DISAPPOINTMENT IN SCOTLAND AFTER POSITIVE PROGRESSION 14/4/08.

DISAPPOINTMENT IN SCOTLAND AFTER POSITIVE PROGRESSION  14/4/08.

Having made the switch from Chad Racing Ferrari to Team Modena Lamborghini in the two weeks since the opening rounds of the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Oulton Park the trip to Scotland was always going to require a fast learning curve.  Despite this being achieved by Ben and the team, luck (and the regulations) seemed to be going the other way at Knockhill.

Due to the short gap from signing with Team Modena to the Knockhill race the team had hired a car for the trip north of the border while they wait for the new car to arrive (early May hopefully) and with the car having to be collected from Germany it was always going to be tight for the weekend. And that it was, with the car arriving at the circuit just 90 minutes before the first Friday test session. Despite this the team worked flat out and the car was lined up in the pit lane with 5 minutes to spare. Friday testing saw both Ben & Guy steadily improving their lap times as they became used to the different characteristics of this new car. “It’s more like a race car than the Ferrari was, still very nimble but almost seems better on the brakes and more direct with the steering,” said Ben at the end of day one.

By the time qualifying came around on Saturday the pair were comfortable with the car and team had made a few adjustments to give the pair a good balance between the high speed down force and slow speed corners. Guy qualified for the first session and set a personal best 51.5 to claim 4th on the grid for race 1, just 0.7 seconds off the pole position CRS Ferrari of Metcalfe. Unfortunately the session was red flagged a few minutes early so Guy did not have the chance to improve on this and to make things worse as Guy slowed on his in lap the CRS Ferrari of the Championship leaders, Cullen/ Shovlin, hit the front of the Lamborghini, forcing Guy into the gravel and smashing the front left wheel.

Guy was quickly recovered back to the pits and the car was checked. Other than the wheel, nothing appeared to be broken so Ben set off for qualifying session two – the faster of the two sessions. Although there appeared to be another issue from the incident – the steering wheel pointing slightly to the left – Ben managed to hustle a personal best time of 51.9 out of the car and claim 12th on the grid for Sunday’s race. Although this would put Ben right in the middle of the pack around this narrow circuit he was within 0.02 of the 7th placed Viper and so there was a good chance of some improvement during the early part of the race.

Race one started on a wet but drying track and Guy held on to fourth at the end of lap one. Over the next few laps Guy kept his cool as twice cars ahead went off in the greasy conditions and was running second during a third Safety Car period when the leader pitted. The lead Ferrari had dropped back from the Safety Car as it went into the pits, and mistakenly two cars were released from the pit lane into the gap between Guy and the Safety Car, denying him a clear track to put in some quick laps when racing resumed.

Guy stayed out for another 15 laps heading the field, his pace dented by being delayed by the two backmarkers ahead of him, before handing over to Ben while around 25-seconds in the lead.

Ben was behind a backmarker during a fourth Safety Car period and trying to catch the pack, when they were both brought to a halt at a corner due to a tow rope positioned across the track by marshals retrieving a stranded car. Both cars were waved one at a time across the rope – and both caught on it, Ben having to reverse the Lamborghini to finally get clear.

Eighth at the end, the team felt sure they and gained an advantage during the Safety Car periods – as well as staying out on the track during the third period as apparently instructed in the drivers briefing on Saturday morning.

“The Lamborghini was good in the conditions early in the race,” said Guy, “the first half of the track was dry but the rest was like sheet ice, and cars kept hitting the kerbs and spinning. We gained positions and the call came from the pit wall to stay out and hold position. We feel we did our bit in the race – we were in the lead when we pitted.”

“The rope was across the road, and got caught on the front of the car!” said Ben. “It was unbelievable, I was waved over it, and immediately felt the splitter catch. Furthermore we were told in the drivers briefing that due to the shortness of the pit lane we couldn’t stop under the Safety Car, but most of other cars did.”

The second race again proved frustrating for the team, Guy Harrington having a car he was passing turn in on him, destroying the Lamborghini’s rear suspension and seeing round four of the Avon tyres British GT Championship end in a gravel trap. Guy had just taken over the car after a strong first stint by Ben, and another point’s scoring finish was in sight for the team’s new driving duo.

Ben was boxed at the start and lost ground, but then drove a strong session to keep the Gallardo in the hunt, pitting on lap 27. Despite not making up the places he had hoped for Ben took the challenge to Jason Templeman (professional driver) in the Tech9 Lamborghini and twice got alongside him only to be forced onto the grass. Furthermore he had to defend from a fast CRS Ferrari of Championship leader Paddy Shovlin who had started from the pit lane and was determined to get past but to no avail.

Guy took over the car and settled into his race pace, before diving inside a rival at the final hairpin on lap 35, the other car turning into the corner inflicting fatal damage on the Team Modena car. The subsequent delay as rescue workers loaded the damaged Gallardo onto a vehicle saw a 10-lap Safety Car period in the race.

“I was on the outside for the start which is never good,” said Ben, “and I got forced wide by a Porsche and a couple of other cars followed him through. I had a good run and was challenging other cars, but it is a narrow circuit and not east to find a way past. It was good to get into a flow with the car and I am very much looking forward to Rockingham in six weeks time.”

“I was alongside the other car at the final hairpin,” said Guy, “and he just turned in on me, there was nothing I could do.”

“It has been a bit like our weekend at Oulton Park,” said Team Principal Graham Schultz, “we have suffered from poor management of the first race, lots of things going on that shouldn’t have happened, and we were told that people will be penalised heavily for bumping into other cars, and when it came to it nothing happened. We really don’t expect this sort of thing at this level of the sport.

“Things are allowed to happen and it seems as if people can do as they please. We have suffered a lot of very expensive damage in just the first two meetings.”

The team will next be out to shakedown their new Lamborghini Gallardo in early May before heading to Rockingham at the end of the month for rounds 5 and 6.

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