Le Mans – Round 3 Sports 2000 Championship Mini Enduro
Le Mans 24/25th September 2016
Sports 2000 Championship Mini Enduro
MCR Race Cars
report by Patrick Sherrington
First time at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit and only a 20 minute practise meant that qualifying was going to be tight. A red flag early on meant starting over again and with 42 cars on the track it was certainly busy.
As it turned out qualifying was like a mini race with loads of traffic to pass and Michael Gibbins glued to my gearbox for most of the session.
The car was working well and I seemed to be catching most people and this turned out to be the case and I was delighted to be on pole by just over half a second.
We made a couple more minor set up changes before the race and bright sun meant it was going to be a hot one!
It was also a rolling start and I was effectively on the outside for the first kink but I decided this should be ok as the car was good through there and I would then have the inside for the braking area into the chicane.
I led the massive grid toward the start-line waiting for the green lights….. Lights to green and away! I thought that I had got a reasonable start but first off Michael just pulled away and then was quickly followed by the Gunns of Tom Stoten and Paul Trayhurn. This was not the start I was looking for!
We all charged toward the first chicane and I was effectively sandwiched between Tom on the inside and Paul on the outside which meant total concentration on the front end of the car so as not to run into them.
As it was I should have been watching the rear as well as when we all turned in I was hit hard in the left rear by Roger Donnan pushing me very sideways and wide. I just caught the slide and managed to cling onto fourth going into the long right hander at the bottom of the hill.
Halfway through the lap the safety car boards came out as David Houghton and Giles Billingsley had been taken out by the number 8 French Sport Protos car. This lasted for 4 frustrating laps.
Lights to green again and whilst I could challenge under braking and through the corners the car just seemed to go backward on the straights – we later discovered that the fuel pressure had been dropping off again causing the lack of power.
As it was I managed to get up and alongside Tom Stoten going into the fast chicane. We both turned in but I decided to bail out halfway through and across the tarmac rather than risk a collision. Once through I pulled away and started to challenge Paul Trayhurn but could not get close enough to make a serious move so had to settle for third with Michael Gibbins taking the win relatively unchallenged.
I was determined to make amends for R1 and with the fuel pressure issue hopefully sorted I was looking forward to a good race.
I was also somewhat wary of the menacing silver number 8 car that was right behind me on the grid as I knew he would be faster on the straight. My nerves were not improved by people reminding me of that fact in the collecting area and to be careful!!!
Sure enough as the lights went green the mighty French beast pulled alongside as we charged toward the flat out kink before the braking area. I was on the outside but knew that it was unlikely he could take the corner as fast so braved it out into the braking area and managed to slither past both the silver number 8 and Paul Trayhurn and right behind Michael Gibbins.
A strong first lap saw me challenging Michael hard but it was not going to be that easy to get by and the ever competitive Paul Trayhurn was looking menacing in the mirror as well.
Indeed starting lap 5 I was held up by a backmarker going onto the start finish straight and Paul managed to slip by into the first chicane despite the fact he had hit one of the bollards on the exit causing his rear wing to bend to a strange angle. The bollard also sheared off and hit Tom Stoten on the head – something the organisers should think about in terms of safety as apparently they are not light…….
The black and orange flag came out for Paul so it was only a matter of time before he had to pull in but I was still keen to get past. I was also impressed by the speed he managed to carry despite the rear wing at a jaunty angle!
I managed to wrestle my way past toward the end of the lap and then set off in pursuit of Michael and quickly found myself on the gearbox of his car. We then had a massive scrap for the lead as we sliced our way through back markers at the same time. I managed to draw alongside 3 or 4 times but couldn’t quite make it stick. The time was ticking away so I had a massive push going into lap 10. I got alongside for 3 consecutive corners and especially going into the fast left right chicane toward the end of the lap we both pitched in on the ragged edge and I could see the Chevron of Andy Storer ahead and halfway through the corner to add to the excitement!!
We both made it through but I had more momentum. I went to dive down the inside, Michael covered and I fired it back to the outside without lifting and got the car just about turned in and ahead when there was a bang and the car slide massively sideways first one way then the other.
Sadly the rear suspension had broken which would have been due to a stress fracture from the hit the day before. A disappointing end but a great race and delighted to collect another lap record on the way set whilst chasing Paul Trayhurn on lap 6
Well done to Michael Gibbins P1, Tom Stoten P2 (despite the bollard) and Peter Williams P3