GT – Thruxton - dailysportscar.com
Cup Sunday Reports
GT proceedings at Thruxton got underway at 10.45 on Sunday morning
(so as not to interfere with the local vicar’s sermon) in
typical Bank Holiday weather – cool, overcast and with rain
The 75 minute free practice session started with a very pleasant
surprise; on only his third lap, Martin Short set a time in the
Rollcentre Noble that bettered the 2003 Cup lap record, suggesting
that the luminous green machine would be adopting a front-running
role at the Hampshire meeting. This initial impression would be
reinforced later in the session.
It would turn out to
be a surprising session, all in all; not the least of which would
involve the second Tech 9 Porsche.
This car (number 74)
was actually the ABG Porsche that ran at previous rounds of the
championship and still sported its bright yellow paintjob. In the
hands of series newcomers Mark Cole and David Wandless, the Porsche
would end the session as the fastest car in class, having leapt
to the top of the times after four laps. That initial time of 1:20.220
would be steadily improved upon through the session, until it settled
at 1:19.082. When you consider that the Tech 9 crew hadn’t
had time to do much to the car since taking delivery, this was impressive
Silverstone winners DRM
had mixed fortunes in the session. Running two cars for the first
time since Mondello, the team saw one car end up in fifth and the
other not complete a lap.
The championship leading
360 of Adam Wilcox and Ni Amorim posted a lap of 1:20.400 on its
fourth tour – good enough for third place and also below the
lap record. Despite running for the full session, it was to be a
further 32 laps before that time was improved upon; Ni Amorim setting
a 1:20.236 with three minutes remaining.
The second car of Lourenco
de Veiga and Jamie Smythe did not join the session until 25 minutes
had elapsed, only to pull up around the track with an electrical
problem, that was later traced to the battery.
Normally in free practice
we would expect the Gavan Kershaw Lotus to be heading the times
or thereabouts. At Thruxton, we did not even see the car on the
track until 20 minutes had elapsed.
Barrie Whight had had
an enormous accident during testing at the circuit two days previously
and was apparently lucky to walk away virtually unscathed –
the telemetry recorded the speed as being 111mph at the time of
impact. The car was almost totalled and it took a lot of scraping
around in the parts bin (and a lot of hard work) to put it back
For a long time, as Whight
pitted frequently for adjustments to be made, the car was recorded
as the slowest of the Cup runners. Eventually, though, the times
started to come down as the driver got back into it. An initial
1:35 became 1:22.861, which became 1:20.682 with 30 minutes to go.
Considering what car and driver had been through in recent days,
this was encouraging.
Gavan Kershaw was not
present for the session, being busy at Donington Park where he was
racing Paul Whight’s Group C Aston Martin AMR1. A helicopter
brought the team principal to Thruxton shortly before two o’clock.
Team Tiger were running
around Thruxton for the first time, neither driver ever having been
to the circuit before. Their only moment of drama came when Chris
Beighton did some grass cutting in the Mantis, but no harm was done.
The team was content with a comfortable 1:19.649 and third fastest
in the session. The two drivers were intending to walk the circuit
after Sunday’s track activity was complete, as they had on
Saturday evening, in their attempts to learn the track and find
more time in the races.
the circuit for the first time was Team Jedi Racing. Despite living
only a few miles away, Rob Horsfield was making his first visit
to Thruxton and was surprised by the speed of the track. He and
Frazer Corbyn had a good run during the session, improving their
times all the while and not suffering any dramas.
The guys from Team Aero
Lewis were running reliably, completing 38 laps during the session,
but unfortunately without front-running pace. They were still running
the Richard Thorne Aero 8, but had spent the fortnight since Silverstone
developing their own car, which will be back out for the final two
races at Brands Hatch in October. As a result, the Morgan was running
at 2003 speeds (this was the car that set the lap record in the
hands of Neil Cunningham) and with a too-stiff set up.
Aaron Scott reported
that the car felt nervous around the circuit, while Keith Ahlers
was getting to grips with the nature of the track. “There
are a number of fast corners where you can’t see the exit
and you need to know the track to carry the maximum speed through
those corners,” explained the Jersey driver. Both men were
confident that there was still a lot of time to be found in the
Outside the team’s
awning sat Keith’s Morgan Plus Four, in which he will be visiting
(but not driving, after eight consecutive racing weekends) the Goodwood
Revival Meeting next weekend.
The two JWR Porsches
were both on the pace, with the #66 car of Pete Chambers and Michael
Caine setting the faster time. The timing screens showed that all
the Porsches were very quick around the first sector and Caine capitalised
on this to eventually record a 1:20.018.
