Tommy Erdos – A Litre Short At Spa
The Brazilian gave us a history lesson before providing the details behind his ultimately unsuccessful drive at Spa, in the Balfe Motorsport Mosler. Unsuccessful is the wrong word of course: it was a storming drive to conclude a race which the red and white Mosler had led almost throughout. You’ll see the point of the history lesson in a moment.

“Pedro Alvares Cabral discovered Brazil in about 1500. A Portuguese colony was founded, and Brazil eventually gained its independence, so that’s why Brazilians speak Portuguese.”

And what has this tale to do with motor racing, and specifically the Spa 1000 Kms? Well, Tommy Erdos’s rival on the track turned out to be Joao Barbosa, from Portugal.

“There are differences in our accents, and the language has evolved differently: it’s rather like your accent being different from an Irish person’s – except that Portugal and Brazil are separated by about 4,000 miles, rather than a few hundred. But Joao and I met at Spa for the first time, and we spoke in Portuguese.”

The race between these two was absolutely sensational, to the extent that Chris Pollard, co-team owner at Eclipse Motorsport, admitted taking his eye off his TVR on the track, because the battle between the Moslers was such a thriller. We’ll get hold of Joao Barbosa this week, and discover his view of this contest, but first of all, Tommy Erdos explains his role at Balfe Motorsport, in an epic GT encounter at Spa.

“It was no surprise to find a well set up team and car. Balfe Motorsport has done a fantastic job all year, and David Balfe and Alan Mugglestone have really shown what they can do. Such a well set up car made it easier to get used to, especially as it turned out that I didn’t actually drive the car in the dry until the start of the race.

“The seating was a bit of a compromise for me as I’m shorter than either Shaun Balfe or Jamie Derbyshire, but it was OK to drive.

“I first drove the car on Friday, when it was wet all day. The other two needed to get some time in too, so I only had a handful of laps. Then on Saturday morning, I was first out, when the track was still wet, Shaun and Jamie going out as it dried. It was very nice to be given the opportunity to qualify the car in the afternoon.”

“There’s no point all three of us risking the car: we’re happy to leave it to the quick guy,” was Shaun Balfe’s explanation. Ed.

“I completed a few laps in the wet, just reading the track. Then we waited and waited, as it dried more and more, and we put intermediates on for the end of the session, because it was still damp. I set the British GT pole with a 2:37.6. Cor was quicker in the Marcos, but he had about 650 bhp, which was rather more than we had.

“Shaun and Jamie had the race warm up, but they elected to put me in to start the race, when it was almost dry. Really though, it was a typical Spa weekend, in terms of the weather, and everyone had trouble with the weather and track time.

“So it wasn’t until the last stint that I was out there on a completely dry track, but we did have slicks on for the start of the race. I got a pretty good start, was a little blocked in by Cor, but he was slightly held up by the cars in front. I made up some places round the outside at Eau Rouge, but took it carefully: it was damp, I hadn’t driven on full tanks, and there was a long way to go. The Vertigo was ahead of me, and that seemed to have quite a bit more power, but I was pulling away from Martin Short.

“Then the rain came, and the team gave me a really good stop for wets. The car was very good in the wet (I knew that anyway), with very good mechanical grip. The only problem, a minor one, was a slight issue with the downshift occasionally, but that meant just taking a little more care going down the gears.

“I was pacing myself, building a gap, and then as the track dried out, I began to look for the wet areas, to look after the tyres. Rob Barff was behind me, and I didn’t want to push too hard, so really I was managing the gap and the tyres at that stage. I pitted on schedule, with a 46 second lead. I had been ahead of Cor in the wet, but he speeded up as it dried.

“The really odd thing was that our lead over the Barff TVR disappeared after the stop: from a 46 second lead, with a perfect pit stop, we were suddenly 40 seconds behind! It was ridiculous that they had a stop and go penalty for that.

“The plan was always to break the race up into four stints, with me finishing, so that everyone played their part in the race. It would be true to say that the Rollcentre team deprived one driver of seat time, which was a great shame from his point of view.

“When Jamie was in the car, the Rollcentre Mosler pitted under the Safety Car, but we stuck to our plan, so really from then on we were one fuel stop behind them, and they had to catch us again. We pitted for the last time after the second Safety Car, so when they stopped to put Joao in the car after Tom Herridge’s short stint, the gap from me to Joao was a bit less than 60 seconds. I was going to have to drive a full stint, and if we hadn’t come under so much pressure, I would obviously have backed off enough to make the fuel last. The only problem I had was with the radio, which didn’t work for the last 15 or 20 minutes.

“I had the fuel read-out on the dash and that’s pretty accurate. The team was expecting me to run out a lap sooner than I did. I was saving fuel throughout – using a higher gear here and there, and generally saving everything I could, while watching the gap. I knew that we couldn’t do worse than second, but there was no point pitting, because that would have cost us two minutes.

“By the penultimate lap, he was three seconds behind, so I had to push and hope the fuel lasted. I really went for it up Eau Rouge, and he was stuck behind a slower car, so the gap grew to five seconds, but on that lap the car had already had a cough and splutter. I’d just seen the guy holding the chequered flag, and I’d seen L2 on my pit board, but I hoped that they were wrong. Next time round it was L1 and he was still holding the flag, so I knew we’d had it then.

“It coughed at Les Combes on the last lap, and I was losing time all the way round. If I’d had fuel left, he wouldn’t have got past me because I would have been very defensive, but he was right behind me at Pouhon, and it was hopeless then. He got me at Stavelot, and then the car died at the Bus Stop. I used the starter a couple of times to get to La Source, and then rolled down the hill. If I’d gone any quicker, we wouldn’t have made it that far, so in that situation, second was the best we could have managed.

“When you’re in a situation like that, you get very emotionally involved in it, and having led for so long, well, you really need to be in the driver’s seat to know what it feels like to lose on the last lap.

“But I’m proud of what that team achieved in their first true long distance race. We had 100% reliability, there’s a fantastic atmosphere in the team, we set the pace, we played the game with all our drivers, and it ended up very positively, because Shaun and Jamie are now leading the Championship.”

And if expressions could sum up the post-race mood of the three...


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