Feature Story for June 2013
Rebellion Racing’s Lola B12/60, Toyota-powered, arguably the fastest car in the Series, but...
Photo courtesy Ryan Smith
Left Coast ALMS
by Bruce Vild
LONG BEACH and MONTEREY, Calif. — The American Le Mans Series headed to California for its second and third races this year in April and May, with only one of its five classes, LMP1, holding any interest for British car enthusiasts, sad to say.
Gone were the Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan in LMP2 and the two Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8s in GT that ran at Sebring. P2 became essentially a one-model race of Honda Performance Development (HPD) ARX-03bs, and GT, a class once defined by the presence of Astons, Jaguars and most recently a Lotus, was left to the Corvettes, Ferraris, Vipers and Porsches.
British machinery instead seems to be concentrating on the World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series, so we’ll see what the roster looks like when the WEC and ALMS meet at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin later this season.
The races on the streets of Long Beach and at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey were still very exciting, extremely competitive, and ultimately won by equal dollops of strategy and luck. Neither was a done deal as many would say Sebring was, with the Audi supercars outclassing and outrunning everyone, as they were expected to from the beginning. In Long Beach and Monterey the lead was swapped repeatedly and one’s standing after qualifying did not determine the outcome of the race.
And yes, the dicing in GT was exciting, too, and the legions of fans following the American, Italian and German marques were not disappointed. But this report will focus on P1, where two Lola B12/60s — Rebellion Racing’s #12 Lola-Toyota and Dyson Racing Team’s #16 Lola-Mazda — faced Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s #6 HPD ARX-03a and, at Laguna Seca, DeltaWing Racing Cars’ DeltaWing-Elan (no relation to Lotus) LM12.
Dyson pushes the envelope
You would expect any machine classed as a “Prototype” to feature the absolute latest in technology, and that could certainly be said for the DeltaWing with its radical, aircraft-like styling. But consider the Dyson Lola as well. Dyson has partnered with British engineering firm AER (Advanced Engine Research) and made their four-cylinder turbocharged Mazda powerplant quick enough, and efficient enough, to compete very seriously in the ultra-high-horsepower P1 class. It is the smallest and lightest engine in P1, yet managed 2nd place in the Championship last year against the eight-cylinder HPD run by Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, and won it outright in 2011 over Muscle Milk’s 12-cylinder Aston Martin.
Alone among the prototypes, and for that matter the rest of the ALMS field, the team since 2010 has been running on a mixture of petrol and isobutanol — everyone else, except the GT cars, uses a 10% ethanol mix, as most of us do in our daily drivers.
Last year at the ALMS race at Virginia International Raceway the team introduced a new kinetic energy recovery system on #16 that stores braking energy for later use in acceleration. The system worked well enough in its initial outing to secure a 2nd place finish.
This year’s innovation, premiering in Monterey, was an updated engine that features gasoline direct injection and, in the words of AER’s Andrew Saunders, “delivers more horsepower, more torque, better driveability and better fuel economy.” It also held the promise of better traction control and produced strong results in testing prior to the race.
Feature Story for June 2013
Dyson Lola-Mazda (left) started in front in Long Beach.
Photo courtesy Ryan Smith
On the streets of Long Beach
The second round of the American Le Mans Series couldn’t be more different than the first: a sprint as opposed to an endurance race, on the streets of a major city instead of an airstrip turned racetrack.
While Dyson’s Guy Smith acquitted himself well in practice (3rd place) and qualifying (2nd), it was Rebellion Racing’s V8 Toyota that ruled the roost in Long Beach, at least at first — the quickest lap in practice, 1:14.708 (94.833mph), set by Rebellion’s Nick Heidfeld, and pole position, after qualifying at 1:12.600 (97.587mph), thanks to co-driver Neel Jani. Both men were new to the streets of Long Beach, although Jani did race there previously in a Champ Car event held in 2007. He did not expect that experience to help much, however.
“Visibility is a lot better in a single-seater than our closed car,” he quipped. “With our big wheel arches we have to guess where the walls are!”
Heidfeld recognized the race would be “quite different from the longer races that we are used to.” He anticipated the traffic on the street course would result in many yellow flags, so “a good strategy” would be important to take the win.
That strategy would be crucial was not lost on the third team in P1, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing. Co-drivers Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf had come to Long Beach looking for their third victory there in as many years and the possibility to tie the Championship, the points advantage being held by Heidfeld and Jani after their strong showing at Sebring.
