Le Mans Series - Istanbul 715.292 Kms - Race Report
So Much To Enjoy
Plenty of Surprises
But We Won’t Be Back Here In A Hurry
Even in a race
reduced to four hours (715 km), and with reliability issues affecting
two of the classes - the prototypes (but what did we expect with
so much new machinery?) – there was much to enjoy in Istanbul,
despite the weather letting us down again.
seen the result – a win for Pescarolo, second for Barazi-Epsilon
(and first in P2), third for Laurence (who loves Turkey now) Pearce,
fourth for Chamberlain-Synergy (third in P1 – and a podium,
as not predicted by a certain magazine), second in P2 for the Pilbeam,
third in P2 for the G-Force Courage (with 17 year old Ed Morris
driving for two and a half hours), a logical win for the Larbre
DBR9, a fine win for the GPC F430 GTC… and so it goes on.
There were stories
galore throughout the field – and there was some very good
racing, even if three classes looked set (for the win at least)
with half of the revised time elapsed.
a classic 1000 (715.292) kilometre race, but it gave all of us more
than enough to write about. This is 3,300 words long….
it was damp at the start, and some cars started on wets, some on
inters and some on slicks. By the time the track had dried, strategies
changed – and then they changed again once the organisers
announced that there had been a miscalculation with the fuel, and
there wasn’t enough at the track for even a 36 car field to
run to 1000 km. It was shambolic in one respect, but in another..
well, four hours was enough.
Opening Hour (Or So)
The opening hour was sparkling stuff – and the stars were
many – but we virtually lost a class favourite even before
they’d taken the lights. Courage personnel, and J-M Gounon,
reckoned that there was no contact, but there was a scuff and rubber
mark on the right hand side of the RML MG Lola, and Tommy Erdos
speared into the pit wall, destroying this car’s chances even
before passing the line. “That was ridiculous at the start
of a endurance race,” exclaimed the bemused Brazilian. “It
makes no sense. He’s a quick driver, but it takes more than
that to be a good driver.” 50 minutes were lost, and sixth
in class was the result, 26 laps down.
So we had an
odd grid formation routine, the pretty girls getting the boards
in the wrong order, which involved some jiggling about among the
GTs. Eight minutes before the start, it was announced that it was
a wet race – and many tyres were changed up and down the grid
(some wets, some inters). Then we had Gounon flying along, into
the lead on lap 1, then flying backwards on his wets – so
that Minassian led at the end of lap 1, a touch with Collard dropping
the Pesca car to fourth, briefly (“It was a good fight, but
a fair one,” said Collard) – so Alex Yoong was second.
That pleased Jan Lammers – in fact the whole of Yoong’s
double stint pleased Jan Lammers.
led LMP2, Pedro Lamy GT1 and Richard Dean GT2. But the likes of
Lamy (wets) and Dean (inters) would have been happier on slicks
– or at least they would have been within a few laps.
Slicks was the
clever choice, but Ian Khan, new to the Virgo F430 GTC, was unhappy
on some hard treadles rubber, and just couldn’t get heat into
his tyres: he fell away in #99. It was a long fight back for this
one – and 1000 km would have made it fairer on them than 715.
So by lap 3
we had Minassian leading, Yoong second (-3.6), Collard third and
the highly impressive Vergers and Barbosa fourth and fifth, leading
on inters, but it took a few laps to get heat into them, because
the car is so light on its tyres,” said the Portuguese. These
two P2s were followed by Primat, Berridge and the fading Gounon.
Lap 4 and Barbosa
led LMP2, and a lap later, Collard had recovered enough to climb
all over Minassian – and through into the overall lead. Vergers
pitted for slicks on lap 6, as did the likes of Kox and Hardman,
while Minassian, on wets, was starting to struggle – and Barbosa
was second overall.
Kesa in the
Lister pitted, Lamy too – and Barbosa was gobbling up the
Pescarolo, on its wets. This wasn’t supposed to happen, was
for the Radical: Barbosa pulled off on lap 8, the throttle having
stuck open. “It was the throttle blip mechanism,” reported
the team owner.
Are you getting
the impression that there was an awful on going on?
led from…. Harold Primat in the Swiss Spirit Coiurage, from
Yoong, Berridge, the #37 Belmondo, then Gounon.
So Andre led
LMP2 on lap 10, Jos Menten led GT1 in the PSI Corvette – and
Richard Dean still led GT2, the only class without a leader change
so far. There would be plenty of time, just not six hours in total.
