Team LNT – The 715 Km
Bingo - First LNT Panoz Podium
continued its chase of Team LNT and its Panoz Esperantes (Sebring
– Silverstone – Paul Ricard) by following the team’s
truck (not yet the brand new, all singing and dancing truck, that’s
still a few weeks away from its first appearance) to Istanbul, for
the opening race of the 2006 Le Mans Series (April 9).
This event would also (allegedly) see the debut
of the matching swimming trunks of Team LNT team owner Lawrence
Tomlinson and team MD Richard Dean, of Dean’s very smart new,
striped racing seat – and of Warren Hughes’ rather dapper
new racing boots, in a fetching shade of silver. Oh, and Rob Bell
would be appearing for the team for the first time too, partnering
Hughes. They apparently talk with the same dialect, so they have
to drive together – because only they understand each other
(and would the idiot who thought Rob came from Scotland please admit
to his calamitous error… oh, he has).
down to business. “I think we’re now up to test day
number 26,” commented Lawrence Tomlinson (right) on Friday
morning. “We’ve essentially been working on reliability
(for the Le Mans 24 Hours), and there’s always a trade-off
between speed and reliability – but we’re very pleased
with how reliable the cars have been.”
Richard Dean (on new man Rob Bell): “He fits
in really well – he’s a proper bloke. OK, he’s
come from single seaters, but in open wheeled cars, you can’t
touch anyone, otherwise you’re probably out of the race. He’s
been consistently fast in every test, but we’d have liked
to have had him out testing more often – but his Grand Am
commitments have got in the way.”
Rob Bell: “I was running an easy second in
the recent Homestead race, and really enjoying driving a Porsche.
The Panoz is something else again though.”
(below) had already worked out where the Le Mans Series opposition
would be coming from: “It will be very interesting to see
how well the Ferrari 430s go, and Autorlando too.” These would
be the main rivals in the race.
one hour session on Friday afternoon saw Lawrence Tomlinson out
first in #81, Warren Hughes in #82. Unfortunately, the little-used
track was incredibly dusty, and lap times suffered accordingly.
Hughes (left): “I only did three laps, because we wanted to
get Rob into the car – although when we were here in November,
I only completed nine laps in the whole meeting!”
Tomlinson and Dean were delighted with the on-going
reliability of the two Esperantes, but there were a couple of related
problems. “The cars are ‘hopping’ at Turn 1,”
said Lawrence, “and I think I’ve cracked my ribs again.”
Ribs that haven’t had time to heal since Sebring…..
“We’ve had it (a high frequency bounce)
at some tracks we’ve tested at but not others,” commented
Warren Hughes. “There’s a lot more (pace) to come.”
The Esperantes were fifth and seventh fastest, both
in the 1:59s – and there was indeed a lot more pace to come.
Friday’s fine, warm weather was followed by
a more overcast Saturday morning – and rain was due to hit
the area before the end of the day.
got Chip Lewis here from Elan Motorsport Technologies,” explained
Richard Dean (right). “He’s really here just to oversee
our first event with the Panozes in Europe: he’s looking after
the engine mapping, with our guy Lee.
“Lawrence did a long run in that (first, one
hour) session – he’s got a new seat for today, and he’s
fine. And Allan (Mugglestone) has altered the set-up to cure the
bouncing, which has all gone. I did two laps right at the end, to
run the car out of fuel – so that we know it will use it all
The really encouraging news is that with such reliable
cars, the team can concentrate on development – rather than,
as happened last year, seeming to spend all their time changing
TVR engines. The progress with the cars has been reflected in the
team spirit: smiles everywhere, everyone’s happy – Richard
Dean’s only moan being the cost of a season ticket to watch
his beloved Leeds United.
dropped a division this year and doubled the season ticket price
– so I didn’t buy one.”
on reliability or speed? The Warren Hughes / Rob Bell car was fastest
in GT2 in the first session on Saturday – with a 1:56.445
from the new man in the team, during a long run. Warren was content
not to go out. Didn’t want to get his new boots dirty? Lawrence
was into the 1:57s in the early session – and that new seat
was doing its job. When did they have time to make a new seat last
The lunchtime (pre qualifying) session turned out
to have little real meaning – because there were more than
a few spots of rain on the far side of the circuit. The better placed
Panoz was fifth in class.
One of the (rival)
Porsche drivers reckoned that “the Panoz seems fast on the
straight, the new Ferrari is good in the fast corners.” So
which would take pole in GT2 – or would it be a Porsche?
