A Roundup of our 2023 GT Cup Season
The GT Cup is a highly regarded fixture in the UK motorsport scene. Founded by Marc Haynes in 2007, the GT Cup has steadily grown in prominence, becoming the championship of choice for discerning sporting drivers. But what drives us to compete in the GT Cup? The answer is simple – our students. Every facet of our journey, from car setup and testing to data analysis and tuning, is intertwined with the educational experience we offer our students. They play a pivotal role in every single weekend and we wouldn’t have it any other way. So, let’s delve into our GT Cup 2023 season roundup.
A New Season Begins.
We had planned to race the NMA Mosler this season, as the Evora was still awaiting many parts after it’s huge crash during 2022. We had a new engine in the build process for the Mosler in America, unfortunately our old block was cracked on the crankshaft main bearing webs, and we had to source a new block, delaying the build time somewhat. Straight away we were on the back foot and time was against us.
The Mosler had also been sent away to another company for some chassis repairs due to cracking and unfortunately it had been sat in a damp environment, damaging many components and the electrical system on the car. We had to make a drastic decision to see us start the championship on time.
It was decided that we would strike a partnership with Rollcentre,. This allowed brothers Marcus and Morgan to take the wheel while we continued work on our Mosler in the background.
The season commenced April 1st and 2nd at Donington Park. We started the season brightly, qualifying 1st in class and 5th overall on Saturday, eventually securing a 5th overall finish (2nd in class). However, Race 2 posed a challenge as we encountered an engine issue, preventing us from racing.
Day 2 brought more challenges. We qualified 2nd in class (7th overall) but had another setback in Race 3, retiring on lap 14 before having to retire again in race 4, this time on lap 21. Despite these hurdles, we showed great pace and it was great being able to give students some experience but not the start to the season we really wanted.
A few weeks of hard work and fine-tuning passed before Round 2 on April 29th-30th. Here, the Mosler truly showcased its power.
Saturday saw us qualify on pole in class which we converted to our first in-class win (and 3rd overall) in Race 1, followed by an overall win in Race 2. Sunday started strong as we once again secured a pole in class in qualifying, but a safety car mishap led to our disqualification due to overtaking under a yellow flag in Race 3 before another win in class for Race 4. The DQ sadly prevented a clean sweep of victories, but a strong weekend none-the-less.
Transitioning to the Lotus Evora
As it common in motorsport, things never go right for long, and it was around the time we were preparing for Round 3 at Snetterton in June, the Short’s Mosler suffered a major engine failure, keeping it out of action for a few months’ minimum. As luck would have it many of the components we had been waiting for, for the Lotus Evora started to arrive back at NMA HQ. This prompted us to turn all attention to rebuilding the Evora and make the decision to design a full new electronics and wiring system for the NMA Mosler and race that in 2024. For those who followed us in 2022, you may recall, the Evora, was last used in the CSCC Slicks series last year, where it suffered a huge accident and was all but written off. Here’s Ed talking about the move to rebuilding the Evora.
There was just a month in-between Snetterton and Oulton Park to rebuild the Evora. Despite the tight timeline, Kieran, Wayne and Ed miraculously managed to pull it off! However, we felt it was best to skip Round 4 at Oulton Park and focus on getting some miles into the Evora first. Our new target was getting the Evora Race ready for Silverstone at the end of July. During this time we tested the car multiple times, including at Donington Park and a private airfield to give it as many miles as possible and iron out as many issues as possible. July came and went and all of a sudden, we headed to Silverstone with a fully rebuilt Evora, that we were sure would need some race time to settle in and iron out any issues caused by such a tight turn around time.
Here is Kieran giving a brief description of our testing sessions:
The Return of the Evora!
