One team that is taking the 2004 British GT Championship very
seriously is Gavan Kershaw Racing. Despite the name, this is very
much a collaboration between Gavan Kershaw and Barrie Whight, and
stems from their time as competitors (and rivals) in the Lotus
Road Sports Series. As we will see shortly, this collaboration
is much more than the traditional car-owner / team relationship.
The two team principals have very different backgrounds, both
in racing and professionally.
Gavan Kershaw has been
around cars from an early age, having raced in Karts from the
age of eight (and winning several junior British
championships in the process). At 16, he fulfilled many a young
man’s dream and began an apprenticeship with Group Lotus.
Over the course of the next 15 years, he spent time in every department
(at least four months in each; also spending six years on an engineering
HND) and obtained a very thorough grounding in engineering, before
specialising in ride and handling. He is now regarded as the face
of Lotus, dominating the Autocar Sideways Challenge for a number
of years (for an illustration of his skill, keep an eye on him
during warm-up) and being sent all over the world to demonstrate
handling. Indeed, shortly after the Donington race in April, he
was flown out to China on company business.
If further evidence
were required of Gavan’s reputation
amongst the motoring world, then look no further than this quotation
from Autocar (30.03.04), in an article comparing the Lotus Elise
111R with the Ferrari 360CS: “As for the regulars, though,
we’d take Gavan Kershaw over Dario Benuzzi any day of the
week. Largely thanks to Gav and co., the newly re-invigorated,
Toyota-powered Lotus is probably the best road-going Lotus ever,
certainly the most talented Elise.” Gavan raced for two seasons
in the Lotus Road Sports Series and dominated the 2003 season.
He also took part in two British GT races at the end of the year.
Barrie Whight, in contrast,
only began his involvement with motorsport three years ago, when
he debuted in the Lotus Road Sports Series
at Oulton Park. While he has gone on record as stating that he
became a racing driver to impress women (a tongue-in-cheek statement
stemming from a radio poll he heard on the way to his first race),
Barrie is very serious indeed about his racing, his hobby rapidly
becoming a passion. Barrie was a regular in the Lotus series and
achieved his first race win at Donington Park in 2003, something
that indicated further to his father, Paul, that he did indeed
have potential as a racing driver. By this time, the link-up with
Gavan had already begun, with the latter prepping Barrie’s
car in the series. As 2004 loomed, plans were laid for Barrie to
race his father’s Exige (as raced in the 2003 BGT) in the
2004 Cup class, and the car was taken to Norfolk for a very thorough
During the week, Barrie
works as a project manager for P D Savills in London, but this
does not prevent him playing a very active
part in the team. As mentioned previously, this is no ordinary
partnership. When Gavan agreed to prepare the Lotus for the 2004
Cup class, he insisted that Barrie be involved in every stage of
the car’s (and team’s) progress. If the car was to
break down, then Barrie needed to understand why it had happened.
Conversely, if the car was to run quickly and reliably, then he
had to understand why that was, too. Barrie readily agreed to this.
Over the winter, the
team stripped the car down to its component parts and went about
the business of rebuilding it. It helps, of
course, that a number of the team are also Lotus employees and
know the car well: but what makes this whole project extraordinary
is that every penny available goes directly on the car’s
development – nobody in the team is paid a bean. This does
not do their social lives any favours (the car comes first with
every member of the team and most free hours are spent in the workshop),
but it does mean that an incredible number of man-hours go into
the build. An example of what this can result in is the fact that
ten kilos were pared from the car’s weight, simply by rewiring.
Would this have been achieved had there been a payroll?
The main players in Gavan Kershaw Racing are as follows:
Dave Kershaw – Gavan’s
dad and chief engineer / mechanic
Mike Bishop – Lotus
Sport employee who tunes the engine and is also in charge of
Kevin Reynolds - #1 mechanic. Kevin spends the most hours on the
Russell Gibbons – Lotus
Sport employee in charge of radio communications, timing and
Gavin Armstrong – Data
In addition to this
band of weekend (and weekday-evening) warriors, there are a number
of other friends and family who help out in
any way they can. As there are no employees, a lot of Barrie’s
time goes on co-ordinating the team (talking to suppliers and sponsors;
admin, etc,) and his experience as a project manager helps greatly
in this role.
When the Lotus came
back from being re-bodied, a planned colour scheme was abandoned,
because it looked so impressive with bare
carbon-fibre. This charcoal sheen certainly makes it distinctive,
but also illustrates just how expertly-prepared the car is – and
saves weight too!
The team is optimistic for its chances in 2004. The car is running
reliably and quickly, and there is much more to come. Definitely
one to watch.
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