LNT – 2006 Sebring 12 Hours - The Week So Far (Monday to Friday)
It’s been a hectic time for Team LNT and the
new, Panoz-shaped odyssey.
25 test sessions at a wide range of circuits with
all three of the Esperantes have led seamlessly to the first race
outing for the car in Team LNT’s hands this week – at
the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
The tremendous trio aboard the #80 for the 12 Hours
of Sebring are Team Principal Lawrence Tomlinson, Commercial Director
Richard Dean and Team LNT’s newest rising star Tom Kimber-Smith.
The car flying the very orange Team LNT flag is
the third Esperante to join the team’s fleet, delivered fresh
from the Panoz factory to Wheels Down testing earlier this year.
After the Sebring event is all over, this car will be immediately
shipped back to the UK to be prepared for its season long task of
tackling the 2006 British GT Championship, with Kimber-Smith joined
for the season by Luke Hines.
For this week
though the team has a clear set of aims and objectives: Race
hard, Finish the 12 hours of Sebring, Finish
as well as possible in what is a stellar GT2 field and Find
out as much as possible about the Esperante in real racing conditions.
The team knows all about the unique challenges posed
by this most demanding of racetracks, its 2005 race, with a pair
of TVR T400Rs, ending with significant reliability problems, the
major reason why the team has opted to move over to the Panoz for
2006 and beyond.
This year the
team’s week has gone almost faultlessly: the team is finding
chunks of time in every session, closing the gap to the Multimatic
Panoz team which has far more experience both with the Esperante
and with the Sebring circuit.
Rodney Farrell – Team LNT’s Team Manager
– has been busying himself with the myriad of minor tasks
which get a top class GT team to the grid and to the finish of a
race like this.
“We came here expecting that there would be
teams with quicker cars and more experience on this track, but we’ve
been very pleasantly surprised with how close we’ve been.”
Tom Kimber Smith
is finding out the hard way just how bumpy the old airfield circuit
can be: “I badly bruised my ribs over the bumps on Wednesday,
and it was really preventing me from pushing through left handers.
I thought I could shake it off overnight but it must be really quite
deep bruising, because I was definitely driving around the problem
in qualifying, despite getting some help with a massage and wearing
a rib protector. I was disappointed with our time but everyone else
seems to feel that it was a pretty respectable effort.”
That it was Tom: a lap of 2:04.592 was just a second
shy of the pole mark set by Panoz factory driver (and ex F1 and
Aston Martin star) David Brabham, good enough for eighth in class
and bettered only by teams highly experienced at Sebring. It’s
worth remembering at this point that Sebring is Tom’s first
ever GT race: in that context the achievement makes very impressive
The class battle in GT2 is being widely billed as
a classic, with Panoz joined by top class teams running Porsche,
Ferrari, BMW and Spyker race cars. Team LNT is far from daunted
though. Lawrence Tomlinson and Richard Dean are deploying their
trademark dry humour at every opportunity, to underline the team’s
relaxed but hugely focused outlook.
“We’ve completed somewhere between 700
and 1000 laps here in testing so far. Make no mistake we’re
very serious indeed about this effort, this race and this season,”
says Lawrence Tomlinson.
The only problem
so far to hit the team came on Thursday, with the car suffering
two driveshaft failures, both with a new spec. part, after thousands
of miles of trouble-free lappery with the previous generation part:
“That was frustrating of course, “said Richard Dean.
“The car was stranded out on the circuit in the night session
and we only just managed to cycle through all three drivers for
the 3 laps in darkness that we all should complete.”
Farrell (right): “We were the first team to try the updated
part and it clearly wasn’t right. We have parts that have
plenty of life left on them though so we’ll be fine for the
Team LNT then
will revert to the older part. It’s the classic balancing
act that motorsport, and particularly endurance racing, always requires.
Pace versus reliability.
race will show whether the plucky Brits in their American car can
conquer one of the world’s toughest motorsport challenges,
the 12 Hours of Sebring.