Simone then gobbled up the Panoz, as the Ferraris slicks came in
– oh, look out, here comes Collard for slicks. And Harold
Primat led. “Yes that was very good – I was faster than
everybody else, on inters or wets or something, I‘m not sure
what I was on,” said the Swiss. So lap 13 and we had Primat
leading Berridge and Andre. This was bizarre.
showing what slicks could do – 50 seconds off the lead, but
lapping at least eight seconds faster than the top three. It had
to be slicks now, Richard Dean admitting defeat and pitting the
Panoz. Andre, on inters, stayed out, Primat and Berridge pitted,
Minassian and Collard were second and third – and order was
But it wasn’t
really. Vergers was back up to fourth in the Barazi car –
didn’t we tip this one on Saturday morning? – while
fifth was GT1 leader Jos Menten! The PSI Corvette, on slicks, maintained
a 50 second lead over the Lamy Aston Martin, throughout a regular
one hour stint. This was Spa weather, and Menten is a Spa specialist.
well after starting on slicks were Rostan in the Pilbeam, de Simone
Marc Lieb had
taken over from Joel Camathias at an early tyre stop, but this GT2
‘pace-setter’ was 29th.
Tim Sugden was
even further down the order.
Lola B06/10 had lost time at its pit stop – and did so at
every other tyre change – because “we lost an air jack
when we changed tyres before the start,” said Dave Lampitt.
We’d have to wait a while before Berridge and Evans appeared
near the top of the listings.
was he up to? He’d made it back to the pits after the throttle
problem, but was way down. But on slicks, he was soon to become
the fastest man on the track, a low 1:43 near the end of the hour
his best, despite a gearshift problem.
So how about
this for an order at almost 20 laps?
Minassian – 0.7
Kiesa in the Lister
Rostan second in P2
de Simone first in GT2
Berridge after that slow stop
And Leroch for G-Force.
Cars to look
out for by, say, the third hour would be the Barazi Courage, the
Lister, the Pilbeam, Larbre’s Aston Martin, the yellow B06/10,
the Radical… and a certain young man in the G-Force Courage.
This is Leroch in #35.
Primat: he was finding grip a problem on cold slicks, and didn’t
want to get off-line to pass one of the Cirtek Astons. The two came
together, and his right front suspension was broken. “You
have to be ready for changing conditions and adapt to it. It will
probably be the same at Spa,” said a disappointed Primat
The Barazi Courage?
Vergers set the fastest lap of the race on lap 20, slightly faster
than even Minassian and Collard ahead of him. GT1 was Menten from
Lamy, Kox, Policand and the two Cirtek Aston Martins, while GT2
was de Simone from… the two Spykers (which hadn’t stopped),
the Dean Panoz and Marc Lieb. Allan Simonsen had been up to third
at one point in the other Aurtorlando Porsche, “but the gear
lever snapped off”.
Collard were dicing away at the front – but the gaps in the
other classes were huge:
Vergers to Rostan 85 seconds
Menten to Lamy 54 seconds
de Simone to Bleekemolen 55 seconds.
Minassian, in traffic on lap 26, by which time Barbosa was up to
17th overall. The Creation retook first, as Collard was blocked
by the Seikel Porsche, Bergmeister struggling all meeting with a
car that didn’t want to be set up.
12.24, 54 minutes
into the race, and Tommy Erdos ventured back out, to complete his
first lap. Frustrating, isn’t it? 2,700 km of testing, then
effectively out before the season’s racing has started.
Slick boys (slick
thinkers) Menten and Rostan pitted on the hour, so class leaders
at this point were Minassian, Vergers, Lamy and de Simone. Vergers’
C65 and Lamy’s DBR9 were never headed, as class leaders, from
this point on.
took over the PSI Corvette, but he wasn’t a match for Menten,
although he did cling on to third until Markus Palttala took over
for hour three – but then the alternator failed. It had been
a great run for the C6.R. The one hour mark saw Warren Hughes stopped
in the #81 Panoz. Rob Bell: “We think it was a driveshaft.”
Rob’s 100% Le Mans Series record disappeared at that point.
And all the
while there were rumours of a fuel shortage at the track….
