29th September 2001
Insurance British GT Championship
Burt & Franchitti Victorious in Season Finalé as Turner and Horner secure 2nd place in Championship despite an early race accident for Porsche GB
Parr Motorsport's champion pairing of Kelvin Burt and Marino Franchitti rounded off an impressive season with their eighth class win of the year in last weekend's enthralling final round in the 2001 British GT Championship. Adding to the team's delight came confirmation that Edward Horner and Matt Turner, co-driving the team's #54 Porsche, sponsored by Corus Hotels, finished as runners-up for the title, making this an unprecedented one-two for the Porsche Cars GB works-backed outfit.
For the first time in the championship's history the organisers had scheduled the final round as a "night race", with qualifying and the hour-long feature race taking place late of an evening. Overhead floodlights had been erected through Bridge corner, around the so-called "stadium complex" of Priory, Brooklands and Luffield, and down the main straight to Copse. With the exception of Abbey, where some background lighting cast a glow across the tricky hairpin, the rest of the 2.25 mile Silverstone International was swathed in darkness. It proved to be a challenge for some of the drivers, many of whom had never raced at night before, but offered a unique spectacle for what turned out to be a better-than-expected crowd.
Although they had wrapped up the championship at Thruxton at the start of September Kelvin and Marino had not lost any of their determination to win. Another victory at Brands Hatch last time out had been proof of that, but Silverstone at night was going to be an added incentive for this dominant pairing to go out on a high. The whole team was also acutely aware of the fact that Ed Horner and Matt Turner stood on the threshold of making it a remarkable year for Parr Motorsport. Eleven points clear of their nearest rivals, Mark Sumpter and Shaun Balfe, Horner and Turner needed only four points, or for the Eurotech pair to finish third or worse, to finish the year as runners-up in the championship. Although consistent point-scorers, Sumpter and Balfe had not finished that well since winning the first race of the year at Silverstone in April, but a precedent by definition can sometimes be repeated.
As with most previous rounds of the championship, the teams were offered the opportunity of some "free testing" in advance of qualifying. This might have been a more meaningful exercise if some of it could have been carried out under simulated race conditions - Thursday's evening darkness might have been ideal. Had the organisers managed this, then many teams would have discovered in good time just how inadequate their headlights were going to be. As it was there were few who completed qualifying without frequent trips back to the garage for adjustments, while several more were to be seen rigging up Heath Robinson-like brackets and pods in an attempt to shed more light on proceedings. Instead the two test runs on Friday came early in the day, with Kelvin Burt emerging fastest in GTO in the second session with a best of 1:22.416. Martin Short in the TVR Tuscan R had managed to run the Parr Porsche pretty close. He was quickest in GTO in the morning on 1:23.751, but was subsequently unable to improve. The second TVR of Stanton & Hyde crept into third, with Ed Horner and Matt Turner fourth on 1:24.466. It confirmed, as if confirmation was really necessary, that the battle for top honours was once again going to be between these four.
The evening's first qualifying session began at five to seven with dusk just falling across the circuit. The eighteen GTO runners had the track to themselves for the first ten minutes and Kelvin Burt was immediately topping the charts. His first flying lap of 1:24.005 held sway for the opening minutes before his fifth flyer reset the benchmark. At 1:23.326 it was a second clear of the field, although Martin Short edged closer in mid-stint with a 1:23.736. Only Ed Horner got anywhere close, with a best of 1:23.858 securing third in class. By this time the GT cars had joined in, and with darkness complete any real hope of improvement had gone.
By half nine any vestige of light had long vanished and pitch dark had descended over two thirds of the International Circuit. With roles reversed the GT cars enjoyed an unhindered first ten minutes, and several improved their earlier times. It was a false dawn for the GTO drivers, however, few of whom were able to go any quicker. Car #53 emerged fastest in the class once again, this time with Marino Franchitti at the wheel. He'd come back into the pitlane after eight laps to have the headlights adjusted, and on his return to the track was delighted to set a best of 1:23.895. "The lights were awful at first," he explained. "They were miles better after we'd reconfigured them, and getting to within a tenth of the TVR's time from the earlier session was very pleasing. We've proved the strength of the squad once again, and Kelvin and I are well on top of things. The car's working really well."
