The Race - June 17-18
The ‘steady start’ to the Chamberlain-Synergy LMP1 attack
on the 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours continued in the race morning warm-up.
Berridge took to the 8-mile track in hot conditions at 09.00, setting
a best lap of 3m45.710 to go seventh quickest, putting a handful
of laps on the car in readiness for the start later today.
was found finishing his breakfast just after the session and summed
up his view.
out, it came back again! That was all we were looking for and it
was fine. No problems at all. We’re just waiting to start
the plan at 5pm now,” he smiled.
have read, this car and team have taken a cautious and steady approach
to the race meeting so far. But the speed trap figures from Thursday
night’s qualifying session show that the Lola is knocking
on the door of the Audis and Pescarolos, so a strong finish is certainly
on the cards for this trio.
17:00: Bob Berridge in the car for the start – maintains his
11th place slot on the opening lap.
Safety car period
called due to Babini’s shunt in the Aston Martin. The Lola
pitted from P11 under safety car for fuel, rejoined in 14th place
after the stop.
17:30: Bob moves
up to 13th place, passing the #64 Corvette ...
after team-mate Warren Hughes in the LMP2 car and Barbosa in the
in 13th and chasing down the P2 Radical and Lola ahead. The next
place in LMP1 is the #12 Courage, just over 15 seconds ahead, but
lapping slightly faster than the Chamberlain-Synergy car at this
17:55: Up to
12th place as the LMP2 leading Lola pits. Bob is now right behind
the P2 Radical but struggling to find a way past as the traffic
builds up around the circuit.
before the hour and a clear pass on the Mulsanne gives Bob P10,
now 20 seconds behind Hughes in the sister car.
18:03: The Lola drops back outside the top ten as Alex Yoong moves
ahead of Bob after a stop-go penalty. That car was P3 before its
penalty and is running at a quicker pace than the Chamberlain car.
18:15: Bob pits
from P9 and hands over to Gareth Evans. Fuel and tyres taken on
and rejoins in 14th place. He immediately passes the leading Corvette
and takes up place behind Barbosa in the Radical.
reports from the garage that everything is running fine. So far,
moves up to 12th as the P2 leading RML Lola pits. He’s running
a consistent pace to stay sandwiched 40 seconds behind the Radical
and five seconds ahead of Wallace in the RML car.
19:03: Into the third hour and Gareth drops down to 13th as Wallace
moves past him in the RML MG-Lola. However, the #22 Radical pits
and it’s a long stop, which hands 12th back to the Lola, just.
pits and hands over to Peter Owen for his first stint behind the
wheel of the Lola, rejoining in 14th but with plenty of time in
hand over the #13 Courage behind.
a bit sluggish, but that’s the engine, not me,” says
Gareth after getting out of the car. “The engine guys are
going to take a look at it and do something, but it’s going
to take two minutes to do, so that will happen later tonight probably.
Everything’s fine other than that though.”
Owen working his way through his stint. The GT2 traffic is keeping
him busy around the track but with the cushion he has both in front
and behind he’s keeping out of trouble as the sun sinks lower
in the sky.
to head into hour four and Peter is still holding station in 14th.
The GT1 battle ahead of him is pulling the cars away from him, but
he is scheduled for a stop within the next few laps.
as Peter’s first stint is drawing to a close he gets a chop
across the bows from one of the Pescarolo cars at the end of the
driving so steadily, so, so steadily, keeping out of everything’s
way, being courteous to all the quicker cars and he just out-braked
himself into Mulsanne corner,” said an angry Owen, after getting
out of the car. “All he had to do was wait another couple
of seconds and he’d have had a clear run out of the corner.
gets back aboard, fuel and tyres taken on too. There’s no
apparent damage or issues with the car, so it at present it looks
as if the team is keeping out of trouble, just.
20:25: Bob moves back into the top 16 (first page on the timing
screens) after the stop. On his current pace it shouldn’t
be long before he’s taken 15th, 14th and 13th too, as they’re
all slower GT1 cars ahead.
20:32: Two places
up, 14th is now safe and there is only 27 seconds to the Alphand
20:46: Bob moves
ahead of the #7 Audi R10 as it is held up for six laps in the pits.
Up to twelfth place, then becomes eleventh on the next lap.
