DONINGTON - GT Cup Rounds 1,2 & 3 - 22nd & 23rd April 2017 12 May 2017

‘We all make choices; but in the end our choices make us'

New season, new car (not just yet), new team and yes a new theme for the race report titles. (Answers on a postcode folks!)

Well the Winter break certainly flew by and there is nothing like a baptism of fire to start off the new season. We all arrived at Donington on Thursday 20th April for testing but let me first update you about the winter project. As most of you are aware we are building a new Lotus Evora with several upgrades to the Chassis, Roll cage, Aerodynamics and an all new Electronics/Engine package. The chassis, roll cage and aerodynamics are complete. The CFD analysis has shown a few potential upgrades and as such we have made some new components in the Carbon Fibre shop to test. We have decided to go for a never before seen engine and as such this has caused a hold up, but we think it is worthwhile for the future development potential. The good news is we now have possession of this engine and it is on the dyno of initial testing as I write this.  

Anyway back to testing. So a decision was made during winter that the original Evora should be put into retirement and put back to standard, the same way as it finished Le Mans in 2011 and become a museum piece.

National Motorsport Academy Lotus Evora at Le Mans 2011 

We would use the Mosler for this season. We would then use the new Evora as a shakedown test as and when it became available towards the end of the season ready to challenge in 2018. The new student team turned up on Thursday and started to acclimatise to the Mosler. Kevin would be testing the car whilst Gareth took a back seat and joined in Engineering the car. Testing was going quite well and Kevin built himself up to speed and got familiarised with a car that had not been raced for 2 years. A quick shakedown for Round 1 of Britcar did help with set-up but seat time was essential to iron out all the issues and niggles we may come across. Unfortunately in the afternoon oil pressure alarms were set off during a lap and we had to bring the car in. Through the data we could see the oil pressure was dropping at low-mid engine RPM before normal pressure was resumed at high RPM. 

NMA Mosler and transporter

All signs led to an oil pump or system issue rather than an engine issue bit it was decided that as we had Friday spare we would call it a day and go back to the workshop to investigate fully. Oil drained we noticed some brass coloured swarf and steel swarf in the oil. The steel most likely from the oil pump. We remove the sump pan and the bearings had also been slightly damaged but fortunately the crankshaft was OK. This meant a bottom end service and new pump and asssociated components were required along with a full system flush. That unfortunately meant the Mosler would not run this weekend. Hence my initial statement a baptism of fire! 

The new student team jumped straight onto the Evora to carry out a full winter rebuild/replace and service (or as much as time would allow) and we were straight back to the circuit to set-up all night ready for a weekend of competition. Alas we are back in GTO with several cars with much more power than us but at least we were scoring points. 

National Motorsport Academy Lotus Evora at Donington GT Cup

Kevin went out for Saturday morning practice but decided after this session he would leave the weekend to Gareth. Saturday Qualifying went well both Gaz dialling back into the car and giving valuable feedback to the students so they could make set-up changes to a car that they had seen for the first time only hours prior. Last yesr we had set a 1.07.8 around Donington with Gareth at the wheel and so we thought Qualifying would be a good time to test some of the new Aerodynamic parts developed for the front of the New Evora. Gaz went well and lapped in a 1.07.02 (he hates that he was two one hundredths from a 1.06 so I have added it to give him that extra incentive for next time! Your Welcome Gaz.) In all seriousness though what a lap we never though that was possible with this car. That lap put him 4th on the grid for Race 1.

The Race went by quite fast with nothing spectacular and Gaz picked up 3rd in Class, so first trophy of the year for the students and valuable points picked up. Record race 1, rewind and watch back and you have Race 2. Same again, uneventful but third in class again and more points and another trophy. 

Sunday however was going to test the students resolve. Saturday night was used to have a through check of the car to ensure everything was OK as we had had a limited time to get the car ready on the Friday. New brakes, driveshaft seals and repair to a rear sub-assembly was required but the remainder of the car seemed to be in working order. As the car was going to be retired we hadn't done anything with the car over winter and as such none of the wishbones or bearings had been replaced, nor did we have time to do this. This was going to come back to bite us. 

NMA Lotus Evora at Donington

Sunday morning Qualifying and Gaz went out in the car to bed in the new brakes before setting some fast laps. Unfortunately he had a very bad vibration start after a couple of laps. The tyres are prone to vibrate on this car for the first few laps especially if they have been sat going cold in Parc Ferme after a Race, the next session always means a lap or so of vibration through the wheel. However the vibration got worse and I called him in to check the car. The bottom front wishbone bearing had popped out of the wishbone and was causing the vibration. We pulled the car in and worked frantically on the car. These are not a quick job but all hands to the pump and we got the car fixed and down on its wheels, as I turned and looked the the clock 1 second was left of qualifying and so we would have to start at the back of the grid. 

We need the points to ensure we start the season well and so we decided that both front arms should be replaced to ensure no DNF’s. That meant a trip to the workshops to steal the new arms destined for the new Evora, insert new bearings and rebuild the car. Time would be tight but as we were starting last it was a no brainier to ensure that we finished the race. We let the Clerk of the course know we would be starting from the pit lane and not heading to assembly 30 minutes prior to the race, this meant we would just have time to get the car finished. There is a well known Law associated with a Mr Sod that would devote to play it’s hand however and for the first time in a long while the race day was running ahead of schedule by 10 minutes – Brilliant, not what we needed! Again everybody helped and played their part and as the cars lined up in the grid we were replacing the last arm. Gaz was being strapped in as the cars started racing, we bolted up the final bolts and torqued the wheel and off the car went, all be it 2 laps down. This pesky 10 minutes had ruined the race for us, or so we thought. 

We were 24th position and 2 laps down but the pit stop race can throw up alternatives. Gaz rolled back the years and drove like his career depended upon it, maybe he had been told ‘Do well and a drive in F1 is on the cards for you!’ OK back to earth, but he did drive the best I have ever seen him and as the checkered flag fell he had gone from last, 24th position to 12th. 3rd in class and a trophy too! Well done Gaz a truly excellent drive. 

NMA Lotus

The student team had dragged the Evora out of retirement kicking and screaming, a car that wanted to throw all sorts of curve balls all weekend and one that they had never seen or worked on before! This report is for you guys, first time there with 3 trophies and 3rd in the championship sets us up nicely for the season (and just when we thought it may all be over!) Well done to each and everyone of you. 

Roll on Brands Hatch on 19th – 21st May. 

Kieran Reeves NMA Director of Motorsport