Matt Turner followed a similar routine with #54, including the pitstop for lighting adjustment, and finished the session third behind Martin Short's Tuscan. "The tyres took ages to come in," he said, "but after four or five laps they were fine. We still need to work on the lights some more, so I'm quite pleased to be this close." Paul Robe, team manager at Parr, was able to relax a little. "We felt the second session might have been quicker, and we were prepared to put a time in with Marino, but it wasn't required in the end," he said. "To have Marino finish fastest in the session merely confirmed his ability and showed how dramatically he has improved this season. Added to Kelvin's time earlier, this really stamped out authority on the championship."
Seeing Marino through to winning the title has clearly been a strain on the amiable Mr Robe. It's a well-known fact that stress can have an effect on one's hair colour, but it's usually a case of going prematurely grey. In Paul Robe's case, however, securing the championship had sent him decidedly blond. "At the beginning of the year Marino turned up to an official launch at Porsche with blond hair," he explained. Somewhat rashly, perhaps, Paul made a wager. "I said that I would do the same, but only if he won the championship." When Paul arrived at Brands Hatch for the previous round, after Marino and Kelvin had secured the title, he was reminded of his promise. He duly arrived at Silverstone with striking yellow-blond hair. "Everyone smiles!" he said. "I had to go and see the Clerk of the Course about a matter earlier today. I walked in through the door, and he smiled at me." After an introduction like that it's hard to deliver a reprimand, even had one been necessary, so there was a plus side after all!
So the first session time from Kelvin Burt stood the challenge, giving the former Touring Car driver his fifth pole of the season. "I still feel a bit frustrated," he admitted. "I know we could have gone a lot quicker, but the tyres felt cold for several laps, and by the time they came in the track was too busy for a clear lap." Paul Robe was very pleased with Kelvin's performance. "Deciding to let Kelvin Burt qualify the car was a bit of a risk, since he'd never driven in the dark before, but he did a brilliant job. He was in a situation where the lights weren't ideal, but he still placed the car on pole."
Third for the #54 car was actually better than Paul had expected. "The orange car had done reasonably well in the tests [on Friday morning] but had not managed to match the pace of Kelvin and Marino," he said. "We tried to find out the cause, and [by qualifying] we had the data [to modify the set-up]. That allowed Ed to get much closer to the other two than he had been before. We were very pleased to be within a tenth of the TVR," and ahead of Stanton and Hyde in the second TVR. "We were well set for the race," he added. "We did experienced some problems with the lights in qualifying, but I think we can sort that out before the race."
Compared to the antics of other teams and their attempts to address the same lighting problem, Parr's difficulties must have seemed relatively minor! Kelvin Burt, however, had other concerns. "I'm also very worried about the speed differentials out there," he said. It's been a common observation this year that there are one or two, perhaps more, who are significantly slower than the rest. Under the even more demanding conditions of racing at night this had been accentuated to the point where there was a difference of almost twenty seconds between first and last on the grid. Any thought of enforcing the "percentage" rule was probably dismissed when it was realised that doing so would have excluded nearly one-third of the field! The Driver's Briefing was a little longer than usual.
Friday's conditions had been mild, dry and perfect for late-season racing. By Saturday morning they had been transformed by thick low-level cloud and heavy rain into a "worst case scenario". By mid-day, however, the downpour had eased enough for the GT cars to complete some, if not all, their allotted fifteen-minutes of official Warm-up. There was something of an end-of-term atmosphere in the Parr garage, with the guys sporting "See yew Jimmy!" hats as they prepared to receive Scotland's Marino Franchitti in the simulated driver change. The session was red flagged moments from the end, but Burt had already managed six laps and stood on top of the GTO timings. Indeed, the first three were in the same order as qualifying, but a significant fourth was the #77 Eurotech car of Sumpter & Balfe.
As the afternoon wore on the sky steadily cleared until, by the time the single-seaters were out on track and racing, the clouds had vanished, the track was dry, and it was even feeling warm again. Gales and torrential rain had been the Met. Office forecast, but Silverstone was getting an Indian Summer. The sun began setting on the Minis and was little more than a glow in the west as the Fiestas took their turn. When the Michelin Porsche Cup race headed for the rolling start, with Parr's Barbara Armstrong about to finish fourth in her last race of the season, it was definitely dark. A laser show, to somber film-score music, illuminated the cloudless skies before the marching band, bedecked with fairy lights, tramped round Woodcote and headed for Copse. Their red, white and black uniforms made them look strangely like distant skittles down an alley, with the Jaguar pace car, ready at the head of the gird, aimed threateningly for a strike.