The green flag waved at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 20th. Starting driver Neel Jani took #12 through the course, setting fastest lap times and staying in front through the first yellow flag about 15 minutes into the race.
Muscle Milk’s starting driver, Lucas Luhr, had passed Dyson’s starter, Chris Dyson, on the second lap and was now in 2nd place. When the pits were opened the team decided to stop for fuel and a driver change, as Luhr had completed his minimum drive time. Klaus Graf was back running 3rd in P1 when green-flag racing resumed, then made his way to 2nd when the Dyson car retired a few laps later — about 30 minutes into the race, after an apparent steering failure and crash into a wall.
Another full-course caution followed, and Muscle Milk took over the lead. Graf entered pit lane right behind Jani, and, with #6 having come in for fuel under the first yellow and not requiring a driver change, the team only had to do a short fill. The time saved allowed Graf to pick up the lead upon exiting the pits.
By this time the race was more than half over, with 47 minutes left to go. Graf kept up his pace and never lost the lead. By the end Graf had widened the gap between himself and Rebellion’s Nick Heidfeld to 36.3 seconds.
The early driver change had been “a good strategy” indeed for Muscle Milk. The Championship points were now tied.
Feature Story for June 2013
DeltaWing-Elan, seen here at Sebring, was piloted by two Brits in Monterey — including the race’s only female driver, Katherine Legge.
Photo courtesy Ryan Smith
Then to Monterey
The third race in the Series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was neither a 12-hour Ironman contest nor a two-hour sprint: it would take four hours, and it would be on a racetrack not known for its uneven surfaces, as Sebring is, but for its dust. It also marked the return of the #0 DeltaWing-Elan to P1, which was forced to retire early at Sebring and had spent the interim at Elan headquarters in Georgia getting sorted. The DeltaWing would be driven by two Brits, Andy Meyrick and Katherine Legge. Legge, like Heidfeld a former Champ Car pilot, would also be the only woman in the race.
Laguna Seca started out as something of a replay of Long Beach. Rebellion was fastest in practice with a time of 1:14.441 (108.116mph), followed in class by Muscle Milk and Dyson, and qualifying driver Neel Jani took pole with a best time of 1:13.429 (109.706mph), followed by Dyson and Muscle Milk. The outcome was all the sweeter to Rebellion because it was the first time for both Jani and Heidfeld on the Monterey circuit, and it happened to be Heidfeld’s birthday.
Race day was Saturday, May 11th, and the green flag dropped at 3:30 p.m. Heidfeld took the start this time for Rebellion, Klaus Graf for Muscle Milk, and Guy Smith for Dyson. Katherine Legge started for DeltaWing.
A little more than 20 minutes into the race it was evident that both the Dyson Lola and the DeltaWing were in trouble. Legge went to the pits for fuel and tires and complained of a loss of power. Smith was having fuel delivery problems.
Legge soldiered on, managing to hand off to co-driver Andy Meyrick at about the race’s halfway point. Smith’s crew on the other hand spent most of their time between the pits and the garage as diagnostics were run on #16.
The Dyson car eventually retired after completing only 21 laps. This was the third DNF for Dyson Racing in as many races in this year’s Series.
Meyrick continued to be bedeviled by mechanical problems that soon included suspension and gearbox issues. The DeltaWing crew adjusted what they could and sent him back out, but in the race’s last 20 minutes the car slowed on the track, then stopped, then headed very, very slowly into the pits, coming to a halt at the pit entrance. The race was over for #0, but the car did complete 46 laps.
So the contest in P1 was left to the Rebellion Lola-Toyota and the Muscle Milk HPD, and it would be settled at one section of the course for which Laguna Seca is noted — a chicane called the Corkscrew.
Rebellion’s Nick Heidfeld set his share of fastest laps from the race’s start and for the first hour and a half he fended off attempts by Muscle Milk’s Klaus Graf to take the lead. The cars always stayed within seconds of each other and the advantage could be traded at any time.
Then came the driver changes and the action intensified. With about one hour and 45 minutes to go in the event, Muscle Milk’s Lucas Luhr grabbed the lead after catching Rebellion’s Neel Jani braking a little too late in the Corkscrew. Luhr kept it for another 30 laps until entering the pits for his final stop. Jani pitted, too, and beat Luhr out of the pits to retake the lead. Shortly thereafter Luhr passed him again, however — again in the Corkscrew.
