Against All Odds!
The original plan for the Donington GP rounds of GT Cup was to compete in the Evora and the Mosler, however with the crash at Oulton causing a lot of damage it was going to be tight to have both cars ready. With testing at Donington on a Thursday we would also lose a day in the week to complete with job lists. However with the subframe repaired and back from Custom Cages we were going to try our best. The in-house interns worked tirelessly on the Evora whilst the Mosler was completed with an engine install and full set-up by Gareth.
Wednesday was D-day and at the Lotus had its last bolts tightened and a full set-up placed on the car 20 minutes before being placed on the transporter. There were still a few jobs to complete but they would have to wait until we set up in the pitman Wednesday night. The Mosler had a few electrical gremlins after being stood for 8 months, but finally it was ready for mapping by Kieran. Unfortunately an oil tank leak soon ended that scenario mid-Wednesday afternoon and so the Mosler would have to wait until the next round at Silverstone.
We all arrived at 7 pm at Donington and everybody worked hard until 1 am. The Lotus was finally ready to turn a wheel in anger the next day. On Thursday 11th August rather than an open pit lane test day, there were 4 50 minutes sessions seriously limiting our run time, especially when we needed to check the running of the Evora. Visually everything had been repaired or replaced but until the car can turn a wheel at speed you never truly know what may be hiding. The first session was used as a shakedown session and to ensure the cooling system had bled properly and temperatures were stable. The car behaved well and all systems were working correctly, temperatures were good and so we parked the car and completed a set-down and new set-up on the vehicle plus a full nut and bolt check.
Session 2 was when we started to get issues. The air compressor for the gear change could not generate enough pressure and after half a lap gear changes were non-existent. We ended the session stuck in fourth. A check through the data saw that the compressor was only creating 5 bar rather than 12 and that was taken much longer than it should. We stripped the compressor and resealed the cylinder. Out again for session three and the same issues arose. We decided to stop and head back home for the compressor off the Mosler. With that fitted we completed the last session with no issues and Gareth finally could push for a lap time where he was quickly into the 32’s. The Evora goes well at Donington but the GP circuit includes 2 stop and go hairpins at the end of the lap where power and acceleration are king so we tend to lose out around there. We were on half a second from the R8 but if we could find some time then we might manage thirds an fourths in the race helping is to maintain 3rd in the championship.
We packed away quite happy and returned to Donington on Friday PM to set the pit up for the weekend. During Saturday morning practice we started to get an ABS fault with error codes linked to each wheel speed sensor and a pressure sensor issue. The ABS unit sits on the front subframe and took a large hit during the crash at Oulton. We were hoping we could find the fault and compete during the races. All sensors were re-set and the whole system re-bled. The error codes deleted we went out for Qualifying. As soon as the car moved at speed the ABS fault light was back on. With no time to check Gareth turned the ABS off and completed qualifying without it. Our rival in 2nd place in the championship the Ferrari GT3 car blew an engine and so we needed to makes sure we finished all races and close the gap we had lost with the Oulton incident.
Not one to panic he pushed on and qualified in third behind the Bentley and Porsche with a very respectable 1.32.8. During Qualifying Chamberlain’s Porsche had damaged a piston and so was out of the weekend, promoting us to a first row start in second position. The first few laps of Race 1 had Gareth fighting with the R8 but he quickly established a lead and eventually the race was relatively boring, the Bentley had disappeared with its pace and Gareth had left the R8 behind ending up in a lonely race but his first 2nd place of the weekend still had the team excited. Gaz set a 1.33.3 lap time during the race which was the third quickest so he would start the next race from third on the grid. Again, spurious inconsistent fault codes kept appearing on the ABS system and so Gaz had to complete Race 1 without it.
Race 2 started and the Bentley, R8 and Evora all got away well, Gaz was pressing the R8 at all corners an eventually in during Lap 2 he slipped up the inside into the final harping. He would never look back and went on the take another fantastic 2nd place. The ABS was also working and he was happy with his 1.32.8 during the Race on worn tyres.
Late Saturday evening a truck rumbled into the pits and the Ferrari was back with a new engine and the Sunday race allows Professional drivers. We had closed the gap but the Ferrari would be too quick around the GP circuit with a professional. We sent the Evora out for the 10 minute warm-up so that we could heat cycle and scrub and brand new set of tyres but as soon as the car left the pits the ABS light was back on. To make matter worse the Ferrari posted the quickest time of the session with the professional driver, a 1.28.9.
Again the system was bled and a sensor replaced ready for qualifying. Gareth posted a lap time of 1.33.0 and managed fourth on the grid. We wanted to save the tyres so rather than pushing for third we were happy to start on the same row as the R8 and the Bentley and Ferrari times were impossible to beat so a front row start was out of the question. The endurance race started and Gareth was dicing with the R8 when the Lamborghini and McLaren had a coming together destroying a true barrier, the race was red flagged and the cars were stopped and held on the grid. After a half hour delay the race was going to be re-started with a reduced time from 50 minutes to 30 minutes. The pit-stop window would be between 10 and 20 minutes.
At the re-strat the Bentley and Ferrari tangled and the Ferrari spun into the gravel moving us up to third and our nearest rival stuck. Gaz also passed the R8 down Craner Curves an put the Evora into second place. The Ferrari eventually got going but half a lap down. Before long we were again fighting with the R8 and eventually the R8 passed us in the acceleration zone out the back of the circuit but the pit stop window was almost open. One Minute before the pitstop another accident and the safety car was deployed, cancelling out the gaps created. With the Ferrari and Bentley both on long pitstops through the accrued time rule we had a chance to jump up the order. The pit-stop was slick and we left the pit just in front of the R8. Unfortunately they now had the professional driver in their car. Gaz fought hard and posted the his fastest lap of the weekend a 1.32.0 but eventually the R8 got past.
The Bentley had a spin that allowed the Ferrari into third but Gaz kept ahead and managed to secure another 2nd place. He picked up Driver of the weekend for his excellent drive.
We came to Donington without much chance of a podium, with a rebuilt car that had only been repaired days before. 53 points behind the Ferrari. We left 5 points behind with three P2 trophies and Driver of the weekend. The dedication and long hours from the NMA students proved again that we can punch well above our weight. Well done to all involved, especially Adam who spent hours rebuilding the car but unfortunately couldn’t be with us this weekend to reap the rewards!
Kieran reeves – NMA Director of Motorsport