Magny-Cours, April 2002 - Laurence’s Surprise
The 2002 FIA GT season was something of a classic, with outstanding races at four of the venues that year – perhaps none better than the opening round at Magny-Cours, if only for its surprise value. It was a real ‘turn up for the books’.

A couple of fascinating hours in the company of Laurence Pearce on Friday of last week, December 10 (originally with just with the intention of a Lister pre-2005 report), provided such a wonderful insight into Round 1 in 2002, we had to bring you the tale… The ‘Lister 2005’ feature will be later in the week.

“I think we can tell the story, can’t we? Enough time has gone by, hasn’t it?” asked Laurence. Oh yes…

“We had agreed that Nicolaus Springer would drive with Jamie in the number 14 car for the season, with me engineering the car.”

The rest of the GT world then decided that there was no way that JC-W / Springer were going to win a race in 2002, but some scheming was going on in Leatherhead, the Pearce brain was working overtime, and some unusual strategies were being planned for the number 14 car.

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At that time, virtually every race, for every GT-class car, was a two-stopper: in 2004, we’ve seen that a number of races demand that the cars stop three times, but life was simpler two or so years ago. Race for an hour, stop for fuel and a driver change, race for an hour, stop for fuel and a driver change (typically with tyres each time too), race for an hour, chequered flag.

dailysportscar.comBut the canny Mr. Pearce knew that his Lister Storms were very fuel efficient – even more so with Nicolaus at the wheel (waiting to drive the middle stint, right).

“Jamie started the race, obviously, and he drove for just over an hour: he had a lead of a few seconds at the point when the other top cars pitted before him. He was the last to stop, and we sent Nicolaus out with new left side tyres and a full fuel load. From memory, he stayed in the car for about 35 minutes or so, losing a little time to the leaders and dropped down to fifth.”

But Nicolaus Springer had been conserving tyres and fuel, during his 22 lap stint….

“Jamie slipped to seventh on the road, after the car’s second stop, but then he began the charge.”

It was after this race that Laurence called his no.1 “the best GT driver in the world,” but it wasn’t just Campbell-Walter skill that ensured the win.

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“After that stop, I did the fuel calculations (based on the amount we’d had to put in at the two stops) – and realised that we only needed to put in five litres! So the question was, when would we put the five litres in? Everyone seems to think that you should add it at the end – but there’s no good reason why you should do that.

“I gave Jamie the signal to pit with about 20 minutes to go. Everyone else thought that we were going to have to add a significant quantity of fuel. Kumpen was slowing down during his last stint, while Mike Hezemans was laughing his socks off before he got in the car to finish the race…. “

Comments from Anthony Kumpen and Mike Hezemans after the event revealed that the Carsport team had been well and truly out-thought in this one.

Hezemans: “I didn’t push for the first five laps because I was not paying attention to the Lister and that was a big mistake.”

Kumpen: “When I came out of the pits, after the stop and go (lap 35), we were fourth. I managed to catch and pass Terrien. When the team said to me that I was in first position so I didn’t push. I slowed down by two seconds a lap once I was past him and no one on the team noticed the Lister!”

Back to the #14 car, and it’s splash and dash, on lap 97, of 108.

“I briefed Jamie over the radio – that he had to switch the engine off, but I told him to keep his foot on the clutch, ready to go. The car was stationary for two and a half seconds! The engine had barely stopped going round when Jamie punched the button, and with the car in gear, he let the clutch up and was gone. The other teams couldn’t believe it!

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“The stop cost 28 seconds, so we were still 12 seconds ahead – and the Dunlops were still in good shape. By the time I got back to the pit wall, I discovered that Mike Hezemans was still going slowly – they hadn’t told him what had happened. We’d taken them all by surprise!

“Nicolaus Springer turned to me and said, ‘I don’t believe this, we’re going to win. Laurence, you’re ******* mega!’

“It was my best win ever. We’ve won at Magny-Cours every year except 2003, when the throttle cable broke, so that track has special memories – but the best were from 2002.”

JC-W: “It was an unbelievable race, everything went just right. Laurence Pearce said on the radio ‘you need to have 40 seconds to stay in front’ so I gave him 52. The team did a fantastic job in the pit stops and the car was unbelievable. I was almost able to do a qualifying lap on every lap. Today I didn’t make a mistake all race long. I had to be ruthless with the back markers and I had to take more risks than anyone else, but that is why I was able to build up such a lead.” (helped by Carsport’s confusion and dawdling).

A qualifying lap on every lap - one reason why the 2002 Magny-Cours race was such an exciting one. No conserving anything, just going for it.

Nicolaus Springer: “Driving with Jamie has helped me immensely and the Dunlop tyres have helped as well. The team is concentrating on me, which helps me a lot, and I am driving with Jamie who is one of the greatest drivers out there.”

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By the end of that 2002 season, canny old Laurence very nearly turned Nicolaus Springer into an FIA GT Champion: wins at Brno and Enna were classics too, although the Prodrive 550 began to show real form before mid-season, racking up three in a row for Deletraz and Piccini – but it was the steady Bouchut who took the crown for Larbre’s Viper at Estoril, JC-W having been carved up by Andrea Piccini at the previous race at Donington Park. There was too much to do at Estoril, third place for #14 leaving the unlikely pairing two and a half points behind the Frenchman (who’d conveniently ‘dumped’ his partner David Terrien). It was still an amazing year for the team formerly based at Leatherhead.

Lister prospects for 2005 soon….

Magny-Cours 2002 Result
1 14 GT CAMPBELL-WALTER / SPRINGER Lister Storm 108 152.694
2 3 GT HEZEMANS/KUMPEN Chrysler Viper 108 -22.552 152.376
3 1 GT BOUCHUT/TERRIEN Chrysler Viper 108 -36.601 152.179
4 4 GT CAPPELLARI/GOLLIN Chrysler Viper 107 150.633
5 2 GT ROSENBLAD/VOSSE Chrysler Viper 107 150.554
6 23 GT DELETRAZ / PICCINI Ferrari 550 Mar 106 149.447

FIA GT Driver Points 2002
1 Christophe Bouchut 4 4 6 4 6 20 2 3 49
2 David Terrien 4 4 6 4 6 20 2 2 48
3 Nicolaus Springer 10 3 10 1 6 2.5 10 4 46.5
4 Jamie Campbell-Walter 10 3 10 1 6 2.5 10 4 46.5
5 Andrea Piccini 1 10 10 10 10 41
6 Jean-Denis Deletraz 1 10 10 10 10 41

With thanks To Jacquie Groom.

 

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