MIXED EMOTIONS AT DONINGTON FOR SUGDEN The Le Mans Series 1000km race this weekend was an occasion for pleasure and pain for Tim Sugden. The 40 car field split into 4 classes as is the case with the famous 24 hour race and Sugden's GT2 class...
MIXED EMOTIONS AT DONINGTON FOR SUGDEN
The Le Mans Series 1000km race this weekend was an occasion for pleasure and pain for Tim Sugden. The 40 car field split into 4 classes as is the case with the famous 24 hour race and Sugden's GT2 class took up almost half the grid. The lead drivers include specialists such as factory Porsche driver Mark Lieb, Mercedes DTM driver Peter Dumbreck and former Benetton GP driver Andrea Montermini in another Ferrari F430 as well as other former GT champions in the FIA series. Qualifying was therefore going to be a close run thing and Sugden in the Virgo Ferrari F430 had topped the sheets in the 90 minute morning practice and run a close third in the second session when trying the car on full tanks with old tyres so was a leading contender for pole.
Fitting new tyres and the usual low fuel load Sugden went out early in the 20 minute session and posted an immediate 1:31.676 on his first flying lap, good enough for pole at the time by 0.6 of a second. Two more laps in the 1:31.7's followed and then a 1:31.320 set a time 9 tenths quicker than the nearest rival. Montermini then tried a procedure that the late Aerton Senna used to great effect by going out on new tyres late in the session in the hope of taking pole and leaving Sugden with no time to counter. The best he could do however was 1:31.654 and so Sugden had his first pole position of the year to the great delight of the Virgo team giving an all Ferrari front row in GT2.
At the start of the race the expected battle was joined between Sugden and Montermini with the lead changing twice. On the second of these occasions the two cars touched and both spun quickly returning without damage but allowing the works Panoz through from third into the lead. Sugden, now clear of Montermini pulled away and gradually caught the Panoz and retook the lead before handing over to team mate Dan Eagling. The car dropped to 5th in the pit stops but Eagling brought it back to 2nd before he was due to hand back to Sugden, it was then that things went wrong as Dan explained to the press afterwards:
"One of the GT1 Corvettes hit me into the gravel at the Old Hairpin. I almost got it out: I was stuck right on the edge. Then once I was pulled out, I was sensibly coming back to the pits, going up the hill to Coppice, when the yellow, LMP2 Lola (in the second prototype class) turned into me and knocked me straight through the gravel and almost into the barrier beyond. I don't believe it." The Virgo Ferrari was then four laps off the GT2 lead.
Later extra stops to repair damage dropped the car further back and although Tim set the second fastest lap of race as they tried to recover, 6th place was all that the team could manage after a dramatic weekend and over 6 hours of racing.
Tim's next outing is this coming weekend at Dijon in France in the FIA series with the JMB-GruppeM Ferrari with which he finished 3rd just over a week ago at Paul Ricard and will be hoping to improve on that result.