At half past nine, impressively back on schedule, the GT cars rumbled out the pitlane. The traditional Le Mans-style formation down the main straight might have added some atmosphere, building up a degree of anticipation, but there was still a buzz around the grandstands as the twenty-five cars took up their positions on the gird. For the first time we had a newcomer on outright pole; the Stealth B6, but Dave Warnock was starting the Lister alongside, just ahead of his usual adversaries, Rob Wilson in the GT Viper and Ian McKellar in the Speed 12. Another new face occupied row three; Xavier Pompidou was starting the Chamberlain "works" Viper, making a welcome guest appearance for the season finalé alongside Marino Franchitti, sitting on GTO pole. Directly behind was Matt Turner, occupying his habitual position as first-stint driver in the #54 Porsche.
It wasn't the perfect position for the two Parr Porsches, who might have been better placed had they been on the inside at Woodcote, but they both made the most of it as they swept round the final turn and headed for the line. The green lights were a little late in coming, but there was no mistaking when they did. There was a sudden eruption of noise as the cars bellowed down the straight towards Copse. It was an awesome spectacle, and the sight of massed lights disappearing down the track managed to evoke strong memories of Le Mans.
It was a clean start, with the GT Stealth rocketing into the lead, followed closely by Wilson and Pompidou. Warnock later complained that his tyres were cold, and took ages to reach temperature, but he was still fourth into the first corner ahead of McKellar and Franchitti. The GTO pole-sitter had made a great start, tucking in ahead of Barff in the TVR, who'd had the better line at the start thanks largely to the fast-pedaling Pompidou. "Unfortunately, the grid put us on the outside again," explained Paul Robe. "It wasn't the ideal run, but both drivers did really well in securing good positions as they approached the first corner." Turner had moved in on Barff's tail, and the threesome was making good time at the head of GTO.
By the end of the first lap the order in GT had altered slightly, with Warnock dropping back to fifth when McKellar recovered his pace to moved ahead of both the Lister driver and Wilson's Viper for third overall. Warnock's Michelins were also coming up to speed now, and he was to overtake Wilson on lap five. In the meantime, the three leaders in GTO were already pulling out a modest advantage over the chasing pack, although Curtis Hayles was raising a few eyebrows by keeping the trio in sight. In his first ever night race he was making an impressive run in the GTO Viper and holding off Adam Simmons in the Harlow Motorsport GT3 Porsche. The latter was about to disappear into the gloom at Copse, however, and end up several feet in the air as he bounced along the verge to Maggots.
Having pulled out a half second lead on Barff, Franchitti was now having serious doubts about the TVR driver. "I was really concerned about Barff," he admitted afterwards. "I didn't realize he had problems with his lights. I could see him behind me, perhaps a little way back, and then his lights would go off. A few moments later they'd come back on again and he'd be right up under my back bumper! I kept saying to myself, 'he's really trying to have me here!' It was like having a ghost car behind me!" It's easy to image what must have been going through his mind, wondering just what kind of psychological warfare the Tuscan driver was prepared to try next.
Barff kept up a blistering pace. For four laps there wasn't a hair's breadth between the three of them, although Turner had tried a few moves. "Barff was being really defensive. I followed him around for a while, but every time I got close he weaved across in front of me!" Little did either Parr driver know that Barff was having a desperate time, frantically trying to find a switch, a fuse, anything, that might account for the way his lights were behaving. Deciding it was probably wiser just to follow the TVR as close as he could, Turner settled down to a waiting brief. It wasn't a lengthy one either, with Barff finally pulling over in the Luffield complex when his lights finally failed completely and the car went dead. "I thought he must have had an alternator problem or something. Whatever, it was just too bad really. He was doing well," said a generous Matt Horner. It turned out to be a failed master switch, and after a few minutes of fiddling about in the dark Barff managed to get life back into the car and set off again, albeit a lap down and with half his lights not working at all.
No longer having to concentrate so hard on his mirrors Franchitti promptly set his quickest lap. At 1:25.001 it also turned out to be the class fastest for the race, just under a second away from Kelvin Burt's lap record, set in daylight earlier this year. This was lap five. Matt Turner had been forced into avoiding action when Barff slowed through Brooklands, but hared off after Franchitti, setting his fastest lap of 1:25.524 on the same lap. For the next eight laps it was business as usual for the two Parr drivers, with Franchitti now placing Rob Wilson in the GT Viper under increasing pressure. Wilson was struggling with a new gear shift pattern in the Viper and was only occasionally able to better Franchitti's lap times, with the result that the gap fell steadily until it stood at less than a second. This must have been enough of a wake-up call for the GT driver - the sight of those distinctive yellow headlights in the rear-view mirror made it clear that he was being caught by a GTO Porsche - and he upped his pace, but for a while Franchitti had the edge.
