14th - 15th April 2001
Jubilation for Parr at Snetterton
Victory came at the end of a thrilling race that also netted third place overall for the Porsche Cars GB pairing. Constant drizzle added to the standing water already on the greasy track to make for difficult conditions. Once racing began the whole effect was made much worse by mounting spray from the other competitors, but Burt, in particular, appeared to relish the challenge.
hint that the duo were on course for a good result came in qualifying.
Those morning times were never going to be bettered. By mid-afternoon 2nd Qualifying Session the conditions had changed and the track was distinctly damp. Marino Franchitti took over from Burt in the #53 car posting a best of 1:16.043 to finish the session 2nd quickest in GTO, just behind team-mate Matt Turner in the #54 car with a 1:15.759. The Porsche GB works cars were obviously quick in the wet as Turner was on the pace with even the GT cars in the class above. Turner was happy with the handling of the car and pleased to take pole for the session.
Paul Robe, Parr's team manager, was pleased with the way things stood. "We had a good first qualifying, but to go quickest in the wet when the forecast for the race is unlikely to be fully dry is very pleasing," he said. And so it proved. Turner looked forward with confidence to the race, unfortunately he would never get a chance to demonstrate his speed again.
By mid-afternoon on Sunday we had typical Easter Holiday weather - cold and wet with dark clouds threatening more of the same. The sombre skies added to the poignancy of the minute's silence held on the grid for GT driver Matt Bettley, who died in a road accident near Silverstone on the eve of Round One.
With the GT race scheduled for last race of the day it was a foregone conclusion that the track would be slippy by the time the one-hour event was due to begin. This was suitably confirmed by the number of competitors who went spinning on the warm-up lap, even before racing began.
As the pace car ducked into the pits to herald the rolling start, it was not only noise that erupted from the grid, but plumes of dense spray. It was remarkable that there were not more incidents on that first lap, but one driver looking for a gap was Kelvin Burt. "I got the best start of anyone," he said, "but it was too narrow to make any headway. If there had been more room I had the momentum to get through, but I latched onto the black TVR and followed him instead."
Better than that, though, because Burt was second overall as they crossed the line to complete the opener. It set up a thrilling battle with Caine in the more-powerful TVR that was to entertain the hardy crowd for half a dozen laps. "Under those sort of conditions the TVR is very slow in the corners and the exit. Then it gets into its stride and pulls away down the straights. Over a whole lap I was quicker, but getting past was another matter." To illustrate the point the two cars approached Russell side-by side to complete lap two, the TVR just getting the edge, then running wide on the exit and allowing Burt through to complete another lap in second.
A little way back down the field things were very much tighter. A gaggle of cars was battling for fifth and sixth. Mixed up in the throng was Edward Horner in the second of the two Parr Motorsport Porsches. "It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time - every time!" said a visibly disappointed Horner after the race. On the opening lap he'd been caught in a tangle between Ashley Ward in the white TVR Speed 12 and another of the GT3 Porsches. Some tried to blame Horner for the TVR's retirement with heavily deranged rear bodywork, but the former Lotus Elise ace was insisting his innocence. "I watched it all happen, so I was a witness, but I didn't do the damage," he said. The fact he crossed the line still holding fourth in GTO would tend to corroborate his story, but worse was to come.
On the fifth lap Horner was tapped into a spin at Riches that was to cost him seven places, dropping the orange and purple Corus Hotels car to sixteenth overall. He soldiered on and threw down his quickest laps of the race as he attempted to recover lost ground, but was caught out by Marcus Fothergill in the #44 Harlow Motorsport car. "He must have missed a gear," explained Horner. "He slowed very suddenly, and I caught him hard in the rear." Initially it looked as though Fothergill had probably came off worse, with heavy rear-end damage that, combined with some earlier frontal injuries, upset the Porsche's handling. He was eventually to spin out into retirement on lap 23.
Horner, meanwhile, looked to have survived with little more than (further!) cosmetic damage. His times were good, but a damaged oil cooler was to spell the end for car 54 even before Fothergill called it a day. With smoke filling the cockpit and the engine coughing feebly, Horner struggled to the pitlane and retired on lap seventeen.
Back out front Kelvin Burt was having a wonderful time. As a racing line developed on the track the TVR was able to make better use of its traction, finally getting enough of an edge over the nimble-footed Porsche to make the advantage stick. The only other runner making any great impression was Calum Lockie in the GT2 Porsche. From fourteenth on the grid, a string of fastest laps had him sweeping up through the pack. He relieved the Parr driver of overall third on lap 8, but it was of little consequence to Burt. He had already established a class lead of some fifteen seconds over Devlin in the Hayles GTO Viper by this stage.
With twenty minutes completed the "window" opened for driver changes. Some made early stops, including Dave Warnock in the GT Lister Storm. The damp track had not been forgiving when he'd fitted a set of brand new unscrubbed tyres, and he'd spun down to twelfth. Burt's tyres were obviously on top form, as he chose this point to post fastest GTO lap of the day with a best of 1:16.849.
