GT Championship - Spa 1000km
Spa 1000km round of the British GT Championship was an epic.
Not only did we lead
for the first 2½ hours of the race
and finish a strong third but the final outcome was not decided
until almost the last corner of the final lap. It was a Mosler
1-2 in the end but we made them sweat initially! But more of
at Spa is truly awesome - cutting and sweeping its way through the
Ardennes forest to the south of Liege in Belgium. It has every type
of corner from 150mph kinks, to a first gear 25mph hairpin. It is
quite unlike any other circuit in the world and is a real challenge
for both car and driver. Due to the circuit’s geographical
location it has one final ace up its sleeve - the weather. The weather
at Spa is legendary! Bright sunshine one moment - heavy rain the
next. With the circuit being so long it is not uncommon to have
rain on the far side of the track and sunshine in the pitlane! One
thing at Spa is certain, the race will never be a dull one.
And so on race
morning the day dawned bright and sunny. We'd qualified third behind
the pesky Moslers but ahead of all the other regular British GT
competitors - the Moslers hold a slight advantage in the dry, but
in the wet the TVR T400R is a slightly more friendly beast to drive.
We hoped for rain.
lined up on the grid under warm sunshine but over the hills to the
north storm clouds were building. And even as I started the race
on slick tyres I still hoped for rain. I made a good, positive start
and settled in behind the lead Mosler of reigning British GT Champion
Tommy Erdos and the Rollcentre version driven by Martin Short. Within
a couple of laps it soon became clear that the storm clouds were
heading our way and within the next five minutes the weather changed
completely. The temperature fell, the light level dropped and coming
back onto the old road section the heavens opened - I smiled broadly
inside my helmet, slithered back to the pitlane (despatching Martin
Short on the way) and dived into the pits for wet tyres.
I love driving
in the wet: I had been quickest in wet testing on Friday morning
and was very confident that I'd now be in a strong position. The
next hour is somewhat of a blur but in summary, I took the lead
of the race within a couple of laps and quickly began to pull away
from the field. There was an awful lot of standing water on the
circuit so a certain degree of caution was needed, but I kept pushing
as hard as I dared.
after over an hour of wet running, the track began to dry and I
pitted for slick tyres and fuel. The stop was carried out quickly
by all the TVR / Chamberlain crew and I rejoined still in the lead.
Unfortunately the stop was TOO quick, British GT rules state that
any stop for fuel should be a minimum of two minutes in duration
and my stop was 12 seconds too short. My penalty was a drive through
'Stop/Go', where I had to pit on my next lap, pull up outside my
pit garage and immediately rejoin. To say I was mildly annoyed was
something of an understatement - I was not annoyed with anyone within
the team, these things happen, but I was worried that it would cost
us valuable track position.
I rejoined after
my drive through penalty (with my lead intact) and worried that
I had lost lots of time I gave it 101% for the next hour. Initially
the track was still very slippery but it slowly dried and towards
the end of my second stint it was totally dry. Unknown to me (because
the in-car radio was poor) I maintained a 40 second lead over Tommy
Erdos and over a minute to the Rollcentre Mosler.
With the low
fuel light flashing on I pitted after more than two hours in the
car and handed over to Richard Hay. Richard drove a short middle
stint before handing over to my 2002 team mate Michael Caine during
a Safety Car period. We lost a full lap to both the Mosler teams
as they seemed to be in the perfect position to pit as the Safety
Car appeared and Michael rejoined in third place. Mick drove a fantastic
anchor leg, he was also in the car for over two hours and was metronomically
consistent - there was nothing he could do to close the gap to the
Moslers, but he kept up a quick pace throughout.
The Mosler battle
for the lead went down to the wire, with Tommy Erdos running out
of fuel whilst leading on the final lap. This handed victory to
the Rollcentre Mosler driven by Joao Barbosa, who had driven an
awesome final hour to hunt down and catch Tommy Erdos. Tommy managed
to coast his Mosler over the line and secure second position for
After the anticlimax
of the Spa 24 Hours it feels great to have performed so well
in the Spa 1000km.
Many thanks are due as always to my team of sponsors
and supporters - The Cobra Group Plc, Jelson Homes,
Microscan and the British
Racing Drivers' Club.
And to all the Chamberlain
/ TVR team (Team Manager - Derek Kemp from Chamberlain, my engineer
mechanics - Dickie, Chief and Ben from TVR and
Dick from Chamberlains)
worked very hard in the damp conditions over
the weekend - thanks
very much guys, top effort.