“The first I knew of it was at an hour and three-quarters,
when a note appeared on the timing screen to say that it would be
a four hour race,” said one team member. We thought we knew
well before that – but it seemed so bizarre we were inclined
not to believe it, until Patrick Peter arrived in the media centre
to confirm that it was true.
out the whole mixed class order of the first hour, let’s try
and deal with the rest of the race class by class.
Minassian was easing away from Collard until they pitted on laps
40 and 43 respectively. Minassian stayed in and had a new set of
tyres fitted. Collard stayed in, but didn’t, and suddenly
these two were nearly half a minute apart. Yoong had pitted too,
and stayed in, to hold third in class, fourth overall, with Berridge
and Kiesa next. At just about an hour-and-a-half, Berridge pitted
to hand over to Gareth Evans for what would turn out to be a full
double-stint, leaving Peter Owen with just the last half-hour. Fifty-two
laps, and Yoong was about to be lapped by Collard, but showed no
inclination to move over. Oddly, the gap to Minassian grew at this
gesturing at Yoong, Minassian was struggling with his gearbox. Suddenly,
he was over a minute behind, and pitted without fifth or sixth Had
the Creation team been faced with a full, 1000 kilometer race, they
would have repaired it, but it was at this point that the timing
screens notified everyone that this was a four-hour race.
So now we had
Collard a full lap ahead of Yoong with the Lister third, Nakano
fourth in the factory Courage, and Evans fifth in the Chamberlain-Synergy
but only five were still running. Just before two hours, Yoong handed
over to Lammers (at this point Vergers was a stunning second overall
in the Barazi Courage) but, as Jan the Dutchman reported later,
“it was the same thing as we had yesterday and Friday, we
think caused by vibrations. It was the starter engine, and for the
same reason we had an exhaust cracked, as well as the subframe.
But we’re very encouraged. Alex did an excellent job. We had
really good top speed, and I’m glad we got his double-stint
Now we only
had the Pescarolo, the factory Courage, the Lister and the Chamberlain
Lola left running in LMP1. It was soon down to just three because
Nakano brought the #13 in with power steering failure. “We
tried to repair it,” said Claude Surmont at Courage Competition,
“and that’s why we sent Haruki out to try it, but it
wasn’t working, and it was dangerous. Without the motor, there’s
a delay between turning the steering wheel, and the wheels turning.
It’s normally a very reliable system.”
So, with the
Courage gone in the third hour, we had Boullion three laps ahead
of Moller in the Lister, who was 21 seconds ahead of Gareth Evans.
These would be the podium finishers, but in what order? Evans pitted
at two-and-a-half hours, and stayed aboard the Lola, but really
the last ninety minutes saw the Pescarolo just draw further and
Boullion was told to ease off, and had trouble maintaining his concentration,
and then slipped in a very quick lap right at the end – to
win byseven laps, a Le Mans Series record. Jens Moller had a spin
in the Lister, and handed over to Kiesa to complete the rest of
the race. The best racing, towards the end of the third hour, was
actually between Evans and Short in his Radical. First one led then
the other, and then Evans again, but it wasn’t for class position,
and with Peter Owen finishing the race for Chamberlain-Synergy,
we had Lister and Lola second and third in class. Hugh Chamberlain
walked up to congratulate Laurence Pearce, and the man in black
reckoned that he wanted to come back to Turkey again. “I love
the place! It’s my favourite track . . . . after Anderstorp!”
Mr Pearce is £20 lighter this evening, having lost a bet with
Ian Bickerton. Bicks was sure that dear old Laurence would be on
the podium, and Bicks had it spot on!
now that Nic Manassian comes up and strokes the wing mirrors of
our Lola,” said Gareth Evans, “because he likes them
Just after the two hour mark, Juan Barz took over from Michael Vergers
in the#32 Courage, but the biggest threat to him in the class was
the recovering Radical. Barazi drove a very steady stint and maintained
the place. Short was second in the Radical, and third was the plucky
Pillbeam - well ahead of the #37 Belmondo Courage – and then
Ed Morris in the G-Force example.
Now you pick
the best P2 story. Was it Barazi (above) and then Belloc coming
home second overall, or was it Short handing over to Tim Greaves
(below) and looking as though they’d finish third overall,
ahead of the Lister and Lola, or was it Ed Morris doing a simply
stunning job in the G-Force?
Sadly, one of
these three wouldn’t make it to the end. Tim Greaves was putting
in some very good times, and with ten minutes left third place was
on a plate – but then smoke appeared from the cockpit as the
electrics gave out, the fire extinguisher went off, and Greaves
bailed out: poor old Shorty looked as though his world had ended.
