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Never A Dull Moment


Photography by David Lord
In just seven short years (no pun intended) Rollcentre Racing has gone from being a frontrunner in the then booming TVR Tuscan Challenge to the just announced 2007 programme, which should see the team at the very front of the Le Mans Series pack in an LMP1 Pescarolo. Here’s a look back at the last seven years… PS Sad bastards that we are at dsc, at least one of us has seen almost every race contested by this man and his team since Spring 2000. Does that make us Martin Short groupies?
 
2000        
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Debut At Croft...
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...In The Gravel
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Racing Against The Porsches
         
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A Great Race At Brands Hatch
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Heading For Victory At Spa....
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... And Tears Of Joy On The Podium, As Barffy Whips Up The Crowd
         
Martin Short had already had a sniff of GT racing with outings in both the original GT1 TVR Speed 12 in British GTs and a (then) one-off run in the FIA GT Championship aboard a Dodge Viper, but after five years in the Tuscans, it was time to step up permanently. And it was from here that the pattern was established – never obvious, never boring, always a crowd pleaser.

The weapon of choice in GT2 might have been a regular Porsche 911 GT3R in 2000 - but Rollcentre chose nothing so predictable. Instead, its self-built TVR Cerbera Speed 6 made its debut and immediately made an impact in more ways than one – Martin Short and Rob Barff showing immediate pace before an accident on the car’s Croft debut.

The Cerbera showed pace for the remainder of the year with fastest laps and pole positions – and then finally an epic victory at Spa, thus becoming the first car in the class worldwide to beat the Porsches.

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2001        
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Putting the Tuscan R On The Racing Map
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Leading Tim Sugden
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Waving A Wheel At Knockhill
         
2001 saw the introduction of the TVR Tuscan R, the team scoring two British GT race wins - and also paying a flying visit to Suzuka for the 1000kms, where the Tuscan finished second in class.
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 2002        
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Dabbling With A Ferrari (And The Ladies) At Le Mans
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2002 BGT Media Day
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That Doctored Image Of Simon Pullan In The TVR At Dingle Dell - Even Shorty Was Taken In! Priceless! "I'll ******* kill him for doing that in my car"
         
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Door Trouble
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A Lot Of Little Cerberas
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Cerbera At Spa
         
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Rollcentre!
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The Start Of The Longest-Running Rollcentre Programme
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Mosler Debut In The UK, Donington Park
         
2002 saw a planned run by Shorty in the Rolex 24 aboard a Mosler MT900 (about which more later!) abandoned in favour of a Konrad Saleen, whilst back in Europe Rollcentre helped to take the Cerbera Speed 6 (by now in the hands of a new Belgian owner) to the first 24 hour race finish for a TVR in 51 years. Still in Belgium there was a class win in the Zolder Belcar race in a brand new Mosler MT900R, the first International win for the marque.

Mosler had been unveiled as the Rollcentre squad’s new weapon of choice with a race appearance in the final British GT race of the season at Donington Park, alongside the Tuscan R which was still grappling for the championship (for Short and Simon Pullan). After a topsy turvy season which saw the team take four race wins, misfortune at Donington Park saw Rollcentre finish the season third in the Championship.

A huge crash in an Oulton Park downpour, then a factory rebuild that wasn't up to scratch, meant that a deserved BGT title slipped away.

One epic Short story that year was the driver change on the pit straight at Silverstone. And he got away with it!

The adventures for the year weren’t over yet though: the Mosler was flown out to Australia and Rollcentre had a fabulous run in pursuit of the Holden Monaro, finishing second overall for the team’s second (and Shorty’s third) 24 hour race finish of the season.

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2003        
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Short, Pearce & Herridge At The Spa 24
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Brief Run
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Balfe Against Rollcentre At Knockhill - Shaun Craftily Fitted A Different Wing To The Balfe Car
         
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Morgan Short Wonders Why Daddy Is So Happy - Tom Herridge Is British GT Champion
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In Fred Goddard's Reynard - A Precursor To The Prototype Era
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Andrew Marriott About To Interview Martin Short
         
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Bathurst In The Rain - Second Visit
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Down Under In Darkness, Avoiding The 'Roos
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Taped Up For The Finish
         
2003 saw Rollcentre start the year with a two car Mosler entry for the Rolex 24 Hours, finishing 3rd and 4th in class.

Rollcentre’s main effort though was focused on the British GT Championship. Tom Herridge was joined by Rob Barff for much of the early part of the season and by Martin Short for the later races (after Shorty returned from an FIA GT campaign).

There was disappointment at the Spa 24 hours mid season with a very early retirement for the Mosler, but major consolation at the Spa 1000km: an epic battle between the Rollcentre and Balfe Motorsport Moslers went right down to the wire, in a race which saw a mixed British GT and FIA SCC grid. Joao Barbosa joined the Rollcentre team for this one and his battle with Balfe’s ‘supersub’ Thomas Erdos was one which will be long remembered, the Rollcentre man finally emerging victorious after the Balfe car coughed on the very last lap, low on fuel, when victory seemed certain. That set up a three way battle for the title at Brands Hatch which saw the Balfe car eliminated very early on and the Eclipse TVR falling foul of a spinning backmarker – Herridge was British GT Champion and Rollcentre claimed its first GT title.