For Stuart Scott and
Steve Wood, the session was one of continual improvement, with a
1:21.533 being the fastest time, set near the end of the session.
The #76 Tech 9 Porsche
of Dominic Lesniewski and the title-chasing Adam Sharpe was the
sixth car to dip below the existing lap record, despite carrying
30kg of success ballast. The car completed an amazing 44 laps during
the session, without incident.
Both drivers have been
reclassified as ‘B’ drivers and will therefore incur
an eight second penalty at the pitstop. This will be a tough challenge
for the young driver-pairing in the races.
The Jensen Motorsport
Corvette C5 was also running well, completing 32 laps in the hands
of Paul Horton and Stuart Turvey.
A rain shower 55 minutes
into the session seemed to spell the end of any time improvements.
However, as the track started to dry again, Martin Short had other
With ten minutes remaining,
the Noble improved to 1:19.545 to set the second fastest time of
the session. But he wasn’t satisfied with that and minutes
later he crossed the line with a time just five hundredths slower
than that of the #74 Tech 9 Porsche.
Martin and co-driver
David Mason had completed 39 laps during the session and had declared
their intentions for the weekend.
Qualifying would begin
just over four hours later. With rain crossing the area at regular
intervals, could we be looking at a wet track during the afternoon’s
Session 1 – The Gavan Kershaw Show
The heavens opened just moments before the session was due to begin,
prompting all teams to dash across to parc ferme to change tyres.
This was no quick process, particularly for those teams without
centre-locking wheel nuts and/or more than one car to run. This
meant that several cars lost quite significant chunks of the session
as work was done on the car – in the case of the #67 DRM Ferrari,
three-quarters of the session was lost.
#76 Tech 9 Porsche was one of the cars that did make it out early
in the session and the driver started a very impressive stint with
a 1:36.230. He followed this up on the next lap with a 1:31.915
and was third overall for a short time.
Behind the #76 Porsche
was David Wandless in the sister Tech 9 car. The Formula Ford racer
was still learning the track and also learning the car, this being
his first time out in a Porsche. Despite these handicaps, and despite
the heavy rain, he was able to keep in touch with the leaders, eventually
setting a 1:29.573 and taking fourth on the grid.
Fellow debutant, David
Mason, was having fun in the revitalised Rollcentre Noble. Having
briefly led the times in the very early stages of the session, he
was another who was not overawed by the conditions and was staying
in the top three in class.
As with the morning session,
the Lotus was nowhere to be seen in the first third of qualifying.
A delay in getting the wet tyres to the car was exacerbated by a
coolant leak, which filled the cockpit with smoke. The car joined
in after five minutes but pitted straight away. When Gavan Kershaw
rejoined a few seconds later, his out-lap was good enough for fifth
Almost inevitably, Kershaw’s
first flying lap was good enough for first in class and fourth overall;
response to Kershaw’s time was to go faster and he retook
provisional pole with 1:28.832.
By this time, the rain
had stopped and the track was slowly starting to improve. Kershaw
found more time and snatched back the lead on 1:28.313.
With less than one minute
to go, Kershaw improved his time to 1:26.524 and looked to have
secured pole. This was confirmed 30 seconds later when Lesniewski
crossed the line with a very impressive 1:26.940, but only good
enough for second. The Porsche had crossed the line after the flag,
but the Lotus still had a timed lap to complete and its driver was
going to make the most of it.
A reshuffling of the
timing screen indicated that something had happened, and that was
that Kershaw had found a further second and a half to set a 1:24.965
and take sixth overall.
David Mason also continued
to improve and took an excellent third on the grid with 1:28.178
in the Noble.
DRM had been caught out
badly by the wet weather and #62 lost half the session. Ni Amorim
only had time for five laps and could not better 1:32.514 and eighth
place. The sister car only managed two laps in the three minutes
available to it and could not set a competitive time.
Faring better than these
two was the JWR Porsche of Pete Chambers. The #66 was yet another
victim of the tyre-change melee, being the fourth of the team’s
cars to have its wheels changed. Chambers also only had five laps
to set a time and came within a whisker (0.083s) of taking fourth
place from David Wandless.
In sixth position was
the Team Tiger Marcos Mantis, driven by Chris Beighton to a 1:29.832.
Keith Ahlers was having
a difficult session, managing a 1:32.050 and seventh place while
fighting a misfire (a known wet-weather problem) in the 2003-spec
Aero 8, which affected his concentration.
