GT – Thruxton - dailysportscar.com
Cup Round 13
Round 13 at Thruxton
saw the British GT championship bounce back from the ignominy of
Silverstone with a scintillating scrap from beginning to end. Team
Tiger took a hard-fought victory, but Martin Short’s Noble
so very nearly took the honours.
Raceday morning dawned
under clearing skies and bright sunshine. After the cobwebs had
been brushed away, the teams began the process of setting up in
the pitlane in advance of the early race start – scheduled
Regrettably, there was
a gap in the paddock; Team Aero Lewis had packed up and gone home.
The Morgan had lost all of its water in the second qualifying session
and probably blown a head-gasket. With the car due back to Richard
Thorne on the Tuesday, the decision was taken to retire the car
from the meeting.
The surviving eleven
Cup cars all made it to the track on time and the multicoloured
grid gleamed in the sunshine.
The first lap was extraordinary;
Gavan Kershaw, starting from sixth overall, took all but one of
the N-GTs ahead of him around the outside of the complex and exited
Segrave in second place overall. He fell back through the lap, but
still finished that first circuit having gained a place.
The Lotus’s flame
shone very briefly, however, as it pitted on the next lap and retired
with a water hose failure. This was disastrous for the team’s
title chances and would make the final three races of the season
even more challenging.
As the Lotus bowed out,
a fabulous scrap was beginning.
Dominic Lesniewski had
made a good start and was second at the end of lap one. In his enthusiasm,
however, he tried a move on the N-GT #44 Porsche at Allard and the
two Porsches touched. The right-rear tyre’s valve was ripped
off and the tyre shredded on the way round. The car lost a lap overall
and rejoined at the rear of the pack. Adam Sharpe’s title
challenged had also been badly hit.
Chris Beighton in the
Tiger Mantis had started as expected and was up to third at the
end of the first lap; which became the race lead at the end of lap
two. David Mason (Noble) and David Wandless (Tech 9 Porsche) both
lost places on the first lap but benefited from the ills that befell
the leading two cars. By the end of lap three, five cars were running
nose to tail.
At the back of the field,
Rob Horsfield was starting his best stint of the season in the Team
Jedi Lotus. After a slow first lap, the Salisbury driver started
to get into the track’s rhythm and his confidence and enjoyment
were visibly improving with every circuit. As his lap times came
down, so did the gap to the cars ahead.
laps, the Elise had caught and passed the #77 JWR Porsche and
taking five seconds a lap off the Jensen Corvette, driven by Paul
Horton. Horsfield took the position on lap 16 and now had Lourenco
DRM Ferrari in his sights. As an illustration of the Lotus’s
improvement, Horsfield’s fastest lap was 1:22.611 –
five seconds faster than the team’s best time in the dry
After the trials of the
previous ten races, things were looking good for the Lotus and it
was pleasing to see the car running in seventh (and in the points)
entirely on merit. Frazer Corbyn took over from Horsfield after
35 minutes and continued to lap quickly.
Disaster struck with
12 minutes to go; the clutch failed and Corbyn had to pit and retire.
Racing is definitely cruel at times. There was racing throughout
the Cup field, with de Veiga having an early scrap with Paul Horton;
but it was at the front where the best racing was taking place.
David Mason was driving
the Noble superbly on his race debut (a wise selection by M. Short)
to keep the pressure firmly on Beighton, and the gap was pegged
to below two seconds in the early stages.
Pete Chambers was having
to fight off a challenge from David Wandless’ Tech 9 Porsche
and Ni Amorim’s #62 DRM 360. He held out briefly, but lost
two places on the approach to the Club chicane. Amorim then started
to pressurise the Porsche driver and took third place at Allard
on lap ten.
The gap at the front
got smaller and smaller and stood at just over a second after ten
laps. Chris Beighton isn’t easily intimidated, though, and
he held position, taking advantage of traffic to increase the gap
to three seconds two laps later. David Mason clearly also is a battler
and he started to reduce the gap again. The battle continued until
the half-hour mark and the Noble pitted first. “David bided
his time and left me with plenty of rubber,” said Short, later.
By this stage, the gap
had increased to about six seconds and things were looking good
for the Mantis. However, that was to change at the pitstop.
Beighton pitted from
the lead, but they had to change an offside tyre and when Jon Finnemore
resumed in the orange car, he trailed Martin Short by 13 seconds.
The first half of the
race had seen some great racing and had been hugely entertaining.
The second half was about to prove to be even better.
