24 – Rollcentre’s Rolex – Eight Guys In The
Martin Short’s ‘short’ career racing
Moslers has been remarkably successful within a few ‘short’ months.
With no ‘shortage’ of space to tell the Rollcentre
Rolex story, we tell it all here – or rather Martin himself
does. But you might choose to print this one off! We’d hoped
to post this a week earlier….
going to begin at the beginning, we’d better go back
to the Petit Le Mans last autumn. My faithful sponsor Deutsche
Bank were keen to support me doing the 10 hour race, in a Saleen – but
my wife Michelle and I really believed that I should have been
in the no. 1 car, and in the end that deal didn’t happen.
We agreed that I’d be better off using the money that
would have been spent there buying a spare engine to go to
Bathurst, with the Mosler.
proved that we could get a Mosler to the finish of a 24 hour
race, and with two cars at Daytona, we were sure that by running
at a conservative pace, we would be in with a good chance of
a podium. Although we’d entered and finished at Bathurst
and Spa, we’re realistic enough to know that as a team,
we’re not experienced enough to compete with the big
dogs, those going for class wins – or better.
So both of
our Daytona cars would be raced at a reasonable pace. I did
have an idea that we’d have a ‘fast’ car
and a ‘slow’ car, but that would hardly have been
fair to the drivers in the ‘slow’ car. As it turned
out, Goodyear couldn’t supply us with a GT-spec. tyre,
so both cars would run with the bigger tyres, and the #30 would
also run with the bigger engine.
Once I started
telling people about a plan to enter Daytona (one car at this
stage), I had 12 drivers who wanted to do it! Warren Mosler
made sure there was a car I could use: typical Warren, he was
keener for us to race a second car than to sell it to a customer,
for racing later.
But you know
how things change….when it came down to it, 12 suddenly
became four (plus myself). Rob Barff was one of them, and he’s
got a great backer behind him, the Cobra Group, and knowing
Rob as I do, it was natural to have him in charge of the second
car. John Burton was actually the first to sign with us, while
Andy Britnell gave me his word at the TVR Dinner. He just asked
how much and agreed to drive there and then.
thing was though, Andy ended up selling his business, and found
that he needed to be in the UK on the Friday of race week:
he e-mailed me to say he couldn’t do the race. I never
got the e-mail, fortunately. When we spoke on the phone, by
which time he’d realised he could still do the race,
he reckoned he could hear the blood draining out of my face
when I suddenly realised that he was contemplating dropping
had already signed up, but with four weeks to go, I still needed
three drivers. I was committed to two cars, I was sure that
we had a better chance of a podium than if we were in the GT
class, and I was pushing that point to potential drivers. I
was being offered $10,000, but was determined to stick to my
guns – although I was getting more and more nervous.
I was still sure I would get the right drivers, at the right
to the five of us who were down to drive, it was important
to have drivers of the right calibre. Then Richard Stanton
agreed to drive with us, and with two weeks to go, David Shep
phoned from Canada: we hit it off straight away, so now we
needed only one.
were circling once we arrived at the track, hoping to get in
the seat for a pinch, and I really couldn't afford it, and
then Rick Sutherland arrived. John Burton knew him and we got
on just great. Rick was hoping to make his ninth start in the
race…a race he'd never finished. He saw the set up we
had, the spares and backing from Mosler and was duly sold,
and we were really pleased to have him on board. It turned
out that I was offering him a chance at a podium that was soon
to become a reality.
Bathurst car going straight to Moslers from Australia, it needed
a full rebuild, so I sent five of our blokes out to Florida,
on January 10. They stripped it to the tub, installed the bigger
engine for a bit more grunt, rebuilt the gearbox, everything.
They also helped the factory guys with preparing the #31 car,
which was a year old, but for whatever reason had never been
raced. It had just done a few tests, and was essentially a
problem the guys had was fitting the diffusers, which were
actually works of art. We had to run with the ‘Daytona’ wing
of course, and two of those cost $3,600. The guys had one day
off from January 10, and just about got everything finished
late in the evening, the night before leaving for the track.
we were – 9.30 Wednesday morning, unloading at the Speedway.
I knew from the previous year (in the Saleen) how crucial the
time scale is at Daytona: you can’t afford to have a
problem, and the time factor ended up getting me really stressed
Once we took
to the track on Thursday, it was apparent that both cars were
being ‘difficult’ on the Goodyears. For whatever
reason, the Konrad Saleen was fine, and we knew the Perspective
car had been great on Dunlops here in the past – but
here we were on the back foot already.
definitely lost out on ultimate pace by not doing the Test
Days, but that would have doubled the cost. We were effectively
five seconds off Perspective in qualifying, and three seconds
off in the race – but we were going about it differently
from them. They had four professional hard chargers, and were
going at it much harder than us.
