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.
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
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
“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?
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’
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
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
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.