Motorsport - TAG Heuer 250 - Brands Hatch
A Mosler Pair Of Days
love to strut their stuff at the biggest circuits and in front of
the biggest crowds, so it was no surprise to find the Eclipse Motorsport
Mosler MT900R on the entry list for the TAG Heuer 250, a 2 x 45
minute event supporting the inaugural A1GP meeting. A big crowd
was assured and on Sunday, the Eclipse boys would be performing
in front of one of their biggest ever audiences. Phil Keen and Steve
Hyde would be performing the driving duties, as normal.
On the Saturday though, still in front of an audience that would
not disgrace a normal British GT raceday, there was the first 45
The Cadena GTC Racing Mosler started the race from pole, Barrie
Whight alongside Eclipse’s Steve Hyde on the grid, with the
quick Redline Porsche just behind, Ian Khan eager to try and take
Whight made a storming start and Hyde tucked in behind. But Ian
Khan had made a great start, the Porsche 911GT3-RS also quick out
of Druids and up the inside, alongside the Mosler out of Graham
Hill Bend: the final flourish to a beautifully executed move was
to keep the inside line into Surtees. Steve Hyde would have to fight
hard to regain his second spot.
By Lap 7 though a brave defence from Khan was over, the Porsche
pulling neatly onto the Indy circuit, the gearbox broken. But Steve
Hyde had been bottled up for the first 12 minutes of the race and
Whight had taken full advantage.
At the 15 minute mark Whight held a 6.2 second advantage over the
more distinctively liveried Mosler, with Ricky Cole closing fast
on the Eclipse man in the Xero Corvette, now just 1.3 seconds behind
- and ex-Eclipse man Richard Stanton now up into fourth 5.6 seconds
behind in the Peninsula TVR.
15 minutes elapsed and Steve Hyde pitted at the first available
opportunity, allowing Phil Keen to take up the chase. His response
was immediate, setting two consecutive fastest race laps.
though were on top of their game: Whight got the message immediately
that Phil Keen had emerged in the #69 car and Gavan Kershaw made
ready to climb aboard the leading Mosler.
The Cadena man soon showed his spurs, himself setting three consecutive
fastest laps and fending off the charge. The greater damage to the
Eclipse chase though was done via an error by the Xero Corvette
Richard Stanton had closed the gap to the Corvette’s third
place to just a few tenths and both pitted together – both
teams were running their drivers solo and with the two pitting together,
we might have expected them to leave nose to tail too.
They didn’t – Dave Beecroft later explaining that his
signal to start the C5’s engine had been misinterpreted as
the signal to leave the pit. Cole roared off, leaving Stanton stationary
for a further 25 seconds or so.
The Corvette emerged between the two Moslers, very bad news indeed
for Phil Keen, who would soon find himself bottled up behind, the
big yellow Chevrolet too rapid to pass on the straights but circulating
sufficiently off the leader’s pace to allow Kershaw to pull
away steadily - until Cole was called to book for a stop-go penalty.
It would be enough to secure the race win for Cadena and it would
also allow Stanton to claim third place.
Phil Keen: “I was really badly delayed in
traffic, particularly by the Corvette. Really frustrating.”
Steve Hyde: “Of course it’s disappointing not to have
won this one but I just love the Mosler in the dry, a fantastic
bit of kit.”
There were a pair of TAG Heuer Carrera watches on offer for the
winner of the aggregate race. Eclipse’s task was clear then,
get into the lead and head for the hills, to bite away at the 14
second advantage held by Cadena entry at the end of race 1.
The Moslers would again start on the front row but this time, A1GP
race day, they would have a huge, 46,000 crowd to entertain –
and with blue skies over Brands Hatch it would be the perfect stage
for Steve Hyde.
Both Moslers got a good clean start, Whight ahead of a purposeful
Hyde, before an early Safety Car was scrambled to allow recovery
of a beached Ferrari.
