Erdos & McKellar take GT title with win number eight.
The UK-based Brazilian Thomas Erdos and his co-driver Ian McKellar Jnr needed just three points to secure the 2002 British GT Championship in Round 11 of the series at Thruxton yesterday. Instead they steered their Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R to all-out victory, an eighth of the season, to take the chequered flag an emphatic ten-seconds clear of teammates Robin Liddell and Justin Law. Their closest rivals, the out-going champions Mike Jordan and David Warnock, finished third after tyre problems cost them an extra pitstop, effectively destroying their hopes for a showdown.
The title is a long-overdue reward for Erdos, who has sustained a consistent assault on the championship for the past seven seasons. All but one of the previous five have been under the auspices of Graham Nash, first with the team's Marcos LM600s, and this year with the awesome Ford-engined Saleen. "I feel so pleased for Graham," said a jubilant Erdos. "We've been together for several years, often in cars we didn't feel were up to the job, and here we are with a title at last. It's brilliant. Taking another one-two result was the icing on the cake. I'm especially grateful to Paul Das and everyone at eMiddleware. He's attended every race this year, which is hugely encouraging for me as a driver, and without his support the task would have been so much harder. It's my first full year with eMiddleware and it's great to give them a title. I hope it's just the first of many!"
Although the championship has appeared to fall easily to Erdos and McKellar, it has not been a straightforward run. A string of early wins lead to the car being heavily penalised, running more than 100 kilos heavier than its competitors and with the smallest air-intake restrictors fitted to the engine. This considerably hampered the Saleen's performance, but a combination of driver skill and their rival's misfortunes enabled them to maintain a serious challenge for the title. "To get the championship with another win is ideal," added Erdos. "I took my first championship that way as well [British Formula Renault in 1990] and it's very sweet when that happens."
Last weekend's race went much according to expectations, although there were a few minor alterations to the usual script. Mike Jordan took pole in the Lister Storm in qualifying, denying Erdos the top slot by just fifteen one-hundredths of a second. "I went out with just six minutes remaining," explained Erdos. "We'd had no testing at Thruxton, so Saturday practice was my first run on the circuit in the Saleen. I was very happy to get so close on a busy traffic lap."
In the race Ian McKellar was given the rolling start, dismissing the challenge from Warnock on the first lap and establishing a healthy lead ahead of the hand-over. With Erdos driving second stint the swap between drivers is always a little slower, since the seat insert also has to be changed, and the Saleen's lead was down to just two seconds by the time the Brazilian returned to the track. Jordan squeezed this still further and the scene was soon set for a close-fought duel to the line. Regrettably a tyre crisis for the Storm subsequently denied everyone the thrill of a good chase, although the Jaguar-engined car also had to coast across the line with an empty fuel tank for third place. "Our fuel light came on quite a bit before the end as well," observed Erdos. "I was concerned we might not make it, so it was fortunate that I was able to back off."
The squad has one more outing in the British series, at Donington Park next weekend, before considering some international races to round off the season. "We can go out and really enjoy ourselves," said Erdos, grinning at the thought. "This has given us all such a boost. I'd especially like to say thank you to Ian for sharing the driving, and to my number one [race engineer], Rocket, who's been a real force behind the whole program. He deserves this title as well."