After the misery of Silverstone and the broken gearbox, not only had we suffered our first DNS’s (Did not start) of the season but the box couldn’t be fixed across the weekend and so we lost out on championship points from two of the three races, demoting us from third in the championship and from a strong challenge for second place down to fourth.
The Ferrari was now fairly secure in 2nd with a 71 point lead over us and the R8 had a decent 16 points advantage also. As long as all cars finished we were resigned to fourth and that left a bitter taste in our mouths. However although the large Alto singer may be clearing her throat as we arrived for Friday test at Snetterton she definitely had not sang, and whilst championship points were up for grabs and mechanical vehicles were going round in circles anything could happen.
Friday started well and we spent the morning dialling in the Evora. We checked the gearbox repair for the first time in anger and then after all systems were confirmed as normal we set about preparing a good race set-up. The Evora was back to its normal reliable self and we quickly were up to speed. We then used the afternoon to finalise the Engine maps on the Mosler and again dial in a set-up for Kevin. Both cars ran like a dream, the Mosler needed some additional gearbox settings to be adjusted electronically with the quick shift to ensure smooth downshifts and then both cars were ready to race. The R8 and Evora were very close on lap times across the Friday, however the Ferrari with the long straights and superior power to us meant they were well ahead. However all that changed mid afternoon when the Ferrari hit the tyre fence hard, coming to a stop completely destroyed.
After we heard the drivers were OK it was hard to keep a wry smile off our faces as the Ferrari was loaded on the truck and its weekend was declared over. That meant 3 finishes would see us move to 3rd and the R8 move to 2nd. If only we hadn’t DNF’d at Silverstone.
Saturday 8th October
Game faces on and we were going to do all we could to challenge the R8 but the points gap was quite large to attempt to bridge. Morning practice went well and Gareth put in some great laps but unfortunately again due to the layout of the circuit and the long straights our power deficit saw us finish 5th in the wet practice 0.7s behind the R8 (in 3rd place). For qualifying Gareth drove like his life depended on it and finished 3rd and 2nd in class behind the Bentley. The R8 appeared to struggle and finally ended qualifying in 14th. Game well and truly on! Kevin in the meantime re-acclimatised himself with the Mosler, and sat in the top three for the first 8 minutes of the session, however he finished the session in 15th. The massive power and damp circuit were not the ideal conditions for the Mosler especially as the transition from wets to slicks came about. We stayed on wets with both cars but the Mosler’s traction control was interfering and limiting the power too much on the straights.
The race was rather uneventful but Gaz again drove brilliantly moving up to 2nd quite quickly and staying there until the end of the race, the R8 came in 5th but 3rd in class, however it was still points gained. Race 2 was a little more dramatic from our point, from the start the Mosler was sat in the middle of a 4 car tangle, Kevin taking to the grass to avoid any serious contact, unfortunately to rejoin the circuit the Mosler hit a large sausage kerb at some speed causing the door to pop open and a misfire to start on the engine, as such we retired from the race. As the Mosler was not racing on Sunday that was the end of it’s showing of this year. Mid way through the race, Gaz came on the radio stating the Evora had an ABS issue and he kept locking up, damaging a slick. He was old to back off and finish the race, seeing the chequered flag was essential as a DNF would mean the championship race was over and we would be resigned to 3rd. Still no voluptuous lady singing just yet, so strategy calls were still important.
The R8 finished in 3rd (2nd in class) and we had to settle for 10th although this was 3rd in class and so as of the end of Saturday the points gained in Race 1 were lost in Race 2 and we were back to square one for Sunday.
That evening we worked on the Evora and repaired the ABS (the rear left sensor had failed) and as such we made the decision to test in the mornings 10 minute warm up session.
Sunday 9th October
As we fired up the Evora in the morning to warm the gearbox it was quickly noticed that oil was dripping down from around the alternator area. A quick inspection found the oil pump had failed and was leaking onto the driveshaft, throwing oil around the engine bay. Either we were destined to stay third or the decision to go out for the 10 minute warm up (we don’t normally do that session as it is merely so the Professional drivers can get 3 laps in as per the rules) meant somebody was looking out for us. We missed the session but we replaced the pump with a new one from off the truck and we were ready for Qualifying.
Everything worked perfectly for qualifying but now a fully dry circuit meant the power from the R8 could be fully utilised and we are getting beaten down the straights losing almost 1.5 seconds in these sections alone. We finished P7 whilst the R8 was P2. The R8 also had the advantage of using a Professional for half the race. Anyway again still no singing from our Italian powerhouse Soprano so we would fight to the end!
The race started and Gaz, as ever with his excellent starts, went from 7th to 3rd in the first corner. The Bentley then had a spin and with his massive pit stop time penalty thisput him out of contention for a win. An accident soon saw the safety car deployed, whilst it circulated, Gaz told us how he has passed the R8 at the side of the track. Information soon surfaced they had a broken driveshaft and were out of the race. The safety car returned to the pits only a few minutes before the pit stop window opened meaning nobody really had an advantage built up. The window opened and we pitted immediately, the pit stop was slick, but we had a 10 second additional penalty due to past results so we had to sit a little longer. Anyway we sent Gaz on his way and he crossed the line out of the pits at exactly the right time. We were out in 2nd place and charging for the win, a finish would see us take 2nd in the championship.
The remainder of the race passed by and seem to take an age, eventually Gaz exited the final corner, in the distance I could hear a female voice finally. I’m pretty sure it was Annie Lennox (still on the 80’s theme)! Gaz took the flag and finished 2nd in class behind the Aston Martin. As they were an invite for the last races they don’t take points and so Gaz was awarded points for firstplace. We had done the unthinkable, and finished 2nd in the GTO Championship! What a race season it had been.
We went into the last round with the old adage ‘never give up’. A well rehearsed and technically brilliant student team saw us take on cars with much better power to weight than the Evora, and we had finished 2nd to abrand new GT3 Bentley. Not a bad season at all.
Congratulations to all the students who were part of the National Motorsport Academy Race Team for a job well done!
Over the winter we will be developing the engine and adding a superchargerto the Evora. Next year we have our sights set on making it one step higher up that podium so keep an eye out for our winter testing programme.