Fast, Reliable Run To Fourth - Again
a successful LMP2 title run in 2006, which left Gareth Evans as
the drivers' champion in the 'junior' prototype category, the team
decided to take the step up to the blue riband LMP1 class where
the team would be testing themselves against Le Mans veterans Henri
Pescarolo and Yves Courage and their latest prototype racers together
with a raft of other very rapid race cars from British, Italian
Dutch and Swiss teams.
To do battle against the best that Europe could muster the Chamberlain
Synergy squad chose the brand new Lola B 06/10 with an equally
brand new twin turbo V8 powerplant.
It was a huge
challenge but the results came throughout the season with a class
podium in the first race of the season, almost matched by the team’s
run at the classic Nurburgring circuit.
The season has proved popular with the driving trio of Bob Berridge,
Gareth Evans and Peter Owen:
is the best race series in the world,” said Evans, relaxing
between practice sessions at the final race of the season at Jarama
circuit just outside Madrid. “Great cars, great teams and
would see two challenges ahead for the ‘Three Musketeers’:
to finish the 6 hour (or 1000km) race as high up the order as possible
and to attempt to clinch the second place in the LMP1 championship
(already won by the Pescarolo team) which would earn them an automatic
entry at the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours.
The early practice sessions saw the team finding pace around the
narrow and slippery Jarama circuit.
The #19 car
would finish the day 6th fastest overall, Bob Berridge’s
best effort getting in amongst the leading group. That was despite
the fact that the Lola was running “on full tanks and old
rubber, we see no point running any other way in practice, that’s
what we’ll be dealing with in the race.”
very happy with the way the car is handling, very happy with the
way the AER engine is pulling and have enjoyed ourselves throughout
so far,.” said Peter Owen.
But the Qualifying
session on Saturday afternoon would see the smiles disappear from
the faces of all concerned. Despite an early lap that would top
the timesheets, Bob Berridge found it impossible to improve as others
overhauled the Lola’s benchmark time. 11th fastest overall
was not the result they were looking for at all and it was a disappointed
trio that was spotted striding away from the paddock immediately
after a post session debrief:
“We had issues!” said
Berridge without a flicker of a smile. It seemed that the carefully
crafted set-up of the car
had been lost for the crucial run, a flurry of activity at each
corner of the Lola indicating that a change had been made for qualifying
that had undone much of the good work of the preceding three practice
was far from a disaster and with the super-professional pitcrew
on the case, what turned out to be a basic set-up error was identified
The ‘fix’ evidently worked and the #19 car was at
the top of the timesheet early on in the race morning warm-up and
continued to find more pace throughout the session, a 1:25.317
good enough for 5th fastest overall by the session’s close.
worked at it until 3am and the car is miles better. In fact the
fastest lap in that session was badly baulked and could have been
a 1:24.1,” said a now smiling Bob Berridge.
And so to the race.
take the opening session and would adopt the “usual
plan” which meant that the #19 squad would be looking to
claim some high profile scalps.
From his eleventh
place start Berridge made immediate progress, up to ninth by the
end of lap 2 and grabbing another position by the 25 minute mark.
Next on the
target list was Miguel Angel de Castro in the #40 Lola, the same
the team had campaigned so successfully
last season. It was no mean feat, the Jarama circuit gave the LMP2
car a chance to stretch its legs and it was of course de Castro’s
home race, always good for a few tenths per lap.
would not be denied and was soon up to seventh before #19’s
his first routine pit stop.
With the Lola refreshed by a full tank of fuel and a new set of
Dunlop rubber Berridge was back into the fray and still making
progress into a three way Lola scrap between the LMP2 leading duo
and the big #19 LMP1 car.
The power of
the LMP1 car soon caome to bear and before the end of his double
stint Berridge was up to 4th place overall.
was next aboard and running fast and steadily: the LMP2 cars were
taking advantage of their slightly better fuel consumption and barely
slower pace here, leapfrogging the mid-pack LMP1s and leaving #19
propping up the top ten at this stage.
was more than holding his own and would pit to turn the car over
to team mate Peter Owen at the 2 Hours and 30 minutes mark, now
back up to 8th overall, and closing in on the cars ahead.
Owen too has
been improving all season in the new car and he would again pull
back a couple of positions to again hold 8th position at the end
of his stint, making up places despite strong challenges from both
quick LMP2 cars and delayed but recovering LMP1 cars.
It was a hot
but happy Owen who passed the car back to Bob Berridge after one
of his best stints of the 2007 season.
The task ahead for Berridge was clear. He emerged in 9th position
overall and would need to make sustained progress to pick up the
points the team needed to clinch second place in the championship.
And progress he did, both on pace and by profiting from the almost
inevitable misfortune of others as cars fell by the Spanish wayside
in the closing stages of the race.
By the time
the chequered flag flew the #19 car was up to an excellent 5th place
overall, 4th in class. That was the good news. The bad news is that
the final result would leave the Chamberlain Synergy squad just
a single point short of their goal.
and Owen finished the season equal on points with the Creation Autosportif
squad but a second place finish at Donington Park from their competitors
would be enough for them to clinch second in the Championship at
the last round and with it the second automatic Le Mans entry for
the 2007 race.
It was doubly
galling for Chamberlain Synergy as in the latter stages of the
Lola had been biting huge chunks out of
the Creation’s advantage.
“I took a lap out of Nic Minassian and (Swiss Spirit Courage‘s)
Marcel Fassler. Late on in the race, I was able to do 1:26 flat
lap after lap. The set-up for the race was excellent.”
That pace had
seen Berridge match Minassian’s best race
lap (to the thousandth of a second) late in the race, the Lola
getting faster as the Creation’s pace suffered.
overnight efforts had indeed made a fundamental difference to the
drivers' ability to push hard.
a very slight set-up change after the Saturday morning session:
it was a minute change, but it made the car very difficult in qualifying.
We changed it back for the race and it was flying," added Bob.
despite the last minute disappointment the whole team were all
the ‘Three Musketeers’. Outgoing
LMP2 champion Gareth Evans was left to sum up a challenging but
hugely enjoyable 2006 season:
"We're very happy with the change to LMP1 for this year.
We just missed out on the guaranteed entry for Le Mans, but we
achieved a lot this season and we’ll be back for more next
That’s good news for all concerned.