ALMOST A GREAT WEEKEND - 16/7/08

Ben de Zille Butler and Guy Harrington qualified their Team Modena Lamborghini Gallardo seventh and eighth on the grid for last weekend’s two Avon Tyres British GT races at Brands Hatch. Both drivers recorded times under the current GT3 lap record at the circuit – set by Team Modena’s Antonio Garcia in 2007 – and were feeling confident ahead of the races.

Ben was in the Gallardo for the first of the two 15-minute sessions, and set a good time early on, only to be forced to pit with a puncture. He rejoined with five minutes of the session left, and improved on his time to finish seventh quickest on 1m31.671s.

“I’m pleased with the time,” said Ben, “we have been competitive so far this weekend and quicker than last year. Despite having a tyre issue which took my best lap away I am please with seventh when you look at the times ahead of me and we will be in the mix in the race.

“Having lost time with the puncture I was left with five minutes to get a time, and you have to get the tyres up to temperature first. I had to push hard in a couple of places and could maybe have been quicker, but the car feels great for a one-hour race, it is pretty effortless to drive round here and we can run that pace for most of the race.

In the second session Guy, using the same tactic as Ben, delayed leaving the pits for a time at the beginning of the session to emerge on a clear section of track, and lapped quick enough to be third overall early in the session. A brief stop to adjust tyre pressures saw him back on track, and as times tumbled in the closing seconds of the session Guy recorded a best lap of 1m30.775s – good enough for eighth overall.

“I had a little understeer that we have not had before this weekend, maybe conditions have changed,” said Guy, “but other than that the car feels really good and we can work with starting eighth.”

A strong start from Ben in race one saw him gain two places in the first half lap, running a strong fifth in the early phase of the race before the pit stop window opened. Ben pitted on lap 17, from second position on the road, having battled the car in fourth during the final part of his stint and being consistently the fastest man on the track.

“That was awesome – I have a smile on my face!” said Ben. “I knew I had to get past the two Vipers in front early on otherwise I would get caught up and lose touch with the Ferraris, so I was pleased to gain those places. One got back, then overshot on the next lap anyway and I went back past.

“Towards the end I was all over Metcalfe, but he was defending hard (and fairly), which was costing me two seconds a lap and the car behind caught us so I had to defend whilst trying to attack. We chose to hand the car to Guy earlier than planned to clear the slower cars in the pitstops and it worked. That was a good enjoyable race – we have something to build on for tomorrow.”

A great pit stop from the team saw Guy emerge third of the cars that had stopped, and once the race settled down he was in a group of cars battling for that position. An opportunistic move saw him take advantage of battling cars in front to again nose into third on lap 32. A break issue towards the end of the race saw Guy finish the race in sixth – Ben and Guy having had their strongest race performance to date after a run of bad luck.

“We made up two places in the pits,” said Guy, “and after that battling with the other cars, and at one point was closing on the guys in front, thinking second was possible. I got a Viper down through Paddock Hill Bend, and that is a move I’d like to see again on the video!

“It was good to get a finish, and I think we can do even better tomorrow.”

Race two also started positively with the #11 car being up to seventh at the end of the first lap. Guy continued to be part of a seven car battle for the mid-top ten positions, a train of cars battling lap after lap.

Guy was kept out a lap or so longer than would have been ideal in the hope that he could get passed a slower Ferrari. The change in fortune that seemed to have joined the Caterham champions did not see the end of the weekend though as Ben was immediately in trouble with the #11 Gallardo, and retired on the circuit with another engine failure.

“I had some good dicing and it was going well,” said Guy. “The car was good in the corners, then I got hit from behind by a Ferrari at Druids and that put me into a slide and I lost two places. After that it was a case of keeping with them – but a frustrating result over all.”

The next race takes the team to Silverstone on Sunday 17th August for the first of two 2 hour races.

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