Finishing A Tough One
Peter Owen was
dressed in his civvies on race morning at Valencia, and he had a
very valid point regarding the format of the Le Mans Series races.
real problem for us is that we only get very limited track time.
That was one reason why we came testing here earlier this year,
because this is a new track for the Le Mans Series. We’ve
asked the organisers to consider increasing the practice sessions
to 90 minutes. With the one hour sessions and a three driver team,
we each end up with about 15 minutes driving.”
adds that “we daren’t change the set-up during a session,
there just isn’t time. It’s all about getting in as
much track time as possible. Two drivers get about 25 minutes seat
time per session, but we’re lucky if we get more than 15.”
Peter Owen again:
“All three of us are financially involved with the team. The
series needs teams like this one, but we each get so little running.
For example, this morning it was Gareth’s turn to drive in
the warm up. He and I take it in turns from race to race.
no point getting frustrated with the lack of track time, but inevitably
we haven’t found all the time in the car yet. Bob sets it
up for Gareth and I, but over the two days there’s a lot of
hanging around. I don’t know why we can’t start practising
on Friday morning, because we’re all here.
isn’t a better team in the paddock in terms of morale, commitment,
hard work – and having some fun. For someone like me this
is an indulgence, and what normally happens is that my best laps
come at the end of my stint, by which time I’m really used
to the circuit. The standard is very high of course, and there are
even more prototypes this year.
I’m having a good weekend: my sister lives in Spain, my wife
has come out here with me, and we’ve got some friends racing
in the Americas Cup, so we’ve had a busy, socialising weekend.”
the background to Peter’s Valencia weekend – one that
ended on Sunday evening with a good finish in the race, and a couple
of stints to his name.
meanwhile was busy planning an addition to his normal Le Mans programme:
he’s going to cycle to the test day, setting out from Oxfordshire
on May 25, and he’s determined to raise thousands of pounds
for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and a charity connected to the ACO.
So onto the
race weekend itself. Friday was one of those days when things didn’t
quite come together, with some lost track time in the first session,
and then the engine switching to safe mode in the afternoon, after
a temperature sensor wrongly diagnosed a hot engine. It wasn’t,
but the engine itself thought it was running hot.
two laps in this afternoon – with five cars in the gravel,”
growled Bob Berridge.
Cars in the
gravel, and the resulting yellow flags, would be a feature of all
three practice sessions. With the Valencia track having been designed
for motorcycles, the gravel traps were positioned very close to
the edge of the track, so an inconsequential spin often saw the
car concerned ending up in the gravel.
With an example
of great timing, things really started to come together on Saturday
gave me a car with a great set-up,” said Bob Berridge. “The
chassis, the tyres, the engine – all great.” The result
was ninth in class and a 1:27.5, faster than the Racing for Holland
Dome and the factory Courage. But there was more pace than that…
and Peter Owen were happy too, although Gareth (above) had “yellow
flags on every lap, and a ball of rubber just exploded upwards through
the louvres above one front wheel.”
to come in to have the louvres removed,” pointed out Peter
So what happened
in qualifying on Saturday afternoon Bob?
got it wrong on tyre choice. This morning, that 1:27.5 would have
been a 26.6, except that I was baulked. Michelin advised us not
to change to a certain tyre – and they were right.”
best qualifying lap was a 1:28.0. But back to where we came in,
and the race morning warm-up, and there was B. Berridge setting
a 1:26.8, the fourth best time, and third in LMP1, behind the two
Peugeots – with 50 or 60 litres of fuel in the tank. Gareth
Evans (right) was happy with a 1:29.6, and everything was set for
Bob would be starting further back than usual, on tyres that were
a bit of a handful, to say the least.
a pleasure to get out of the car – it was like a special stage
on the soft tyres, which were really not good after about five laps.
It was just a question of hanging on.”
Owen had a good chuckle about the crowd appeal of Peter, the former
suggesting that the team might have to give in to pressure from
the chanting crowd to put Mr. Owen in the car….
Gareth Evans handled the second stint (above), and the race plan
of plugging away with no mistakes was working nicely. Evans was
finding that he was “sitting on top of my seat, not in it,
so I got cramp,” but it was job done – and Peter Owen’s
More of the
same – consistency, not cramp – was followed by Bob
Berridge’s second stint.
us up to 12th, but we’ve slipped back a bit – but we’re
still seventh in P1,” said Berridge, as Gareth Evans and Peter
Owen saw out the remainder of the race.
Bearing in mind
the dramas some teams were having, the Chamberlain-Synergy Lola
AER just kept on going – to seventh in P1 and a couple of
It was perhaps
surprising that more of the prototypes didn’t retire after
what turned out to be a very tough event – so seventh it was,
and a good demonstration, again, of the reliability of the package..
which is just what everyone wanted, with Le Mans the next event
on the programme. Bob’s off to get in some training on his