Thomas Erdos picks up another British GT Championship award.
Thomas Erdos may have been a little disappointed that he and Ian McKellar Jnr couldn't round off their title-winning season with another victory in the 2002 British GT Championship, but he did pick up another award last weekend. By setting pole once again in qualifying Erdos received the coveted `Top Gun' award, given to the single driver who sets the most front-row times through the season. In doing so he also assured Graham Nash Motorsport of the 2002 Team Trophy, giving the Saleen squad a clean sweep of crowns in this year's championship.
The final round of the GT Championship was part of a SuperWeekend of motorsport at Donington Park, bringing together the top three national series of GT, Formula 3 and British Touring Cars. The race itself offered tin-top fans a thrilling taste of what real motor racing is all about, with an hour-long demonstration of close, clean and exciting racing. Ian McKellar took the first stint once again, and surged into an early lead. This time, however, Rob Barff in the TVR Speed 12 seemed able to hang on to the Saleen's coat-tails, and even McKellar's best efforts couldn't completely shake off the Blackpool behemoth. The two leaders left the rest trailing, however, and established a fifteen second advantage over the Blower Motorsport Ultima in third and David Warnock's Lister Storm fourth.
The expected challenge from the champions' sister car, the #9 GNM Saleen co-driven by Mike Newton and Robin Liddell, never materialized after a first lap incident sent the Saleen's bonnet flying high over the pit straight. Although the team was able to refit the bodywork, the car lost a lap and never felt quite right. Liddell retired the car mid-way through the race.
Warnock was among the first to make the driver change, handing over rapidly to Mike Jordan. The professional racer was rapidly up to speed, soon setting a new lap record for the Donington Park circuit. By the time McKellar came in to hand over to Thomas Erdos the gap had already narrowed by over eight seconds. Swapping seats as well as drivers cost the Saleen dearly, and when Erdos accelerated back out onto the circuit it was just in time to see Jordan sweep through ahead, second behind the TVR.
So began a thrilling second half, with Erdos trying his hardest to overcome the weight penalties and restrictions imposed on the Saleen in order to close on the Lister. Both cars caught and passed the TVR, with Tommy's best lap coming within three-tenths of the new record. Jordan promptly responded, however, with a further improvement that sealed the result and secured his record. It was nail-biting stuff all the way to the flag, but in some respects the result was fitting. David Warnock, twice a former champion, declared afterwards that this would be his last race in the British series, and the win gave him his ninth consecutive victory at Donington Park.
This result brings a remarkable British season to a close for the UK-based Brazilian, but Thomas's racing year is not yet over. GNM will be running two Saleens in the prestigious Petit le Mans endurance race in America in three weeks' time, and he will be part of the six-driver squad. Other international races are also being considered, both in America and elsewhere.
BRDC British GT Championship ~ The Erdos Championship Year
Brands Hatch (Round 1): Pole (Ian McKellar), Win. Donington Park (2) Pole (Thomas Erdos), DNF, Lap Record (TE). Silverstone (3) Pole (TE), Win. Knockhill (4) 2nd in Qualifying (IM), Win, Lap record (TE). Croft (5) Pole (TE), Win. Silverstone (6) 3rd Q (IM), Win. Castle Combe (7) 4th Q, Second. Rockingham (8) Pole (TE) Win. Oulton Park (9) 2nd Q (IM), Win. Snetterton (10) 2nd Q (TE), Second. Thruxton (11) 2nd Q (TE), Win. Donington Park (12) Pole (TE) Second. (All victories outright). Series Champion and winner of the individual Top Gun Trophy.