Matt had been keeping pace with Marino through most of this, but on lap 10 he was coming under growing pressure himself. In a reversal of roles, a GT car - this one the Cirtek GT2 Porsche driven by Stephen Stokoe - was bearing down on him fast. He couldn't hold him off for long, and the blue and silver car swept through before the end of the next lap. At Luffield next time around Stokoe spun and dropped to eleventh, but the damage had already been done. The exchange with the GT Porsche cost Matt several valuable seconds, and he now had Curtis Hayles breathing down his neck in the GTO Viper.
The two cars were almost touching as they came through to start the twelfth, but Matt was having to look fore and aft at the same time. As expected, the leading cars had started lapping the tail-enders within six laps, and by lap ten the GTO front-runners were in the thick of a throng of Mantises. There were two of them ahead of Matt has he came round Woodcote to start that lap and he was closing on them fast. He reached Freddie Kinchin's #47 car as they came to the end of the main straight. "He must have thought I was on the other side of him," said Turner. "After Copse I went to the outside on the run down to Maggots. We were side-by-side when, all of a sudden, he squeezed over on me. I dove on the brakes . . ." but it was too late. Matt went barreling off into the gravel. "I was begging the marshals to push me back on," he continued, " but I must have had a puncture or something." It was actually far more than a mere puncture. The rear right-hand rim was badly mangled, its tyre in shreds, and a front right ball-joint was fractured. They did get him back onto the track, and he limped the car around the track as far as Bridge, but the awkward right-hander there was too much for the damaged car. He ended up in the gravel once again.
Getting around from Maggots to Bridge - the best part of a mile or so - had taken him several minutes. It must have seemed an eternity to him, but a great deal had happened elsewhere in the meantime. After he'd got the Tuscan moving again Rob Barff had managed another five laps at race pace. Despite the handicap of poor lighting he'd even included one at 1:25.129, which was as quick as anyone else in the class. Then, crossing the line to start lap 11, the electrics died again. He coasted to a halt, directly in front of the Rollcentre Racing pit garage. In a bizarre series of events Martin Short and the team then completed what must be the most unusual driver change ever seen in British GT racing - through the catch fencing on the pit wall! With advice from the team, Short managed to find at least one of the car's many electrical faults, and got the thing going again. Unfortunately, even assuming this highly irregular procedure was legal, he'd omitted to check two things. One, he had no rear lights at all, and two, the orange tab that denotes the completion of the driver change was still on the side of the car. Of only passing interest perhaps was the fact that the twenty minute driver change "window" had not arrived yet, but who was counting? Martin is never one to give up until the entire fat chorus bellows the anthem, and he was determined to get the TVR back out and racing.
The entire operation had caught the organisers totally on the hop. Just as Martin was firing up the Tuscan and preparing to set off into the fray, they were sending out the pace car to execute a recovery! The "SC" boards were out, and moments later, so was the Jaguar pace car. It was the start of the fourteenth lap, and the next six were going to become very confusing. Not only did we have a pace car on track, with no real reason for it being out there, but twenty minutes was up and the driver changes were just starting.
Having spun at Luffield, Stephen Stokoe went straight into the pits to hand over to Charlie Cox. Aside from Shorty, he was the first, but he was also too early. Lap 14, the first full lap under the safety car, saw eight more swaps, but Marino waited one more before diving into the pitlane. It was a close call, because Martin Short was just heading by after completing his first lap in the Tuscan. There was a minor misunderstanding at the entry, for which Short later apologised. ""I had no mirrors!" he said. "They'd all got battered off earlier in the race." There was some quick thinking on both sides and no damage done. The Parr pitstop was a typical example of slick efficiency, and almost as good as the 10.9 seconds they'd achieved in practice earlier in the day. "I think I must have set a new record for exiting the car!" said Marino afterwards. "I even left half my radio behind - it just got ripped out of my helmet!"
Having had one near escape on the way in, car 53 had another on the way out. The Chamberlain Viper #15, having run a very strong second overall to the Stealth for the first dozen laps, had come in ten seconds ahead of Franchitti. Some indication of how much quicker the Parr guys were moving can be judged by the fact that the two cars almost collided as they lunged for the exit. Burt backed off just enough to allow Stephen Watson first call at the gateway and the two cars then took up station in the safety car train. The Parr Porsche had retained the GTO lead through the pitstop, and emerged in fifth overall, just behind Martin Short but five laps ahead of him.
