Sebring: Patrick Pearce race report

PEARCE ON THE PACE IN SEBRING DEBUT Patrick Pearce and the LNT Racing TVR sportscar team made a terrifically promising debut in the American Le Mans Series at last weekend's Sebring 12 Hour race in Florida -- fighting for a top five finish...

PEARCE ON THE PACE IN SEBRING DEBUT

Patrick Pearce and the LNT Racing TVR sportscar team made a terrifically promising debut in the American Le Mans Series at last weekend's Sebring 12 Hour race in Florida -- fighting for a top five finish in the GT2 class.

This was not only 23-year-old Pearce's first attempt at the legendary Sebring race, but LNT's first ever race. The TVR T400 GT2 Patrick shared with Marc Hynes and Richard Dean qualified 11th in the GT2 class and made rapid progress in the race -- running as high as fourth before an engine problem struck shortly after half-distance.

"The first part of the race was very good," said Pearce. "We didn't quite have the outright pace of the Porsches, but we made up a lot of places and it was looking good. I've got to thank the team for doing such a great job in preparing the cars. They were both running extremely well early on. Unfortunately the car Jonny, Warren and I were driving had an engine problem, but you do expect some little problems at this stage in the development programme."

The Sebring 12 Hours is perhaps the second biggest sportscar race in the world, beaten only by Le Mans in terms of prestige and the calibre and exoticism of the entry. Although Patrick has raced at major events like the Bathurst 24 Hours in Australia, and several 1000km races in Europe, this was his first taste of American style endurance racing.

"The atmosphere out there is very different to Europe," he said. "The crowds are very big, and so enthusiastic. The Sebring circuit is basically still an airfield -- it's half tarmac and half concrete, and turns one and 17 in particular are incredibly bumpy. The front wheels sometimes come right off the ground there, although I have to say our TVR handled the bumps a lot better than many of the other cars."

Pearce believes that his own personal performance, as well as the LNT team's strong showing, bodes well for a successful 2005 season. He will now focus on parallel programmes in the British GT Championship and Le Mans Endurance Series -- commencing with a British round at Donington Park on 2nd-3rd April.

"We've got quite a big programme of development," he said. "Our car was right on the pace in the corners, but we were losing several lengths to the Porsches on the straights. The team has got some engine improvements on the way though, so we should definitely get more power as the year progresses. There's even more to come from the chassis too.

"I feel like I was on the pace with the other drivers in the team, and they are all very quick and very experienced. I'm really getting to grips with the car now, so when I get back to circuits that I know well I should be right up there with them."

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Series ALMS
Drivers Patrick Pearce , Richard Dean , Marc Hynes