Motorsport – Rounds 1 & 2 - 2004 British GT Championship
Pace & Form, But No Cigar
A wet and windy Donington
Park met the new look for 2004 Eclipse Motorsport team, for rounds
one and two of the British GT Championship.
a new look driving squad, with Piers Johnson joined aboard the TVR
T400R by Steve Hyde. And the TVR too has a new look, with a new
livery and a new race number. #69 becomes #60 for 2004. The livery
will have a change of appearance next time out, at Mondello Park,
because the blue paint applied to the lower reaches of the car is
not the shade intended. The car will appear in Ireland in a darker
shade, which should better complement the trademark Eclipse orange.
So could the team’s
2004 efforts match their fabulous 2003 season?
challenge’s are even more more serious this season, with a
high quality 14 car N-GT class grid lining up in the Donington Park
Also new for 2004 is
a new race format, with each race weekend hosting a double-header:
Practice, Qualifying and Race One on Saturday, Race Two on Sunday.
Qualifying is now a fast
blast, with each driver getting 15 minutes in the car, in separate
sessions. The first qualifying session dictates both the grid and
the starting drivers for the first race and the second….well,
you get the idea!
It would be Steve Hyde
first up and a solid session saw him fourth on the grid, fastest
of the TVRs, behind polesitting Mike Jordan in the JWR Porsche,
Nathan Kinch in the brand new Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 360 and David
Jones in the Preci-Spark JWR car.
two would be altogether harder work for the drivers and pitcrew,
the cars starting the session on a dry track but
driving rain as they completed their first lap. Most runners
opted to pit straight away for inters or wets but then, as
it had arrived the rain disappeared and the track started to
dry almost immediately. For most this meant a second tyre
was our two stop strategy” joked Eclipse’s stalwart
spannerman Graham Campbell. The usual fluid teamwork made
of a busy 15 minutes and Piers made it a matched pair of fourth
places on the grid, the visiting (ex EMKA) Vic Lee Racing
setting pole ahead of the brand new GruppeM 911 RSR and Tim Mullen’s
2003 spec Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 360.
The team opted
for slicks but even on the lap out to form up for the grid it was
obviously the wrong choice. "It was slippery as anything out
there," said Hyde.
The team got
the message and prepared to change tyres on the grid but were foiled
by confusion further down the line, which led to a delay in the
#60 car reaching its allotted slot. By the time the TVR reached
the second row of the grid the 30 second board was out and the team
knew they were in trouble.
In those conditions
a trip off the circuit was almost inevitable - Hyde radioed in during
his moment skipping through the gravel trap whilst telling the team
"I think that was one of the best saves of all time!"
“It was the wrong
choice. The surface was still very, very slippy and I was very slow
away, the cars on wets and inters just gobbled us up. I was tiptoeing
along and Nathan Kinch was struggling too, just ahead of me. He
spun through the Craner Curves and I was onto the grass in avoidance
and lost lots of places down the hill. It was a struggle from then
The TVR had fallen out
of contention and the proof of the correct tyre choice came as early
as lap seven when the Eclipse car was lapped by Mike Jordan’s
intermediate shod Porsche.
From then on in it was
a matter of damage limitation, a frustrating run to the pit stop
window and then more of the same from Piers Johnson, with a steady
run to the flag. 11th place (9th in N-GT) a poor reward for their
efforts. Other teams had equally frustrating starts to the 2004
season, but at least with the new, twin-race format, everyone has
two opportunities to race: Sunday’s 60-minuter just had to
be more satisfying than Saturday’s, didn’t it?
Piers Johnson was at
the wheel of #60 for the start of Race Two and this time the weather
looked more predictable. It was sunny, but with a stiff cool breeze.
Most importantly the track was totally dry and tyre choice was slicks
all round: this would be a sprint race in it truest sense.
The race was an absolute
cracker, with bunches of cars dicing for position, making up places
and then losing out as other cars surged through. Piers was soon
joined in battle with the brand new RSR Motorsport TVR T400R of
Nigel Greensall, the two distinctly differently shaded TVRs battling
over seventh spot.
Piers kept the Eclipse
car well in contention, bringing the car up to sixth overall as
the pit stop window appeared and now it was Steve Hyde’s turn
to join the chase.
Hyde too was now finding the pace that all Eclipse watchers know
is in the car and he was soon joined in a battle for position with
his ex team-mate Richard Stanton, in the 2003 championship winning
With the now DeWalt liveried
car running the proper restrictors in 2004 the well fettled TVR
soon put its challenge to the sword, and Hyde set off in pursuit
of Kinch’s Ferrari, just four seconds ahead. This was a very
promising looking run indeed, and a great finish looked on the cards.
It was not to be however,
the car suffering a sudden transmission failure, with no warning
of impending doom. Steve pulled the car off the track and trudged
home. This was one of those “Could have, should have”
races: as others hit problems, a podium finish (top of?) would have
beckoned…. Race Two was eventually won by Nathan Kinch in
the Ferrari, which the Eclipse car was reeling in just before the
race ending problem. What could have been, this weekend?
We’ll find out
next time out at the Championship’s first ever visit to Mondello
Park, in the Republic of Ireland.