Silverstone: Tracsport race report

Starter Sensor Woes Cost Tracsport Third in Class at Silverstone Tracsport's Le Mans Endurance Series campaign was dealt a cruel blow at Silverstone on Saturday when a problem with the Lola's starter motor in hour five of the 1000km race...

Starter Sensor Woes Cost Tracsport Third in Class at Silverstone

Tracsport's Le Mans Endurance Series campaign was dealt a cruel blow at Silverstone on Saturday when a problem with the Lola's starter motor in hour five of the 1000km race cost the team a comfortable third place in LMP2.

The John Ingram, John Gaw and Rick Pearson-piloted car was running in a competitive thirteenth position overall and with a twenty-minute cushion over nearest LMP2 challengers, Palmyr when Gaw pitted for a driver change with just over half an hour left to run. After buckling in John Ingram for a last minute race to the flag, the charge was halted when the car refused to fire up for the final stint. Diagnosing the problem as a starter sensor failure, the Tracsport mechanics threw themselves at the task and a mammoth effort saw Ingram rejoin the race less than two minutes before the chequered flag.

Despite losing the better part of thirty minutes in the pits -- and with it a guaranteed podium position- the Tracsport car finished fifth in class and twenty-sixth overall.

The third event in the 2004 Le Mans Endurance Series, the Silverstone 1000kms marked the first time in six years that an endurance race for Le Mans cars has been held at the Northamptonshire venue.

Stint 1: Driver: John Ingram

Londoner John Ingram was first behind the wheel of the No Fear/Man Financial Group/ DMIPI/Carlube- supported Tracsport Lola B2K/40. As at the Nurburgring last time out, Ingram drove a faultless first stint, maintaining position and posting lap times consistently within the 1m52s target.

Starting from sixth in class and eighteenth place overall, Ingram's solid start was threatened forty minutes in to the first hour when a fuel gauge problem indicated that more fuel needed to be taken on board in order to complete the allotted one-hour session. Knowing that there was sufficient reserves to finish the stint, Ingram continued but then fell foul of the large amounts of rubber clogging the circuit just off the racing line.

Ingram, a race winner in British Formula 3, reported that the rubber was sticking to the tyres and giving the impression of having a puncture. He rounded out his session with the same problem, before passing over to Berkshire's John Gaw at the sixty-minute mark.

Stint 2: Driver: John Gaw

Having set the team's fastest lap in Friday qualifying, Gaw thrilled the 14,000-strong partisan Silverstone crowd with more of the same in hour two of the 1000km endurance spectacular.

An unscheduled pit stop shortly after taking over from Ingram cost the 2001 Caterham Academy winner around two minutes. With the rubber picked up offline affecting the handling of the Lola, the Tracsport squad changed the rear tyres before sending the number 27 car back out to join the race.

Gaw was immediately back on the pace despite the resulting imbalance caused by the combination of old and new tyres. Although the Tracsport car was losing time to oversteer out of the slower corners such as Luffield, Gaw was fourth in class as the race approached the two-hour mark.

Shortly before turning the car over to Tracsport team mate Rick Pearson, Gaw posted a series of trademark 'hot' laps which saw him close the fourteen second gap to the Favre-piloted Lucchini by a stunning six seconds a lap.

Stint 3: Rick Pearson

Man Financial Group employee Rick Pearson took over from Gaw three hours in but was almost immediately called back to the pits by a black and orange flag, shown for a broken right rear light cluster.

Like Ingram, Pearson concentrated on maintaining track position for the duration of his stint. With rival LMP2 cars including the K2 Pilbeam hitting trouble as the race approached the half-way point, the former Clio driver was able to consolidate the Tracsport Lola's standing in LMP2.

Pearson also radioed the pits during his stint to report problems caused by excess 'marbles' just off the racing line. After moving over to let the faster LMP1 cars through, the rubber picked up on the tyres caused vibrations within the car -- a problem that hampered both Ingram and Gaw during their time at the wheel.

Stint 4: Driver: John Gaw

Tracsport charger John Gaw followed Pearson's stint and again posted super-quick lap times to move the number 27 Lola up from eighteenth overall to thirteenth place.

With fewer cars on the circuit, the earlier problem of 'pick-up' on the tyres was no longer an issue, allowing Gaw to focus on reeling in LMP2 rivals J-B Bouvet/J-R Fournoux and class leaders Gounon/Frei/Hancock.

Stint 5: Driver: John Ingram

First in the car at the beginning of the 1000km event, Londoner John Ingram was designated 'finisher' at Silverstone. After being forced to sit in the pits while the starter sensor was repaired, Ingram powered the Lola out of the garage with minutes to spare to claim fifth in class.

Quotes

John Ingram: "A disappointing result from a promising weekend. We're all devastated with the way things ended after running so strongly for five and a half hours. Looking on the bright side, we've made a big step forward in terms of qualifying and race pace which is one of the things we set out to achieve here at Silverstone."

John Gaw: "I thought my second stint was awful, the worst time I've had in the car. I didn't realise the lap times were so good until I came in to the pits! The amount of rubber off the racing line was a real problem and caused a lot of vibration but as fewer cars were on the circuit it became less of an issue.

"My second stint was absolutely perfect. The lap times were good and I had no problems with the car. It's a shame that we didn't manage to hang on for third after having such a big lead over the next placed LMP2 but that's racing and we'll have another shot at the podium at Spa in four weeks time."

Rick Pearson: "A very promising weekend. It's disheartening that we hit trouble so near to the end of the race but I think we can take a lot of positives away from round three. We showed a marked improvement in our qualifying position despite only completing one of the two qualifying sessions on Friday. We were also running extremely well in the race without having to push too hard and risk going off in the early stages.

"The bits of rubber off the racing line were a real problem and caused the car to vibrate so hard my ear pieces actually fell out! Apart from that, we didn't have any problems until the starter sensor failed. Roll on Spa!"

Tracsport are backed by No Fear, DMIPI, Man Financial Group and Carlube.

Editor's Note: Attached copyright free images show John Ingram, John Gaw and Rick Pearson racing the Tracsport Lola B2K/40 at Silverstone on Saturday 14 August.

Next race: Spa-Francorchamps: 11 September

-ts-

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Series ELMS