The Lola is now 6th in class and where the team thought they might
be, when discussing possible outcomes at the beginning of the week.
But there are a handful of slower cars ahead and the big guns of
Audi are struggling: there could be more in store for the team yet.
21:25: Bob initially
drops down to 12th as Kristensen in the Audi fights his way back
through the field. But the sister LMP2 car has to pit and needs
a plug change, promoting the Lola back up to 11th place.
21:34: The Lola
is having engine problems and the call has been made on the radio
to pull the car into the garage at the next routine stop to check
it over and find the problem.
22.00 Bob Berridge
pits and gets out and the car is wheeled into the garage: the mechanics
descend upon the Lola to find the problem. Bob comes out the back
of the garage to say there’s an oil leak.
As of 22:11
the stop has dropped the car to 18th place. Gareth Evans is in the
car in the garage, ready to go as soon as the team has completed
an oil leak and they’re working on it now,” was all
Bob could say after a great stint at the wheel that had moved the
car into a solid position. This is the first problem the team has
encountered all week so far.
22:24: The car
is still in the garage being worked on.
22:36: the team
has dropped right back down to 36th overall and is still in the
Gareth Evans has got out of the car and is sitting in the back of
the garage while the team works on the car.
a wastegate problem that was the initial concern and then when we
got the car back in the garage they discovered an oil leak. They’re
changing the oil pump now and hopefully we’ll be back out
in about ten or fifteen minutes, but we’ve lost over an hour
now,” said a dejected looking Gareth.
The team now
lies in 41st place, 25 laps off the leaders and two behind the Lister
23:56: The Lola LMP1 car is back out on circuit, albeit in 43rd
place. Almost two hours lost in the pits for an oil scavenge pump
change has put it right out of contention, at least at this point.
But there is still a long way to go. Gareth Evans is behind the
wheel and is immediately lapping quicker than at least half a dozen
cars ahead of him, although he has at least four laps to make up
to gain the next place.
00:19: Gareth makes up a lap on the #36 Courage ahead and is lapping
around 30 seconds a lap faster than it and the Pilbeam further up
place may be about to come up slightly early for the Chamberlain-Synergy
car as the #36 Belmondo Courage is creeping slowly round the circuit.
00:28: The Belmondo
car stops on the track as Gareth has two laps to make up. Now one
as it passes the start/finish line. The next target is the Pilbeam
which has four laps in hand but is lapping ten seconds slower than
place is taken and the Pilbeam is in the pits being worked on, its
lead is now down to three laps over Gareth and shrinking rapidly.
00:42: The Pilbeam
is still parked in its garage as Gareth has just one lap to gain
back. Next in line is the LMP2 Courage of Barazi-Epsilon, five laps
up the road, but the Lola has been consistently 10-15 seconds faster
up to this point.
pits, all routine, and is back out again quickly.
brake flat spots a tyre and Gareth is straight back in again for
before 1am Gareth passes the stationary Pilbeam and moves up a place
(now 41st). The Barazi Courage is now six laps clear with the Lola
lapping ten seconds faster.
01:13: The fresh set of tyres is obviously helping, Gareth is lapping
20 seconds faster than Barazi and has pulled back one lap on the
01:30: The #12
Courage is now the next target for the Chamberlain Synergy car as
it sits being worked on in the pits. Barazi has passed it and is
still five laps clear and is lapping in a similar pace to Gareth
hands over to Peter Owen after a double stint behind the wheel of
the yellow Lola. A relieved but happier Gareth is pleased that the
car is back out and circulating.
running and its better than it was before we had the problem, but
it’s still not 100%. Mike (Lancaster) is looking at the data
and its showing that it’s down on power on one side of the
engine,” said Gareth.
a good run though, definitely good fun!” he smiled. “We’ll
keep going and see what happens, there’s still a long way
to go yet. We’re still on the bottom timing screen at the
minute, which isn’t where we want to be.”
02:07: Peter is lapping slower than the next placed car –
the #12 Courage – but the two cars in front of them - #73
& #80 Porsches are both currently in the pits being worked on.
Two laps to make up on the #80 Porsche and a further two on the
moves up into 40th position as he passes the #80 Porsche that is
still stranded in the pit-lane. Alexander Frei is lapping slightly
quicker ahead, but the #73 Porsche is ten seconds slower and only
three laps up on him.
