Cautious at the start, my biggest chance of an accident was being caught out by how well everyone was avoiding trouble!
I had a bit of fun out of the Station Hairpin where Bruno and Matias fighting allowed me to nip around the outside. That left the large Bristol rear very close to Filippo behind but I don't think any of us touched. I even had a very brief run at Bruno heading out of Portier but I couldn't match the Ferrari horsepower.
I then settled into a nice pace behind Bruno. It was slightly quick compared to what I wanted and so I did slowly drop back, especially after Martin ahead of him opened a gap, but it was great for my concentration to focus on him. I had very little drama apart from dodging the harbour road hay-bales from the lap 1 accident.
Around lap 10 backmarkers (who presumably had had trouble) started being a factor. Bruno, Martin and John seemed to be swapping places as they worked their way through and I started to close on all of them. But I wasn't close enough to see what was happening.
Lap 11 Filippo was my first back marker and he made space nicely on the harbour straight. Just after that I had a very minor worry as I found Bruno and John had had a coming together at the final hairpin. All mixed up with Martin and Declan. John then lost it into Mirabeau but kindly let us get past with no bother.
Lap12 I was up to 15th through other people's issues but then the front runners started lapping me. First was Tom. I moved wide at the final hairpin to let him through but misjudged it and cut across him quite late (sorry Tom, you caught me very quickly from behind Bruno and I misjudged the closing speeds). Bruno also got back past me up the hill to Rivage. I tried to hang on again to help concentration. Isodoro was next up and was able to pass along the harbour. Then Nika and Nico both of whom I was able to let by by going wide at Station Hairpin. Lap 20 and it was Rhys' turn. He lapped me out of Sainte Devote. And we were a bit close for comfort.
For the next few laps I had my most challenging part of the race. It was for the '2L: best of rest' battle. Declan, me then John, all closing then stretching the gap, as we were lapped and lapped others in turn. We even had poor Mark spin in front of us as we entered Casino, all while people like Austin, who must have had earlier trouble, tried to fight their way back ahead. Then Declan caught the exit of the chicane and bounced across the track right in front of me! Luckily I was able to get around him. Unluckily for me, so was Austin who then nipped ahead into Tabac. Though it turned out he was still a lap down. John had also closed right up. He dropped back again allowing a bunch of front runners through and I also lost time pulling right over on the straight to let the same bunch past. It soon became obvious that John was quicker than me; the gap opened with traffic then he closed it up again. I was in the top 10 and approaching half way. I didn't want to drop out of the top ten but didn't want a silly accident fighting a quicker driver. Lap 28 coming out of Mirabeau the decision was made for me, I had a small slide, lost momentum and found myself on the inside of the track. John saw the chance and flew past. No time to dwell on it though as Tom lapped me again at the Harbour.
For the next 14 laps I was virtually alone. Martin lapped me and I lapped Krzysztof. No mistakes to speak of, consistent lap times, just the challenge of concentrating. I saw no one else until Scooby and Mark closed-in on lap 42. I was able to let them both through by easing up and running wide at Casino, then Rhys also flew past and was probably again caught out by my relatively slow speed (sorry Rhys, I think my brain just refuses to believe my old Aston can go that fast). Lap 44 and I was up to 8th.
Lap 45 and I started closing in on my mini nemesis
. Jonathan's flying Porche! I was coming up to lap him but kept having to give way to traffic as (I thought) I was being lapped. This stage of the race became really confusing as there were blue flags everywhere but I never knew if they were for me, Jonathan or both. So sorry if I held anyone up. Anyway, first up was Nico. I thought he was lapping me but it turned out to be for position. Anyway, there was no way I was going to risk being eaten by a hungry Lagonda so I pulled out of his way as we approached the tunnel. I caught up to Jonathan again but then had to let Tom past into the Station Hairpin. I then got past Jonathan into Tabac. A few laps later (lap 52) I came up behind another Porsche - Jonathan again!
I don't know what had happened to him. Once again, I kept closing up on him only to lose time while I was being lapped. The first up was Austin. I've already apologised to him, but didn't realise how quickly he was catching me coming up to the final hairpin. If I had, I would have stayed wide to give him space. We've argued over it with both of us wanting to take the blame. Anyway, we touched and both half spun, fortunately without damage. But Jonathan had got away again.
And I never did catch him up.
By this stage I had also noticed that Erwann was catching, quite quickly. Though trying to keep track was tricky while Petr lapped me and then followed Bruno who I wasn't sure if he was lapping me or not. I let him go anyway at Casino and fortunately he was only unlapping himself. I'd lost a lot of time though and now I could see Erwann. Another tricky decision. Try to fight someone who was clearly quicker and risk crashing on the last lap. Or let him go and be amazed at finishing 8th. Thinking he had two and a half straights to get past me anyway, I played safe and made space at the top of Mirabeau. He didn’t need asking twice and flew past.
So I finished on a slight downer wondering if I should have put up a fight. But that didn't last I as I started to appreciate I'd finished 8th overall and 2nd in class. In a race I really didn't expect to finish.
Re-reading this, I’m also wondering if I need to do something about my rearview mirror. Too many times I’ve written about not noticing how close people were or how quickly they were closing. I’m using the in-car mirror in VR. Things look much closer in the replays.