A weekend full of up's and down's - read our Donington Debrief below
Wow! What an incredible weekend for #TeamNMA. Last round at Silverstone saw the return of the Lotus Evora after working on it for 6/8 weeks following a wiring loom issue with the Mosler. It had its issues; which was expected considering it had been put together in such a short amount of time, as well as limited testing. However, we finished the weekend with some decent results, with 2x P2 in class finishes, and 2 x P3 in class finishes. However, we always knew the car had much more to give.
The extended break came at the perfect time, as we could spend a solid 6 weeks continuing to work on the car and sorting various issues such as the ABS. As we approached Donington, we took the car out for a few testing days. The first test day went extremely smoothly, with some really good lap times being put in by Jay Shepherd, our driver.
The second testing day was a bit disrupted, as we lost 5th and 6th gear. This meant we had to perform a gearbox change. Luckily, we were joined by student Lewis Edwards and Thomas Murer, who visited us after travelling all the way from Switzerland for his graduation the day before. The extra pair of hands meant we installed the new gearbox and managed to get up and running for the final session. Once the gearbox was sorted, we started to see signs of the old Evora once again.
Donington came along and expectations were high. The car still wasn’t fully 100% but enough to try and push for an in-class win. It wouldn’t be a #TeamNMA weekend without students, and across the weekend, we were joined by Alex, Tom, Ben, Jacob, Riyaz, Lewis, Jayan, Graham and Adam. Here is a breakdown of our weekend;
Day 1 - Saturday 16th September
The day started bright and early. All the students arrived early in the morning, with one student, Alex, travelling all the way from Greece just to get this experience. We cooked up some Bacon and Sausage rolls (or cobs, or whatever you want to call them!) and prepared the Evora for Practice and Quali. Practice was promising, with our fastest time being a 1:30:206, a whole 1.3 seconds faster than the second GTO car, and our main competition for the weekend; Paul Bailey in the Lamborghini EVO GT3.
Quali: We then went straight into Quali. We didn’t even touch the car because Jay was satisfied and knew he could extract more speed during Quali. He did just that, achieving a time of 1:29.072, which secured us Pole position in our class and 7th place overall on the grid. A fantastic achievement, bearing in mind the car wasn’t even built 3 months prior.
Race 1 (Sprint)
Race 1 started terribly for us. We had a bit of a miscommunication just before the race which sadly meant we missed the entry time for the grid and had to start from the pit lane. Nonetheless, we charged our way through the pack and eventually finished the race 2nd place in class and 8th overall... A fantastic effort from Jay who matched Paul Bailey’s pace the entire race. Who knows what could’ve happened if we didn’t start in the pits.
Race 2 (Pit-Stop)
We started 8th on the grid for the Endurance/Pit-stop race, behind Paul Bailey and the other GT3 cars.
In this race we had an incredible start, with Jay up to 4th in just one lap! We built a healthy gap (around 15/20 seconds) to Bailey and things were looking promising. We always knew we needed a good lead as Ross Wylie, the Pro driver was yet to have a stint in the car. Then it all went downhill. The safety car was deployed due to a separate incident that bunched up the entire pack, and closed our gap to Bailey. Following the safety car, we entered the pits when our pit window opened, widening the gap between us and Bailey/Wylie as they had to serve an additional 25 seconds. The chase was on as Wylie closed lap by lap, but unfortunately, they were just too quick in the second stint and eventually pipped us with about 5 minutes left of the race. Matters didn’t help when our exhaust blew off towards the end. We once again finished the race 2nd in class and P6 overall. Another fantastic job by Jay.
We later found out that two of the three primary exhaust runners removed themselves from the system, a very freak event and luckily didn’t do much damage. To sort this, Wayne and Ed drove straight to Nottingham to pick up some parts to repair the exhaust for the following day, along with some new brake discs. Whilst that happened, we all celebrated Kevin’s 78th birthday at the GT Cup Hospitality Suite. We all wish Kevin a very happy birthday!
Day 2 - Sunday 17th September
Quali and Practice
There isn’t too much to report for these sessions. We completed 5 laps during practice to test the new parts and then went straight into Quali. Unfortunately, in Quali we never really got a fast lap in, as it was disturbed by a Red Flag and minimal time after to get back out and set a new lap. However, we finished P2 in class, just 0.4 seconds from Pole.
Race 3 (Sprint)
For the sprint we learnt from our mistakes and made the grid on time. After a good start we were in the mix, even holding off a couple of the GT3 cars which was lovely to see. It was an incident filled race, with many of the GT3 cars scrapping it out which gave us a fighting chance. We beat Paul Baileys Lamborghini GT3 but unfortunately along came Richard Chamberlain’s Porshe 935. He didn’t race the day before due to a water pump issue, but after sorting that issue, he suddenly had a lot of pace that we couldn’t keep up with, which wasn’t helped by some minor bodywork damage we’d picked up in a battle with Charlotte Gilbert in the Topcats Racing Lamborghini SuperTrofeo
It was yet another 2nd place finish in our class, but we secured 4th place overall due to the disqualification of other cars.
Race 2 (Pit-Stop)
Race 2 we knew would be a struggle. Not only did we have to compete with Richard Chamberlain’s Porsche, but we also had strong competition with Paul Bailey’s Lamborghini, especially once the pro driver was in. Jay started from 5th on the grid and once again had an electric start, finding his way up to 2nd by the time we got up to the McLeans and Coppice corners. Sadly, due to nobody’s fault, the wishbone in the front right tire gave in, forcing him to pit.
Most thought our race was over, but Deputy Director Wayne Gater made the call to sort the wishbone and try to get back out on track. Incredibly, Wayne, Ed and the students pulled together, sorted the issue, and got the car back on track. It made no difference regarding championship points, but it was a huge statement to get that sorted so fast. An incredible achievement from everybody involved and one that they should be very proud of! It showed the comradery and fighting spirit of #TeamNMA
With our heads held high, we packed up the truck and everyone went their separate ways, including Riyaz who flies back to Toronto, Canada, and Alex who flies back to Athens, Greece.
A HUGE thank you to everyone who turned up this weekend It was great to see a full house of students, and even though we didn’t secure that elusive win… every single student came out of the weekend with a smile on their faces and with a whole weekend’s worth of race team experience! A great weekend all round. That win is coming!
Take a look at some of our other pics across the weekend.