Still going great guns in overall lead was the other Hayles Racing "big" Viper, with Rob Wilson at the wheel. "Rob was a lot quicker than we expected him to be," said Kelvin Burt. "I think Tim must have had words after Silverstone!" The Hayles Racing Viper took to the pitlane the following lap, followed soon after by the black TVR, leaving Calum Lockie and Kelvin Burt to inherit first and second.
It was not a good pitstop for the TVR crew, who had problems getting the V12 fired up again. While Harvey, now in the Viper, was back out in the lead, the TVR was about to threaten the entire course of the race. Exiting the famous "Bomb Hole" along the back of the circuit the big car took to the sky. It landed in a gravel trap some distance away, beached and immobile. It was going to take the marshals nearly seven laps to extract the Blackpool Behemoth, by which time the organisers had called out the safety car. In a single action Kelvin Burt's hard work was undone. The team didn't delay in calling him in for the swap with Marino Franchitti, but the result was the same. A thirty-second lead had been wiped out at a stroke.
All the practice in the morning had paid off, and the two drivers made a very slick exchange. Franchitti was out on track again in time to pick up the pace car and retain his class lead. He circulating round the track still second overall, but with Mike Jordan's Lister now tight on his rear wing. The GT driver had worked wonders after his swap with Warnock, and only Franchitti and a failing windscreen wiper stood between him and Tim Harvey's Viper.
As soon as racing resumed, Jordan was away. "My main worry was keeping the heat in the brakes," said Franchitti. "I knew where Short (second in the GTO TVR) was at the restart, so I just let Jordan go through and followed him. The rest got left behind." As it turned out, Short in the lime green TVR was not the Scot's real threat. Coming through from fifth in GTO was Terry Rymer in the #45 Harlow Porsche.
The gap between Franchitti and Rymer started to narrow. From around thirteen seconds on lap 32, it was down to just seven five turns later. Sensing the ex-biker on a charge Marino responded with emphatic class. "I caught sight of his lights in my rear-view mirror just once," admitted the youngster. That was enough to spur the Parr driver into action. After losing time to the #27 TVR, which defending aggressively despite being seven laps down, Franchitti stabilised the gap at around seven seconds, and from lap 37 the margin merely ebbed and flowed gently like the tide. "I wasn't pushing 100%," said Franchitti. "Maybe seven tenths! I kept catching traffic, and that cost me some time, but when I needed to I could pull away easily enough. The tyres were great. There was a lot of life left in them at the end, so I knew I could respond if I needed to."
The deciding moment came on lap 41, when Rymer ran wide at the Esses and damaged a radiator. He eased off, glad to retain second, but was a full seventeen adrift by the flag.
Franchitti swept into Victory Lane on a wave of euphoric jubilation. He leapt from the car, prepared to share his joy with almost anyone who came near. Among the first was Dario Franchitti, over from the States to support his younger sibling. "I've never seen my brother so excited in my life!" said Marino afterwards. "This makes up for Silverstone. It feels absolutely fantastic. I've not won for a while now, but you never forget what it's like. Today felt really great. I'm so happy." Judging by the look on his face, this was something of an understatement.
It was interesting to see Kelvin Burt beaming with pleasure, but holding back just a little from the family celebrations. The 'veteran' campaigner was clearly happy to allow his up-and-coming co-driver the glory before he too became swept along by the moment.
Tim Harvey and Rob Wilson came through as outright winners in the Hayles Racing GT Viper, crossing the line twelve seconds clear of the Lister Storm. Among the first to congratulate team-owner Liz Rose was Parr Motorsport's Paul Robe. For each it was a debut win that they might have wished for a year ago.
"What can you say?" said Paul Robe, his face split by a broad smile. "It's fantastic. It was really great to take a phone call just now and simply say 'We won!" Collecting his thoughts for a moment, he went on; "We were so close at the last round, and to come here in these conditions, which are hardly ideal, and win, is very pleasing. I'm over the moon." He was also swift to hand out praise to his winning drivers. "Kelvin drove a brilliant stint. The safety car wasted all his hard work but even so, it all fell into place in the end. We may have lost a big advantage but Marino drove a superbly controlled and very mature race to complete the job. He was under tremendous pressure, but he came through it without a hitch."
Turning his thoughts to the second car of Ed Horner and Matt Turner, Paul Robe was philosophical. "Edward started well, but got involved in a very competitive area of the grid. Unfortunately, he sustained damage that caused the car's retirement, which was very disappointing. Racing incidents occur and sometimes you have to accept it." Any disappointment was not about to diminish his good humour, however, and he was still able to se the lighter side of the exchange. "The car's well beaten. I think there's only one side that's still OK!"
The team now has a fortnight to complete its celebrations and make good the damage before Round Three at Donington Park, scheduled for April 28th/29th.