Another fine run in what ultimately became the last (for now at least) Bathurst 24 hour race propped up a fine season for the team - but not for Martin Short himself.

His final outing was aboard a Fred Goddard Racing Reynard Judd in the inaugural LMES race at a wintry Le Mans Bugatti circuit: with Deutsche Bank sponsorship up front and a Reynard V10 in the back, this wouldn’t be the last time we saw that combination.

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2004        
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Fanny In The Noble
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Deserved A Win At Thruxton
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Sebring - Back In 2007?
         
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Who Luvs Ya Baby? We Luv Ya!
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Joao Barbosa At Spa
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Pat Pearce Heading For A Big One At Spa
         
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Short And...
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... Barbosa At Silverstone
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Seventh Fastest At Le Mans
         
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Showing Off A Valued Sponsor At Le Mans
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Barff At Le Mans
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Is This The Right Line Martin?
         
2004 saw several steps forward.

The close season purchase of a pair of the ex ORECA Dallara Judds was the first and most significant one - with the Mosler continuing in British GTs alongside another new marque to the fold, a Noble M12 GTO3R for the GT Cup class in the British Championship.

The first race outing for the Dallara – 2004 would see only one car run by the team - was at Sebring, and a mightily impressive start it was too. The Short, Barbosa and Barff entry finished in fifth place overall at one of the most punishing races on the planet.

In the LMES Patrick Pearce replaced Barff and the Dallara ran fast and reliably - before a violent shunt at Eau Rouge brought the curtain down on the season.

At Le Mans the Rollcentre Dallara had been mighty for Short, Barbosa and Barff, running fourth on pace for hour after hour and higher still in the order when others hit trouble ….until a punt from Seb Bourdais in (of all things!) a Pescarolo pushed Short off track just a few laps before something broke at the rear of the car in the very worst place possible, throwing Shorty into the wall at the Porsche Curves – game over. He wasn’t happy.

In Britain it was a trying year, with the Mosler somewhat off the pace and the Noble completing what was very much a development programme. There were however podium finishes for both cars during the season, Short posting one himself aboard the Noble, ensuring that he continued the notable achievement of having scored a podium in every car thus far campaigned by the team.

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2005        
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Two Cars At Le Mans
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Michael Krumm
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The Big Time, The Big Wheel
         
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Wet...
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...Or Wet...
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.. Or Dry, Those Dallaras Were Fabulous Cars
         
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Britcar....
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... 24 Hours...
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... Winners!
         
On to 2005 - and another surprise was in store with the announcement that both Dallaras would contest the LMES, including the revelation that one car would be fitted not with the trusty Judd V10 but rather with a Nissan turbo V6: never predictable these chaps!

It was a brave move but the combination proved an unreliable one from its debut at Sebring through both the LMES and, with dreadful luck, at Le Mans too. By the latter part of the season it was back to Judd power for both cars.

The other car had been flying from the start of the season: three podia on the trot started the season in the LMES, with Vanina Ickx showing form that would earn her an Audi seat in the DTM for 2006. Consistency kept Rollcentre in the title hunt almost until the end of the season, the #8 car scoring points in every round - Ickx and Short driving with either Barff or later Barbosa adding some extra spice to the mix, easily enough to catch the eye of the ACO who recognise a well run car when they see one. The LMES good luck would desert #8 as well as #88 at Le Mans though: a top 20 finish was not what the team expected or hoped for but it was their first race finish at the 24 hours, a huge achievement in itself.

Back at home, Rollcentre was absent from the British GT Championship for the first time in half a decade but still came home with some significant domestic silverware with the overall win in the inaugural Britcar 24 hours at Sliverstone.

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2006        
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Radical Debut...
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..At Istanbul
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Radical Hits Le Mans, And Finishes
         
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Barbosa On Dunlops, Under The Bridge
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At Arnage
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Mosler GT3 Makes Its Debut At The Britcar 24 Hours
         
2006 saw the start of yet another adventure, and another new marque to the St Ives roll of honour - as the launch customer for the Peter Elleray-designed Radical SR9 LMP2 car.

The black beauty was fast straight out of the box, very fast, Joao Barbosa coming very close indeed to leading the race overall at Istanbul, on the car’s debut. Shorty’s love affair with the SR9 got off to a flying start as he set a fabulous fourth fastest time, overall, in the car’s first ever official session.

The SR9 was fast everywhere but the team’s luck was dire. Le Mans was no exception to that chain, the car running superbly in the opening hours, well inside the top 10 but suffering problems that left the car too far down the order for a meaningful attack.

For truly awful luck though even that had to doff its cap to Donington Park, where a ring gear problem robbed the team of what looked like a certain class win with just minutes remaining.

That meant that the team ended the year with just one podium finish, at the Nurburgring, well below what the team expected and a series of results which belied the massive potential of the Radical.

Back at home and the team was back in the domestic GT Championship running a customer Mosler and again scoring regular podium finishes. Short’s other role as Mosler’s European distributor was beginning to kick in nicely, with the number of MT900Rs running in Europe now running into double figures.

And so to 2007! Judd in the back, Deutsche Bank on the front - how will the boys from Cambridgeshire deal with the coming challenge of the factory LMP1 challengers next season. Time will tell, but once again there will be drama and stories aplenty: that’s what we’ve had every year since the Rollcentre story began.


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