Daytona 24: Southampton students reflect on experience

Southampton Students return from Daytona Triumph The six engineering students from the University of Southampton who enjoyed a dream opportunity to crew a GTS car at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona have spoken about their experiences. The final...

Southampton Students return from Daytona Triumph

The six engineering students from the University of Southampton who enjoyed a dream opportunity to crew a GTS car at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona have spoken about their experiences.

The final year undergraduates helped the Brookspeed Viper GTS-R through in the gruelling 24-hour endurance event, and though the team were not without their problems, the new members coped beautifully on their way to a successful finish in the race.

"It was great to get the car to the end when so many didn't," said project organiser and mechanical engineering student Simon Willis, who refuelled the car during the race. "For the first half of the race we watched the car picking off those ahead, and we thought we were going to be in for a great result. Then we lost fifth gear - we were able to keep on going, but when fourth gear went we needed to change the gearbox."

Despite this setback the students and regular crew rallied to get the Viper back on the track.

Crew Chief Andy Balfourth was as impressed with his student charges as they were with the sights and sounds of the Daytona Speedway.

"I couldn't believe how well they integrated with the team," said Andy. "They fitted right in from the word go. It isn't easy running a big, powerful car like this for 24 hours, but they didn't put a foot wrong," he added.

Team boss Martin Braybrook was so impressed with the junior engineers that he has invited them back for the 12 Hours of Sebring next month. "They were fantastic," he enthused. "We had Simon on the fuel rig which is crucial, Nick Henry was fireman, Paul Williams was `dead man' during the fuel stops, and Jono Moscrop was doing a great job on the pit wall - by the end of the race he was picking which tyres we could second-stint and which couldn't - that's a big job.

"The drivers were able to get on with the job of getting the car around the track, and they were very impressed," he continued.

The students are now back in England, and back at lectures. "It's a bit different for all of us," says Simon. "Getting up in the morning to stand in the Daytona pitlane with the sound of half-a-dozen V10s screaming past you is a bit different to a 9 o'clock lecture - mind you, at least with the latter we can catch up on our sleep!" he joked.

The final year Formula Student entrants may be back in action in the States at the Sebring 12 Hours, if lectures and coursework constraints permit. The team have proved that the next generation of young motorsport crew is out there, and all the teams need to do is take a chance.

Brookspeed are aiming to take part in this year's FIA GT Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours, following Sebring.

-us/matt-

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Series Grand-Am
Teams Williams