GT Championship – Donington Park – Round
1, April 3
Second First Time Out In Britain
After the season opening run at the 12 Hours of Sebring, the British
campaign for Team LNT got underway with a two hour race at Donington
Team LNT’s pair
of FIA spec. TVR T400-Rs are running in the full British GT Championship,
while the pair of ACO spec. cars
which will contest the LMES, beginning the European campaign at
Spa on April 17.
In the opening session of track action both LNT cars were in the
thick of the action, with no mechanical dramas. Patrick Pearce
in the #43 car topped the timesheets early on in the hour long
session, which was interrupted twice by brief red flag periods
to allow recovery of stranded cars.
As the last quarter of an hour of the session approached, the
pace hotted up considerably, with Andrew Kirkaldy leading the way
in the very quick Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 360 GTC. Behind him there
was a chase on to close the gap. Warren Hughes, at the wheel of
the #43 LNT car, and Jonny Kane in #42, were exchanging quicker
and quicker times between them and, in doing so were climbing up
the overall order.
By the close of the session, Warren had grabbed the second fastest
time overall (a lap in 1:08.738) with Jonnyin fourth slot with
The early action in the half hour qualifying session was dominated
by a Ferrari / Porsche tussle. with some observers feeling that
this would be the pattern for the season – they would be
Both LNT immediately
began to make an impact on the timesheets and, by the middle
of the session, the TVRs were second and third
in the order with Jonny Kane ahead of Warren Hughes, #43 ahead
of #42, with just Kirkaldy’s very quick Ferrari ahead.
Tim Mullen in the second
Ferrari then edged ahead of the LNT pair and it was looking very
much like a Ferrari 1-2 and TVR 3-4 as
the session entered its last ten minutes. A wily old fox, ex-British
GT and TVR Tuscan Challenge Champion and TVR factory Le Mans driver
Mike Jordan, had other ideas. He pulled a lap time out of the hat
right at the end of the session that had forced his “second
best qualifying lap ever.” That’s a mark of the strength
of the 2005 championship.
So it was fourth and
fifth on the grid for Sunday’s race
for the LNT T400Rs: the team was confident though of a competitive
race pace - a two hour race providing an altogether different challenge
from the sprint to squeeze a hot qualifying lap out of the car
It was a bright but breezy start to the opening race of the season,
with 26 starters (11 in GT2) on the grid - considerable strength
in depth for Team LNT to prove its worth. Series promoter Stephane
Ratel offered the view that the British Championship entry provided
the variety that even the jewel in the SRO crown, the FIA GT
Championship, currently lacks in GT2.
It was a fast but steady start from Patrick Pearce and Lawrence
Tomlinson in #43 and #42 respectively, the pair initially leapfrogged
by Ben Collins in the Embassy Racing Porsche - the first corner
seeing a tussle between the two Scuderia Ecosse Ferraris and a
pair of quick Porsches.
The Ferrari provided
a sense of déjà vu as Kirkaldy
proceeded to pull clear from the chasing pack, which was busily
engaged establishing a pecking order. Behind this initial melee,
the Team LNT TVRs were charging along. With the lead Eurotech Porsche
falling victim to a loose left rear wheel on lap 1, the TVRs were
soon running fifth and sixth, Patrick Pearce in #43 harassing David
Jones’s Porsche (and passing him within a couple of laps
through the Craner Curves), Patrick running just ahead of the boss,
Lawrence Tomlinson in the #42 car. It was the start of a hugely
impressive stint from Pat, which would see him provide the only
credible opposition to the leading Ferrari throughout the first
half of the race.
He was edging closer
to Niarchos, while Lawrence was catching David Jones’ #22
Eurotech / Preci Spark Porsche.
Just 10 minutes in and Kirkaldy was already eight seconds to the
good ahead of the field, with seemingly only Collins and Pat Pearce
looking likely to get into the hunt.
There was trouble though
for the #42 TVR: a wisp of smoke from the rear grew steadily
worse and all too soon, Lawrence Tomlinson
pulled into the pits at the end of lap 12 - to a display of formation
head shaking from Team LNT. The engine cover was removed to release
a cloud of smoke. “It was a 30p oil seal,” Alan Mugglestone
confirmed later: a promising run was over all too soon.
There was good news
for Team LNT at almost the same time, as Patrick Pearce’s efforts finally took him past Chris Niarchos for
third place. Ben Collins was the next available target and Patrick
was slicing into the Embassy Porsche’s advantage very quickly
Catching another car
is one thing, passing it is, of course, a totally different kettle
of fish and Ben Collins was clearly determined
to take a ‘firm but fair’ approach to the defence of
his position. But Patrick was not to be denied, and after a lap
of close attention the TVR man got a better run out of the Old
Hairpin, was in a great attacking position through McLeans and
finally made an excellent pass stick up the inside at Coppice.
The remainder of the
first half of the race would see Pat hammering along in pursuit
of the leading Ferrari, but the 360 held the advantage
here: the lead began to grow steadily despite Pat’s best
He pitted to hand over the car to team-mate Warren Hughes, the
car rejoining still in second place, with a substantial advantage
over the chasing #34 Ferrari - but still well behind the #35 car,
Nathan Kinch now at the wheel.
So it was order restored,
with Kinch’s task a clear one
- hold off the TVR challenge for 55 minutes.
The gap between first
and second was now 50 seconds and Warren was tanking along in
the #43 TVR – but the gap though would
be far too much to claw back in the time available. The 1,2,3 order
remained static for the remainder of the race, with the gaps narrowing
(Warren carving 10 seconds out of the lead gap by the chequered
All in all a great display
by Team LNT, with just an unfortunate minor component failure
to take the sheen off the post race celebrations.
The T400Rs look set to be season long challengers, having seen
off the best that the Porsche challengers could muster. Now it’s
time to tame the Prancing Horses!
Pearce: “I really enjoyed that. I didn’t
get the best of starts and had a touch of understeer, but all
I thought the pace was good, the car was great and realistically
at this stage, second place to a reliable Ferrari was as good as
we could have hoped for.”
happy enough with that. Realistically the gap was too much to
close without Nathan having a problem:
we just kept the pace up and brought her home. She ran like a train,
a good, strong run. This is still a new and very young team and
the guys should be very pleased indeed with the consistency and
speed we showed this early on in the programme.”