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Rob Barff’s Le Mans Diary
Day Three – Wednesday Qualifying

After scrutineering on Monday, Tuesday was a day kicking our heels while the rest of the field went through the technical inspections.

Wednesday was altogether more significant, as we built up throughout the day to the first qualifying sessions.

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It’s a strange timetable though. No action on track until 7pm and then two, two hour sessions with an hour’s break in between. Those of you better at the maths than I am will realise that this means we would finish at midnight - at least that was the theory.

The important thing in both daylight and night time sessions is to qualify all three drivers. Each of us in the TVR has to complete three laps.

The game plan was that Richard Stanton would start the first session: he had no real time in the car at the test days. Richard Hay would then take over - he hasn’t driven with a sequential gearbox before - and I would go last. At least that was the theory!

Richard Stanton’s laps went well, and we were gradually nibbling away at the times but taking no risks at all.

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Richard Hay hopped in and headed for the hills but radioed in with a problem almost immediately. He had felt something was wrong with the handling and thought he might have a puncture. With the kind of speeds we can reach here it’s better to be safe than sorry, so Richard quite rightly pulled over on the exit of Tertre Rouge.

He was absolutely right, the car did have a slow puncture and if he’d continued and had a blow out it could have been very serious, not just for Richard but for the car too. The flailing remains of a blowout can cause enormous damage to a racing car. The car came back slowly under its own power after the session, with no damage at all.

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So we missed the better part of the daytime session with a silly problem and I would have to do my daytime laps in the session tomorrow. No problem, I’d be first out in the car for the night session, we could set a decent time and all would be right with the world. At least that was the theory.

What actually happened was that I started the session and on my out lap, going through Arnage, found water spraying up the screen and over the roof. It’s a pressurised system and the pressure cap had obviously blown off. I returned to the pits slowly, but was then waved in for a weight check by the ACO officials. I ended up finishing my first qualifying lap of Le Mans pushing the car over the line.

Worse still, the team don’t know what caused the problem, but we decided to play better-safe-than-sorry and get to the root of the problem. We would miss the rest of the session and it will mean taking the engine out overnight to check it out properly.

The car has tons of potential, we now know where progress needs to be made and we have a better expectation of where we should be in proper qualifying trim.

Of course it’s frustrating when things don’t go to plan and of course I still need to qualify in both sessions on Thursday, but we have made progress. We’ve learnt a lot from the second car. We’ve done a lot of really valuable chassis work and if things go to plan tomorrow we’ll qualify comfortably and get some valuable race pace practice laps in. At least that’s the theory!

Tomorrow we’ll put it into practice.

 

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