I saw some
in-car footage of the Buckler 911 on the banking, and the driver
kept one hand on the gear lever all the way round: he didn’t
return it to the wheel after any of the gear shifts. And here
we were struggling to tune the car in to the Goodyears – using
both hands all the way.
spend more time tuning the car in, or give the drivers more
time at the wheel? That was an easy one…I was the only
one of the eight of us to have driven a Mosler before! So let’s
tune the drivers in to the car and the circuit, and leave me
to get stressed about tuning the car in.
My #30 was
being a little difficult anyway: it was running 10 degrees
hot on all the gauges, and we’d melted a gear shift cable
as a result. We had no choice but to take the diffuser off
the #30 car, and that cost us two seconds a lap. But if we’d
kept it on, we could have cooked everything, so that was an
#31 was meanwhile
running perfect temperatures. I left it up to the four drivers
to decide whether to keep the diffuser on or take it off that
car, and having tried the car without, it was easy for them
to decide to leave it on! Quite right too – they had
no problems with temperatures throughout the race.
more downforce, they had more (rear) grip and…used less
(front) brakes. On the #30 car, we ended up changing (front)
discs once and pads twice. On the #31, they were using the
rear brakes much better than we were, which saved their front
brakes. But their rears were down to 2mm of pad left at the
end, which caused Rob a concern or two in the last stint.
more or less everything that happened up to the start of the
race – and although we’d had our difficulties,
I was aware that Perspective were changing an engine…..almost
right up to the start.
hour and ten minutes, we were second in class! The way it started,
it couldn’t have gone better for the #30. I’d started,
the economy was excellent, and at 70 minutes, with almost everyone
else having pitted, a yellow came out, I pitted, Tom (Herridge)
took over, and we were second in GTS. That happened again – at
least once – and somehow we were four or five laps up
on our #31, and I was thinking that if it carries on like this,
things could be looking very good indeed.
Then at five
hours we had a wheel bearing fail. It was the left rear, and
it looks as though the peculiarities of the Daytona banking
had been dragging the wheel across the track, and loading up
the inner edge of the bearing, an unusual situation. We’d
developed a stop gap measure to beef up the bearings as soon
as we’d got hold of this car last autumn, but since Daytona,
we’ve developed a proper fix, with help from Glebe Engineering
in the UK and Mosler Automotive.
I found out
later that Perspective were tightening up the bearing nut at
every second pit stop, to save them having problems, and we
Then in the
ninth hour, we had an outer CV joint fail. One of the ‘fixes’ we’d
put in place was to fit a GKN CV joint, instead of having the
output shaft and CV joint as one unit, but we think the CV
failed because we’d had a couple of spins, maybe with
the driver’s foot on the brake. One joint failed, and
then the other – at about 11pm and 3am.
first CV joint went, I was back at the motorhome – we
were prepared, we had two! – listening to the radio,
and heard that Tom was being towed in. I hurried back to the
pit, and watched Luke and the lads doing a brilliant job to
replace it. We did a pad change at the same time.
I was in
the motorhome when the second one went, but felt there was
no need for me to be there watching the repair – so I
left them to it. I got about an hour and a half’s kip,
snuggling up to Michelle and Morgan, then I was ready to go
for the dawn stint at 5.30. It was lovely, just fabulous. I
did it last year too, in the Saleen.
our problems, we were going to need other cars to have problems,
including our sister car, and we didn’t want that. Perspective
were pounding round, the #46 Morgan Dollar Corvette was still
looking immaculate with only a quarter of the race left – so
for us in #30, maybe a podium was out of our reach.
the car running faultlessly at dawn, I was trying to get some
time back…then I thought, what’s the point of a
second or two here and there? We just had to keep going, and
we inched up the order from sixth to fifth, then the Saleen
had problems at 11am and we were fourth.
With 90 minutes
to go, I hopped in for the last time, just as the Saleen went
back out, two laps down on us. I pushed as hard as I dared,
and we both pitted for a splash of fuel with 45 minutes to
go. We gained about 18 seconds on them then – I think
they did a driver change – and although they came past
me once, I knew they had to pass me twice more, and they weren’t
going to do that.