Luhr had hoped to widen the gap between the HPD and the Lola but Jani remained in hot pursuit. With less than 40 minutes to go in the race, the two cars made contact in Turn 4, with bodywork damage to both. While the Muscle Milk car was able to continue, Jani also suffered a tire puncture and was forced to pit.
Luhr now sat comfortably in the lead, but Jani was not giving up. Once out of the pits he pushed and pushed, managing to get within 20 seconds of Luhr’s car.
Then a full-course caution was called with only 12 minutes to go. By the time the race went green again there was only one lap remaining. The result: #12 crossed the finish line 6.3 seconds behind the winner — the #6 car of Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf.
DeltaWing’s Legge and Meyrick completed enough laps to manage a 3rd place in class, and shared the podium.
Luhr and Graf now lead the Championship, and it’s on to Lime Rock Park July 5-6.
[From reports by Rebellion Racing, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, Dyson Racing Team and ALMS.]
Feature Story for May 2013
The book, that is. The subject is the V12 Aston Martin racecar.
Photo courtesy TAG Books
The DBR9, Yours for €450
by James Edmonds
Special to the Marque
[Exec. Ed. note: A book review as a front-page story? Yes, if it is as remarkable a book as this one. Aston Martin aficionado Edmonds finds in it a great way to celebrate the marque’s 100th anniversary this year — at a price reachable by mere mortals. Enjoy. —BV]
The Aston Martin DBR9 burst onto the racing car landscape in 2005, winning its maiden race in the GT1 class at the 12 Hours of Sebring. That win cemented the car’s place in the history books and at the same time bestowed that oxymoronic title, “instant classic.” Based on the jaw-droppingly gorgeous DB9 road car, the DBR9 debuted to gasps and rapturous applause. Such was the stunning beauty of this now-iconic car.
Resplendent in a shade of the familiar Aston Martin Racing Green made famous by its namesake, the Le Mans-winning DBR1, this car made the GT1 class the one to watch, and crowds of fans flocked to tracks the world over just to see the car and revel in the intoxicating sound of its V12 engine. I know — I was one of them!
Such a glorious machine deserves an equally impressive book in which to be chronicled and enjoyed. However, what has just been written by Thomas Gruber and Christoph Mäder goes beyond just being “a book.” It is so lavishly produced, with such detail and high quality photos and text, that it should rightly be displayed as a piece of art.
The book came to me amid much anticipation and it does not disappoint at all — in any way. It is so good in fact that you could be forgiven for thinking that the authors penned this review instead of an independent writer!
Honestly, I’ve never held a book in my hands that is quite like this. The first thing that you notice is the sheer weight of the thing. I couldn’t find a published figure, but it must be close to ten pounds! As you slip the book from its silver slipcase you enjoy the simple tactile pleasure of the leather-like covering. Even the smell makes your senses tingle.
(If, however, this “Aficionado’s Edition” offered at €450 is too common for you, then the even more exclusive “Driver’s Edition” — which is covered in black suede for an additional €200 — might be more your cup of Fortnum & Mason Earl Grey!)
Feature Story for May 2013
The DBR9 run by Bell Motorsports in the American Le Mans Series in 2008.
Photo by Bob Stanichar
Once you’ve found a comfortable chair and a suitably sturdy table to place this objet d’art upon, you will find yourself washing and drying your sweaty palms before you actually open the book, lest you leave fingerprints on the exquisite pages.
Catch your breath, and start exploring the contents. You will see that the book is divided into three categories. First is the detailed history of the development, engineering and technology of the car and a comparison between the road- and racecars. Second are the biographies of those who ran the car, along with interviews from Aston Martin Racing personnel, team management and drivers. Lastly all the works and customer chassis are individually detailed with cross-references to drivers, teams, races and results, utilizing several foldout pages to help illustrate the information.
The illustrations in the book are not limited to a few well-thumbed photos that you may have seen elsewhere. Quite the contrary: the photographs are glorious and the colors explode off the page. Many of the 400-plus pictures have never been published before, so there is plenty to keep the train spotters and anoraks busy for many an hour.
But it is neither the photographs nor the foldout illustrations that set this book apart from the common-or-garden variety of racing car books. Christoph Mäder had to lobby hard with the publisher to include his groundbreaking “X-ray vision” transparent layered films into the book as costs spiraled. These inserts give the reader the ability to peel back layers to see all the way inside the car itself, the chassis, the transmission and even the way the air flows around the car.
