LNT – Jarama 1000 Km
A Hugely Significant Weekend For Team LNT
Rob Bell / Warren Hughes
#82 Richard Dean / Marc Hynes / Lawrence Tomlinson
final round of the 2006 Le Mans Series took place at Jarama, just
35 kilometres from the Spanish capital, Madrid. This race was a
stop gap measure following the late cancellation of a planned September
round at the historic Monza circuit.
There was a
great deal at stake at this last race of the European season, not
just a race win but the second place in the Championship for the
hugely competitive GT2 class, and with it an automatic entry for
the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours. That would sit nicely alongside the entry
already earned by the team, after LNT’s historic win at this
season’s 24 Hours.
Jarama was once
a Formula One circuit, but its last Grand Prix was held in 1981
where Canadian genius Gilles Villeneuve held off all comers in a
powerful but ill-handling Ferrari.
layout has been little changed since then - and neither it seems
have the circuit’s facilities.
Team LNT though
had at least got the advantage of having tested at the circuit.
The availability of a great deal of data was the good news. The
bad news was that much of that data told a worrying story, that
the basic layout of the Esperante was possibly less suited to the
circuit than its main competitors. It would be a tough weekend for
the crews of the #81 and #82 cars.
the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday the task at hand was
to find the best possible balance for the car over the race distance
the circuit really favours the Porsches and we know how fast the
Ferraris are too, so we’re spending a lot of time finding
the best solution for the race,” said Rob Bell, after the
first Friday practice session. “The surface here is very abrasive
so we are getting a big difference in pace from the start of a session
to the end, far more so than at some other circuits. It is almost
certainly the same story for the other cars but whilst some other
circuits play to our strengths, here the tables are turned. We’re
doing a lot of tyre work to find the best compound of Pirelli rubber
to keep our pace up through a stint, but we are a little bit off
the ultimate pace.”
In the #82 car
Marc Hynes was also keen to emphasise the role that rubber would
play here. “This circuit does seem to affect the rubber more
than almost anywhere else. I was here in 1997 with Formula Renault
so the circuit is quite familiar. We’ve spent most of our
time looking for the best solution here with the Pirellis we have
available. We’re making progress but it is frustrating to
be just that bit off the pace at the moment. The difference between
the big prototypes and our GT2 cars is really quite large here too.
In single seater terms it’s a bit like running Formula Fords
in the same race as Formula 3000s.”
though has been a major strongpoint for the Team LNT attack and
both driver squads expressed complete faith with their support crews.
of the car is spot on,” said Warren Hughes, “We know
that if we can keep going as quickly as possible, look after the
tyres and stay out of trouble on track, then the car is going to
be solid. That gives us a lot of confidence over a race distance
and it also means we can push when we have to. The downside is that
with a track this tight and crowded nobody wants to go offline -
and some contact is almost inevitable.”
out of trouble,” was looking set to be a real challenge on
the narrow and twisty track, where the big LMP and GT1 cars had
a massive speed advantage and would be eager to get by at almost
has been a fair amount of argy bargy this season and it will be
a big challenge again this weekend,” said Richard Dean. “We
just need to be as aware as we can of what’s going on around
us and again that’s an area where the pit crew can help.”
recipe that has reaped rewards all season and despite the slightly
downbeat assessment of the Esperante’s Jarama pace, it was
undoubtedly the strongest hand available to Team LNT once again.
Use the practice sessions to establish the best race pace available
and stick to it, pushing a little harder perhaps when the opportunity
the Friday sessions, and the Saturday morning session too, the pace
of the pair of Panozes lacked the edge of some of the other leading
contenders. The story that the timing monitors couldn’t tell
however was what was going on behind the scenes as the team tweaked
the set-up and, more importantly, compared the performance over
distance of the different types of Pirelli rubber available to them.
“This is endurance racing, not a sprint.”
always makes the 20 minute qualifying session something of a dilemma.
Racing drivers always want to drive as fast as they can, but the
real game is to conserve the car and the tyres for the fray ahead.
So a conservative
approach to the session was in order and the Esperantes would therefore
start the race from 9th and 11th in class - but with their Pirellis
in better shape for the start of the race than the more hard-pressed
rubber of several runners ahead.
There was then just one remaining chance for the Team LNT boys to
assess their ultimate pace against the rest, in the race morning
warm-up, and there was immediate evidence that the two days of preparation
had borne fruit, a late run from Rob Bell netting the second fastest
GT2 time of the session.
of Jarama marked a near faultless run from both Panozes, beginning
with both Rob Bell in #81 and Richard Dean in #82 making early progress
up through the order.
After just a
couple of laps Bell had the #81 car up to 5th in class and well
amongst the leading group, with Dean following through, up to 8th
after claiming the scalp of Christophe Bouchut in the very rapid
IMSA Performance Porsche.
As the hour
mark passed Bell was up to fourth, but he wasn’t done yet
and progressed up to third place after a spin from Tim Sugden, before
the first routine stops began: the careful build-up to the race
was already paying big dividends. Indeed, as the leaders pitted
Rob Bell was able to play another of the Esperante’s strong
hands, the relative fuel economy of the Panoz over the Porsches
and Ferraris meaning that #81 would lead the class before having
to pit himself a lap or two later.
