Spa success for Simon Pullan in first endurance race.
Lincolnshire race ace Simon Pullan enjoyed his first taste of endurance racing in the 24-hour meeting at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend with his British GT Championship co-driver Martin Short and TVR works pilot, Rob Barff.
Driving Rollcentre Racing's former TVR Cerbera for new owners, Veryplast Racing, the trio eased the car onto class pole position and drove through the night to claim twenty-fifth place after a mammoth four hundred and one laps of the 6.9 km Belgian track.
Having set themselves the task of proving TVR's endurance racing capability, the Veryplast Racing entrants eased themselves into the race weekend during the first test session. Rollcentre Racing team boss Martin Short was the first to take to the track to run several installation laps. After bedding in the new engine and making minor alterations to the car, he handed over to Pullan and Barff who each ran a handful of laps to familiarise themselves with the Cerbera.
"As I'd expected, the Cerbera was very similar to my usual TVR Tuscan R," Pullan commented. "In effect, the Tuscan is a refined version of the Cerbera. Both cars are around the same weight although the engine is slightly different. TVR have produced a special engine for us to use in the twenty-four hour race, it's slightly different to the Tuscan power pack and doesn't rev quite as high so it is more suited to long distance performances.
"We had a few teething problems at the start but that is only to be expected when you run a new engine in."
The only driver with previous twenty-four hour race experience, Short qualified the car on class pole despite taking it relatively easy in the qualifying session.
"We were pleasantly surprised to take the class pole given that we didn't want to push too hard and risk ruining the car for the race," Pullan said. "Everything is going according to plan and we're all looking forward to showing what TVRs can do in a twenty-four hour event."
Having run the Cerbera to its maiden GTO class victory with Martin Short in last season's British GT Championship, Rob Barff was elected as first driver for the Veryplast Racing/ Rollcentre team.
With the first stint lasting around two hours, Short took the wheel just after six o'clock before handing over to Pullan two hours later. The 19-year-old Potterhanworth resident notched up several laps and stayed in the car until darkness began to creep over the circuit.
With Barff back into the car following Pullan's first stint, the Cerbera developed an engine problem after twenty minutes, costing the hard working Veryplast Racing/ Rollcentre team two hours in the pits. Short then drove for almost three hours, including two hours under the safety car, before handing back to Pullan for the early-morning run. Despite never having raced in the dark, he kept his cool to bring the car into the Sunday dawn with few problems.
Barff and Short continued their excellent partnership until lunchtime on Sunday with Pullan taking over for the third-to-last stint. Barff took over for the penultimate run with Short bringing the car home a fantastic twenty-fifth.
"The whole team is extremely pleased with this result," Pullan said. "It really is something special to finish a twenty-four hour race and we're proud to have shown that TVRs can be contenders for events such as Spa and Le Mans.
"During the race it was important not to tax the car too much so although we weren't driving flat out the entire time, each stint was mentally tiring. A huge amount of concentration was required to ensure each gear change was smooth and that we didn't overuse the brakes. We didn't want to hurt the car and that meant keeping everything as smooth as possible.
"My favourite part of the race was driving through the dark into the light in the early morning. With only thirty or so cars left, we were all a bit battle scarred but we'd come through and survived the toughest part of the event. It was very special to be a part of that.
"The entire twenty-four hour experience is unlike anything I've done before. It was nerve racking knowing that any small mistake could put the car out, but it's an experience I would love to repeat given the opportunity.
"I'd like to say a huge thank-you to Dominiek Veraacke of Veryplast Racing for making the event possible for us and to Martin Short for inviting me to be a part of the race."