Freeparking.com Racing test notes 2004-09-07

Freeparking.com Clio Flies in Testing Ahead Of Barcelona 24 Hour Race 07 September 2004 - Freeparking.com Racing's Phil Bennett and Jim Edwards Jnr made a promising start to their Barcelona 24 Hour campaign on Tuesday with a successful test...

Freeparking.com Clio Flies in Testing Ahead Of Barcelona 24 Hour Race

07 September 2004 - Freeparking.com Racing's Phil Bennett and Jim Edwards Jnr made a promising start to their Barcelona 24 Hour campaign on Tuesday with a successful test at Montmelo in northern Spain.

Le Mans Endurance Series ace Bennett and British Touring Car race winner Edwards Jnr were both enjoying their first taste of the RC Competicion-prepared Freeparking.com/ Abztrakt Galerias Clio 20 RS.

"The car was really good," Bennett said after the test. "The preparation is first class and the balance of the chassis means that even though it isn't as powerful a car as I'm used to, it is superb fun to drive."

While former Vauxhall and Proton driver Bennett has never raced a Clio competitively, Edwards Jnr is an expert in the Renault marquee after winning the 2000 UK Clio Cup. The Maidenhead resident recently returned to the UK series and was immediately back on the pace- and the winner's rostrum- with victory in round ten at Knockhill.

"My first impression of the car was how well it had been put together," he commented after his first run in the Freeparking.com/ Abztrakt Galerias Clio. "Once on track it became immediately clear that this 182 version of the Clio RS was going to be a pleasure to drive. The gearbox is very smooth to change and is simply a joy to use. The brakes are also stronger and more consistent than those used in the UK."

Although Steve Warburton was originally pencilled in to drive for Freeparking.com Racing in Barcelona he has recently purchased a Porsche Cup car and has therefore decided not to run in the Barcelona 24 Hour race. With third Freeparking.com driver Paul Lomax also forced to sit out the test due to a rib injury sustained in a jet ski accident two weeks ago, Bennett and Edwards Jnr concentrated on familiarising themselves with the Clio RS and working towards a set-up for race day.

"The first task was to make the car comfortable for each of the drivers," Edwards Jnr explains. "Fortunately we all found it to our liking after a few adjustments to the seat and steering wheel heights. We also adjusted the handling and balance of the car during the day's running. Although it's difficult to make the Clio perfectly suited to every type of corner, we are confident we have a good race set up. Spending time on fuel strategy was also an important part of the test as this will be a key factor during the twenty-four hours of the race."

Fresh from racing a Saleen S7 in the Silverstone round of the Le Mans Endurance Series, Bennett completed three testing runs at Montmelo. "The first two sessions were very short, " he said. "My first stint in the car lasted about four laps and was just to give me time to learn the car and the track. I was down to decent lap times in around two laps. The final run I did was a simulated race session, lasting around forty laps. The only problem I had was keeping the grin off my face!

"I'm really looking forward to the race next Saturday and I think it's fair to say that we are going for the outright win. Jim and Paul are both quick and proven drivers in a Clio so that will keep me on my toes."

Edwards Jnr echoed this sentiment, adding: "I think that the team Paul has assembled has every chance of success. There is no doubt that we are all heading to the Circuit de Catalunya with one thing in mind and that is to win! The Barcelona 24 Hours will be my first endurance race. I'm really looking forward to the challenge as this is an area I would like to move towards in the future."

The Freeparking.com Racing duo set extremely competitive lap times during the test and were consistently close to the pace set by competitors in the national Copa Clio series.

"Although our car is set up for endurance racing, the lap times were very close to the pace shown by cars that race here in the Spanish Clio Cup," Paul Lomax said. "Phil and Jim were both extremely pleased with the handling and performance of the car. Most of the day was taken up by fuel consumption testing whereby fuel usage is balanced with rpm and therefore lap times."

Freeparking.com Racing team manager, Mark Fish was also on hand at Montmelo. A respected preparation expert and holder of the 2000 UK Clio Cup team championship title, Fish used Tuesday's test to work towards finding the most efficient way to run the car over long distances. "Having raced Clios over relatively short distances in the UK series, the test was a revelation for me in terms of car set up as endurance racing requires a completely different set of rules. It's important for example to pace the car and driver and balance that with fuel economy in order to get good lap times over longer stints. You also need to try and keep the revs low and maintain an economy of fuel, tyres and brakes."

The Barcelona 24 Hours takes place at the Circuit de Catalunya, September 18-19.

-ra-

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About this article
Series Road racing
Drivers Jim Edwards , Phil Bennett