Finnemore was closing
on Short by a second a lap with less than 25 minutes of the race
remaining, but the wily Short was having none of it. The gap dipped
as low as 8.7 seconds before it slowly started to increase again.
The Marcos had shortly
before had a very big moment as it manoeuvred to avoid the slowing
Jensen Corvette through the Club chicane, but Short was simply able
to peg the gap on race pace alone. But then it started to go wrong
for the Noble.
With less than 18 minutes
to go, Short posted a 1:22 and the gap had suddenly shrunk to 6.5
seconds. On the next lap the Noble slowed significantly (a 1:27
lap) and Finnemore retook the lead through Allard. It looked as
though we were destined to lose the Rollcentre car.
But on the next lap the
Noble’s time had improved to 1:25; and on the lap after that
(with 14 minutes to go) it was 1:23. With 12 minutes remaining,
the Noble was back up to normal race pace and had closed the gap
to just three seconds, after the Mantis had again had to take avoiding
action (this time with the Embassy Corvette) at the chicane.
So what had caused the
Noble to slow? “The engine developed a misfire,” explained
Martin Short. “I dropped it to about 5,000 revs for a couple
of laps and that seemed to sort it.”
Almost unnoticed, Mark
Cole had been sneaking up on the duelling front-runners and was
only three seconds behind Short. This was developing into a classic.
The Noble was certainly
back on song and with eight minutes to go the two cars were side
by side through the chicane. The Mantis emerged slightly ahead and
the gap was but a tenth of a second across the line.
This tremendous tussle
continued around the circuit – the Mantis clearly faster on
the straights and the Noble swifter through the corners.
The advantage seemed
to be slowly swinging back towards the Mantis and Cole was getting
ever closer to the back of the Noble – less than four seconds
separating first from third with three minutes of the race left.
The pressure from Cole
was eased when the car lost time while being lapped by two N-GT
cars, but for Finnemore the pressure was definitely on; with two
minutes to go he so very nearly lost the car through the chicane
and Short was straight in there. As they crossed the line with the
clock showing 49 seconds to go, the gap was 0.3s – classic
But fate was to intervene
again for the Noble and the misfire chose that exact moment to return.
The gap had grown to more than a second as the cars crossed the
line to start the last lap, but the Rollcentre car was now coughing
badly and its pace dropped right off – enough to allow Mark
Cole to nip through and deny the Noble second place at the death.
For the Team Tiger Mantis,
there were no such concerns and they took their third victory in
arguably the best race of the season. Suddenly, their title challenge
had been brought back from the brink.
Jon Finnemore and Chris
Beighton were delighted with victory. “That was hard work,”
smiled Finnemore. “It was a great race with the Noble, but
I had to take a lot of avoiding action with certain cars.”
It turned out that the car was very marginal on fuel at the end,
having just enough left in the tank for post-race scrutineering,
but no more.
Martin Short was understandably
very disappointed with the result, but his team mate was happier.
“I’m over the moon to be on the podium. I brought it
in second, and we passed the Marcos during the pit stops, but then
the misfire set in. They have got the ECU in bits now, and hope
they can fix it for the second race,” said David Mason. “A
great car; a great team!”
Mark Cole had found the
bumpy circuit not to his Porsche’s liking, but was happy with
second. “My team mate is doing different times to me because
I have experience in the Porsche Cup in 2002, but David did an excellent
job, and we snatched second at the end,” said Cole.
In fourth was the #62
DRM Ferrari which was brought home by Adam Wilcox. The five points
that came with the position increased their lead to 14 points with
just three races left.
Porsches occupied fifth
and sixth places, Michael Caine and Adam Sharpe being unable to
do anything except drive as fast as possible. For Sharpe this was
particularly frustrating as he could see the #62 DRM ahead. “I
was just waiting for him to drop it off the circuit, but unfortunately
he didn’t,” said the Tech 9 driver, with a smile. That
puncture had ruined his hopes.
Stuart Scott and Steve
Wood had a nightmare race, which was not improved when they received
a drive-through penalty with 15 minutes to go, after speeding in
the pitlane. Jensen Motorsport likewise had a race to forget, Stuart
Turvey’s spin across the line being symptomatic of their race
(which ended with retirement out on the circuit).
The second DRM Ferrari
at last recorded a finish, albeit three laps behind the Mantis.
This had been an excellent
race and a marvellous start to the Bank Holiday proceedings.
The teams would now have
six hours to regroup for the second race.
the free tour to find
out why dailysportscar.com is the world’s
most widely read sportscar and GT racing website. For more
news, views, race reports and interviews subscribe
now for just £35 for 12 months.