Into the Groove
Rounds 10, 11, 12 – Rockingham
Rockingham’s high speed banked first turn meant that our short 6 gear we had been using would not suffice for this track. A new 6th gear ratio was picked up Wednesday, as believe it or not out of the many ratios we have the perfect set-up for 6th gear was not one we had on the Shelf. The gearbox was rebuilt Wednesday night and Thursday with the truck packed we headed off to the circuit.
The car handles superbly on the tight infield section here so all we had to do was ensure we had chosen the ratios wisely. With four practice sessions on Friday, Gaz shook the car down to check everything was in order after which a full spanner check was carried out. Kevin drove for the second and third sessions producing a 1.27.4 whilst Gaz did the final session to nail the setup for qualifying on Saturday. Stiffening up the front and rear roll bars and some playing with the tyre pressures to account for the first corner, part of the speedway circuit, which is taken at full throttle at 145mph meant Gaz was happy with how the car handled through the high and low speed sections.
For the morning practice session the Evora was piloted by Kevin, with his best of the weekend at 1.27.02.
The seat height and inclination was changed for Qualifying to suit Gaz but unfortunately one of the threads into the seat was damaged and a frantic few minutes repairing the thread meant Gaz joined the track with about 7 minutes left of the session. On the third flying lap we found ourselves in p2 with a 1.20.4 just before Richard chamberlain went slightly quicker again leaving us in P3 for the first race of the weekend.
Another lonely race sat lapping slightly slower than Chamberlain’s Porsche and the Bentley but maintaining a good 4 second gap in front of P4. We started and finished P3, and a return to the podium was welcome after all those weeks of 4th.
Starting in P3 we went into the first corner side by side with the P2 Porsche, but unfortunately we were blocked at the apex and we had to concede and stay in third. At the exit of the corner we were pushed into a spin by the Ferrari from behind, leaving us a sitting duck for oncoming traffic, receiving a shunt on the front offside corner, causing the bumper damage and forcing Gaz to pit. The race was red flagged giving the team a chance to remove the damaged front end and replace it with the spare, some race tape here and there and Gaz was sat at the end of the pit lane ready to re-join the race. A quick check around the whole vehicle proved we had gotten away quite lightly with just bodywork damage, a Ginetta lost its rear axle in a collision with two other cars on the same corner, 4 cars did not re-join the race, we were lucky. Due to the length of the red flag, we were eventually allowed to return to the grid at starting position.
After the restart with only 12 minutes to race, Gaz put in some great consistent times in the 1 minute 21’s, though eventually caught by the Ferrari on the second to last last lap of the race. We finished in fourth, quite an achievement for a crash damaged car with miss-matching aero! Halfway through Sunday the investigation concluded for the incident and the Ferrari received a 10 second time penalty moving us back up to a well-deserved P3. Another Trophy for a gallant effort from the students ensuring the car made the re-start.
With a congested track and a red flag, Gaz only managed to get a few clean laps, but still managing to put us in P3 for race 3. There appears to be a concurring theme here.
On the first corner we slipped up the inside of the heavily modified Porsche 935 getting right behind the first placed GT3 Bentley, we managed to hold of attacks from behind for almost a whole lap before the far more powerful Porsche eased passed putting us back in third by the second lap. A single safety car lap bunched the field right up before letting us loose once again. On lap 10, the Porsche 935 ran into an issue and was forced to retire moving us back into P2. By this time we had caught the backmarkers and the handling of the lotus came into its own extending our lead over the Ferrari from 1 second up to 8.
As it seemed there would be no safety car during the pit window a late pit stop was taken to try and extend the gap in front of the Ferrari and Audi that had just pitted and swapped to their pro-drivers. Another quick adjustment of pressures and we were back on our way in second behind the Bentley. Unfortunately for us the Ferrari had a works professional driver with them this weekend who made the car lap faster than anything on circuit, a truly amazing drive and with the power deficit we also have it was inevitable we would be caught. On lap 30 it eventually happened and the Ferrari overtook, Gaz leaving room of the pass and bringing it home in third 4 laps later.
Three Podium’s and three trophies was a welcome relief from the monotony of the fourth places we had been achieving. The points haul ensured we established ourselves as 3rd pace overall in the championship and only 30 points from second place. Looks like we are well and truly back into the groove!
Oulton Park is the next round on the 23rd July with the races taking place on Saturday only due to Noise restrictions.
Kieran Reeves – NMA Director of Motorsport.