Motorsport – Knockhill – R3 & R4 British GT
Two More Thirds Make Four!
engine failure for the #69 TVR T400R during Friday testing at
Scotland’s quick and twisty Knockhill circuit could easily
have ended Eclipse Motorsport’s weekend. But an overnight
dash by the crew back to the TVR factory in Blackpool and a titanic
effort by John Griffiths and the boys saw a fresh straight six
installed by 5am on Saturday morning.
Team boss John
Griffiths wanted to ensure the job had been done properly and
fired up the TVR for a couple of test engine runs, and the calls
to the circuit office from a farmer fully two miles away showed
that the engine had indeed been restored to full health!
morning saw a trail of visitors to gawp at the broken engine.
in the side of the block was mightily impressive, the engine
seemed good only for scrap but will instead find re-use as an
ornament in Shane Lynch’s rather large aquarium.
The real proof
of the quality of the engine transplant would come in the Saturday
morning free practice session. After a few trundling laps to
check everything was properly bedded, in Piers Johnson gave it
everything. He ended the session with second fastest time overall,
splitting the all conquering Mosler MT900Rs, which were still
very quick here - on a circuit which many had predicted would
suit the TVRs better.
With a double
header of 40 minute sprint races ahead, there were points to
be won and scalps to be taken IF the Moslers showed a weak spot
that had not so far been exposed this season.
would confirm that the Moslers were still very much a force to
be reckoned with, although it was the weather as much as the
mechanicals that spoiled any chance for a TVR challenge. Two
heavy showers at critical moments meant that Piers didn’t
get the opportunity to tap into the reserves he knew that he
and the T400R had. Third place on the grid was the best he could
achieve, ahead of the other two T400Rs, but behind an all Mosler
front row - again. All this despite throwing the TVR at the sky...
at the kerbs....
session had however exposed another area worthy of the teams’ attention.
A 40 minute race including a driver change would mean that pit
strategy and a swift turn-around would be critical. The two Mosler
teams had displayed remarkable swiftness during practice changeovers
in qualifying, so it was back to the awning for some concentrated
There is always
something of a clamour around the Eclipse awning: the TVR is
certainly one of the most eye-catching in the Championship and
the additional attraction of a driving squad ready, willing and
able to engage with the public certainly helps. Shane’s
previous career has ensured a dash of celebrity glamour is around
too, but there was something else in the air at Knockhill. Fans
did a double take as they passed: “Was that Him? No it
can’t be.” The confusion was caused by a rather nifty
pair of ‘shades donned by Eclipse’s diminutive spannerman
Mickey O’Reilly. They had the uncanny effect of making
him look very similar to celebrity short-arse Wayne Sleep, now
on his way back from the Australian Outback having been voted
off “I’m Desperate for Publicity Get Me Out Of Here.”
the middle, above, with the blue gloves), was of course thrilled
with all the attention, and by all accounts played to the crowd
at a Stirling nightspot on Saturday evening. The pretence held
out right up until he hit the dance floor, when it emerged that
sadly his moves were more wooden than Noah’s Ark. Sorry
race day and the promised rain held off. It emerged that Piers
start the first of the 40 minute sprint races. Within just a
handful of laps it became obvious that the Moslers’ power
advantage was going to make life very tough indeed for all the
rest. Piers hung on grimly but was finding it very tough going,
a lightning fast getaway from Shaun Balfe in the #33 Mosler was
very difficult to match, even for the second, #33 MT900R behind.
Piers was already struggling to keep in touch: “Every lap
was like a qualifying effort, we could pull back time under braking,
but everywhere else we were losing out.”
He pushed on
hard though, because traffic and the weather could still play
And so could
the Safety Car! The early advantage of the Moslers was wiped
out when the #31 Jaguar XK8 of Allen Lloyd found itself in the
tyre wall. The Safety Car came out to control the field and with
the clock ticking towards the ten minute mark when the pit widow
would open, race strategy came to the fore.
The first car
to pit as the window opened and the SEAT safety car was withdrawn
was the second placed #22 Mosler, Tom Herridge passing on the
reins to Rob Barff: the Mosler rejoined, now down in 13th place.
Piers was up to second and using the clear track ahead to his
But Balfe was
making good his escape as others diced behind him.
Piers was next
to stop and the overnight pit stop practice was put to good use,
Shane Lynch emerging ahead of Barff, still second but with the ‘blue’ Mosler
closing in just three seconds back.
With just two
minutes of the 20 minute pit stop ‘window’ remaining
the leader pitted, more than 40 seconds to the good at that point,
and another well drilled stop saw the lead retained as Jamie
Derbyshire rejoined. Barff was now pushing hard though, closing
up onto the bootlid of the Eclipse TVR and carving time out of
the leader too.
Shane was the
first target and as the two roared along the start finish straight
the Englishman made his move, the Irishman defending vigorously. “Firm
but Firm” was one onlooker’s reaction, there was
contact and both cars had a very quick trip into the gravel,
the Mosler bouncing high but making the move stick.
With no way
to close the gap again and no pressure from behind, Shane eased
off a little. A third consecutive third place was secure, just
seventeen seconds behind the leader after 44 frenetic laps.
As the grid
cleared for the start of Round 4 of the British GT Championship,
the second 40 minute race on Sunday afternoon, a waved yellow
flag alongside the second row of the grid spelled bad news for
Shane Lynch and Eclipse Motorsport. The #69 TVR T400R refused
to fire up as the grid set off on its reconnaissance lap.
push start from the start line marshals succeeded in breathing
life into the big straight six and Shane roared round to join
the back of the grid: the red mist had no doubt fallen well and
truly on the Irishman! Should that be green mist?
again hared into a substantial lead, but Shane was already making
good progress through the Cup class runners. He soon found a
Mosler in his sights, Tom Herridge having bounced through the
gravel trap at the hairpin and fallen from second to ninth, just
a metre or two ahead of #69. That alone meant that Shane had
passed seven cars in the opening two laps….
It was Tom
Herridge’s turn to get that red mist now: he was pushing
very hard to recover lost ground but the Eclipse TVR was still
in close attendance. Shane was cleverly using the Mosler as a
pathfinder through traffic, perhaps hoping to pressure the Mosler
driver into another error.
It nearly worked
too as the #33 car got tangled up with the Xero Racing Corvette
in a tussle for third place. The contact was brief and the Mosler
continued unhindered, but the squabbling pack behind were gobbled
up by Lynch and he was through to fourth.
found his way past Gareth Evans in the CDL Racing TVR T400R for
second at Clark before Shane too began to close down on Evans.
The latter did a fine job of keeping a ducking, weaving Lynch
at bay but eventually the Eclipse car and driver’s pace
showed and the orange car was through into third from the back
of the grid, a fine drive again from Shane.
At the front
of the race it was a Mosler vs Mosler battle again, and again
the #33 car was getting the better of it. Piers Johnson had by
now taken over the Eclipse TVR (above), and despite his best
efforts he would chase the Moslers in vain. The two American
cars would finish in the same order as for Race 1, with Johnson
and Lynch again completing the podium.
So the Moslers
are edging away in the points battle, but the consistency of
Eclipse Motorsport (four third place finishes in a row) sees
them still well in touch. The TVR runners will be hoping for
good luck for themselves and bad luck for the Moslers at Round
5 in two weeks time, an epic three hour tussle on Silverstone’s
Grand Prix circuit.