Throughout this time the Jaguar pace car had continued to parade around the track while the marshals recovered a car that wasn't there any more. On lap 18 it pulled aside and racing resumed, but then again, perhaps it didn't. The "SC" boards stayed out, and a lap later the Jag was on track again, yellow lights flashing! This time there really was a car for the recovery teams to attend to, and unhappily for Parr it was Matt Turner's Porsche, stranded at Bridge. Realisation dawned upon Ed Horner, waiting in the Parr garage, that he and Matt were not going to earn any points this weekend. With growing alarm the rest of the team also realised that Mark Sumpter in the #77 Paragon Porsche was now lying second behind Kelvin Burt. That would be more than enough for Sumpter to snatch that runners-up position in the championship for himself and Shaun Balfe.
On lap 21, racing resumed. Two tours later there was a huge sigh of relief, perhaps even a muted cheer, from the Parr garage when Steven Hyde passed Sumpter for second. One lap after that and the matter went beyond doubt when a late-charging Stephen Day took the Hayles GTO Viper into third. Sumpter, in his team-mates own words, "lacked a tiny little bit of pace", but would eventually hold on to fourth.
Martin Short, devoid of any form of red light at the back of his TVR, did have one light and even occasionally two at the front. It was enough for him to see his own way and he did the wisest thing. When you've got no tail lights, keep everyone off your tail. He blatted off into the murky distance, leaving Kelvin Burt content in the knowledge that he had five laps in hand over his habitual sparring partner. "Martin was away," said Kelvin. "I was sliding around all over the place from the word go." He was also more concerned about Terry Rymer in the Harlow Porsche, who was a lap down but hanging on to Burt's tailpipes, keen to make up for his partner's second-lap rallycross session between Copse and Maggots. The juxtaposition of former endurance bike champion and former touring car ace proposed an interesting comparison of skills, but Kelvin wasn't about to risk a win for the sake of fending off someone almost 80 seconds behind him on the track. "I could have matched Rymer," acknowledged Burt afterwards, "but there didn't seem a lot of point. Then I made a small mistake at Abbey and let him through."
Once Rymer was ahead he did begin to pull out a lead, if it can be called that, of several seconds, but for eight laps or more it was hard to believe that these two cars weren't fighting for position. Every time Rymer got away, something would drag him back again - usually a busy patch of backmarkers. Adding to his problems was the deteriorating condition of his tyres, while Kelvin's were holding up much better. Nearing the end of the thirty-first lap the two cars were nose-to-tail again, and as they rounded Brooklands Rymer went wide. "We had a bit of a disagreement over territory," explained Kelvin. "He took a really wide turn and then cut in as if I wasn't even there. I spun him around a bit, but it wasn't intentional." Rymer was less understanding to begin with. "I was knocked out!" he said with feeling. The Porsche flared out spectacularly on the restart but Rymer got the car going again, eventually finishing the race in 13th overall, two laps down.
In between all this action, dramas for Martin Short had continued. Having broken all the rules during his driver change, assuming there were any to cover such an off-the-wall incident, he was now causing the organisers further headaches by ignoring a black and orange flag being waved from the pitwall. This was to advise him he had a mechanical problem - inoperative lights - but how was he supposed to see the thing? He had no lights! In his haste to get in the car, he also had no ear plugs and no radio, so the team couldn't tell him anything. The orange blob disappeared from the flag on lap 26, and it became all-black. Three laps after that he finally got the message. It was a sad end to a tremendous first season for the Rollcentre TVR - ever a great competitor and a worthy adversary for the Parr squad.
With Rymer gone and a nine-second lead over Steve Hyde in the #99 Tuscan, Kelvin Burt now had only to make a steady run to the flag to secure an eighth class win of the season. Hyde was subsequently passed by Stephen Day in the Hayles #62 Viper, but the gap in GTO remained the same. Not so the margin over the #17 Stealth. Whether by ignorance or misfortune isn't clear, but the Stealth team had been caught out completely by the safety car. Nigel Greensall had been leading the race when the Jag came out, but stayed in the car throughout the period, not pitting to hand over to Mark Pashley until after racing resumed. By then everyone else had stopped and he came back on track in twelfth place. That was lap 19, and it took him until the thirty-third lap to get to within a second of Kelvin Burt. "I knew there was a car coming up behind me. I could see the white lights, so I knew it was a GT car, so I asked them over the radio what it was." On lap 34 Pashley took the GT car through into fifth overall. "I didn't know it was for position, or else I might have made more of a fight of it!" said Burt later.
