So near, so far.
Second at Snetterton not quite enough
Thomas Erdos and Ian McKellar Jnr had to be content with second place in Round 10 of the 2002 British GT Championship at Snetterton yesterday, finishing just behind Nathan Kinch and Robin Liddell in another of the Graham Nash Motorsport Saleens. Although the race got off to a predictable start, with Erdos building up an impressive lead in the #7 car, the second half culminated in a nail-biting finish, thanks to a forceful run from Lister driver Mike Jordan, and a stunning debut stint from Saleen first-timer Robin Liddell.
This was an occasion when team orders were not in evidence, since an eighth win would have secured the title, but the Brazilian was pleased for his teammates. "Nathan and Robin put in a really good performance," he said. "I'm delighted for them, and it was also very good for the team to achieve another one-two. In some ways second was a bonus," he added, "since third would probably have been a more realistic result for us." This observation is more a reflection on how heavily penalised the Saleen is than any suggestion that he and McKellar were merely lucky to finish where they did. Their car set off for yesterday's race tipping the scales at around 1250 kilos, compared to 1150 for the #8 car and 1123 for the Lister Storm. Added to this ballast has been the reimposition of a restrictor cut, making the car significantly slower. "We just can't match their outright speed," explained McKellar. "It's not just the top speed, it's getting out of the corners as well. We're struggling in that department. It's almost like driving the team truck!"
Anyone watching the first half of the race might have been forgiven for thinking this an overstatement. With Warnock on pole in the Lister, courtesy of a last-minute qualifying blitz from Jordan, Erdos had everything to do in the opening moments. A bold push around the outside at the first corner carried Erdos into the lead, with Rob Barff in the TVR Speed 12 and Nathan Kinch in the sister Saleen subsequently following through. Erdos was able to build up a lead of around 15 seconds before the driver change, which came just before the half hour. By then Warnock had already handed over to Jordan, but the Saleen's margin over the Storm stood at twenty seconds.
The exchange between Erdos and McKellar went smoothly enough, although the Saleen is notoriously awkward to get in and out of with ease. By the time McKellar emerged back on track Jordan was already up to second place, thirteen seconds in arrears, but capable of lapping nearly two quicker than the asthmatic Saleen. Kinch had handed over to Robin Liddell, the latter making his first ever race in the Saleen, and the Scot was rapidly finding his rhythm.
It took just nine laps for Jordan to demolish McKellar's advantage. On lap 36 he dived through on the inside at Riches to take the lead, but dived off again at the famous Bombhole later that same lap, regaining some dignity and the track with third place. Liddell, getting faster by the moment and setting a new record en route, swept into the lead soon afterwards. "Our straight line speed was killing us," shrugged McKellar. "Robin simply sailed by." The recovering Jordan was on a charge and, unbeknown to the spectators, McKellar was convinced of a slow puncture. Sure enough the Lister was rapidly back under his tail. Twice Jordan made a run round the outside at the Esses, and twice he was rebuffed. "It was a brave move, but it didn't work," observed McKellar. "He went onto all the old rubber and it's very slippery." At some point they touched, or Jordan clipped an apex. The Lister sustained some suspension damage and Jordan headed for a check-up, eventually taking the flag fourth from the pitlane behind the TVR third, McKellar second and Liddell first.
Erdos and McKellar head for Thruxton in a fortnight knowing that little more than a finish will assure them the title, while Warnock and Jordan must win. "We go there with even more ballast and a smaller restrictor. We don't need a lot of points but it's still going to be hard work," said Erdos.