The 23rd and 24th April 2016 was to be the opening round of the 2016 GT Cup series, but I get ahead of myself, the drama started a few days before the lotus had even turned a wheel. This year the Evora would be placed in the GTO (top) category for the entire season, competing against cars with over 200BHP advantage. We decided that until the final configuration to the engine could be determined that the only way to try and stay in contention for the first few rounds was to perfect the gear ratios for every track enabling a much quicker exit from the corners but to also ensure the power band of the engine was utilised in top gear.
The Winter has passed without a hiccough and the Evora was ready for some rolling road testing, however for some reason on that cold day the week before the GT Cup race the dash decided to contribute one message to the eagerly awaiting staff and students:‘NO COMMS’. Several days (and sleepless nights) of wiring diagnostics, ECU battery swaps, ECU configurations and a final kick for good measure the Dash remained steadfast with it’s message ‘NO COMMS’. As exhaustion took over I finally succumbed to the torpidness of ones body and fell asleep, dreaming of pinouts, wiring and the dreaded ‘NO COMMS’. The final result had to be the Data Logger box had decided it wasn’t going to comply this year and so a quick phone call to Cosworth and some excellent customer service (thanks Neal) a replacement Sigma box was sent out overnight. One problem we were now at Donington on the test prior to the race weekend starting. The package was received in Nottingham and 20 minutes later it was in my hand.
Using the loan bench loom (thanks to Neal, again) both boxes were powered up in the pit garage on the workbench to satisfy myself that there were no wiring gremlins at play. The Evora box would power up but not communicate, the loan Sigma connected with no issue. A few config file uploads and CAN codes input and we were ready to race, that was close, too close. But in the world of Motorsport these things happen and never 3 months before a race, that’s all too easy.
We’d heard the rumours of 1 minute 4’s and 5’s being mentioned and a 1 minute 2 second lap was thrown in for good measure from the other GTO cars during testing. We have a best lap of 1.08 around Donington so better go home now then. But No that’s not what we do around here, lets grit our teeth and see what the new gear set can do for us. Practice and Qualifying seemed reasonable, Gareth on an old set of tyres went out bedding in the new brakes and a few installation laps later, with all vital signs looking good he set a time of 1.09.08 in practice without a big push. New tyres on, back out for Qualifying and Gareth set a best ever lap in the Lotus of 1.08.03. Not bad but the Bentley and Lamborghini were just too fast, pole eventually going to the Lamborghini with a 1.05.21. We were 5th.
Race One was a bit of a rush and the Bentley missed the allocated time for assembly meaning they would have to start from pit lane, promoting us to fourth. Gareth with his great starts was soon up to third and pushing hard against the Porsche and Lamborghini but their lap times were just too good, however the Lamborghini dropped it out the back and had a trip through the gravel we were up to 2nd. Gareth ever consistent started to push and set a fastest personal lap in the Evora at 1.07.8 only 0.4 seconds slower than the Porsche. The Porsche started to slow towards the end with a 1.11 lap coming as Traffic was caught with 1 lap to go Gareth was onto the Porsche and pushing for a pass, the agility of the Lotus meant he could really have a go through the corners, but on the straights the Porsche was just too quick. A last late braking effort into the chicane almost gave Gareth the run he needed, unfortunately not quite enough but a second place 0.3 seconds from the winner was a tremendous result.
Race Two was a bit of a procession compared the Race One but again Gareth made some early passes from 5th on the grid, the Bentley, Porsche and Ferrari were a bit stronger in this race but a fourth place finish was still an excellent achievement and the students beamed with pride after a very successful Saturday.
Sunday was the Endurance race, but Kevin had hurt his knee mid week and felt he couldn’t race so Gareth would compete on his own. Qualifying was again fiercely contested and Gareth put the Evora in 5th position, behind the high horsepower cars, but ahead of the Audi R8. A great start once agin to the race saw Gareth up to third by the first corner and trying for second around the outside of the Lamborghini, he couldn’t quite get passed but soon settled into a rhythm with the leading cars and pulling away from 4th place. Lap 2 started with the Evora only a short distance behind the leaders, unfortunately Gareth was soon on the Radio stating he had a puncture. He slowly brought the car to the pits but something had broken on the rear right upright of the car. A sad end to an unbelievable weekend. A true reminder of power makes you fast on the straights but lightness makes you fast everywhere. A truly agile car we have here.
The car has been stripped, repaired and is ready to go at Brands Hatch on the 6-8th May.
Kieran Reeves - Director Of Motorsport NMA.