The book caters well to all types of reader, with plenty of behind-the-scenes and drivers’ stories to keep the casual fans happy as well as those photographs for people who will enjoy it as a coffee table book. For those who enjoy the engineering side of things there are enough facts and figures in there to keep even Adrian Newey busy for a while. Graphs and tables show engine power and torque curves, aerodynamic loads, gear ratios, chassis theory and even internal bulletins and updates, all right down to the nth degree. If you cannot find some factoid about the car in this epic work, then it likely has not been released from the Prodrive vault!
Both of the writers worked for one of the privateer DBR9 teams, Jetalliance, during the mid-2000s — Mäder at a management level and Gruber as a driver. The team achieved success notably with a podium finish at Le Mans in 2009. The book is borne out of their collective passion for the car and knowledge unequivocally second to none.
Feature Story for May 2013
Outstanding photography in DBR9 includes transparent layers showing cutaways of vital systems.
Photo courtesy TAG Books
The GT1 class died a slow death in 2011 and the DBR9’s homologation also expired at the same time, so the release of DBR9 — The Definitive History could not have come at a more fitting time.
As a book this work ticks all of the boxes, and like the car itself, it will become a classic. But it is more than the sum of its parts. It is undoubtedly the most perfect racing car book that I have ever had the pleasure to read. That the chosen subject happens to be one of the most iconic cars of recent history makes it all the richer — and although it will not be framed and hanging on a wall in my office, it will certainly be a cherished heirloom that my children might one day find bequeathed to them for the enjoyment of future generations.
Again, I’m serious.
[James is a frequent contributor to this publication, and will be covering the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year.]
DBR9 — The Definitive History: Modern Art for the Race Aficionado, by Thomas Gruber and Christophe Mäder. Features 296 pages in large format, 28 x 33 cm six color print book delivered in slipcase detailed 3D photo-realistic visualizations technical drawings and renderings over 400 mostly unreleased pictures multiple special pages and foldout pages. Prices start at €450. Visit www.tag-books.com.
Feature Story for April 2013
Rebellion Racing’s #12 Lola B12/60 leads an exciting dice with Muscle Milk’s HPD ARX-03c.
Photo by Colin Sword
The ‘12 Hours’ in 2013
by Robert Sword
Special to the Marque
SEBRING, Fla. — On 15 March 1952 the Frazer Nash of Harry Grey and Larry Kulok roared across the finish line to win the very first Sebring 12-hour endurance race. Over the next 60 years cars from Ferrari, Porsche, OSCA, Ford, Maserati and Audi, driven by a veritable who’s who of motor racing, have competed in this event. Names such as Moss, Hill, Fangio, Surtees, Gurney, Hawthorne, Andretti and Siffert — to name but a few — have graced the top step of the podium at Sebring.
It was therefore surprising to this writer that the FIA had chosen not to include the 12 Hours of Sebring in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) this year. Instead the U.S. round will take place in September at the “Circuit of the Americas” near Austin, Texas, which frankly lacks any history at all.
Fortunately, a number of teams that normally run in the WEC did see the historical significance of Sebring — especially this year — and elected to send cars to the 2013 12 Hours, even though this was strictly an American Le Mans Series race and they were ineligible to score WEC points. There were six non-ALMS cars in attendance, led by the spectacular works Audis. Still, the loss of WEC status this year had the effect of reducing the entry list from 64 in 2012 to 41 in 2013.
Sebring is to suffer a second body blow with the merger of the ALMS and Grand Am next year into United SportsCar Racing, which will change a lot of things. For one, this year’s 12 Hours saw the last appearance of the awesome LMP1 prototype racecars. They will no longer be eligible under next year’s combined classes. Additionally, the LMP2 cars will by watered down to compete with the slower Daytona Prototypes from Grand Am. Such changes should further reduce the presence of international teams in the future.
We were able to speak to Rob Dyson of Dyson Racing to get his views on next year’s merger. As a longtime LMP1 entrant we would have thought that he would have been somewhat disappointed by these developments, but this was not the case. Were our impressions wrong?
Our first question to Dyson was whether his plans for next year were to move to LMP2. His response was to ask if we knew what next year’s rule would be. When we replied “no,” he said neither did he, so he has yet to make any plans.
