "I’m already looking forward to next year — bring it on!”