Rob was in
#31, and he’d backed right off because his rear pads
were so low, so I passed him three times. I’m not sure
if I’d have been so cautious in that situation, but supposing
I’d been in that car, and had gone for second place…it
might have all gone wrong, so Rob did the right thing. Especially
as I found out today that a tooth was missing from the gearbox
pinion! All credit to Hewland, the box didn’t fail, even
#30 car had the air jacks fail at six hours, so we had to jack
it up NASCAR-style after that. Then the radio played up, it
was the #30 that had all the niggles.
I left Car
31’s drivers to decide what length stints they would
do, and they decided on an hour at a time. We stuck to an hour
and ten minutes, and I felt that if they'd gone for longer
stints they could have been in contention for the win - maybe.
They were only 5 laps behind the winning Perspective car at
I was disappointed for us in #30 not to be on the podium, it
was great to see the #31 drivers up there, especially for Rick
Sutherland, after nine attempts at a finish. And perhaps ‘my’ car
finishing behind the sister car is good for business anyway.
Running two cars the way we did was the right way to go about
was different this year, obviously, and from a personal point
of view, yes, it was better for me and my team. I had £300,000
worth of equipment out there, with some inexperienced drivers,
so it was better not to have the SRPs wanging past: that was
a great relief.
And the TV
coverage last year was all prototypes. This year, there was
much better coverage of all the classes, although of course
I’d have to admit that the SRPs did add to the spectacle.
They’re the true spirit of sportscar racing. Disregarding
the spectators for a moment, because I do this for my enjoyment,
for the enjoyment of my drivers, and as a business, it was
safer this year, and we had a better chance of a good result.
But the SRPs did make it a grander event. The Daytona Prototypes
were not as quick as no doubt Grand Am hope for, and I don't
really like the egg shape that they have. I am not sure how
expensive they end up at, but the Mosler at $230,000 has got
to be a good buy….and look how pretty it is!
got some work to do though. With the car as it is, we just
can’t wear out the tyres. We still had the mould lines
visible on the front tyres after six or seven stints. I don’t
think we used more than ten sets throughout the meeting, on
found the secret to making the car go quicker when we start
wearing out the tyres. But we've had no time with our Rollcentre
car: look what we've done with it. We ran it at Donington park,
with no testing. Then we took it to Zolder, got a finish, shipped
it to Australia, got a finish, shipped it to Florida, rebuilt
it and raced it and got another finish. 4 races from two cars,
with 4 finishes and 3 podiums. We've learned a huge amount
about it just by racing it.
My car and
Shaun Balfe's car are now back in the UK, and we've got a number
of changes planned - and some time to test them before the
British season starts. I know the car looks quick, but it hasn't
had the development that the Tuscan R or the Porsche GT3R has
had, and we are going to have to work hard over the next few
weeks to be there.
announced that Tom Herridge is my partner for the British season,
so we won’t go into any more detail there. But Tom did
a great job at Daytona, he’s fitter than a butcher’s
dog – and still complained about the heat in the car.
With no windows, somehow the hot air swirls into the car and
stays there. But he didn’t put a foot wrong.
gave it his all. He was very quick, he earned the respect of
the other drivers, and I think he’s going to get a high
profile drive in America as a result….
Richard Stanton was a really solid performer, and could go almost as
quickly as Rob, although perhaps not for as long.
was very nervous about the whole event. This was his first
endurance race, and although his brother and a mate came out
with him, he kept the partying to a minimum, and enjoyed himself
enormously. He couldn’t thank me enough afterwards.
Well, Michelle liked him straight away, and that’s always
a good sign. We agreed a deal almost instantly, and Rick’s
reaction was “Let’s do this thing.” It was
fantastic to see him on the podium.
is a lovely chap, he’s got a lot of great history behind
him, he was well prepared – and he brought his own physio
with him. Richard was a great help to us all. John struggled
initially with the lack of downforce, but that’s understandable.
He did a really solid job.
is a top bloke. I signed him up after a phone call, he was
a great team player and he knew exactly what he had to do – and
he did it. And his wife is another Michelle!
And my star
pit crew were marvellous, with guys and gals joining our team
from the UK, Belgium, Barbados, Australia and Mosler USA as
well, we had a truly multinational feel. With nearly 40 people
there it was a logistical nightmare, but my old mucker Colin
managed to keep everything in check, and Warren Mosler made
sure that we had all the help we could get from the factory.
And of course Michelle coped with feeding and pandering 8 drivers
through the 24 hours, and also somehow managed to feed and
pamper 13 month old Morgan! Incredible!
everybody that made it happen.
we will push that bit harder….
I'm Martin Short.