We then enquired why a team would run a more expensive LMP2 car against a less-expensive Daytona Prototype. He responded that the supposedly huge cost differential was a complete fallacy. He contended that if he had both an LMP2 car and a Daytona Prototype in his garage there would be less than $50,000 between them. Additionally Dyson thought that this new series could become more popular than the current sprint car series as every manufacturer in the world would be able to produce a car to run in it.
Of the 41 cars entered in this year’s event under the current ALMS classifications, seven were LMP1, five were LMP2, twelve were GT, seven were LMPC (Oreca-only challenge class) and ten were GTC (Porsche 911-only challenge class).
Feature Story for April 2013
One of two Aston Martin Vantage V8s running in GT.
Photo by Colin Sword
As expected, the two Audi LMP1 cars topped the qualifying table with the #1 car of Fassler/Treluyer/Jarvis besting the sister car of McNish/Kristansen/di Grassi by a scant 0.009 sec. These magnificent pieces of technology are powered by turbocharged diesel engines, incorporating flywheel hybrid technology with electric motors on the front wheels.
Fastest of the non-diesel cars was the Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota of Prost/Heidfeld/Jani, 2.570 sec. off the pole time. Although a Swiss team, they are in fact based in Breaston, England, utilizing a British-built Lola chassis. The team will continue to contest the WEC this year with two cars but have announced that they will additionally contest the entire 2013 ALMS schedule with a single entry. For Sebring the team entered the two cars, qualifying 3rd (car #12) and 5th (#13) overall.
Fourth fastest was the #6 Muscle Milk Honda with its HPD chassis developed in England by Wurth Engineering, while 6th was taken by the #16 Dyson Lola-Mazda.
Rounding out the LMP1 entries was #0, the radical DeltaWing LM12, which qualified 15th overall. Besides sporting a new chrome paint scheme in place of its original flat black, the car is now powered by a new engine developed by Elan Motorsports Technologies, which replaces the Nissan unit.
Of the five LMP2 cars entered, four were Honda HPDs with Wurth-developed chassis. Two of the four were entered by Level 5 Motorsports and were driven by Indy car hotshots Brisco, Hunter-Reay, Franchitti and Pagenaud. It is therefore not surprising that the two cars qualified 1st (#551) and 2nd (#552) in class.
The other two Hondas were entered by Extreme Speed Motorsports, who have abandoned the GT class and their Ferraris to move up to LMP2. These cars, which retained the beautiful Patrón livery, qualified 4th (#01) and 5th (#02) in class.
The remaining LMP2 car was the #41 Zytek-Nissan entered by a British team, Greaves Motorsport, which qualified 3rd in class. This was to be a one-off ALMS race as the team normally contests the WEC.
As usual the GT field was the largest and most competitive, with cars from Ferrari, BMW, Corvette, Aston Martin, Porsche, and Viper contesting the class. Fastest qualifier was the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 of Bruni/Beretta/Malucelli, followed by the #4 Corvette of Gavin/Milner/Westbrook, only 0.129 sec. slower. (In fact the entire 12 car GT field qualified within 1.5 sec.!)
The only British cars in GT were the two works Aston Martin Vantage GTEs, which qualified 3rd (#97) and 4th (#007) in class, the #97 car being only 0.175 sec. off the Ferrari’s pole time. Number 97 was a brand new 2013-spec car driven by works drivers Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke and former F1 driver Bruno Senna. Number 007 was a 2012-spec car with drivers Pedro Lamy, Billy Johnson and Paul Della Lana. As usual the cars were beautifully turned out in their traditional orange and blue Gulf colors. After finishing 2nd in the WEC GT championship last year, the team’s stated objective for 2013 is to win the title.
For those who regularly follow the ALMS a British car that was conspicuous by its absence was the Lotus Evora, which had been campaigned by Alex Job Racing last year. According to Alex Job himself, while he still believes that the car has tremendous potential, he cannot afford to invest the kind of money that is needed to fully develop the car. He has therefore reluctantly taken the decision to partner with Team West in running a Ferrari F458 Italia, #23, which for this event qualified 11th.
The remaining two classes, both of which are the single-make challenge series, saw the #05 Oreca of Bennett/Braun/Wilkins take the LMPC pole, while the #27 Porsche of Dempsey/Lally/Foster took GTC.