Dean too had
a moment of glory as he too had a chance to display the extraordinary
fuel mileage of the big 5 litre V8 #82 Esperante, He took the car
up to second in class before he too needed to pit.
would rejoin the race in a strong second in class, the Team LNT
crew turning the car around in fine style and enabling the car to
grab another place still, a position consolidated when the #76 Autorlando
Porschge was forced into retirement with a broken gearbox.
In #82 Lawrence
Tomlinson was now aboard and he was beginning to make his way back
up the order too, passing the Virgo Ferrari after it was tagged
by a faster car and then humbling Gunnar Kristensen in a factory-backed
Autorlando Porsche, which had been quick all weekend. The Team LNT
boss was on the move.
For Hughes though
the race was on for a win. Ahead was the #97 GPC Ferrari, the rapid
Luca Drudi aboard with Hughes pushing hard to stay in touch with
the 430. At the two hour mark both leading GT2 cars were in the
top 20 overall. The Panoz was by now holding off the fastest remaining
Porsche behind but, after drawing very close indeed to the Ferrari
ahead, began to find the pace putting the race strategy at risk.
Team LNT has found both at Donington Park and at Le Mans that the
slightly more conservative pace can pay dividends in endurance racing.
Could it work once again?
After the next
routine stop it was Marc Hynes’ turn to take the wheel of
#82, the car now up to 6th in class, and Hynes was immediately on
the hunt for more progress, closing in on the Virgo Ferrari 430.
His pursuit of Tim Sugden was settled with a mistake from the Yorkshireman,
which saw the #99 car into the barrier at the final turn.
Into the final
stint of the race and Warren Hughes stayed aboard the #81 car with
Richard Dean climbing back aboard #82. By now the GPC Ferrari had
made good its escape. Hughes though was comfortably holding off
the rapid Dane Allan Simonsen’s Porsche. Dean was in very
fast cruise mode and rumbling home fifth in class.
It would stay
that way until the end of the race, but despite the podium, the
champagne and the press conference featuring a very happy GPC Ferrari
squad, there were rumblings along the pitlane.
had noted that GPC’s star driver Fabrizio de Simone had been
in the car for a very substantial chunk of the 6 hour race distance,
any one driver having a maximum allowed time, under the rules, of
four hours at the wheel.
For now though
it was time for Warren Hughes and Rob Bell to reflect on a highly
“We ran trouble-free and the decision to go for the harder
Pirellis was definitely the right call. Right through the race it
seemed that the drop-off in pace as the tyres wore down compared
very well indeed with all the rest.
second place is quite frustrating but if you’d offered us
this result at the start of the weekend we’d have grabbed
it with both hands.
some doing but we found a really good set-up for the car, it’s
just a shame that we didn’t get more luck at the start of
this year though have been a huge credit to the whole team. In particular
Alan Mugglestone is so motivated, so methodical, so professional
and intelligent that he raise the whole game for everyone. Our race
engineer Simon Finnes has added to that direction too.”
Rob Bell: “The race was hard work coming up through the pack
but in the last couple of races the car and the whole team have
I got into GT racing was to get my name established and these results
have really helped. Warren and I have been a very strong pairing
and that really counts in these races. We’re able to give
a lot back to the team too with feedback that the engineers can
really use to progress the whole effort.”
For the #82
crew there was frustration that their race finish had left them
just short of second place in the GT2 Championship and with it
an automatic entry to the 2007 Le Mans 24 hours, to sit alongside
one already earned for their historic class win in this years classic,
hugely valuable to the team both in terms of prestige and commercially.
“Really frustrating: we really started a good 30 seconds down
but with all that said to finish as high as we have is really a
The race meeting
wasn’t over yet though. The suspicions of the observant eyes
in the pitlane proved correct. The winning car’s star turn
had indeed exceeded his maximum permitted time at the wheel. The
#97 Ferrari was disqualified, Team LNT’s #81 Panoz was therefore
promoted to its second consecutive race win, with the sister #82
car inheriting 4th.
A race win and
of course the second place in the GT2 championship for Team LNT
were the most significant results of the Italian team’s blunder.
“I’m relieved more than anything,” said a tired
Richard Dean, as the revised result was confirmed by the race stewards
at 21:30, over three hours after the race had finished.
What a year
2006 has been for Team LNT.
As the European
agents for the American Panoz marque the team had chosen a difficult
path, going head to head with the European GT elite, Porsche and
By the end of
the Jarama 1000km race, the fifth and final round in the Le Mans
Series, the pair of Team LNT cars had scored a pair of wins and
a further pair of appearances on the podium. Indeed the orange cars
from cars from Braselton, Georgia, via Sheffield, have been on the
podium at all but one of the European races they have contested.
To top it all
too there was the famous class victory at Le Mans, the first team
ever to humble Porsche in the GT2 class.
There is indeed
a great deal for Lawrence Tomlinson, Richard Dean and their men
in orange to look back and reflect upon after the 2006 season –
and two entries to look forward to at Le Mans 2007.