Peter ends his stint after making up one more place and keeping
out of trouble. Bob Berridge climbs aboard the car, also taking
on fuel and tyres and heads back out into the night as another hour
02:58: Bob moves
up to 39th just before the hour ticks by. There are now two laps
to pull back on the #73 Porsche, which has now pitted.
03:14: The safety car message is shown on the timing screens –
reason as yet unknown – the team makes the call to bring Bob
into the pits. “I’ll have a large fries and a milkshake
to go please!” said the voice from the cockpit as he enters
03:22: Bob is
now into 37th position as the safety car parades the field around
the circuit in the darkness. This is about to become 36th as the
No 61 Ferrari is parked in the pit-lane.
goes green again and within a lap the Lola has moved into 36th place.
A slow lap from the No 12 Courage ahead has narrowed the gap to
two laps with Bob lapping seven seconds faster on the last lap.
03:36: A possible
radio problem between the car and the pits means that the team will
have to revert to using the pit-board for signals and messages.
03:57: The team
get a break of luck as the No 12 Courage ahead of them is called
in for a stop-go penalty. Bob is currently lapping between 10 and
20 seconds faster than the Courage, but the time spent in the pit-lane
will certainly help to overhaul their LMP1 rival.
04:03: Just after the 11 hour marker Bob pulls a lap back on the
Courage, it’s now just one lap ahead and is being reeled in
at over 10 seconds a lap, with its stop-go still yet to be served.
04:15: Bob Berridge
comes in for his scheduled stop. Gareth Evans is suited up and ready
to get in if required, but Bob decides to stay aboard for another
stint. The team has reverted to using the pit board to give the
drivers signals for the time being. A plan is to try and change
the radio set in the car at some point, possibly at the driver changeover
at the end of this stint.
The No 12 Courage
came into the pits with a puncture just before Bob came in. The
added time stopped has allowed the Lola to now move up into 35th
position, three laps back from a pair of GT2 Porsches.
04:42: Bob is
driving a superb stint in the darkness to reel in the slower cars
in front at over 20 seconds a lap.
04:50: Bob finally
comes in to hand over to Gareth Evans. The car is pulled back into
the garage for a 12-hour overhaul. A new radio is hopefully going
to be fitted and the team is looking at the wastegate once again.
is good, everything is fine,” said Bob. “Apart from
the wastegates, continually,” he added.
He hands the
car over just before the half-way mark in the race in 34th place,
but the time that will be spent in the garage will wipe out some
of the hard work done during the early hours of the morning.
05:33 After almost half an hour in the garage, the Lola is wheeled
back out and Gareth sets out as the sky begins to get light. The
next prototype for him to aim for is the Barazi Courage, two laps
05:56: Just before 6am and the gap to the Porsche
in front has been halved to one lap, with Gareth lapping just over
10 seconds faster.
06:19: Gareth pits from 34th place after trading times with the
Barazi Courage for the majority of the stint. He stays in the car
and heads back out to continue giving the No 32 a hard time.
06:55: A hard stint allows Gareth to get onto the
same lap as the IMSA Porsche ahead of him as the next hour ticks
off the clock. With about half a stint left it might be that the
Lola can move up onto the second page of the timing screens over
the next couple of hours.
07:11: Gareth pits from 34th place and stays behind the wheel for
what will be his third stint in the car.
07:18: He comes
back into the pits complaining of what feels like a loose rear wheel.
The team put fresh rubber on the car to try and cure the problem,
what could possibly be pick-up on the rear tyres. Unfortunately,
the extra stop has wiped out the hard work done by Gareth over the
first two stints in catching up to the IMSA car.
07:34: It’s looking as though the team may
inherit 33rd place due to the mis-fortune of the sister LMP2 car,
which is back in the garage on another long stop. It’s currently
two laps up on the LMP1 car but does not show signs of leaving the
garage in the immediate future.
07:39: The Lola
moves up a place and is back to being one lap behind the No 76 Porsche
and a place on the second timing screen. Small consolation for a
car that was hovering around with the front runners in the early
part of the race
07:46: The demise
of the Dome has finally allowed the Lola to jump up onto the second
page of timing screens.
