PEARCE FAST, BUT FRUSTRATED, IN SCOTLAND
Patrick Pearce andthje LNT TVR team were certainly not short of speed in the third and fourth rounds of the British GT Championship at Knockhill in Scotland, but fortune was not on the squad's side. Sixth place in race one could have been a lot better had a rather extreme penalty not been awarded, while an engine problem in Sunday's race took the TVR out of contention before Pearce even had a chance to drive the car. The weekend did at least start promisingly, though...
"In the test on Friday there was definitely good pace in the car," said Pearce. "Then come Saturday morning, it was all downhill... The first thing was a small engine problem, and the team decided to change the engine as a precaution.
"They did a great job and completed the work just in time, in fact I only missed a few minutes of qualifying. The first flying lap was good enough for pole at the time, but when I tried again later I couldn't get a clear lap. The traffic is very bad at Knockhill, you've got to make the most of a clear lap if you can get one. Even on my quickest lap I had to pass three cars."
Pearce and his co-driver Warren Hughes eventually managed a strong third on the grid for both races, with Patrick taking the start for race one on Saturday afternoon. He quickly moved up to second and began challenging for the lead, but only briefly as the LNT car was called in for a controversial stop-go penalty. Under the championship regulations, all team personnel must clear the grid two minutes before the start. LNT were judged to have contravened this rule, and the resultant penalty dropped Pearce well out of contention.
"It was a harsh penalty for something that didn't gain us any time or give us any advantage," he said. "It's in the rules admittedly, but it's still harsh. All that happened was that one of the mechanics didn't see the two minute board and was still putting a bit of gaffer tape on the car.
"We had the pace to take the lead if we hadn't had the penalty, but I don't think we could have done anything about Neil Cunningham (the eventual winner)."
Cunningham had started on slick tyres, whereas Pearce joined the majority of the field in choosing intermediate tyres for the slippery track surface. As the circuit began to dry, Patrick's tyres began to suffer.
"After the penalty I was pushing very hard," he said. "I managed to get through the GT3 cars pretty quickly and close on the leaders, but within a few laps the tyres were completely gone. It must have been very entertaining for the spectators at that point..."
Pearce duly handed over to Hughes, who brought the TVR T400 home in sixth. On the way he had to take a quick trip off the track to avoid a spinning rival, and although the team removed all the grass and debris from the radiators, the incident led to engine problems in race two next day. The car lapsed onto five cylinders in Hughes' hands and then retired from the race before Pearce's stint.
"We definitely had good pace at Knockhill because even on five cylinders Warren was still very, very quick," said Patrick. "The circumstances were a bit difficult this weekend, but we know the car is fast enough."