Patrick Dempsey Racing, it will be remembered, ran in LMP2 last year. Alex Job Racing also had an entry in GTC, the #22 Porsche of Bleekemolen/MacNeil/Von Moltke, which qualified 2nd.
Feature Story for April 2013
Dyson Racing’s Lola B12/60, which, sadly, retired early.
Photos by Colin Sword
At 10:45 on Saturday morning the #1 Audi took the starter’s flag to begin the 61st 12 Hours of Sebring, and as expected the two Audis disappeared into the distance. The only real question was which one of these cars would take the overall win. The two Audis exchanged the lead 21 times during the course of the race, with the #1 car prevailing to win by 7.679 sec.
Behind the Audis the Rebellion Lola and the Muscle Milk Honda engaged in a battle for 3rd place, but for the other LMP1 cars the end came early. On Lap 10 the DeltaWing retired after “terminal engine failure,” to quote the team report, while on Lap 81 the Dyson Lola-Mazda withdrew with electrical problems.
Despite Sebring’s reputation for being rough on cars, these two retirements constituted half of this year’s total — only four cars retired, the third by accident (the #23 Ferrari) and the fourth with gearbox failure (the #3 Corvette).
Meanwhile, back in LMP2, a real scrap was developing between all three teams. After three laps the Zytek took the lead from the pole-sitting Level 5 Honda, and for the next two hours ran competitively. Unfortunately the Zytek experienced an aerodynamic problem that caused it to drop off the pace, though it still managed to finish 3rd in class.
The Extreme Speed Motorsport cars were also on the pace early on but suffered a number of setbacks. The faster of the two cars (#01, driven by David Brabham at the time), experienced a sheared input shaft at around the half-way point necessitating a two-hour pit stop. The car ultimately returned to the track to finish 5th (and last) in class. The sister car (#02) after a few off-course excursions finished 4th.
Ultimately it was the Level 5 cars that took the top positions in class. A faultless race, no doubt attributable to their extensive knowledge of the Hondas as well as considerable experience at Sebring, saw victory go to the #551 car of Tucker/Franchitti/Briscoe.
The GT class was won by the #4 Corvette — but it was not an easy victory. At the start the Corvette jumped the pole-sitting Ferrari and immediately pulled out a substantial lead. However, the Corvette later lost two laps while an electrical problem was addressed and incurred a one-minute penalty for avoidable contact. In the final 13 minutes of the race, the class-leading Risi Ferrari, driven by Matico Malucelli with Tommy Milner in #4 in hot pursuit, left the road twice on the same lap and handed victory to the Corvette. Third place went to the Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Henzler/Sellers/Tandy.
The Aston Martins showed strength early in the race, but problems with both cars dashed any hopes of a podium finish.
While moving through the field the #97 car, driven by Darren Turner, hit the rear of another car that was trying to deal with heavy traffic. The impact damaged the Aston’s radiator and caused the car to overheat. Although the crew did an efficient job repairing the damage, the time lost put the car out of contention. Likewise the #007 car was also going well until a throttle cable problem necessitated a visit to the garage. Neither car was able to make up for the lost time, and consequently finished 8th and 9th in class respectively.
Turner did manage to set a new lap record for GT in Lap 6, however, which for the duration of the race no one else in the class was able to beat: 1:59.780.
The winner of LMPC was decided with 28 minutes left in the race when the PR1 Mathiasen Oreca of David Ostella (#52) passed the BAR1 Motorsports Oreca of Kyle Marcelli (#8).
As for GTC, Alex Job Racing won the class for the second year running.
So another Sebring 12 Hours goes into the record books, with Audi scoring its 11th and final LMP1 victory at Sebring. Next year will see the new format and only time will tell whether the many fans who have reservations about the merger or the optimists like Rob Dyson will be proven right.
However, one person who is not obsessed with such issues is a driver named Oliver Jarvis, who hails from Burwell, England. Before the race Oliver said that from his earliest days in racing he had dreamed about driving at Sebring. He was delighted to drive an LMP1 car in its last Sebring appearance.
Not only did his dream come true — but he got the unexpected bonus of driving the winning Audi.
[Robert and Colin regularly cover Sebring and other ALMS races at venues including the streets of Baltimore, Virginia International Raceway, Road America and Road Atlanta.]
Feature Story for March 2013
The Cotes’ Lotus Elan in Veliko Tarnova.
