Motorsport – Snetterton – R2 British GT Championship
Third Again For Piers And Shane
Round 2 of
the 2003 British GT Championship saw a fantastic qualifying
effort from Piers Johnson almost grab pole position in the
Eclipse Motorsport TVR T400R - at a freezing cold Snetterton
circuit in Norfolk. Only a last minute effort from Rollcentre
Racing’s Martin Short succeeded in demoting the Eclipse
car to second place, the Mosler driver edging Piers out by
just 0.135 seconds.
It was still
a front row start though for starting driver Shane Lynch, eager
to impress again after his heroics at Donington Park a fortnight
sharp contrast to Saturday’s conditions, Easter Sunday
provided bright sunshine (albeit with a cool breeze developing),
great news for the large crowd but less good for the drivers.
A GT car gets very, very warm and this race would be more gruelling
than usual. A two hour race beckoned, the longest so far held
in the British Championship, and both drivers would need to
be on the pace for a full 60 minutes each.
15 cars would
take the start, with the Donington race winning Mosler starting
from the back of the grid after a technical infringement in
qualifying led to their times being disallowed. Bad news for
Balfe Motorsport, but it would mean that Shane would only have
one of the Moslers to worry about in the opening laps.
starting driver in the pole-sitting Mosler, controlled the
pace and kept an eye on fast starting Eclipse man. But when
the lights went green it was Herridge who had the power down
first, the Mosler leaving Shane Lynch to tuck in behind at
the first turn, Riches. These two were already pulling clear
of the chasing pack.
round and Shane was right on the tail of the leader. Ominously
back in seventh though, Jamie Derbyshire in the second Mosler
had already scythed through the ‘Cup’ class runners
and was now bearing down on the leaders: within just a few
laps he would be on the tail of the Eclipse TVR.
Shane was making sure the leader didn’t get too comfortable,
closing the gap and filling his mirrors with the newly re-liveried
TVR. Traffic at the tricky Russell complex would allow Herridge
a little breathing space, and would also allow Derbyshire to
close up on the TVR. By Lap 13 the Mosler was right with him
and now it was the TVR driver’s turn to be watching his
mirrors, Shane now defending hard through the entire lap.
Try as he
might though, he was faced with the Mosler’s power advantage
at a circuit like Snetterton, with its long straights and fast
corners, and sure enough by lap 15 the race was a Mosler 1-2,
but with Shane still pushing on hard in third.
then reversed the order of the 1-2 with a great move up the
inside into Russell on lap 19.
trying all he could to hang on to the leaders, but was struggling
with an ignition switch that kept popping out. On lap 19 it
finally caught him out, cutting out at an awkward moment and,
momentarily without power steering, the TVR took to the grass.
No damage, but ground lost to the leaders. But worse was to
come for #69, because the air intake of the TVR was blocked
with grass and the engine temperature began to rise.
At 26 minutes,
Team Manager John Griffiths called Shane in for a quick clean
up job, but with a radio that had also given up the ghost,
probably as a result of the same problem that had caused the
original ‘off’, the team were unable to remind
Shane of the pit lane speed limit.
spirited exit from the stop was caught by the pit lane stewards
and an inevitable 10 second stop-go penalty board greeted Shane
next time around: the chase for the lead was over for Eclipse.
As the TVR
pitted again, 2002 team mate Ben McLoughlin was halfway up
the pitlane making unmistakable “Slow Down!!” gestures.
Shane got the message and rejoined in sixth place, with the
leader bearing down on him to put him a full lap down.
30 minutes gone, resistance was futile and Shane let the leader
by. He hadn’t given up though, far from it. Remember
this was only 25% race distance. He was closing up on the Marcos
At the halfway
point Shane joined the rest of the leading runners in stopping
for fuel and a driver handover to Piers Johnson. The Championship
rules dictate that a fuel stop should take a full two minutes,
a measure introduced to ensure that teams don’t run the
risk of a possibly disastrous fuel spillage. Job done by John
Griffiths and the crew and Piers was out and away in pursuit
of the second TVR ahead, Richard Stanton at the wheel.
driver changes complete, Shaun Balfe in the red Mosler led
Martin Short in the Blue car, with Stanton and Piers Johnson
battling for third place. It looked like going Richard Stanton’s
way, because a growing understeer problem for the chasing Eclipse
car wasn’t helping matters. A repeat podium finish was
looking less likely by the minute.
With 25 minutes
to go however, Richard Stanton’s pace dropped dramatically.
Laps in the 1:09s had suddenly become 1:17 then 1:13. Piers
saw his chance and put on the pressure. Stanton responded and
the pace increased again, but a lap or so later, with 20 minutes
to go, the vibration that Stanton had detected finally told
and something let go. “I’m not sure whether it
was the diff. or the drive shaft,” he said straight afterwards.
Either way the effect was the same, the third placed TVR lost
drive and pulled over to the side of the track, out of the
race. Piers swept through into third place and was now under
no pressure from behind: if the car kept going that podium
finish would be secured.
At the flag,
after 101 laps of the circuit, it was a win for Jamie Derbyshire
and Shaun Balfe, two out of two for Red #22. Short and Herridge
powered home second with Piers Johnson and Shane Lynch an excellent
Johnson was pleased with third but looking for what might have
been: “The car wasn’t handling brilliantly today
and the problem with the ignition switch effectively cost us
any possible chance of challenging. Without the three stops
we’d have been much closer, but realistically we’d
still have been racing for third place today.”
and two podium finishes for Eclipse Motorsport so far this
season, a good start and with round three in three weeks time
at Knockhill, scene of a race ‘win’ for the team
last season, only to have the victory withdrawn after a minor
technical problem immediately afterwards, there is unfinished
business there, full in the knowledge that the TVR T400R is
now reliable as well as quick. Will the twisty little circuit
and the two x 40 minute sprint race format allow the TVR to
get closer still to the Moslers?
know the answer on May 11.