Hugh Hayden’s Sebah Automotive In 2004
”Only One Regret”
taken us until November to catch up with the achievements of Hugh
Hayden and his Sebah Automotive team during 2004 – but it’s
a story well worth telling, with an interesting scenario building
up for 2005.
In a nutshell, we had
a small team, running a chassis built in 2000, taking on a host
of bigger outfits running 2004 chassis (GT3-RSRs and 360 GTCs) –
but the little guys won the 2004 LMES Teams Championship, and as
a result, Sebah Automotive has a guaranteed Le Mans entry next June.
The prompt to get in
touch with Hugh Hayden was that his superbly successful car is now
for sale, to make way for a 2005 RSR. So what would a purchaser
of this car get for their money (£85,000 + VAT), Hugh?
had the chassis stiffened and strengthened by Ricardo, and we upgraded
it to full 2003 RS geometry, so it’s equivalent to a 2003
RS, and basically we’ve kept right on top of it throughout
the year. We did no testing outside of each meeting, but thanks
to the personnel looking after it, we had a very good baseline set-up
for each meeting, and the team paid very close attention to detail.
“When Marc Lieb
drove it at Spa, he was extremely complimentary about the car. He
suggested that if we put some factory Michelins on it and went to
the ALMS, we’d have given the very best cars over there a
run for their money. We were clocked at 217 kph through Eau Rouge,
which is a pretty impressive speed, isn’t it?”
for this month were to either go to Bahrain for the GT Festival,
or to prepare the Porsche for a potential buyer, and then start
building towards next year: he chose the latter.
“This would be
a fantastic car for the British GT Championship, but as a 2003 spec.
car, it would still make a great car for the LMES. We could run
it for someone else in the LMES – because our plan is to purchase
a 2005 RSR.
“Our future revolves
around our secure entry for Le Mans next year – and the four
or five LMES races. I believe we’ll know the finalised calendar
by the time of the LMES gala dinner in Paris on December 3.”
perhaps be a ‘flyaway’ LMES event in October next year?
We’ll have to wait and see.
So how did you prepare
for the first year of the LMES?
“Well, we had to
find the right premises: circumstances dictated that we had the
James Tomkins had been
a key man with Steve O’Rourke’s EMKA team at its base
at Wallis Wood, near Dorking, but the sad circumstances there dictated
that James was available for this year.
“James and Joe
Lewis are the full-time staff: the others are self-employed, but
on first call, if you like, with us. James has rebuilt the engines
this year, and been in charge of the mechanicals. He’s also
been building engines for other significant teams, but the reliability
we’ve had in 2004 has been down to the attention to detail
that has been applied to the car.”
If the team had a motto,
it would presumably be something like “old-fashioned care
and attention to detail”.
So with such a successful
chassis, why the change?
“To attract the
level of support we need, I came to the conclusion that we could
only approach corporate backers if we had the very latest specification
of car. Now I’ve just got to make all that happen for 2005.”
Bearing in mind the spec.
of the existing car – plus all that attention to detail (“We
completely stripped the car after every race, and no expense was
spared in preparation. It’s the only way to ensure the greatest
level of certainty that it will get the job done.”) –
and the driver talent that drove for Sebah, perhaps it should have
come as no surprise that this small team arrived at Spa in September
with a very good chance of taking the GT Teams award. JMB led on
21, with Sebah on 20, Freisinger with 14 and Cirtek 13. The two
RSR runners had both had a no score (as well as a win each), while
the leading two teams had scored in all three races (Sebah managed
a fifth and two seconds, against a win, a second and a sixth for
45 minutes at Spa early on,” remembers Hugh Hayden, “when
a lump of rubber knocked off the electrical master switch. Marc
Lieb and Xavier Pompidou then drove faultlessly, and we were third
in the last hour – but Marc had to throttle back to save fuel.
We didn’t have a margin over the Farnbacher Porsche to pit
for even five seconds’ worth of fuel, because it’s such
a long pit lane at Spa.
This image is
from earlier in the race.
“Every lap we were
recalculating the gap to the #81 car, with Patrick Long at the wheel,
but we knew that Marc had the speed. The radio transmissions were
like Terry Wogan’s show for the last 40 minutes: I had two
guys on laptops recalculating the position every lap, and I was
feeding the information to Marc. Patrick Long wouldn’t have
got past though….”
The margin at
the end was less than a second, but third was enough to take the
title, by a single point. Fourth wouldn’t have been enough.
“Marc and Xavier
were a fantastic pairing, and I’d love to use Xavier next
year. The situation is rather different for Marc, as a factory driver,
but Xavier – well, he’s almost like family.
Masarati (right), Marino Franchitti and my son Bart all
drove for us this year, and they all played their part. Porsche
couldn’t have been more helpful and approachable, and we had
Marc in the car because they wanted to win the championship. Piers
and Marino were both fast, reliable and consistent, but you always
need the commercial element.”
Hugh Hayden is a great
fan of the LMES.
“It had a fantastic
foundation in its first year: the ACO has got something really special.”
he loves “the whole mix of classes – it’s what
gives the races their special ‘aroma’. There’s
good camaraderie between the drivers in the different classes…
of course the odd driver is a little naughty, but you need the mix
of prototypes and GT cars.
formula is the right formula, but I’d like to see them make
more of a show for the public – in the way the ALMS does it
“The public isn’t
necessarily completely knowledgeable about the four classes, and
we need to distinguish them, perhaps with something as simple as
different coloured ‘windscreen’ strips. The ALMS also
aims to keep the races on fixed weekends, yet we’re expecting
to start with Spa next year – in April, when it’s likely
to be wet. We’ve got to get bums on seats.
“If I had one regret
about 2004, it was that we didn’t manage a race win: I would
have loved to have won one of the races.”
But Sebah Automotive
did beat the 2004 Porsches and Ferraris to the title, with its immaculately
prepared (and driven) 2000 GT3-R (updated to 2003 RS spec.). What
has 2005 in store for this modest, charming man, and his little
(0) 7801 259472 (if you’re interested in the championship