07:53: A long
stop by the Barazi Courage finally allows the Lola through and up
one more place, it now lies 31st overall, eighth in class and just
20 seconds behind the No 76 Porsche for 30th overall with the hour
about to tick over.
08:22: Bob Berridge is back behind the wheel after Gareth Evans
steps out from an epic triple stint that has put the Lola onto the
second page of the timing screens (up five places from 05:30 this
morning). Amazingly he doesn’t look like he’s completed
just over three hours straight at Le Mans.
“I feel it though!” he smiled. “We’re
up onto the next page, which is a step in the right direction. The
engine still wasn’t right either. I just didn’t have
the grunt that I should have had. I would get to the top speed at
the end of the Mulsanne, but it just took a lot longer to get there,”
“The guys have altered the map when I got
out though, so hopefully that will have cured it. Bob’s got
back in again and hopefully we can keep moving up the order, that’s
the plan anyway.”
There are another 20 laps between the LMP1 Lola
and the first timing screen, with eight and a half hours of the
race left to run from this point. But there are more cars spending
more time in the pits, so the gap ahead may shrink dramatically
in the next few hours.
08:38: Bob’s on a flyer and sets the car’s
fastest lap of the race so far, a 3m44.754. On the back of Gareth’s
triple stint, the crew of this car look determined to make as much
time up as possible after the trials during the night. The top six
may be out of the question by this point, but is a place on the
first timing page the new objective? He immediately does another
fastest middle sector for the No 19 car on his next lap. Up to P27.
and Spyker may be able to assist in the ambition, as they are both
spending vast amounts of time in their respective garages and the
Lola is picking the laps off. A 3m46.321 on his next lap and another
quick middle sector: the new engine map seems to have cured the
lack of grunt at least.
08:46: Up to
26th and less than a minute to the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari for 25th.
08:53: The Ferrari
is dispatched just before the hour is up and the Radical and Spyker
are still motionless in their respective garages. There’s
two laps to gain on the Dutch car and four on the British LMP2 to
make it to 23rd place.
08:57: The Lola
is now lapping faster than everything except the leading LMP1 cars
(Audi’s, Pescarolos and the Zytek - which it’s matching).
A 3m45 just before 9am shows its back on the pace it had from the
09:15: The team now stands in 23rd overall, seventh in class. There
are eleven laps to overcome before the next car, the JLOC Lamborghini
can be taken.
fastest lap, as the track is getting hotter. The gap to the next
car is now ten laps, and the car Bob is catching is now the Intersport
09:44: The Safety
car is called out, there’s oil down at Indianapolis. Bob Berridge
has the gap down to the JLOC Lamborghini to six laps and the Italian
exotic is currently in the pits. The team takes the opportunity
to change drivers. The gap is down to five laps, but the Lambo is
back out and circulating and Bob hands over to Peter Owen for his
first stint since the middle of the night.
is back out onto the track, but the safety car and the pit stop
have dropped them a lap, back to six between the Lola and the Lamborghini.
10:22: The Larbre Ferrari, which has actually stopped, is dropping
down the order and will be the next place the Lola inherits, on
its way back through the field. Peter is lapping around seven seconds
faster than the Lamborghini, but there is still the matter of the
six laps it has in hand over the LMP1.
sensors go off in the Chamberlain Synergy pit and the crew call
Peter over the radio to slow down and pit immediately. The team
will take advantage and change drivers at the same time. Gareth
Evans will take over in the Lola.
Evans is now at the wheel as the team enters the last six hours
of the race.
11:38: The Creation Hybrid has spent a long time in its garage and
has dropped down the order. The Chamberlain-Synergy car is now just
one lap down from it and is about to move into the top 20. Gareth
is circulating a lot faster than the Lamborghini that is five laps
ahead, but it will be a long wait before it makes all the places
back up. It’s now just nine laps away from the first timing
screen, with just over five hours left to run.
12:04: Gareth Evans is midway into a double stint, although he isn’t
making any impression on the Lamborghini ahead. It’s been
a superb fight-back through the field so far, but the larger gaps
between competitors could prove to be too much to overcome in the
last five hours.
