K2 Race Engineering – “Doing It Right”
Mike Pilbeam has been a little puzzled this year: no, not regarding his Pilbeam designs, and not regarding the 2004 regulations either. Rather that Mike Pilbeam cannot work out why a team has one of his cars ready to go, but it hasn’t been racing yet.

dailysportscar.comLast weekend and the 1000 Km at Le Mans – a remarkable event in many ways, and one that should turn out to be a very significant turning point in European endurance racing. The race featured an unusual collection of prototypes, but it didn’t feature this immaculately prepared one - the K2 Race Engineering Pilbeam MP84.

Why not, Mark Winsor (PR Manager)?

“The initial plan this year was to race in the FIA Sportscar Championship, but once we realised how that series was evolving, we had to take a very tough decision – not to race in 2003.

“Some might suggest that we’ve been treading water, but we haven’t. We’ve spent the last six months or more gearing up to 2004. It was very hard – deciding not to race this year – and sticking with it – but we were very concerned that we could create a negative effect with our main sponsor. We didn’t want them to see small grids and small crowds.

“But as the months passed we went from worrying about having made the wrong decision, to an absolute belief that we had made the right decision.”

Of course, the team was watching the evolution of the LMES – and there’s a conviction among all the team members now that 2004 is going to be the start of something very significant for prototype racing in Europe.

dailysportscar.com“It’s that connection with Le Mans,” explains Mark Winsor. “We can already see that the momentum is building for prototypes in Europe, and we firmly believe that we’re very well placed.”

That statement is based on having Pilbeam MP84 (soon to be MP91 – with aerodynamic upgrades and more power) chassis 006 sitting in the immaculate K2 workshop, a car that has already competed at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

But here’s the conundrum: race in last weekend’s Le Mans 1000 Km in some intermediate specification, or show a little more patience and gear up towards a full scale LMP2 effort in 2004?

Simon Type, Team Manager: “We’ve got the AER three litre Nissan-based engine in the car now, but AER and Judd have given us several options for an engine specification for next year. Even now, we can’t make the decision on engine spec, and won’t be able to until we have the 2004 ACO regs. in our hands. However, we’re currently looking at a 3.2 AER unit for next year, which based on what we know now, is the best option for us in LMP2.

dailysportscar.com“Regarding the chassis, and thanks to keeping very close to Mike Pilbeam, we’re as sure as we can be (without definitive regs.) on the chassis details for the new class. But we couldn’t justify one race in the car’s current format, and then rework it over the winter. What would be the point? Much of what we learned would go out of the window.

“We know how good this chassis is now, but we’ve got to work towards 2004 – and of course we have been all year.”

So it’s been frustrating, but there’s a calm determination about this outfit: how many other race teams decide not to race for a season? How many others take a long-term view?

“We’re very fortunate,” says Mark Winsor. “Thorneycroft Asset Management, our principal sponsor, has been prepared to support us through this year. But we’re not just looking to 2004: we genuinely have a ten year plan, and we know where we want to be in ten years’ time.”

They’re different, aren’t they, the partners at K2? And having a year to prepare is actually a very rare thing for a race team.

“The car is as ready to go as we can make it now,” says Simon Type. “We know we’ve got the best Pilbeam we could possibly have, and even more so with the delays over new LMP2 cars, we’re sure we’re going to have the ideal package for the first season of the new regs.”

K2, what’s that then? “It’s the inspiration of the mountain, not as high as Everest, but much harder to climb,” explains Mark. “Everest is now ‘tourism’, K2 remains the toughest challenge.”

Pilbeam 006 is absolutely immaculate, and with Mike Pilbeam’s very clear understanding of what happens to the regulations next year, the man from Bourne will soon be very clear why K2 Race Engineering has taken ‘a year off’.

Are you going to Sebring, Mark Winsor? “We’re not going to say definitely, because we’re looking at the four LMES races first, to establish ourselves, but we would like to be on the grid in Florida. Some people know how well we present ourselves (after a very successful Radical season in 2002). We’re planning to make sure that a lot more people do in 2004. We’re aiming for the highest standards in everything we do.”

It shows Mark Winsor, it really shows.




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