Motorsport – 2005 British GT Championship – Thruxton
After a start to the 2005 season that would turn hair grey on the
staunchest of scalps, Eclipse returned to the British GT Championship
at the dauntingly fast Thruxton Circuit with their new look team
on parade. The #69 Mosler MT900R has now been given the full Eclipse
treatment, with a dayglo orange roof area presenting a dramatic
look for the big V8 GT2 car.
Young gun Philip Keen will join Eclipse returnee Steve Hyde aboard
the Mosler for the remainder of the 2005 season, the 20 year old
impressing the team with a fabulous display at the Silverstone round
of the FIA GT championship.
After bad luck in both qualifying sessions (a leaky damper meaning
the Mosler was not handling as it should), it was seventh place
on the grid for Phil Keen, soon to become effectively sixth when
the #34 Ferrari broke a driveshaft forcing a second green flag lap.
Up ahead of the Eclipse car there were problems for the Embassy
Racing Porsche after contact with a TVR, Keen passing the 911 with
ease as Neil Cunningham struggled back with a puncture, Eclipse
up to fifth before the end of lap 1.
The Eclipse man was by now fully engaged in battle with the second
new Mosler in the race, Gavan Kershaw defending well for three laps
before Keen found a way by for fourth place.
was further drama not far ahead as the leading car, the #35 Ferrari,
spun on oil left by an errant GT3 Porsche. Both the LNT TVRs and
the #69 Mosler powered by before the Ferrari could rejoin. It was
early days, but Eclipse were in a podium position already.
Next time around, with 10 minutes of the race elapsed, Andy Thompson
in the second placed TVR was defending from Keen, the TVR man had
a big lock-up into the chicane and Keen was through up the inside
with a move that required skill, bottle and quick reactions in equal
measure – the Mosler now up to second overall.
He wasn’t done yet though. Just a couple of laps later the
#69 Mosler was right on the tail of the race leader and pulled an
almost identical move on Pearce to that which had foxed Thompson
a few laps earlier. Pearce left it very late to brake and turn in,
finding as he did so that the inside line was already occupied by
a large American GT car: the TVR was forced to cut the chicane,
and lost momentum and speed. Eclipse Motorsport was in the lead
of the race in the championship debut of both the Mosler and Phil
Gavan Kershaw meanwhile had been dropping back steadily with an
evil handling Mosler: the fight finally got the better of him at
Noble, the Cadena GTC car spun and stalled in a dangerous position,
and with 20 minutes gone a Safety Car would be required to move
the car safely their breath.
This all meant that the pit stop window opened under a full course
yellow. The leading runners couldn’t afford to leave it to
chance that they might have to pit under green and almost the whole
GT2 field came rumbling down the pitlane together.
Eclipse pitted from the lead but the team opted for a conservative
approach, checking the Mosler over before sending Steve Hyde out,
now back in third position behind the #35 Ferrari and #43 TVR.
The surprise package of the race was the much improved form of the
Nissan 350Z. Great news for RJN Motorsport, bad news for Eclipse
as the Nissan bustled by the #69 Mosler at the 30 minute mark.
With the lead battle decided in the Ferrari’s favour the remainder
of the race for Eclipse would see Steve Hyde struggling with a set-up
he was uncomfortable with, on one of the most demanding circuits
in the UK. He would eventually finish in a highly respectable sixth
place, a great springboard for Sunday’s 60 minutes of action
- but with one distinct wrinkle!
The wrinkle was that the Mosler’s qualifying problems had
proved far worse in the second 15 minute Saturday session. The result?
Steve Hyde was starting back in 23rd place.
The good news though was that the team had adopted a set-up for
Sunday that would enable both drivers to push harder.
was immediately on the attack and made steady progress up through
the order and into the battle for the GT3 leaders, before the pit
Steve was amongst the first to take advantage, Phil keen living
up to his surname and rumbling back out into the race after a slick
stop from the Eclipse team, down to 12th place for now and closing
in on the Cadena Mosler ahead.
With the leading Ferrari haring away at the head of the race, it
seemed that only its sister car could challenge for the win. A broken
starter put paid to that challenge, and allowed the Moslers to make
up ground on the #34 car, Chris Niarchos now at the wheel.
Philip Keen meanwhile had gone by Gavan Kershaw, the Eclipse man
now up to fourth place, his pace leapfrogging the Mosler ahead of
others as they pitted and reeling in Niarchos fast: two laps later
and the Eclipse newcomer was up to third, 43 seconds behind Thompson’s
TVR, the T400R 38 seconds behind race leader Nathan Kinch.
Keen was by now fully up to speed and pressing hard to try to reduce
the gap to the TVR. He unlapped himself from Kinch in the process
and drew away easily from the Ferrari, fending off a further challenge
from the second Mosler as he did so.
The TVR ahead meanwhile seemed to be struggling under braking and,
as the clock showed just two minutes remaining, the TVR was spotted
crawling into the chicane, a blow out on the front left taking most
of the bodywork on that corner with it. There were some interesting
expressions on the pit wall.
hurtled by the TVR as it struggled through the chicane and started
the last lap of the race in an astonishing second place, with Kershaw’s
Mosler inheriting third spot.
A weekend of renewed hopes then for Eclipse. A Mosler that proved
capable of mixing it with the class of the field, the team leading
the race on Saturday and completing an astonishing run from 23rd
on the grid for Sunday’s race to second place by the chequered
Hyde pronounced himself far happier with the car on Sunday and clearly
impressed with his new young team mate. For Phil Keen, his efforts
were recognised with the award of Sunoco Driver of the Weekend.
“I really enjoyed that and while we were lucky to grab second
right at the end, it only really balanced out the bad luck from
Castle Combe in a month’s time should be very interesting