12:45: The Intersport
Lola spends an extended period in the pits and it allows Gareth
to close the distance between them to three laps. It then has to
pit again and the gap closes to a single lap before he comes in
to hand over to Bob Berridge. The Chamberlain team gives the Lola
a once over as Bob climbs aboard and new tyres are fitted.
13:10: Bob passes Duncan Dayton in the Intersport car to move into
19th place. The Zytek is currently in the pits being worked on and
it only has a lap in hand over the Lola. With just under four hours
of the race remaining the possibility of making it back into the
top 16 looks possible, but they’ll need luck too. Its current
position gives the team sixth in class.
Make that fifth in class as the Zytek slips behind while stuck in
the pits. The GT1 Lamborghini and the LNT Panoz are the two cars
ahead. But the Esperante has a seven lap cushion over the No 19
Lola with the LMP1 lapping about 30 seconds faster.
13:20: All the
hard work could be for nothing though as Bob radios the pits to
say he’s got gear selection problems. The team gets ready
for a ratio change, but it looks like it will take at least 30-minutes
with a ‘hot ‘box’. The team sets to the task as
soon as the car is wheeled into the garage: getting the Lola to
the finish appears to be the main aim at this point in the race.
Into the final three hours and the team is still working on fixing
the gearbox/drive train problem that halted Bob Berridge’s
charge back towards the top 16 overall. He had already reclaimed
fifth in class before having to head for the garage.
Chamberlain doesn’t think that the gearbox on the Lola is
think we can actually repair it,” he says. “We’re
going to try and cobble something together to see if we can get
it to the line, but I’m not so sure it’s going to be
The team has
come so close to picking up the race finish that they wanted. After
they fixed the oil pump problem overnight and solved the engine
mapping issue during Sunday morning, Bob Berridge was flying, hauling
the Lola back up the order. Gareth Evans’ fantastic triple
stint, also on Sunday morning to back up an early Berridge charge
put the squad back in the hunt for a place inside the top twenty
and into the top five in the LMP1 class.
As it stands
they will pick up fifth in LMP1, but may be unable to cross the
line after 24 hours.
With just one hour left on the clock the team seem determined that
the car will cross the line. Hugh Chamberlain thinks that the car
will manage two laps with the ‘fix’ that they’ve
come up with, enough to bring the car home.
It was a steady,
foolproof plan for the No 19 Chamberlain Synergy Lola during the
course of the 2006 Le Mans week. A top six finish (they should be
classified fifth in LMP1, albeit 25th overall) was more than possible
in the early stages when the car ran well. Once the engine mapping
issue was solved on Sunday morning the car flew, all the way back
towards ‘page one of the timing screens,’ as Gareth
Evans pointed out.
is able to cross the line to take a finish in the 2006 Le Mans 24
Hours, a Hugh Chamberlain ‘quick fix’ was enough to
get the car home.
know how the guys in the team did what they did,” exclaimed
Bob Berridge after climbing from the car. “I had 1st and 5th
gears and we’d worked out that we had to do two laps and that
the last one had to be less than six minutes, with those two gears!”
be back next year. But it won’t be as close as that though,
will it?” said Hugh Chamberlain.
drove like a pro, triple stinting in conditions that many a paid
driver would have baulked at. And Peter Owen didn’t put a
wheel wrong, all weekend. He even had to take evasive action from
one of the race favourite Pescarolos! The team works well together
and at an event like Le Mans that is of paramount importance.
when the official race results came into the media centre on Sunday
evening the sad truth was discovered that the hard work that the
team had put in came to nothing. The No 19 Chamberlain-Synergy Lola
was not included in the classified results. Just outside the lap
limit to be included in the results.
that was wrong - an unfortunate fact of posting information so quickly.
When the final, final results sheet was issued, as opposed to the
final hourly page, there was the Lola in 25th place.
that the winning Audi would complete 380 laps, which was spot on,
so we'd aimed to complete 266 laps," explains Bob Berridge.
"We got another one in just to be sure."
even after nearly 24 hours of graft, saw the Chamberlain-Synergy
Lola on the classified list.
After not finishing
the race last year, 2006 must be seen as a victory, of sorts, for
Bob Berridge, Gareth Evans, Peter Owen, Hugh Chamberlain and his
squad. But you can bet that next year they will aim for the glory,
as well as the chequered flag.