Motorsport – Oulton Park – R6 British GT Championship
Win Number Two
This is developing into an extraordinary season for the Eclipse
Motorsport TVR Tuscan T400R – and Piers Johnson and Shane
Lynch. Six meetings (and seven races) into the season and they’ve
got a string of results that go a long way to balance out all the
misfortunes of 2002.
Remember at the start of the season when you could almost write
the race result before the lights had gone green (Mosler-Mosler-Eclipse)?
There were four of those, including both results at Knockhill. The
win at Silverstone changed the sequence, then came the only car
failure at Castle Combe last time out – a rose joint failed
two laps from the end, but Piers and Shane were still classified,
seventh in class, and a very useful 12 points.
And so to Oulton Park – a meeting marked by a heat wave across
Britain, and also a superb win (number two) for the quickest, most
reliable Tuscan in the Championship.
A 1:41.1 in testing on Friday, second quickest to the Balfe Mosler,
suggested that this meeting could be between these two, and that’s
more or less how it developed. That was as quick as the Eclipse
car would go all weekend – as the temperatures climbed on
Saturday and Sunday.
The Saturday morning session saw the Tuscan R fourth fastest, but
the afternoon half hour was the more important one: “Piers
will drive the whole session,” explained Shane.
By mid afternoon, it was very hot indeed – and grip was at
a premium. Understeer was the theme for #69. “We had more
understeer than this morning, so I came in for an adjustment, and
we went the wrong way – but at least we know which way to
go now!” explained Piers. We concluded that remark in dsc’s
race coverage with the comment that Piers was very confident for
was half a second slower than the Balfe Mosler despite the understeer,
and was only slightly concerned that perhaps he was the only one
finding the track slippery: in fact everyone was, thanks to the
heat - and some oil down too. Fresh rubber didn’t actually
help anyone go quicker than they had on Friday.
Shane to start, and the last thing he wanted was a challenge from
the Ultima on the second row: he wanted a straight fight with the
Mosler on pole. The Rollcentre Mosler was in set-up difficulties
and effectively wouldn’t be a threat on this day.
From the rolling start, Shane made a good start, but Steven Brady
made a slightly better one in the Ultima. “Shane – ever
the gentleman – would later say what a pleasure it was to
see the Ultima going so well, but he can’t have thought that
as he got stuck behind it for the first few laps – as the
Shaun Balfe-driven Mosler hurried away in the lead. It was very
close into Old Hall for the first time though, the paler blue car
just about inching ahead at the apex and exiting the corner, as
Shane ran out of room on the outside. This was hard but close racing.
The Ultima was quick in a straight line, and its tyres seemed to
come in sooner than those on the TVR. “But his tyres seemed
to go off as mine came in,” said Shane later. The Irishman
piled on the pressure (below), but Steven Brady resisted hard, for
11 laps. By then, the red and white Mosler was 15 seconds up the
road, and logically hopes of catching it had vanished….
But Shane was through into second coming past the pits – perhaps
Brady had had enough of the pressure from behind – and Shane
had a clear track to go Mosler chasing. The gap more or less stabilised
then, at about 17 seconds, but the Eclipse car was about to pit.
The Ultima followed Shane in – but didn’t exactly follow
Piers out. A much quicker Eclipse stop saw the gap out to 16 seconds
by the time these two completed their first laps, and it grew from
there. The Ultima was no longer a threat.
had also maintained second place, Shane having pulled well clear
of any other cars that might have been pitting later. The leading
Mosler stayed out much longer, and Piers got his head down to try
and manage the 48 second gap between them. Much would depend on
a quick Mosler pit stop – and after 19 laps, that’s
exactly what happened. The gap had been growing a little, about
half a second per lap, so realistically it looked like second place
would be the outcome.
With the Mosler back on track with Jamie Derbyshire at the wheel,
it was a 20 second deficit. Piers piled on the pressure, lapping
in very low 1:43s – and suddenly the Derbyshire car was in
the 1:45s. The gap came down at two seconds or more per lap, and
with 25 minutes of the race to go, this was suddenly looking like
a very different race.
Derbyshire was in trouble “finding gears on the downshift.”
He couldn’t enter corners as quickly as he would have liked,
and Piers closed in. With the Ultima in trouble with a loose wheel,
and the Rollcentre Molser a fairly distant third, it would be between
these two. Piers looked a definite favourite to take the lead 15
minutes or so before the end of this 60 minute race, but it happened
rather sooner than that. The Mosler came trickling out of Deer Leap
with a broken throttle cable, and Piers charged past and into the
lead – one he wasn’t about to lose.
ten laps to go, the Eclipse Tuscan T400R didn’t ease up a
fraction – at least not until the last couple of laps. At
the flag it was a 33 second margin over the Rollcentre Mosler. The
biggest grin was probably from Shane Lynch, who is certainly taking
advantage of the better fortunes the team are experiencing this
year. Championship leader Tom Herridge remains out front, but his
nearest challengers are now Piers Johnson and Shane Lynch. With
four races left, it couldn’t be much closer. The Balfe Mosler
pair may have the fastest car, but Eclipse has the record (shared
with Herridge) of scoring in every round.
Rockingham next, then Thruxton, Spa and Brands Hatch. It should
be a thrilling end to the season. Simon Pullan will join our intrepid
pair for Spa and the 1000 kms at the end of August.
Tom Herridge 136
Shane Lynch / Piers Johnson 131
Shaun Balfe / Jamie Derbyshire 113.