The three remaining cars
in the field, the Jensen Corvette, the #77 JWR Porsche and the Team
Jedi Lotus all struggled in the conditions and all finished in the
1:40s. They all survived the stint without incident, though, and
their co-drivers would be taking over for the second session just
five minutes later.
But the first session
belonged to Gavan Kershaw. “Apart from not being able to see
through the screen very well, the car was brilliant. Barrie and
I want to say a big thank you to the team for their excellent work
over the weekend – apart from the rebuild, they’ve been
on the road for 22 hours getting the car between here and Norfolk,”
said a very happy Gavan.
2 – A Noble Challenge
While the second session wasn’t quite as dramatic as the first,
the result certainly was.
The rain stayed away,
but the track was still wet as the session started. The question
was, how quickly would the track dry and how long would the tyres
Adam Sharpe was determined
to keep his title challenge alive and started proceedings with a
1:29.279. This wasn’t going to stay at the top for long and
indeed Mark Cole set a 1:26.150 very shortly afterwards in the #74
This time, however, we
were not going to see a host of time-trading at the front and Cole’s
time was to stay the fastest until the chequered flag flew –
but it wasn’t going to be good enough for pole!
Sharpe was trying to
get the pole position for himself and set second fastest time ahead
of Martin Short in the Noble with a 1:26.797 (Short’s time
being 1:27.795). Things were not going according to plan, however.
“I should have got pole position easily,” said Sharpe.
“The plan was to get a tow from the other car (#74), but his
tyres went off and then he lost second gear. Then, later on, I was
baulked by the Jensen Corvette, while on a fast one. I don’t
know – it just didn’t click!”
Adam would finish the
session in third place, but crucially he would be ahead of all his
Barrie Whight was taking
things carefully in the Lotus, at one point only being in tenth
place. His time began to improve until, “I knew that I had
to set a fast one through Church (where he had crashed on Friday)
and it actually felt good when I did it! The steering rack had been
damaged in the crash and the new one feels better.” He did
that lap with two minutes to go and his reward was 1:27.794 and
The two DRM cars were
faring better in the second session. Adam Wilcox in #62 kept the
car in contention with a 1:28.152 and sixth place, while the #67
at last got a chance to run at a reasonable pace – 1:32.832
being the fastest. This was the car that had twice been wrecked
earlier in the year and the team had only taken delivery on Friday,
leaving no time to set the car up.
The Morgan’s woes
continued with Aaron Scott having to pit with a coolant leak after
six laps. This was on top of the continuing misfire and the car
was the slowest in the session.
Jon Finnemore was unable
to do much with the Mantis in the conditions and had to settle for
seventh place on 1:28.168. The team has conceded that the title
is almost certainly beyond them now, but there can be little doubt
that a dry track on Sunday will see them back at the front in the
The JWR Porsches seemed
subdued on the slippery track. Michael Caine managed fifth with
a 1:27.938, while Steve Wood, despite only being six tenths slower
than Caine, found himself back in tenth.
The Jensen Corvette was
showing great improvement in the hands of Stuart Turvey, finishing
just two tenths behind the Marcos in eighth.
But there were two outstanding
drives in the second session.
The first came courtesy
of Frazer Corbyn in the Team Jedi Lotus Elise. “I love driving
in the wet,” said Corbyn and he proved it by setting a whole
series of ever faster laps. He finished on 1:28.467 – ninth
in class but just 2.6 seconds off pole and ahead of three Cup class
cars. This was a massive lift for the team; the more so as the car
had run faultlessly all day. “The car’s got grown-up
brakes at last,” said the Lotus’s owner, Rob Horsfield.
“We’ve now pretty much changed everything on the car,
bar the bodywork, in an attempt either to improve reliability or
Frazer was praying for
rain, but perhaps the team’s luck is turning at last.
The other drive of merit
came from Shorty himself.
This hasn’t been
an easy season for the Noble – early promise being severely
hampered by a misfire and several costly collisions and crashes.
However, race two at Silverstone saw the Noble’s resurgence
and Martin Short (following on from David Mason’s sterling
work earlier) was demonstrating that that improvement had been sustained.
It looked as though the
Noble would be unable to improve on its third place, which was itself
commendable. However, at virtually the last moment of the session,
Short crossed the line with a time of 1:25.943 to take pole.
This wasn’t an
easy last lap for the Noble, however. “The windscreen wiper
failed and I had to do the last third of the lap without being able
to see anything,” beamed a happy Rollcentre boss afterwards.
Both sessions had been
hugely entertaining. Will the races live up to them?
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