Photo courtesy Interbalkanic Classic Rally (ICR)
by Peter & Allison Cotes
[Exec. Ed. note: Peter and Allison have taken their Lotus Elan all over the world, including the Sahara and the Himalayas — rallying. You’ve read about their exploits in this newspaper. Now we present their latest adventure, taken last summer in Eastern Europe. —BV]
The 2nd Interbalkanic Classic Rally sounded too good to miss, so we signed up for it. It was to be based at Varna, on the Bulgarian Black Sea, and jointly organised by the Greeks and Bulgarians.
Our route out was influenced by insurance. The Green Card only covered EU countries, which ruled out Belgrade (Serbia), so we fixed on Calais, Aachen, Cologne, Frankfurt, Regensberg, Linz, Graz, Pechs (Hungary), Arad (Romania) and Rousse (Bulgaria). With detours this came to about 1900 miles and 32 hours according to the Internet route finders. (No one had told the Internet about Romania — as we were to find out.)
During the last rally we ran, we had problems with points, differential and the starter motor — so we now had a new starter and diff, and had fitted a Boyer Bransden ignition system, still points-based but with electronic wizardry to reduce the current passing through the points and hopefully extending their life. And while it had not been a problem, we had for some while also suffered from a petrol leak in the Webers. They were refurbed and restored to their original, larger jets.
Twelve miles from home the engine was missing. A plug change and a tweak of the carb balance and mixture seemed to improve the situation. Our run was smooth to Dover and then it was on to the overnight stop in Liege, where the hotel had corridors full of bikes but no residents. The next day was a long run to Graz but quick, with no lorries as it was a Sunday. On Monday we crossed into Hungary and headed for Pechs. It was a public holiday so again, no lorries, and the roads, which curved and flowed gently through the countryside, were Lotus terrain and we enjoyed pleasurable driving.
A problem emerged at a fuel stop when the boot handle gave up. It had long been stiff and the prospects of a shut boot that would not open or an open boot that would not shut were equally unappealing. We found a compromise and moved on.
Pechs was a ‘European City of Culture’ in 2008 and has a main square with pedestrian streets off, but the tourist information was closed, on a bank holiday! We were pointed towards a locked gate and managed to extract some tourist leaflets carefully positioned within reach of long arms. We found a hotel just off the square and with a very friendly staff, but also that mid-European speciality — an aura of faded glory. The underground car park looked welcoming as the heavens opened behind us and the meandering tourists scurried for shelter.
The car park wasn’t such a good idea next morning, as the Elan does not like steep inclines, especially first thing in the morning. Furious revving and slipping of the clutch helped us escape the fumes we left behind — sorry, guys!
Crossing southern Hungary on largely empty roads to the Romanian border near Arad we made good time but the rest of the day was pretty dire. It started with a six-mile queue of lorries trying to leave Romania, all parked up on the verge of the single-carriageway main road. Arad was busy and was being dug up, probably to improve the roads. It was hot, and the first main hold-up was a crash between a van and a lorry at a junction a few metres before a level crossing, which itself was taken slowly because the rails lifted as the lorries passed over. We stopped and crawled and stopped and the temperature rose to a good 99° (why did the electric fan choose today to have a earthing fault?).
We saw four accident sites that day and were only surprised there were not more. That poor country is blighted by the continuous thunder of heavy lorries, vans and cars, all chasing time through country and village alike. The traffic moves in bursts as you overtake one group of lorries before catching up with the next a short way ahead. The underlying poverty both here and in Bulgaria is demonstrated by the “ladies of the road” waiting in lay-bys for their next clients.
Feature Story for March 2013
Lunch at Thracian Hills.
Photo courtesy ICR
We reached Sibiu before dusk and enjoyed a brief but damp stroll round the 12th century town and a rest from the concentration of the road. Next morning we sorted out the fan and changed the points, as the engine was clearly unhappy. The points were more burnt than I expected from the new ignition system I later discovered that it was also not earthing properly and the engine was much happier when that was improved.
The plan was to drive the Trans-Fagarasan Mountain Road south to Pitesti, but when we got there we found it was closed as the winter snow had not been cleared. We tried to visit the Monastery of Cartisoara, but that had a sign saying it didn’t welcome tourists — despite the brown tourist sign. This was clearly going to be a good day!
