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Hours 13-18 Report

Hour 13 – Catching Up
By the end of the 13th hour, the top ten was:
1. 427 Monaro
2. 05 Monaro
3. 48 Ferrari
4. 54 Porsche
5. 6 Porsche
6. 7 Porsche
7 . 900 Mosler
8. 8 Porsche
9. 888 Porsche
10. 24 BMW

So the only changes were the Monaros changing places, 05 now a lap down, and the recovering 24 Cirtek Porsche taking over tenth place – from the 11 Ferrari which had a badly dinged left front corner (Theo Kondouris). Out? Looking back, we’ve caught up with some of the events before we’d reached half way.

Pat Pearce in the Mosler and Jonathan Rowland in the 24 Cirtek Porsche have time their stints such that neither of them have yet done a lap on slicks. “No, I did one lap on slicks, before the first downpour,” recalled Pearce. “It’s a good job I like the wet. Both times I’ve gone out it’s absolutely pissed it down.”

That was a 2 hours 40 stint, Heather Spurle taking over on slicks, as Pearce’s wets were really going off at the end. “The back was really moving about at the end of that double. But the worst time was in the downpour: “I had to look out of the side window to see where I was going.”

Tim Harvey was in a similar situation in 24, a misted screen another handicap. “It was like driving in fog when we were behind the safety car . especially before I could find another car to follow. I was virtually hitting the walls to see where I was going. At 15 mph, it was very scary.”

The Cirtek cars both have a gadget in the cockpit: a sponge on a stick, to wipe the screen as best as possible.

Heather Spurle was going well on the slick-shod Mosler, until she had a moment ‘upstairs’ somewhere, hitting the wall and damaging the front bodywork (see below for the more accurate description, Heather being the innocent victim...). Hopefully it can now be told that the team’s spare front and rear panels were not loaded at Heathrow, so the Rollcentre team will have to continue with the damaged front.

Leading up to a stop (for Allen Simonsen) at 03.00, the Lamborghini was the fastest car on the track, Luke Youlden getting a round of applause for a great double stint. Youlden was into the 2:19s. Amazing stuff. Simonsen threw him out of the Diablo – very forcibly. This group are still chasing very hard. The Lambo lost 55 minutes, with the crew changing fuel rails on both banks before they finally found that it was a spark plug connector that had broken.

Hour 14 – A Drama & A Story Of Australian Motor Sport
03.40: FIRST BIG CHANGE IN THE TOP SIX FOR HOURS: Klaus Engelhorn had the engine of the BE Ferrari let go at the top somewhere, and spun violently on his own oil or water, and hit the wall. Ah, it was oil. An oil pressure alarm was the signal for something very serious to happen to the V8. A great run is over. No chance now of BE wins at Le Mans and Bathurst within a fortnight.

So now we have the Monaros ahead of three Porsches (54, 6, 7), then the Mosler, then three more 911s – Cirtek 8, 888 and Cirtek 24.

The Monaros are suddenly seven or eight laps ahead of the closest contender, and the race will now be a test of endurance, rather than a close race.

03.46: Safety Car again. Is it the oil from the BE Ferrari? Yup, think so.

That leaves time to tell a tale, entitled “The Evil Empire Strikes Back”

PHR Scuderia Team Manager Terry Little is not at all happy with the activities of Garry Rodgers Motorsport, which has allegedly been questioning the eligibility of the PHR M3 GTR.

“The evil empire has struck back …. with Garry Rodgers writing letters and unsuccessfully trying to get drivers and teams to sign a petition regarding the eligibility of the BMW M3 GTR.

“Garry, I have always held you in high regard, however you must question a fully professional team with eight leading drivers running cars with backing from Australia’s biggest manufacturer, with huge resources and funding, when they try to stoop to such levels to try and unsettle an unsponsored privateer team with three full time staff running a car that is four seconds off the pace of the Monaros.

“Our car is not only legal but was approved by PROCAR for this event and for the 2004 Nations Cup, prior to its purchase. It is not a purpose built hybrid that you cannot buy.

“The ‘bully boy’ tactics being employed may have worked in the past by a team which last year threatened to pack their bags and go home when they couldn’t get their own way. They got their way, subsequently winning the race.

“But I will say this to (you) Garry, put your money up and lodge your protest and we will see you in court. Or shut up and go racing, isn’t that what we are here for?”
Terry Little

Hour 15 – Lambo Charge, Then Bang
Just past 04.00, and with the track clean, the SC pulls off and the Monaros are 18 seconds apart and eight laps ahead of John Teulan in the 54 Falken Porsche. This track does suit the monsters, but a good number of the Nations Cup circuits don’t. Was Garry Rodgers thinking ahead to next year?

“We need to make sure we don't wear the car out and leave something in reserve in case we need to push at the end," suggested Todd Kelly in the second placed 05 Monaro. Oh yes? To race each other? Nathan Pretty then set a 2:17.560, 37 seconds ahead in the yellow 427 Monaro.

