Joao Barbosa – Three Charges At Spa
We had the history lesson 24 hours or so ago – with Tommy
Erdos’s column on the Spa 1000 Kms, in the Balfe Motorsport
Joao Barbosa, the story really began at Thruxton, when Tom Herridge
was taken off by a car he was passing, damaging the original Rollcentre
MT900R chassis. That meant calling upon Warren Mosler to help out
with another chassis, which was flown across the Atlantic very smartly.
Joining it was factory Mosler driver Joao Barbosa. A response to
Erdos in the rival car? The two Portuguese speakers ended up having
an extraordinary race – the last hour was a classic.
had a dry set-up all ready for the car, the same as he’d used
at Spa for the 24 Hours. It worked very well for him then, and because
the Mosler chassis are so good, he could put the same set up on
the silver car and expect it to work. But the weather was so variable
throughout the weekend, we weren’t sure what set up to use
for the race. We changed it completely for the race morning warm
up, because that was the first time we’d had a properly dry
track. Obviously we’d had a wet set up until then.
“I did maybe two
or three laps in the warm up, and that was the first time I’d
driven this car in the dry at Spa. The team did a great job to even
have it ready for the meeting, because they had a lot of work changing
the engine and transmission once it arrived in England.
for the race was that Martin would drive, then me, then Tom, then
maybe Martin and then me at the end. But with the changing conditions
in the first stint, Martin decided to stay in the car, because he
had a very good feeling for the track. I was ready to get in the
car, but it was a good decision for him to stay in it.
thing about my race was that I was playing catch up three times
– each time chasing the same car, the Balfe Mosler. I had
a compromise with my seating, but the car was so good that that
wasn’t a problem. I was able to drive fast laps all the time
– I had to drive fast laps all the time, to catch the other
we saw some fireworks,” was Martin Short’s description
of what happened next. “We knew he was good – but not
the most fun I’ve had in a racing car for years. I chased
Jamie Derbyshire the first time, passed him.....
Safety Car came out, so I pitted, he didn’t, and I had to
chase him all over again. I passed him both times, then I was called
in under the next Safety Car, for Tom to take over.
“Martin asked how
I was feeling. I was OK, but very thirsty. He told me the plan –
that I would get in the car to the finish. I felt bad for Tom, because
he only drove a few laps, but if we were going to win the race,
we had to catch up with the other Mosler.
I took over I think I was 64 seconds behind. That’s a lot
of distance round Spa, but there was almost a full stint to go,
and I had plenty of fuel. What the team didn’t tell me was
that the other car might have been marginal on fuel, but really
I didn’t need to know that.
“From that distance
back, I didn’t think that I could do it: Tommy is a great
driver, which made it very difficult, by my job was just to push
as hard as I could. I also had to play it safe of course, because
I couldn’t risk putting the car off the road – so I
left a very small margin. I’m sure Tommy had problems with
backmarkers too, but when I met one in the wrong place, I had to
push even harder on the next lap. Two laps from the end, I lost
two seconds behind a TVR at Eau Rouge, and I thought that was it.
I pushed really hard then, but the gap seemed to be too large.
knees were like jelly,” said Shorty.
“Then I could see
Tommy getting closer and closer: the team had been making sure that
I knew his lap times all the time, but really I was just pushing,
pushing all the time.
“I made up the
last two seconds in the first part of the last lap, and I was with
him all the way from Les Combes. We were side by side at the Bus
Stop, which is where he ran out of fuel. He’s a real professional,
and he pulled over out of the way to let me through.
“Afterwards I found
out the problem he had: if I hadn’t pushed him so hard, he
would have been able to back off a little more and would have made
it on the fuel, so I was glad I pushed so hard. I hadn’t met
Tommy before, but we spoke after the race, and he was obviously
very disappointed. It’s cruel the way it works out sometimes.
We had about 15 litres of fuel in the car at the end – and
he had nothing at all.
“For us it was
a sprint race for nearly six hours. We just ran as fast as we could
for the whole race.
“Although I hadn’t
met Tommy before, I knew how quick he is because I follow how the
Graham Nash Saleens are doing in the FIA GT Championship, because
the Portuguese drivers are in the other car.
“My next race is
in the Heritage Mustang at Mont Tremblant: that’s a beautiful
track too. It’s got some very demanding turns, and although
it’s got elevation changes like Spa, it’s really nothing
like Spa. After that, I don’t really have anything lined up,
but I’d like to drive a Daytona Prototype for the last two
“I think until
Sunday, some people in Europe had forgotten who I was. It was a
good feeling to be able to remind them.”
leave the conclusions to Martin Short:
was a race of teamwork. We shouldn't have even been there after
the crash at Thruxton, and the Championship for Tom should have
been dead and buried. But Mosler Automotive generously offered us
a car, Tony Herridge made it happen, Luke, Matt, Julian, Steve,
Glen, Pete, Dan and Mike put the car together, and the rest of the
team put their heart into it. Les, Caroline, Dominiek and Chris,
Martin and especially Kate who looked after Morgan for the whole
race watching Bugs Life 2 (!), Mole, Easty, Helen, Claire.....and
most importantly of all Tom Herridge, who sacrificed his stint and
put his ego in a box for the result.
finally to Mr. Joao Ricardo Da Silva Barbosa......Ayrton Senna’s
name was Da Silva, just a coincidence, it’s a family name,
but in all my years of racing I have never seen a drive like that,
not at this close quarters....you only read about them by the greats,
Fangio at the Nurburgring.....Mansell chasing down Piquet at the
Silverstone Grand Prix.....you had to be here to understand the
achievement....every lap, flat out, no mistakes...after already
having been in the car for an hour and a half.
gave everybody a driving lesson at Spa. Somebody somewhere should
give this guy a topline drive. He is special.”