“Jooa’s 1:43.065 was the fastest lap of the race at
that point, and we had the gear-shift problem. We dropped the front
spring rate for the race, and the car was fantastic.”
“We had a misfire all weekend, but it wasn’t as bad
as in practice.” If we’d had time we’d have chased
Michael for a better reaction, because his performance was simply
Ed Morris. G-Force
is actually using 2005 spec. Dunlop tyres, because they have some
left over from last year. Jean-François Leroch drove the
first 90 minutes, and then Ed Morris took over on the same rubber.
He completed that stint with some amazingly consistent 1:50 laps,
and the Dunlop guys couldn’t believe his times when they saw
the worn state of the right rear. His consistency was astonishing
– even more so because he’s not yet eighteen. For his
second hour he had new rubber, and his times came down step by step
from 1:50 to 1:48. He had to pit half-an-hour from the end, and
good old Frank Hahn kept him at the wheel. That stop might have
cost them third place, but Paul Belmondo spun the #37 Courage, and
that meant that Ed Morris would be presented with a bottle of Champagne….
that he wasn’t old enough to drink.
have an aerial on the truck, so I could only just about hear the
radio past the pits, and I had no idea where I was in the race,
but I was just trying to do consistent lap times. I saw the Belmondo
spin, but didn’t know I’d just passed him for position,”
were fourth and fifth, with the gallant RML MG Lola sixth, with
lap times from both Newton and Erdos that were as good as the class
of the field. “It’s the best we could have hoped for,
considering the start we had,” said Mike Newton, “but
we’ve put down a marker for the rest of the season. All credit
to the guys though; they did a fantastic job to get the car back
Once the PSI Corvette had stopped, this class really had a fairly
settled order. After four hours the Larbre Aston Martin had exactly
a lap on the Convers MenX Ferrari, which also had exactly a lap
on the Luc Alphand Corvette, third. The Cirtek Aston Martins were
fourth and fifth, with Peter Hardman laying down his fastest lap
of the race – by almost three seconds – just before
the end. After the race Pedro Lamy referred to the wrong tyre choice
at the start (wets), but he Gardel and Vosse are a stronger trio
than Menten, Palttala and Kuissmann.
This was the most competitive class by far. Potential winners were
four; the GPC Ferrari, the Autorlando Porsche #76, the #82 LNT Panoz,
and the IMSA Porsche. The pole-position Icer Brakes Ferrari was
an early casualty, and with the #81 LNT Panoz and its drive-shaft
problem, the only other casualty was Lars Erik Nielsen’s Porsche,
which also broke a drive shaft, but was then hit by a prototype
as it slowed.
overcame the IMSA Porsche for a first podium for Team LNT with its
Esperantes, but he and Lawrence Tomlinson were “both pleased
and frustrated. Shortening the race upset our strategy,” continued
Dean, “and I ended up driving an hour-and-a-half at the start,
and Lawrence drove the middle.”
The team owner
was more than a little niggled to have the interviewer in the post-race
press conference suggest that the Panoz looks rather like a TVR.
“I think you need some glasses!” said a stern Mr Tomlinson.
So the race
for the win in GT2 came down to Marc Lieb in the Porsche against
De Simone in the GPC Ferrari.
Both had to
stop about 20 minutes from the end, and try as he might, Lieb couldn’t
match the new F430 GTC. The gap at the end was 7.5 seconds. Lieb
was a little upset when Camathias finished his second stint fifteen
minutes early, because he was suffering from a vibration, and making
a final slash and dash necessary for the German.
certainly a bigger challenge now than in the previous two years,”
summed up Marc Lieb He set his fastest lap on the final lap of the
race, while the fastest lap in the class was set by the flying Tim
Sugden, but he and Dan Eagling could only bring the Virgo Ferrari
home in eighth place. They were beaten by both Spykers, and the
#90 Farnbacher Porsche of Ehret and Dominik Farnbacher.
So, a long report
to explain an action-packed four hours - but a win for Pescarolo
that we always felt was on the cards. As always, there was the complete
mix of emotions at the end, but Jan Lammers, ever the gentleman,
summed it up by saying that “it’s great to see how the
Chamberlain-Synergy team enjoyed their third place.” Heaven
knows how we’d all have coped with a report covering six hours
of similar excitement. We’re exhausted.