Five minutes of the race remained, but allowing the Stealth an easy passage had rewarded Burt with one of his slowest laps of the race. It was three seconds off the pace, and enough to bring Stephen Day to within five and closing. Both he and Steve Hyde threw down their fastest laps of the race, but they came too late. As ever, Kelvin had something in reserve. A flurry of quicker laps proved sufficient to safeguard yet another emphatic victory. "I had to drive really tippy-toes towards the end," said Burt. "It was becoming very hard work just trying to balance the grip and the car was sliding around all over the place." He made it though, with Day second, Hyde third and Sumpter fourth. Outright victory fell to the other 2001 Champions, David Warnock and Mike Jordan, with the TVR Speed 12 second and the Harvey/Wilson Viper third.
Ever one to relish another win, Marino Franchitti displayed characteristic delight as he celebrated with his co-driver. His genuine enthusiasm seems to have no bounds and is both infectious and heartwarming. "I can't believe it's the end of the season. It's really sad! I'd like to do another three or four rounds," he began. "We can be proud of what we've achieved this year and I'd just like to thank everyone for all they've done. It's been such a great effort - from the team, from Michelin, everyone. The whole team is such a cohesive unit. The team spirit here is unbelievable. They're awesome. It's an honour to be part of this. Having someone I can work so well with, like Kelvin, is such a bonus. I can't say enough about them." As if to prove the point, he continued after a mere moment's pause. "I would like to say a special mention for Jorg. He's been brilliant, not just at race weekends, but week after week. He drops the car onto the track, any track, and we're there, straight away. That's amazing depth of knowledge and skill." Now on a roll, there was no stopping him! "Eight wins from thirteen starts, and we've led every race. We've also scored more points [one, in fact!] than the Lister, which would have given us the championship overall a few years back before they changed the rules. I hope people recognize that." Then, almost as an afterthought, "Oh, yeah, and I got fastest lap as well! That's really great."
Kelvin was rather more reserved, but still pleased with the result. "It's been a really enjoyable year," he said. "It's a real shame it's all going to stop, and I'm very sad that the team won't be staying together." He and Marino won't be going totally separate ways, however. They are back together again next weekend in a Ferrari 360 at Petit le Mans. They've neither of them driven the car yet, and it's only completed a few hours testing before being shipped out to America, but we wish them the best of luck. It may be a strange experience for Marino, whose parting comment at Silverstone was "On track and on the road, Porsche first as usual!" We'll see what happens in Atlanta.
The mood in the #54 Porsche camp was palpably different. ""It's a bitter-sweet feeling," said Matt Turner, still visibly shaken after his ordeal. "I'm glad we got second in the championship, but I didn't want to go out this way." Interviewed on PowerTour radio immediately after his retirement Matt had certainly been less than happy. "We were comfortable in second and I got put off by a lapped car. I can't understand what he was trying to prove. It was really unnecessary. It's just too bad." Within the hour the two drivers had exchanged views and Matt was more like his usual self. "He's a nice guy. I'm sure it wasn't deliberate - at least, I hope it wasn't." Edward Horner shared his partner's disappointment in the style of their season's final race, but was clearly pleased to have secured that runners-up slot. "I'm delighted to get second in the championship," he said. "There were some nervous moments on the pit wall when Sumpter was second to Kelvin, but he eventually dropped back to fourth, and that was enough. There were always going to be problems with backmarkers tonight; it was just unfortunate for us that we were one of the ones to suffer most."
Paul Robe was sympathetic, of course, but didn't allow that to overshadow his delight at seeing Kelvin and Marino come through to win once again. "Even though it was the last race of the year, and we'd already won the championship, that wasn't going to diminish our determination to go out on a high," he said. "We still wanted to win, and the team responded to the challenge - as always. They did really well and worked especially hard to prepare for this unusual event."
There was a party atmosphere in the Parr garage that lasted well into the early hours. It had been a memorable day and a fitting end to a wonderful season for the team. To finish first and second is a significant achievement in any championship, but to do so in a series as fiercely competitive as the British GT is a far more remarkable confirmation of the experience, skill and dedication of the entire team. It amply justifies the faith placed in Paul Robe and everyone at Parr by Porsche Cars GB, who chose this squad above several other highly qualified teams to act as the works representatives in 2001. Parr Motorsport will be back again next year, although their exact plans have yet to be finalised. Watch this space, as they say.
Burt and Marino Franchitti 164