There was an immense level of proudness around the #TeamNMA when we arrived at Silverstone. It showed a testament to our determination and willpower just to rebuild and test a car, all within the space of 2 months. For the Silverstone round (and for the rest of the season) Jay Shepherd took the reins of being our Driver. Jay is a seasoned driver known for his experience in Britcar, British GT, and more. Kieran had originally built and designed the new Evora with Wayne’s help before it’s large accident, with Kieran’s experience of running both of our Evora GTE’s since 2016, his knowledge of the car and it’s handling characteristic helped us dial the car in so that it could compete with the latest GT3 cars. Approaching the weekend, we knew with limited testing, it would be a challenging one, and with the new supercharged engine yet to be fully tested and optimised to cool the intake temperatures, data analysis and modifications to cooling ducts would be the order of the weekend. However, we didn’t expect challenges to surface immediately when we discovered our first issue—a wishbone problem in practice. The new wishbones we had made were proving to be an issue. Using the wishbones from our Le Mans car, was the best course of action for now, but it did mean we missed qualifying for Race 1 and had to start from the pit lane. This didn’t stop an excellent debut drive by Jay who secured us a 2nd in class finish and 10th overall in Race 1. Not bad from the pits…
Race 2, the endurance race, brought more hurdles. An overheating engine led to an extended (putting it lightly) pit stop, which came to the amusement of the GT Cup commentators. You can watch the video below. Nevertheless, we secured another 3rd in class finish, adding another trophy to our collection.
In the evening, Deputy Director Wayne Gater kick started the ‘Tyre Licking Competition’, For those not familiar; tyre licking is when you scrub the tyre’s after it’s been to track to get rid of all the pickup from the track.
The competition format was simple; the fastest ‘tyre-licker’ on each wheel (Front and Rear) come the end of the year would win that tyre.
Day 2 saw us face more minor issues, but we persevered, clinching a 2nd in class finish and 14th overall in Race 3, despite starting from the pit-lane again. With one race to go, we encountered ‘adverse’ weather conditions – known in UK terms as ‘raining cats and dogs!’. Despite the weather, (and a lack of ABS) Jay managed to secure another 3rd in class finish, capping a positive weekend for TeamNMA – especially after missing 2 rounds. Was a late charge to finish high up the championship finally on?
Preparations for Donington Race Week
The following 6-week break allowed us to address lingering issues from Silverstone, including sorting out the ABS. Here’s Kieran explaining the testing that went on:
With a fresh group of students and newfound confidence in our car, we looked ahead to Round 6 at Donington, on September 16th – 17th
The test sessions prior highlighted some real pace in the car, Kieran went through the testing data and came up with a whole new set-up for the car on the Friday, the Team got to work making the changes, and that set-up led to a pole-in-class for Race 1. However, we missed the starting grid due to time delays.
Despite the setback, we still managed a 2nd overall finish in Race 1. Race 2, the endurance race, saw Jay have a brilliant start, but a safety car intervention reduced our lead, leaving us with a hard-fought 2nd in class finish against a de-restricted GT3 Lamborghini and a pro driver.
For Races 3 and 4 on Sunday, the goal was clear—get that elusive win. Despite challenges, we came close in Race 3, finishing 2nd in class again. We later found out it wasn’t meant to be, as the final race brought a swift ending when the wishbone in the front left tyre brok, ending any hopes of victory. That was the final straw for the new wishbones, they were all to be replaced for good. Motorsport can be a cruel, cruel world.
However, our resilience shone through. Instead of retiring, deputy director Wayne made the challenge to try get the car back out on track. What followed was a phenomenal example of speed and teamwork, as somehow the guys managed to work together to fix the wishbone and we managed to get the car back on track before the end of the race. we left with our heads held high, knowing we were close and eager for the season finale at Snetterton.
Season Finale at Snetterton: A Bittersweet Conclusion
The season finale at Snetterton arrived just 3 weeks later, on the weekend of October 7th/8th. In that time, we had resolved the wishbone issue and made engine adjustments. Despite encountering power loss issues in Race 1, we secured a 3rd in class finish, as well as engaging in some tense battles with Paul Bailey in the Lamborghini Evo GT3 and Graham De Zille in the Ferrari 488 Challenge.
Regrettably, the power loss continued, and we discovered what was causing the issue—a slipping ancillary belt on the engine. Despite installing a new belt, Race 2 saw a swift end due to a broken Crank Pulley, spelling the end of our season.
Big Plans for the Future!
Despite the bitter conclusion, our late-season resurgence earned us a 3rd place in the GTO championship. We are also proud that despite missing 2 rounds, we still managed to give over 20 students invaluable real-world racing experience throughout the season.
As we reflect on the 2023 GT Cup season, we’re not just looking back; we’re looking forward to the future. Stay tuned for our big plans in the upcoming year including (fingers crossed) the return of the Mosler!