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British GT Championship – Magny-Cours – Round 2, May 1
Two Strong Finishes

The joint FIA GT / British GT race at the home of the French F1 Grand Prix, Magny-Cours was the scene for what, incredibly, would be Team LNT’s fifth race of the 2005 season so far, and it would be a historic first ever entry into the FIA GT2 class for the TVR T400R.

As British GT season entrants, Team LNT’s cars, together with those of the other regular UK entrants, would be equipped with the Dunlop control rubber, British GT silencers and the success ballast accrued from the opening rounds at Donington Park. The combination would put the Brit-pack at a distinct disadvantage against the FIA GT championship front running pair of GruppeM Porsches, particularly as the FIA rules prevent the TVRs from sporting their highly effective rear diffusers.

It was time then to find out the capabilities of the purple and orange cars around the Magny-Cours circuit, Jonny Kane taking the #80 car to the limits of its handling capabilities (and beyond!) over the unforgiving kerbs on Friday.

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dailysportscar.comSaturday brought a pair of qualifying sessions, but with the temperature forecast to rise dramatically in the afternoon, it would be the morning session that would set the grid for the race, many teams already referring to the afternoon session as ‘extra practice.’

Warren Hughes in the #81 LNT TVR made the early pace in the morning session, with the British GT regulars all quicker off the mark than the FIA championship campaigners - and with seat belt problems keeping the British GT championship leading Scuderia Ecosse initially struggling.

When the GruppeM Porsche RSRs put in an appearance with 35 minutes to go, on a slightly emptier track, they went straight to the top of the times with the recovering Ferraris soon next up in the order, edging out Hughes’ best effort by mere tenths, the TVR attack blunted by broken splitters on both T400Rs, which caused some scratching of heads in the LNT camp, including Warren Hughes’. “We have been really careful over the kerbs this morning, but splitters seem to be our Achilles’ heel here.”

Despite a temporary repair to the splitter, and some fluid from an expiring Porsche on the circuit, Jonny Kane managed a big improvement in the #80 TVR, demoting the lead Eurotech car a place in the dying minutes.

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The final qualifying order in GT2 (to include G2) was:

Collard / Sugden GruppeM Porsche 1:41.893
Lieb / Rockenfeller GruppeM Porsche 1:42.043
Balfe / Derbyshire G2 Balfe Mosler 1:43.297
Kirkaldy / Kinch Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 1:43.333
Mullen / Niarchos Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 1:43.717
Hughes / Pearce LNT TVR 1:43.896
Collins / Cunningham Embassy Porsche 1:44.561 (car withdrawn)
Kane / Tomlinson LNT TVR 1:44.869
Jordan / Caine Eurotech Porsche 1:45.695

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Race
The chicane before the start / finish straight meant that with a rolling start the cars were all strung out in a line in starting order, providing no early drama.

The GruppeM pair led the way with Shaun Balfe’s Mosler providing a break in a team pattern, followed by the two Scuderia Ecosse Ferraris (Mullen briefly taking over the team-lead from Kirkaldy) and the two TVRs (Hughes leading Kane), ahead of a quartet of squabbling 911s from which the Eurotech pair would emerge as the leading pair.

What followed was a remarkably static order for a three hour race, with just the retirement of the Mosler, a safety car for the recovery of some debris from the Vauxhall Monaro, and a reshuffling of the GruppeM Porsches, to interrupt the flow in the first couple of hours.

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The Porsche of Mike Jordan and Michael Caine moved up to third place after the final pit stop sequence, Warren Hughes having slid wide in the #81 TVR T400R, the Hughes and Pearce car eventually finishing fifth after Warren suffered a right rear puncture, the car pulling off at the Adelaide Hairpin and struggling to restart. The car lost a place to the Jones’ Porsche as a result, but Pat Pearce was able to resume and re-take fifth in British GT, the Jones’ car dropping away into sixth.

Lawrence Tomlinson and Jonny Kane in the #80 car meanwhile had grabbed fourth place from the sister car in the pit stop sequence, and now Kane would mount a stirring challenge to Jordan in the last hour. The TVR couldn’t quite find a way by the wily old fox in the Porsche, the two separated by only half a second for third and fourth in British GT at the end. “There were so many times when Jonny got alongside or could have touched me, but he raced really well and really fair,” said Jordan

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There were (relatively) long faces all round afterwards, from a team which had earned a major whiff of success at Spa - and had liked it. They’ll be working hard to be back on the podium next time out at Knockhill, for a double header in three weeks’ time.

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