Vergers In Turkey
”Sometimes The Conditions Make Things Happen For A Driver”
We’d aimed to catch up with Michael Vergers
sooner than this – after his stunning drive at Istanbul.
“But I put my ‘phone down in the departure
lounge at Gatwick, just before flying to the south of France –
and when I boarded the plane, I realised I didn’t have it.
Fortunately, someone had spotted it and handed it in, so I was able
to collect it when I returned yesterday (Thursday, April 20).”
He headed to
France in his other role – as a driver coach. “A young
Spanish driver I look after, Dani Clos, was testing his Formula
Renault at Paul Ricard this week. This is something I’ve been
doing for many years: Dan Wheldon, Katherine Legge, Dan Malkin,
even a little bit with Jenson Button. I do it differently from other
people – I concentrate on a driver’s mental attitude.
If he (or she) has got the talent, the driving should look after
So what about
Istanbul, and Michael’s drive in the Barazi-Epsilon Courage?
He modestly suggests that “the conditions
sometimes make things happen for a driver. We started on wets, because
the Michelin technicians said that was the best way to go.”
In the early
commotion, the #32 Courage was fifth overall at the end of lap 1,
then third at the end of lap 2 – “I passed Gounon under
braking into Turn 7. He just dropped back after that” –
chasing after the Creation and RfH hybrids. “They must have
been on harder wets….”
Joao Barbosa passed Vergers for the P2 lead on lap
4, “but I made the decision to pit very early, because my
fronts had gone, and I was getting a lot of understeer. But the
radio wasn’t working properly. I asked them to click the radio
button twice if they understood that I wanted to come in, and I
heard the two clicks, so I was the first man in for new rubber,
at the end of lap 6.”
That dropped the Barazi-Epsilon Courage outside
the top ten – but not for long: Vergers was on another charge.
Only Gounon was faster than the black, white and
red Courage at this stage (not always though), and that early stop
was paying massive dividends. Once Minassian stopped for slicks,
he was into the 1:46s, but Vergers was lapping in 1:47, and on lap
16 he passed the #37 Belmondo Courage (yet to pit) for the P2 lead.
Didier Andre was still out on his wets, and the
lap time difference between these two cars was typically nine seconds
at this stage. Andre pitted after 18 laps – and we were now
set for the #32 Courage AER to lead the whole of the rest of the
P2 race… helped in no small part by Vergers’ pace. He
set the fastest race lap (so far) on lap 20, a 1:46.422 –
15 thousandths quicker than Collard’s nineteenth lap, and
about 0.15 quicker than Minassian’s thirteenth. The Creation
driver would soon be into the high 1:43s.. but Vergers was romping
away from everyone in P2 (although the Radical was faster on some
laps – but after that car’s early delay, the gap between
these two grew from just about four minutes on lap 11 to four minutes
and nine seconds on lap 24).
never been done before Michael – no one has ever led P2 in
the Le Mans Series for virtually the whole race. “Hasn’t
it? I didn’t know that.”
The Ed.’s race notes reveal an interesting
fact: that on lap 22, with the gap between Minassian and Collard
just 0.094 for the overall lead (and Vergers just eight seconds
behind them in third – with the next car along being the PSI
Corvette C6.R in fourth, 60 seconds behind Minassian [it started
on slicks]), the gaps in the other classes were as follows:
P2 Vergers to Rostan 78 seconds
GT1 Menten to Lamy 54 seconds
GT2 de Simone to Bleekemolen 60 seconds.
Whatever was about to happen to the race length
in Turkey, this was already an extraordinary endurance race.
Michael Vergers was the only class leader (who had
pulled out a big gap on his rivals) without the advantage of starting
on slicks. .. and he had a misfire.
Without the dramas afflicting RML and Rollcentre,
it would have been a different opening phase in the P2 race, but
boy did Michael Vergers ‘go for it’.
“We’d had endless problems with the
wiring on Friday – and really these carried over from Sebring,
where we’d struggled to finish. It was a slightly different
problem in Turkey, and we only really cured it in qualifying on
Saturday afternoon (#32 was third quickest in P2 with a 1:43.820,
behind Erdos (1:42.336) and Barbosa (1:43.359).
“But then it came back for the race –
although it didn’t cost us a lot of time. It came in at 5,200
revs, so as long as you kept the revs up, beyond that, it wasn’t
a problem. It was a problem at the tight turn 1 though, where we’d
be stuttering and the GT1s would come past.
is adamant that it’s not an engine problem, so we’ve
now commissioned a separate wiring loom for the engine and paddle
shift – we’ve been running without the paddle shift
until now. The AER four cylinder has been extremely reliable, and
it produces fantastic power: we’re very pleased with it.”
Michel Lecomte and his Epsilon mechanics had been
working long hours on the wiring loom – both in Florida and
Turkey – but the permanent fix seems to be in place for Spa.
Back to the race – and Vergers completed his
Turkish Delight after 70 laps at the wheel (with a refuelling stop
after 36 laps).
The Radical had cut the gap to three and a half
minutes at this stage, but #32 was second overall, after the retirement
of the Creation.
“Juan’s business commitments, plus the
travelling time for the car (to Sebring, back to Europe then on
to Istanbul) haven’t allowed any testing time, but he’s
getting more used to the downforce and braking. He did a great job
at Istanbul though: he knows he can go faster, but he concentrated
on keeping it going.
“Then Jean-Philippe Belloc finished the race.
He fitted in extremely well, and we’d like to keep him in
the car for the whole season. The engineers put him on a different
engine map (a “wet” one) for the last stint, to try
and overcome the misfire, so he was a little down on the power that
Juan and I had had. “
By that stage
of the race, there was no threat from behind, the Radical still
being a minute and three-quarters behind – and then sadly,
after 120 laps, Tim Greaves pulled off, leaving the Pilbeam to take
second in class, and Ed Morris to take third in the next best placed
Look at Michael
Vergers' body language (fourth from the left) on the podium - with
Epsilon's Christophe (the tall guy) showing more 'victory emotion'
than either Jean-Philippe Belloc or Juan Barazi.
So P2 cars took second overall at Sebring and Istanbul.
Neither the Intersport nor Barazi-Epsilon cars were the fastest
in their class, but both entries had superb runs (over 12 and four
hours respectively). Jon Field had stormed through the field, from
the back, in the opening stint at Sebring, while Michael Vergers
had done it rather differently – from the front.
What did he say at Istanbul, on Saturday? “We’re
not looking to win the first race – we do want to win by the
last race though.”
He and the whole
team were ecstatic after the Turkish win, “but if we can win
the championship, we’ll be even happier.”