Motorsport – 2006 British GT Championship – Donington
Qualifying was the first track action for the Eclipse Motorsport
Mosler MT900R, on Saturday at Donington Park. A suspicion that all
was not quite right with the Chevrolet engine on starting it up
prior to free practice led to a precautionary engine overhaul instead.
Phil Keen explained: “We had a low compression reading on
one of the cylinders so we had to be cautious. We took the engine
out and got some parts from the workshop, which is only about five
minutes away from here. The guys put some new bits in and brought
the engine back and had it ready for qualifying, which was a pretty
good job, but we lost the whole session practice session.”
Most of the team members were hoping for a wet track, and at times
in the morning it seemed that the track could never be anything
but. As seems to be the norm with a British GT meeting at Donington
though, it was four seasons in one day, with chilly winds, rain
and sunshine all featuring. If there was one constant about the
weather it was the breeze, and that led to a dry circuit for qualifying.
“That doesn’t bother me actually,” said Keen,
“the car is quick in the wet or dry now. We’ve done
some work with Avon and now have a different compound and a smaller
sidewall, which seem to be a lot better.”
If there was also a constant for Eclipse’s
2006 it was luck – they were having lots of it, and all of
it bad. Neither driver could get the best out of the new tyres in
qualifying, as another problem afflicted the Mosler. Lee Caroline
struggled through the first 15 minute session, and only managed
a disappointing 1:13.2. “I went out to do the best I could
but it was obvious that something was wrong, so I came in and asked
them to make a change to the roll-bar. I went back out but it didn’t
make any difference and I had massive roll-oversteer all the way
through. We made as many changes as we could to make it better for
Philip, but it still wasn’t right. With the problem, we could
never have sorted it with just set-up changes anyway.”
the problem to Keen as he handed the car over, but with only five
minutes between sessions, the problem could not be identified never
Keen did the best he could, which was a 1:12.085, then a 1:11.556.
“We knew there was something wrong at the front left or rear
right, but didn’t realise what the problem was until afterwards.
We’ve been round here with 10.5s easily in testing though,
which would have put us on the front row.”
The suspension may not have been quite right, but
the engine was certainly healthy. This was proved by the speed trap
readings, which showed Eclipse right up there ahead of the rest.
“Its not just down to the power though, it’s the aerodynamics
and the fact that is quick out of the corners before the speed-traps,”
explained Phil Keen.
and brief warm-up first thing on Sunday morning was inconclusive,
but the wet conditions masked the fact that the handling problem
from qualifying had not been fixed.
Lee Caroline started the race, but found almost
immediately that “the problem was still there, really bad
roll-oversteer and you just can’t get away from it. When it
was really wet at the start of the race it was not so bad, because
the car wasn’t loading up the same, but once it started to
dry out you couldn’t turn it at speed, or accelerate without
feathering the throttle.”
The full wet
conditions at the start of the race suited Eclipse as well as any
conditions could then, and Caroline tried to make the most of it
by “passing Niarchos in the Ferrari on the first lap, but
I knew I didn’t have the pace to stay in front so I had to
let him back past, and the Eurotech Porsche too. Without the pace,
and with it being such a long race, there was no point fighting
when the car was like this."
He did give
it a fight though...
had to let the GTC leader past, but when I did he started holding
me up so I passed him again.”
It was all backwards
from there though, on the drying track, as the Emotional Engineering
Vauxhall Monaro driven by Matt Griffin reeled the Mosler in, Griffin
having a look down the inside 27 laps into the race.
the attack coming and “gave him room for the apex but he locked
up and ran wide into me and knocked me onto the grass and into the
gravel. He totally missed the apex and I think if I wasn’t
there he would probably have thrown it off.”
the Mosler beached in the gravel (and poor Lee Caroline trudging
home), the unequal struggle of Donington Park was over and by the
time the chequered flag fell, talk in the Eclipse camp had turned
to identifying and fixing the handling problem. The team now have
a sickening suspicion that the problem might be more fundamental
than a suspension / set-up problem, so there could be some serious
work to do before the next round – Mondello Park at the end