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Eclipse Motorsport – Rounds 15 & 16 - 2004 British GT Championship
Third & Fourth Will Do Nicely

It has been a season of contrasts for Eclipse Motorsport: a few missed rounds, some good results - and a sensational “comeback” win at Oulton Park, which would turn out to be the only victory for a TVR team in 2004.

The final Brands Hatch rounds of the championship would be a big corporate weekend for the team, and Saturday morning’s 90-minute free practice session. held on a damp but drying track, saw the blue and orange TVR post a time of 47.748, eighth in N-GT.

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Saturday afternoon’s first 15-minute qualifying session saw Steve Hyde immediately on the pace in third position, and after trading times with Mark Sumpter’s Porsche for a while, stabilised at 47.930 - before the session was red-flagged two minutes early, Jono Coleman’s TVR having spread oil around a good half of the track, causing several cars to spin into the gravel, and the armco. Sixth on the grid then, for the first race later in the afternoon.

“It’s a very busy lap around here,” said Steve Hyde, “and every time I saw a yellow flag, I was caught behind a Cup car.”

The second session, delayed while the oil on the track was cleared, saw Piers Johnson make a cautious start, initially marking time in 11th place, and momentarily slipping further back, before a last thrust saw 48.025 appear on the timing screens. This would be good enough for eighth on the grid for Sunday’s race.

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Steve Hyde held his sixth place into the first lap of Race 1, but was soon passed by the charging RSR TVR car of Lawrence Tomlinson. Alan Bonner’s Ultima was slipping back, and Steve was soon past him, and back into sixth position, posting a lap of 48.033, faster than the three cars ahead of him. Mark Sumpter’s JWR Porsche was the next target, but he was locked in his own dispute with Tomlinson’s TVR, and Steve sensibly held back as the pair nearly clashed at Graham Hill Bend.

The inevitable Safety Car period occurred just before half-diatance, as Dominic Lesniewski had parked his Cup-class Porsche in the Paddock Hill moonscape, and Steve took the opportunity to pit under caution, and hand over to Piers Johnson.

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Piers emerged in third position, and once the SC had let the field loose, kept pace with Greensall (who had relieved Tomlinson) in front, thus dragging himself away from the pursuing Sumpter, who was driving the full hour alone this weekend.. As the race progressed, however, Sumpter began to close on to the tail of the Eclipse TVR, but Piers responded, and assisted by some Cup Class traffic in the closing stages, steadied the gap to half a second, crossing the line for a place on the bottom step of the podium.

“This is an unexpected bonus,” said a delighted Steve Hyde, “We were cautious in this race, because we’ve got an army of sponsors’ guests coming tomorrow, and we were anxious to save the car for the main event. I could have pushed harder.”

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Sunday’s weather did its best to rain on Eclipse’s parade, but couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the 50 or so guests from major sponsors, CHP Consulting, who provide software for the finance industry, and plant and machinery valuers Edward Simmons. The team elected to race on full wets from the get-go, and Piers, benefiting from the misfortunes of others in front of him, was soon up to fifth position. With a third of the race run, the SC was sent out to control the field while the (highly) Emotional Monaro was recovered from the gravel, and, while still under the lengthy caution, Piers joined a whole rash of cars that pitted just before the half way mark. Steve was quick away from the box, and headed an impatient queue held at the pit exit, waiting for the crocodile of cars to pass.

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Once racing conditions returned, and all pit stops had been made, Steve found himself in fifth place, but was powerless to resist the flying Nathan Kinch, the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari having been the victim of an earlier, poor tyre choice, and Kinch being in no mood to negotiate.

Having let Kinch go, Steve now had a problem behind him, since Sumpter, who had obviously signed up to be Eclipse’s nemesis for the weekend, was once more rapidly closing the gap, replicating the situation at the time in yesterday’s race. This was exacerbated by a further Safety Car period, and with just eight minutes to go (once the field went green again), the John Guest Porsche was a mere quarter of a second adrift. Steve responded, noting that he was now fourth, as Richard Hay had retired the Corvette with accident damage, but Sumpter kept the pressure on, and the gap at the flag was a little over half a second.

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“I thought he’d gone,” said Steve later, “but he kept coming back. I had to try everything I knew to hold him back at the end.”

Team co-owner Chris Pollard summarized the team’s performance. “The boys showed their class and maturity for racing as a pair this weekend. I came here convinced that racing on this short circuit was a mistake, but the driving standards have been excellent.”

2003 regular Shane Lynch is in panto. this Christmas, at High Wycombe, playing the Prince. Chris was vague about which panto., muttering something about Dick Aladdin and the Beanstalk!
Steve Wood

 

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