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Team LNT – Serious Stuff – The Sebring Week So Far

Sebring, Thursday: This is not the first time that a team has campaigned a TVR in international competition, but there is something very different about this effort.

This time, there is a sense of preparedness, of control and of purpose that has sometimes been rather less apparent in past efforts.

One telling image was apparent at the very start of the week – while most teams were still busying themselves unpacking crates and making changes to their cars, the two TVR T400Rs were sitting in the team awning getting another coating of gleaming polish.

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The team’s pit equipment was already set up and everything was ordered and ready – a 24 man (and one woman) team. This had the look of a serious effort. So what is the objective here this week?

“We’re here to shoot for a head-turning finish in GT2. Somewhere between 305 and 315 laps should give us a very respectable top six finish in class and at this stage in the programme that will be a very strong signal of intent. From there on in there is racing luck to be had and a top three finish is always a possibility.” So says Lawrence Tomlinson, Team Owner, highly enthusiastic racer and a man who is determined to not just do something different but to do it properly.

So what does the Team LNT programme involve?

“We’re the GT racing team which carries the TVR ‘Factory Blessed’ moniker and we intend to live up to that billing. I’ve assembled a group of people that have been brought together with a single purpose in mind, to behave as a single unit. We wanted, and have got, a team in the truest sense of the word. That doesn’t just mean the driving squad either, it applies to the engineering staff and the support crew too. Everyone is committed to the same objective, to continually improve the product.”

The approach is already reaping rewards, with an in-depth development programme already underway under the watchful eyes of Principal Engineer Alan Mugglestone and Team Manager Rodney Farrell:

“We’ve assessed every single area of the T400R with an objective of improving both the individual aspects of the car and the package as a whole,” says Mugglestone. “It’s a complex programme and I’d say we’ve achieved around 30% of a planned 12 month programme so far, with major steps forward in electronics, chassis geometry, engine componentry and drivetrain. The TVR factory has provided invaluable assistance with differential casing changes too. There are further big changes which will give us major steps forward due in the next three months.”

“We’ve made progress in other areas too,” adds Farrell, “cockpit ergonomics are now better and overall we have a car that is easier to drive and better on its tyres.”

Componentry is one thing, but a programme like this requires real teamwork to ensure the direction taken is the right one.

“We had a carefully developed plan of action for the week and a number of issues that we needed to answer. It’s gone like clockwork so far,” Lawrence Tomlinson said, with a satisfied tone. “One key difference from other efforts is that we have had four of our drivers give up seat time to give a couple of the guys component testing time. That’s the team spirit we were looking for in selecting our squad and I’m delighted it has worked out that way.”

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“We’ve done all of our fuel calculation work, race set-up, tyre choices and component change testing too. We’ve also found time to look at some cooling issues (for car and cockpit) and some aero work,” says Farrell.

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The name of the game then is progression. Take the car, assemble the team, engineer a better race car and provide the driving talent to exploit it.

Lawrence Tomlinson lays it on the line:

“We’re aiming to achieve one of the most difficult objectives in motorsport, a class podium finish at the Le Mans 24 Hours. In 2006, I want to have got to the stage where the TVR T400R has been developed by Team LNT into a world beating product and to prove it by taking a two car team to Le Mans, to win the class.

“We want to be consistent class challengers in the Le Mans Endurance Series too. We showed already at Spa (before an accident where an out of control Audi R8 collided with Warren Hughes’s then third placed car) what is possible with these cars and we’ve made big progress since then.”

A mark of the progress made is the improvement in pace already seen so far this week, Tomlinson is clearly encouraged:

“Jonny Kane posted a 2:08.1 in the very first session and Warren Hughes followed up with a 2:08.3. Richard Dean meanwhile was looking good for a lap well down in the 2:07s until he was baulked by a slower car, despite that though he too posted a time in the 2:08s.”

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In this morning’s very wet practice session Kane ran quickest overall for much of the session and the plan was for the Ulsterman to qualify the #40 today.

“Pole position for Kane on St Patrick’s Day would have a certain poetic quality to it wouldn’t it?”

With the rain still pouring down here, that may not be as long a shot as it first appears.

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