The Safety Car had no sooner returned to the pitlane than it was
scrambled once again, a beached Porsche this time, together with
a Ferrari with a blown engine elsewhere on the circuit.
This time though the Safety Car had appeared just as the 15 minute
mark was passed and that meant the pit stop window was open. Bad
news for Steve was that his track time had been punctuated by incidents
with other cars – good news was that the Mosler pitted in
good order, just inches behind their rival for the overall race
With all bar five of the cars pitting immediately in line astern,
it would be a very busy pitlane, the Mosler teams in particular
keeping a watchful eye on each other.
not a close enough watch! Gavan Kershaw left as Phil Keen started
to pull away just ahead of him, something had to give – but
sadly it didn’t, the cars made contact at the end of the pit
lane and the Eclipse car was left with the front bodywork askew
at the pitlane exit.
The Eclipse pit crew sprinted down the pitlane to refit the dislodged
panel, with the aid of some good old racetape, but thankfully the
damage was no more than that – they build these Moslers tough!
With the safety car still circulating, Phil Keen didn’t lose
a lap, but his task was now a mammoth one, 23rd in the queue.
Audi pitted once again, but James Brodie, briefly at the head of
the queue in the Monaro, saw Kershaw sweep by into the lead before
Paddock Hill Bend.
Phil Keen was looking to close the gap, fast, and was up to 12th
after the first green flag lap, with a 26 second gap to the leader,
the fastest lap of the race (a 1:29.0) would follow as he closed
in rapidly on the Porsche battle ahead. Don't you love that diffuser?
At almost the same moment, Simon Scuffham in the Team Scandal Elise
was pictured on the TV screens exiting the Lotus on the run up to
Druids, the car facing in the wrong direction and rear end looking
the worse for wear. The third appearance of the Safety Car was almost
Phil Keen had already charged up to fourth, albeit still 21 seconds
behind Kershaw - until the Safety Car reduced the gap to a handful
With 15 minutes to go the top 10 (in this part of
the race) was:
But as the Safety
car was withdrawn, the lead car backed up the pack and in the confusion
behind the Mosler there was contact between Phil Keen and the rear
of Edwards’ #97 RPM Motorsport Porsche, the 911’s rear
wheels lifted clear of the track by the impact and the resulting
loss of control leaving Edwards spearing head on into the pit wall,
with a sickening impact.
Guy Edwards’ young son was unhurt, but the car was severely
damaged, stranded on the pit straight and needing a lift to remove
it – cue the Safety Car for the fourth time.
As always in
these situations there were widely differing opinions on the cause.
Kershaw was adamant that although his Mosler may not have sprinted
away, it being in his interests to have a bunched up pack in front
of keen, he had certainly not braked in front of the pack: “I
can show you our data if you’d like?”
There was an
angry exchange post race between a shaken Edwards and Richard Westbrook,
the youngster feeling as if the accident had been caused by the
#8 car (running a lap down), braking in front of him.
was having none of it, replying that he could only follow the lead
of the car ahead.
Phil Keen was upset at the result of the clash: “There’s
no way I hit the Porsche deliberately, I have never, ever hit anyone
like that, it’s just not my style. Nobody likes to see a car
damaged like that. I simply couldn’t see the car ahead of
the (#97) Porsche and perhaps I was a bit close when I saw his brakelights.”
The net result
then was the Porsche out of the race and Keen continuing in second
place, just a handful of seconds behind the lead car (but with 14
seconds of aggregate time to make up).
On the penultimate
lap the Eclipse car swept by the Cadena MT900R, Kershaw slowing
dramatically before regaining speed – an intelligent tactic,
no sense in risking losing the aggregate race with contact under
pressure. The #2 Mosler tucked in behind and followed on to finish
the race a couple of seconds shy, 10 seconds clear on aggregate.
So close but
yet so far then for Eclipse but everyone had enjoyed the buzz of
the big meeting, they’ll be looking for more of the same in