PEARCE'S EPIC DRIVE UNREWARDED The Silverstone 1000kms, round three of the 2005 Le Mans Endurance Series, will go down in sportscar history as one of the most eventful and memorable races the category has ever seen. A series of ...
PEARCE'S EPIC DRIVE UNREWARDED
The Silverstone 1000kms, round three of the 2005 Le Mans Endurance Series, will go down in sportscar history as one of the most eventful and memorable races the category has ever seen. A series of torrential downpours turned the race inside out, and the conditions became so bad that even driving in a straight line was difficult at times.
Patrick Pearce in the Team LNT TVR T400R faced an even greater challenge than his rivals.
"The windscreen wipers failed on the formation lap, so I had to do the start of the race with no wipers," he explained. "It was so, so difficult -- the most difficult stint I've ever driven in a racing car.
"I had to get as close as possible to the car in front of me to make sure I could see it. I couldn't actually see the front of my own car's bonnet...
"The standing water was the biggest problem, and obviously I couldn't see where that was either, so I'd suddenly hit puddles with no warning. There were a few times when I was driving completely off the track and didn't even realise. I felt like a pilot flying in thick fog, it was incredibly hard and very disorientating."
While many drivers with clear vision were slithering off, Pearce was shrugging off the massive handicap his failed wipers had given him, and was picking his way determinedly through the field. He had qualified fifth in the GT2 class, but in the conditions he was able to humble plenty of machinery from the technically much quicker prototype and GT1 divisions. Soon Pearce's TVR was on the verge of the overall top ten (in a field of nearly 50 cars) and running in the GT2 top three. Then the officials spoiled his fun by giving the LNT car a two-minute stop-go penalty.
"The penalty was very hard, especially as we are still not sure exactly what it was for," said Pearce. "Officially the mechanics had stayed on the grid too long because they were trying to fix the wipers, but that doesn't account for the full two minutes of the stop-go."
He rejoined, still driving 'blind', and safely completed his stint still in the outright top 20. Patrick's visibility had got so bad that he had to drive down the pit lane with his head out of the TVR's window, but he had done a remarkable job in keeping the car intact and on the pace in this unimaginably difficult situation. Unfortunately the race then went badly wrong for Team LNT, as Pearce's co-driver Marc Hynes and their team-mate Warren Hughes collided a few laps later. Pearce's car came off worst and a long pit stop was required for repairs to be effected. The wiper issue was rectified at the same time, and the TVR eventually re-emerged to take 11th in GT2.
"Obviously a collision between team-mates is the worst thing that can happen in motor racing, but the conditions had got so bad that you really couldn't see anything out there by that time," said Patrick. "After that we just treated the rest of the race as an extended test session.
"It was a remarkable race and it was a shame that we couldn't be involved in the real fight at the end of it, but once the car was fixed it was running extremely well. We had some engine problems in recent races, but the engine ran perfectly for the full distance. Other than the wiper problem and Marc's incident with Warren, everything went fine and it was really encouraging."