Motorsport – 2005 British GT Championship – Castle Combe
Front Row, Grass, Pace, Safety Car
The first of the quick fire qualifying sessions saw Philip Keen
right in the thick of the action in the Eclipse Motorsport Mosler
MT900R. The early laps would see him tussling with Mike Jordan's
very quick Porsche 911 before the season's (so far) dominant #35
Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari got fully up to speed. Nathan Kinch grabbed
the provisional pole as others began to improve.
The aptly surnamed Keen though wasn't done yet and second place
was hotly contested throughout the session: Neil Cunningham in the
Embassy Porshe, a car which has won this year and finished on the
podium in the FIA GT Championship, was relieved of the second front
row spot by Phil Keen, only to see first one and then the other
Team LNT TVR better his mark, the #43 car then going on to lap faster
than even the Ferrari - before Kinch grabbed the pole at the very
end of the session.
Mosler then was fourth on the grid...............Or was it?
The second session saw the #42 TVR absent after failing a noise
test - and Steve Hyde showing once again that he is getting to grips
fast with the spectacular Mosler. He finished the session in a fighting
sixth spot, but developments off the track were about to improve
Eclipse's starting position in both races. Team LNT had decided
to withdraw both the TVR T400Rs from the meeting (and from the whole
championship). Bad news in general, but the wafer thin silver lining
on this cloud was that the #69 Mosler would now start on the front
row for Saturday's race, with Hyde starting in fifth spot for race
John Griffiths was on the grid taking a few snaps of the welcome
sight of his new 'baby' sitting proudly on the front row of the
grid for the weekend's first 60 minute race. There was to be incident
galore though, even before the pace car pulled in to release the
With the TVRs already absent, the Nissan then refused to fire up
on the grid, forcing a second pace car lap (the Nissan rejoined
around half a lap astray). Philip Keen was the next on the wheel
of misfortune: the Eclipse Mosler driver was second on the grid
and weaving to warm his tyres, when he was caught out and spun into
the infield at Quarry. He rejoined though and retook his allocated
grid position, seemingly no harm done.
Jones in the #22 Preci-Spark Porsche was also was caught out under
the pace car, but instead of the warm embrace of a cornfield, Jones
was treated to the crushing handshake of a tyre barrier, the Porsche
left with damage to the right rear and rear wing - race over before
it had begun.
the lights finally released the cars then, Nathan Kinch got the
drop on the Mosler, but the young Englishman's dander was clearly
up and he tracked the Ferrari's every move. Behind the lead battle
there was further drama as the second Ferrari came together with
Jordan's Porsche: the 360 did a 180! and was happily missed entirely
by the pursuing gaggle of GT3 runners.
Up front, the pressure exerted by Keen on Kinch had paid off, the
tiniest of errors allowing the Mosler to get by and take the lead.
#69 began to pull away immediately but then, astonishingly, the
Mosler pitted: the spin earlier had left a substantial amount of
grass and other rural debris in the MT900R's air intakes. Phil hadn't
got away with it after all!
"I feel terrible," he said later, "It was a silly
error and I thought I'd got away with it. The temperatures started
to rise though almost as soon as the race started. I pitted when
I got the alarm and luckily no mechanical harm was done."
The Mosler now had a mountain to climb, rejoining in 17th place,
but soon scything through the GT3 field to lie fifth - with the
four GT2 cars ahead still immersed in their own battles. The Mosler
was super quick and Keen made the most of it, posting lap times
bettered only by the pair of 'A' rated drivers in the Ecosse Ferraris
later in the race.
pit window was now open and Kinch took advantage immediately, handing
the #35 car over to Andrew Kirkaldy. The Mosler was the last of
the frontrunners to pit in the sequence, again leading through the
stops before Phil Keen leapt out at the 35 minute mark, to hand
the car over to Steve Hyde. Kirkaldy was now the leader and, despite
pressure from the second Ecosse Ferrari, would storm to another
win. Further back, the Mosler was running a solid second stint and
would finish in a fighting fifth place overall. Back in the paddock,
Phil Keen was suffering the leg pulling that happens whenever an
Eclipse driver suffers the indignity of a mistake in full view of
the public. Lawnmower jokes were the order of the day.
With the sunshine finally making an appearance, Andrew Kirkaldy
made his usual rocketship start - with Ben Collins and Tim Mullen
in hot pursuit. Behind this trio, David Jones led the Eurotech pair,
with the RJN Nissan heading the Eclipse Mosler. Steve Hyde had slightly
fluffed his opening couple of turns, the Mosler down to seventh
at the end of the first lap, but going up the inside of Michael
Bentwood's Nissan next time around to regain one of his lost places.
got by the Embassy Porsche and set off in pursuit of the leader,
with Steve Hyde playing a waiting game right behind the sparring
It was the third
Eurotech car (the GT3 CBT backed 911) that would have the most telling
effect on Eclipse's race. The Porsche's accident that left this
car in a dangerous position, which forced the deployment of the
Safety Car. The clear up dragged on into the pit stop window, a
situation which always has winners and losers and this time Eclipse
lost out - Big time!
As the Safety
Car was withdrawn, Phil Keen led the train with a clear road ahead
- that was the good news. The bad news was that this meant the Mosler
was almost an entire lap down on the rest of the (now tightly packed)
GT2 field. With the Embassy Porsche now leading from the two Ferraris,
Keen started to stretch away from the rest of the pack immediately,
but despite some very impressive lap times indeed it would really
be a 30 minute run against the clock for the Mosler driver, which
would see little in the way of positional gain but a great deal
proven regarding the pace of the car and the man. The Mosler finished
just a second or two behind the Jones' Porsche, having pulled back
almost an entire lap in 30 minutes.
in the Embassy Porsche losing out to Kinch in the closing stages
(and then having to pit for a similar grass-related problem as afflicted
the Mosler the previous day), it was another Ferrari 1-2. Eclipse
though are showing that the clouds are gathering for the Prancing
Horse and those clouds have got V8 grunt and a number 69!
Hyde: "We were very unlucky with the safety car and
Phil didn't really get a chance to mix it as a result. One thing
it does prove though is that tactically it works for me to run a
short stint at the start."