AN EASTER TO FORGET - 25/3/08

AN EASTER TO FORGET - 25/3/08

It was never going to be an easy year for anyone as the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Championship sees one of the strongest entry lists to date, but Ben had not expected to be starting his fight for the title on the back foot. With an engine problem overshadowing the entire weekend and no points on the board from the first two races of the season Ben and team mate, Guy Harrington must now ensure strong finishes in the remaining 12 rounds if they are to fulfil their aim of being crowned 2008 Champions at the end of the season.

The problems started on the first lap of Friday free practice with Ben complaining of a lethargic car out of the corners - the team agreed the car did not sound right and they returned to the truck to investigate. This is where the car remained for the rest of the day and it was the in early hours of Saturday morning that the team finally gave in to tiredness having exhausted all explanations for what could be causing the problem.

Saturday morning practice saw the car still struggling for power despite a number of parts having been replaced the day & night before and when qualifying arrived at lunch time Ben & Guy were still left short against the impressive competition with 9th and 16th on the grid the best they could muscle out of the car. With the team still scratching their heads more parts were changed and tested in the hope of curing the problem before race one - but to no avail - and Guy rolled on to the grid late on Saturday with a distinct power shortage and some fast cars and drivers around him. A qualifying penalty for the Team Trimite Viper and a mechanical issue for the Jones Brothers Ascari saw the #3Ferrai promoted to 7th before the race had even started. The opening lap saw the Modena Lamborghini spin and catch the edge of the infield verge tipping it into a barrel role which brought out the safety car. 10 laps after racing restarted a GT4 Ginetta was tipped into a spin and ended up clearing the barrier and bursting into flames, bringing out the red flags.

Restart number 2, to a reduced 30 minute race, produced nail biting action as Guy fended off the charges of the new Porsche and a pair of Vipers for 6th place, but the power disadvantage was too much and he handed the car to Ben in 7th place. With the second half of the race seeing the quicker pro drivers in the majority of the cars Ben was going to have his work cut out to maintain a points scoring position but he had taken on, and acheived, bigger challenges in the past. The car, however, was not great and driving around the power issues had put extra wear on the tyres and brakes so Ben did all he could to defend against the chasing cars, but was eventually passed by team mate Matt Griffin and then 2007 team mate Michael Bentwood. With 2 laps to go the Viper of Aaron Scott was closing down fast and as the pair entered Cascades for the penultimate time Ben struggle to get out of the corner quick enough and ended up spinning across the track and coming to rest in the tyre wall.

With an unhealthy engine to try and sort along with some body work to repair the team had another busy day on Sunday to get the car ready in time for race 2 on Easter Monday. Having conversed with the car manufacturer over the weekend and having tried all other options the team finally found the faulty part and managed to source a replacement in time to fit it and so it looked like the 2007 race winners would have a car underneath them with the power to take them back up to the front.

After a good nights sleep Ben was hopeful that he could leave the Cheshire circuit with a few points on the board from the second race of the season. As the cars formed up on the grid the circuit officials noticed something lose on the underside of the #3 Ferrari but it was to late to investigate and Ben was forced to start the race with a potential problem. With the lights out and racing underway Ben pushed hard for the opening lap to keep pace with the pack in front, but there immediately appeared to be a problem with heavy vibrations from the front left corner of the car under breaking. 'Considering the damage that had occurred to the car in the first race I was concerned there was something majorly wrong with the car. A lose wheel, or damaged suspension all went through my head so I reported it on the radio and was advised to pit next time around.'

The team checked the car over and even changed the front left wheel but nothing appeared to be out of place at first, then somone noticed that the left side of the splitter was damaged. Piers (team manager) informed me that this was not a problem and I rejoined to the track one lap down. As the next few laps passed the handling of the became worse and worse to the point that there was no stability under braking and the car was suffering chronic under steer through right hand corners.

At the half way mark Ben & Guy were a lap down and in last in class - not a good start to their 2008 season. Things were to get worse too as the GT4 Aston Martin of Peter Snowdon (run under the Chad Racing banner) managed to block Guy in the pit lane causing him to have to reverse and then carefully maneouvre passed before returning to the track - now 2 laps down on the race leader. Guy managed to stay wth the race leader to the end and even showed pace enough to be able to try and pass him on a couple of occassions.

However, things were not that simple as radio communication for the #3 Ferrari had been another problem all weekend. Guy was unaware that the car ahead was the leader and likewise the Lamborghini of Morley assumed Guy was racing for position. As the race neared the end a third car, the second placed Ferrari of Meadows joined the pair and since all three cars assumed they were racing for position there were some nervous faces on the pit wall. Fortunately the three finished the race in one piece and after a few explanatory words aferwards all parties seemed to be content with the outcome.

After an extremely disappointing first weekend Ben has some serious work to do from Knockhill onwards, 'It is hard to come away from the first 2 races with no points but we can't do anything about the past. This year is going to be tough with the level of competition so from now on we need to be scoring consistent points. Last season the top 3 cars at the end of the year had all suffered with 2 bad results so we are still in with a chance. It's a long season and I am now just looking ahead to the next race.'

Ben's next race sees him travelling north of the border to Knockhill in Scotland on April 12/13.

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