First Firsts
What an epic weekend that was, for certain manufacturers, entrants, suppliers – and drivers.

Having a Spa meeting like that one was enough to cope with, and then the news piled in from Road Atlanta too (and we haven’t got to any of the domestic races yet). And then there was the Porsche news from Road Atlanta on Saturday (which we will be following up today). It really is a good time to be involved in sportscar racing, for most of us. Some teams had really rotten weekends of course, as some always do. Good fortune usually follows bad though.

For now, let’s acknowledge the achievements of the following:
Team LNT and its TVRs
Panoz Motor Sports and its Esperante
Zytek and its 04S
Lola’s B05/40s
and GM’s C6.Rs.

It was a first victory for each of them yesterday – has there ever been a weekend of so many first wins for so many cars?

A neat link between the TVR and Panoz Esperante wins is that both had their power transmitted by Hewland - the IGT-C, six speed sequential. So well done Hewland Engineering too.

Perhaps that TVR win was the most extraordinary of the lot – beating all the Porsches and Ferraris, and taking a 1-2 too, at Spa. Who would have had a “Sportsbook.com” bet on that? Team LNT team owner Lawrence Tomlinson indicated that after the 1000 Kms that he took the decision last year that he wasn’t going to touch alcohol until his cars had won a race. We trust that he’s feeling suitably hungover today. Was it the celebration to end all celebrations?

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The Panoz GT2 victory at Road Atlanta came on the back of such a favourable series announcement (the Porsche LMP2) on Saturday. Would the team have bet on such an early win this year? They knew they had the pace, but have made cautious noises about reliability… and then there were the circumstances of the win. Amazing stuff, an amazing GT2 race – related by Tom Kjos in our Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta race report.

Both Scott Atherton and John Hindhaugh reckoned it was the best GT(2) race they’d seen for years – and for the TV cameras to follow the Esperante and Porsche for the whole last half hour speaks volumes.

“Timo and I were door to door down the back straight every lap,” explains a suitably delighted Robin Liddell. “He couldn’t get me round the outside, and then I’d pull out a gap through Turn 12, and we’d do it all over again. Alex Job agreed that the contact was avoidable, and he said some very nice things to me afterwards.

“I was on worn rubber too: the Job car pitted under the last yellow and took on fresh rubber, but we stayed out – on the Pirellis I’d set the fastest lap with much earlier on.”

Rather neatly, that broke the BMW record from 2001, at last.

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“My god the noise in the pressroom shouting for Robin!” says one of the dsc’ers at Road Atlanta.

Mix in a Friday birthday celebration for Don Panoz, and it really was an extraordinary Panoz weekend. The GT2 Class in the ALMS is as tough as it gets – well done Panoz, Atherton, Auberlen, Liddell, and everyone else connected with this programme.

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We trust that when Yves Courage shows off the Esperante to potential European customers, he’ll have quite a gathering.

Prototypes – and a double win for the new Lola B05/40 and the first for the Zytek 04S. We suggested yesterday that this was a first win for a ‘675’ car: just to make that absolutely clear, that was intended as ‘a first win for a former 675, now LMP1, car in European ACO events’. Dyson Racing has taken wins already of course, with its B01/60s, in the ALMS.

dailysportscar.comJon Field took the first win for his new chassis yesterday, at Road Atlanta – in its second race. Meanwhile, Bob Berridge, Peter Owen and Gareth Evans had a blinding debut with their (similarly AER-powered) B05/40 at Spa. Poor Christophe Tinseau – he couldn’t work out how he’d been beaten by these three ‘gentlemen of mature years’ at Spa. And couldn’t for the life of him work out how Hugh Chamberlain and Gordon Davies at Chamberlain-Synergy had masterminded the win with just three pit stops.

“When we get to Le Mans, Peter and Gareth will stick at it, at a good pace, for hour after hour – they’re very determined,” said Bob Berridge, at Paul Ricard earlier this month. Well, the Le Mans worked brilliantly, over a shorter distance at Spa. Look out Christophe Tinseau – whichever car you’re racing at Le Mans. Bob Berridge was Audi-hunting at Spa!

“I couldn’t quite believe that I was catching the Audi and the Zytek,” said the delighted Berridge. “But at that stage they were holding me up and I got past pretty easily. It was a great team effort today and the car is absolutely awesome. I honestly don’t think that I have driven a better car than this.”

It was a fantastic personal performance too, Bob. And we will tell the underpants story… in depth (!). It began on October 13, 1984…..

Mike Lancaster at AER, are you a happy man today? You’re on holiday? Was that another celebration last night?

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Well done Zytek Engineering, John Nielsen, Hayanari Shimoda, Casper Elgaard, Trevor Foster, Tom Oliver, Tim Holloway – and everyone else connected with a fabulous overall win at Spa. Throw in dramas with a major accident and the ensuing repairs, the weather, a great win for a Great Dane, the irony of the ACO’s selection policy for Le Mans (ditto TVR) – and it was an amazing day all round. Sam Hignett was sure he could have won with the Jota car, but for some abysmal racing luck early on. LMP 1 and 2 at Spa were as unpredictable as….. predicted. Who could have guessed the outcome for the Oreca Audi?

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And then there was the first win for the Corvette C6.R. This was the ‘predictable’ win, if there is such a thing. The perfect comeback after Sebring.

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Overall then, after a weekend like this one, the overall winner was – sportscar and GT racing. Thank heavens though, that the Spa clouds didn’t descend any lower.

 

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