The Lamborghini has fought up to eleventh. Simonsen is now into the 2:19s and not keeping anything in reserve.

Simonsen, next lap a 2:18.985, no one else under 2:20. He’s less than two laps behind the 24 Cirtek Porsche.

Hour Fifteen Positions
1. 427 Monaro 324 laps
2. 05 Monaro 323 laps
3. 54 Porsche 314 laps
4. 6 Porsche 312 laps
5 . 900 Mosler 306 laps
6. 7 Porsche 305 laps
7. 8 Porsche 300 laps
8. 888 Porsche 292 laps
9. 24 Porsche 290 laps
10. 20 Lamborghini 286 laps.

Make that four laps. The Dane had a wild ride (“Someone was looking after me”) when the Diablo had another puncture. “I was full one way then the full the other, grass, sand, everything. It was the right rear again, braking into the last left hander, in Caltex Chase. I also had a front let go on the second lap of that stint. I had another one earlier on, and Paul and Luke have had them too. In some ways I was waiting for it.”

Nevertheless, the Dane was totally exhilarated by driving here at night. “Turning into corners where you just can’t see anything solid ahead of you, because the track drops away so steeply…”

Peter Hackett was doing a single stint, with Simonsen planning to go back into the car “for the fast times as the sun comes up.” He’s rather special, this guy. He may have to use a harder compound though.

Heather Spurle is rather special too. She completed virtually a double stint just before 05.00 in the Mosler, which included a big moment “at the Cutting. One of the slow cars looked as though he was letting me through, but he turned in, I hit him broadside, and spun through 360 degrees. The car is fine though (with some tape on the front). I set a 2:25 on a clear lap.” And that helped ease the Mosler up to fifth, because the no. 7 VIP Porsche was struggling with a fuel related issue.

Hour 16 – Hot Laps Short
The GNM Porsche is expected back out sometime during the balance of the race “as long as the crossmember is OK,” said Graham Nash. “We’ll find out soon if it is.”

05.30: Daylight arrives.

The Kawasaki Porsche moves up to sixth ahead of the delayed no. 7, while Martin Short sets the second FASTEST LAP OF THE RACE, a 2:15.661 a 05.45, then two minutes 15.187 later HE SETS THE OUTRIGHT FASTEST LAP!

Factory Holdens. Pah! Factory Mosler! Lower, leaner, lighter, meaner.

Short then set an even faster lap, a 1:15.104, just a few laps later. . .on very worn pads.

Hour 17 – Sunny Day
The Mosler pitted at 06.20, Short having come on the radio to state “If you need to change the pads, change them.” Oh, OK. He decided to stay in, to maximize the car’s speed with track conditions so good. Charles Lamb took off his helmet…. and the front pads were changed very, very quickly.

Ralf Rupprecht, on Short’s three 2:15s: “Not bad for an old bloke.”

Allen Simonsen was duly plugged into the Diablo for some fast laps, but a safety car period ensued for a Falcon in the gravel somewhere, and at 07.00, moments after the SC retired to the pit lane, one of the Nissan 200SXs dived into the sand before even reaching the line. Back out Mr. SC.

The blue and silver 24 Cirtek Porsche is stationary either side of 07.00, and we’ll find out why asap. It’s about to drop out of the top 12.

Hour 18 – Sunny Day
Racing again at 07.15 – Tander (427) from Murphy (05) – just seven tenths between them – and then Paul Morris next on the road, and next in the order, in the no. 54 911. Morris is 11 laps down on the invincibles.

Times are fast: the top three, plus Short, Quinn in the VIP Porsche and Simonsen are all under 2:20.

Another Safety Car period, with a Falcon in the gravel again. Short pits, Lamb takes over for his second stint of the race.

07.35, and off we go again. Simonsen sneaks ahead of Morris, and the three fastest cars on the track are right together – Tander, Murphy, Simonsen.

Completing the first lap and the Dane moves up to second – and with Morris hanging on in fourth on the road, all four set a 2:17. Simonsen gets a lap back by passing Tander at Konica a lap and a bit later, round the outside – Tander being very sensible. Only 39 laps to make up, Lambo drivers.

Simonsen is on hard rubber remember. Morris and Murphy change places on consecutive corners – and as Simonsen ‘settles’ into 2:21s, the Holdens are swarming behind him.

Just before 08.00, Simonsen sets a 2:16 then a 2:15.513 – and leaves the Monaros behind. Great entertainment: it’s almost as if he is leading overall…

Then he pits at 08.00, for a brake check and new rubber.

Hour Eighteen Positions
1. 427 Monaro 390 laps
2. 05 Monaro 390 laps
3. 54 Porsche 379 laps
4. 6 Porsche 379 laps –37 secs.
5 . 900 Mosler 374 laps
6. 8 Porsche 365 laps
7. 7 Porsche 361 laps
8. 888 Porsche 358 laps
9. 20 Lamborghini 351 laps
10. 27 BMW 348 laps.

18. 24 Porsche 325 laps (Crank sensor trouble)

 

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