There was a
hint of rain about when the GT session started, but the wide tyres
soon dried it off nicely – and with moments of the session
left it was Richard Dean fastest, with fellow Yorkshireman Tim Sugden
next, in the best of the Ferraris. Peter who? Sundberg. He’s
Swedish. He stayed out right to the end of the session in the ‘Spanish’
Ferrari, and snatched pole at the death. There would still be a
Panoz on the ‘GT2 front row”, but the Yorkshire domination
The North East
wasn’t quite as happy as ‘Yorkshire’.
Rob Bell (above):
“We changed the diff. before the lunchtinme session, which
is why we were late out. But the slippery track masked any improvement
– and in qualifying, it turned out it wasn’t an improvement.
We’ll probably put the set-up from the other car on our car.”
Rob qualified sixth, six-tenths slower than the sister machine.
Chip Lewis on Team LNT: “I’m so impressed
with these guys – easy to work with, friendly, dedicated.
We want this event to be as big a success for Panoz as Sebring was.”
Rob Bell on the (European) Pirellis: “They’re
extremely consistent. I did a 1:56.7 this morning, on tyres that
had already done an hour and a half.” That was quicker than
Rob’s qualifying time – so race pace looked to be very
And then –
confirmed after an hour and three quarters of the race – the
approximately five and a half hour Istanbul 1000 Km became the Istanbul
715 Km. But for Warren Hughes and Rob Bell, it was all immaterial.
Rob: “We think a driveshaft broke: I didn’t even get
had obviously started the #81 car, and was seventh at one hour –
and that was as far as the car was going to travel on this day.
Time to focus
on the Richard Dean / Lawrence Tomlinson Esperante.
started the race – and just as at Sebring, he was off like
a shot, and leaving the Ferraris behind. The pole car went backwards,
the Virgo Ferrari too, neither on suitable rubber, but R. Dean was
on intermediate tyres: “We went for the safe option. I thought
that it would dry out fairly quickly though – and it did.”
Lap 2 and he
had a six second lead, although that then shrank a little, over
Christophe Bouchut in the French-entered Porsche. Lap 10 and the
Panoz was in a remarkable eleventh overall – but now it was
the GPC Ferrari 430 that was second in class, and closing, because
the Italians had fitted slicks.
Lap 11 and the
Panoz dropped to second place: Richard was already thinking about
a pit stop for slick Pirellis, and at 13 laps he was down pitlane.
That stop was
one factor in the strategy that played itself out over the next
three and a half hours or so, the other being the organisers’
'announcement’ that the race would be shortened to four hours,
because of a fuel shortage. By the time the announcement was made,
via the timing screens, Richard was a spectator, fully expecting
to be watching the race for a double stint.
He’d completed that short, opening stint,
then a full one of well over an hour – and was running in
a very strong fourth place.
“My ribs were fine,” said the team owner,
after his stint, “the adrenaline takes over once you’re
in the car.”
At two hours
into the race, Lawrence Tomlinson was running fifth, splitting the
Spykers, which had made only one stop (after starting on slicks).
At two and a half hours, the Spykers had made their second stops,
and the race pattern was falling into place. The Panoz was third
in class, with one stop left. Ahead were the Porsches of the Autorlando
and IMSA teams (behind the Panoz, below), but the latter would make
two more pit stops, putting it down a place.
was to come from behind though. Fabrizio de Simone was in the GPC
Ferrari, and he would need only a splash of fuel before the end.
the Panoz to the 2 hour 50 minute mark, leaving Richard with a full
stint to the chequered flag. He resumed in fifth in GT2, about 100
seconds behind race leader Marc Lieb. The Dutch Spyker had saved
a fuel stop by starting on slicks, so Richard had to deal with that
car – and, without doing more than passing it while it pitted,
the IMSA Porsche.
He was fourth
with 13 minutes left, but a spin for the Spyker sealed third for
the Team LNT Panoz Esperante – third place on the car’s
debut in Europe, third place in a class that some believe is as
tough as GT2 in the ALMS. Time to take some photographs... of the
“We’re disappointed that the race finished
early,” summed up Richard Dean, “and I’m hoping
this isn’t our best result of the year.”
A full 1000 km might have tested the winning Ferrari
to the limit and beyond, this a car only delivered to the team within
the previous week.
on the wrong tyres, but Richard did a great job,” was the
LNT team owner’s conclusion. Now if the teams had known that
this was to be a four hour sprint, how different their strategies
might have been. It was a bizarre way for the race to evolve –
and almost certainly a first in endurance racing… certainly
in the way that the race duration was reduced, while it was going
Spa next for
the Le Mans Series - and we know what happened there in 2005….
but we'll be chasing Team LNT to Outon Park first, for the Easter
weekend British GT event.