BARNES AND SHORT DOMINATE IN DIJON! The reigning British GT Champion, Jon Barnes was back behind the wheel of a GT car last weekend, when he joined Martin Short in a Mosler MT900R GT3 in the V de V Endurance GT Series at Dijon in ...
BARNES AND SHORT DOMINATE IN DIJON!
The reigning British GT Champion, Jon Barnes was back behind the wheel of a GT car last weekend, when he joined Martin Short in a Mosler MT900R GT3 in the V de V Endurance GT Series at Dijon in France.
Martin Short is one of Britain's' most experienced and successful GT racers, both as a driver and team owner, with his Rollcentre Racing/Mosler Europe team having completed almost all of the top sportscar endurance races around the globe, including the Le Mans 24 Hours, Spa 24 hours, Daytona 24 Hours, Bathhurst 24 Hours and the Suzuka 1000kms to name just a few races that he has competed in with great success.
Jon was given the opportunity to drive with Martin in the 3 hour endurance race at Dijon thanks to his extensive knowledge and success at the challenging high speed French circuit. Jon had previously won on 5 of the 8 occasions that he had raced at Dijon, so despite not having driven a race car in 4 months, the pressure was on for Jon to show how well he and the Mosler could perform.
The Rollcentre Racing team had prepared a great car and the weekend began well in hot and sunny conditions. Jon and Martin only required small car setup adjustments in order set very competitive lap times during the two test sessions on Friday. Despite using an old set of tyres, the pair ended the day second fastest overall, less than one-tenth of a second slower than a brand new Ferrari F430 Scuderia being piloted by top French GT Racer and Le Mans 24 Hours winner, Eric Helary.
Saturday arrived dry and bright and both drivers were eager to get out in the qualifying session with new tyres fitted to the Mosler to see what lap times they could achieve. However, the GT qualifying session was postponed and rescheduled for Sunday morning due to a tragic accident in an earlier session which sadly killed Denis Lelièvre, a marshal at the circuit.
On Sunday morning the GT qualifying session got underway in dry and sunny conditions. Martin chose to take the Mosler out onto the circuit first and set a time which gave the pairing provisional pole, 1:20.5 secs. With 12 minutes of the session remaining, Jon got his chance to try to set a faster time. After three laps Jon managed to find some clear track and popped in a 1:18.8, and on the following lap he set an even faster time with a 1:18.68 to give the duo pole position by almost one second over their nearest rivals, the Ferrari 430 GT2 of Thierry Perrier and Jean-Paul Pagny.
With the temperature gradually rising to over 26 degrees Celsius, the three hour race began at 2.30pm. Martin decided to give Jon the opening stint in the race, Martin's greater experience of the Mosler would be crucial incase of any technical problems with the car later in the race. Jon made an excellent start from pole position, getting the jump on the rest of the 29 car field to lead into the first corner. From the opening lap Jon managed to set a very good pace, pulling away from the rest of the chasing pack by up to 1.5 seconds per lap until the first safety car period on the 50 minute mark. After the tragic events of the previous day, the team knew that there was a high likelyhood of a safety car period at some point during the first hour of the race and they were ready and waiting when Jon came into the pits under the safety car conditions to make his first stop for fuel. The fuel stop went without a hitch and Jon was able to get back out of the pits into the race lead whilst still under Safety Car conditions.
The green flag flew on lap 41 and Jon set about building another big gap back to the Perrier/Pagny Ferrari in second position. However, it was only another 15 laps before a broken Maserati at the hairpin caused Safety Car period number 2. Thankfully the Safety Car period only lasted for 3 laps, Jon pushed hard for the last 15 laps of his 2-hour stint to make another gap back to the chasing pack. As the 2 hour mark approached, Jon had built up a comfortable 16 second lead, he then headed for the pitlane to refuel which again went without fault. Jon left the fuelling area and drove into pitlane where he handed the car over to Martin while the rest of the team completed the tyre change on the Mosler. Martin left the pits and once all of the other teams completed their final pit stops, he still had a 10 second lead. Just as Jon had done in his stint, Martin had no problem in creating a sizeable gap over the other cars, and after 20 laps Martin had built up a 45 second lead back to the #14 Moreau/Langin Porsche that was now in second position. The final 20 laps of Martin's stint went without any faults whatsoever, and just to show how dominant the performance was, Martin managed to lap the second placed Porsche on the final lap!
The #1 Ferrari F430 GT2 of Perrier and Pagny, which had been in second place for most of the race was later excluded from third position after the car was deemed to have exceeded the noise limit by the Race Director.
Jon said, "Having spent an agonising four months on the sidelines, I would just like to say a big thank you to Martin Short for giving me the opportunity to drive in the Mosler this weekend."
"This has been a fantastic experience for me. I have really enjoyed driving the Mosler, which is an absolutely awesome machine. As you would expect, Martin is very fast and very experienced. All of the guys at Rollcentre Racing are brilliant, they have a great team spirit and they are really hard working and professional."
"It's been a good challenge this weekend and I have experienced a lot of new things. In British GT last year I did not complete a driving stint of more than 50 minutes, so to get 2 hours in the car today was a really good test of my mental and physical endurance, especially after the long time spent not racing this year. I have never had the luxury of using paddle shift in a GT car, or had a drinks bottle before so it was good to get used to using those in race conditions! I am really pleased that we were able to show how good the Mosler MT900 GT3 is and if Martin ever needs a fast and reliable driver for one of his cars again then I will be ready and raring to go!"