We returned to the main (lorry) highway and the motorway to Bucharest. An electrical check at a service station found the ignition earthing fault, and the engine hummed as we approached the capital. Sadly the navigator didn’t recognise the importance of the signs meaning “ring road,” so we ploughed on to the very centre at 5 p.m. on a hot Tuesday. Fortunately fan and ignition worked perfectly as we asked our way out to the road south to Bulgaria we asked at petrol stations, we asked pedestrians, we asked the drivers of the cars ahead of us, beside us and behind us — and it worked! The only one that didn’t was the taxi driver who demanded an extortionate 50 euros (reduced eventually to 20) to guide us out. Once we found the road we sailed down to the border — no formalities there of any sort, not even a passport check — then on to the picturesque town of Velika Tarnova, arriving just before dusk.
For a morning we were tourists before completing the final 140 miles to the rally hotel, driving through a flooded Varna as the heavens again opened and the streets turned to rivers. We were among the first to arrive and soon met the only other non-Balkan participants, a Belgian couple who live in Greece. The others were from Greece and Bulgaria with a few from Romania. This meant it was an international rally, so all documentation was in English (with a Greek accent)!
The rally was unlike any other regularity rally we have ever attended. The start was at 9:30, much later that the 8:00 we are used to. We fluffed the first regularity as I had not read the instructions properly and was too busy directing the driver to realise in time that we’d gone wrong. We headed north to Kavarna, whose Mayor awarded us a prize for looking good and Allison was interviewed by the national TV for broadcast on the news reports that evening.
The highlight of the day was lunch at the Thracian Hills Golf Club. A Bulgarian crew joined us, and despite our complete lack of Bulgarian and their limited English we soon established that the local car club was very friendly with members from a wide background and a huge variety of cars. I don’t know how they’ve managed it but they have all sorts of classic and vintage cars. Maybe because we were English we heard more about our cars. These guys regularly come to the UK buying up cars — Bentley, Jaguar, even Model T Ford. One ran a garage and had a second-hand tow truck bought in England (for work, not the rally). One Greek couple must have the last surviving Morris Marinas — not one or two but seven!
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The restart at Pobiti Kamani.
Photo courtesy ICR
Day Two and the rally headed west. After visiting the Standing Stones at Pobiti Kamani (stones or petrified forest? Opinions are divided) we provided entertainment for the residents of Denvya by chasing round cones. We should have excelled at this but the Elan has a deep-rooted dislike of chicanes round bollards and stop-starts into ‘boxes’, and stalled and would not start! It did this on the last rally in Spain so there’s something to sort out here — suggestions, please!
Lunch was at an old mill whose wheels were powered by water bubbling up from springs, a very tranquil and peaceful setting, and our Bulgarian friends from yesterday were insistent we should join them again.
The restart was particularly random. One moment we were wandering round the springs, and the next there was a concerted rush to leave. With the time control at the end of a country track this resulted in a long queue of cars going nowhere slowly!
Day Three and we headed south to a Russian-owned beach resort and lunch. We returned to the hotel at about 4 p.m. and as the cars had done little more than 200 miles in the three days there was little need to do much apart from clean off the dust.
Prize-giving that evening was clearly the purpose of the rally. We were seated at long tables in our car clubs and this time we were with the Greeks. The meal started at 8:30 and after the appetisers was prize-giving. Everyone received a prize — we didn’t intend to be greedy, but we received five! One for winning our class, one for finishing the rally, one for the longest distance travelled to the rally, one for Lady Driver, and the last for representing our participating club — Club England. One of us (Allison) was also awarded honorary membership of the Automobile Retro Club Varna.
Then there was dancing and singing, and at about midnight the main course arrived! We didn’t last long enough for dessert and left the Varna and Burgas clubs celebrating a successful and enjoyable event.
Our return journey mirrored the outward, with sightseeing in Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, and a haul from Austria to Calais.
Romania in particular was a changed country once we got away from the main lorry route. This time we found the Bucharest ring road, which was slow and tedious (not really any better than ploughing through the centre, though we had the advantage of knowing where we were going!). We visited fortified Saxon churches on deserted roads and tracks near Sighisoara, and entered Hungary through the much more pleasant crossing at Oradea. Hungary’s motorways are top-quality and we sped through to Tata, where we spent the afternoon wandering round the lake, drinking coffee, eating cake and watching “dragon” boats rowing to the beat of the cox’s drum.
Feature Story for March 2013
Photo by Peter & Allison Cotes
We had one overnight stop before Calais at Wuerzburg, where the locals were drinking Franken wine in the sunshine on a bridge linking the main town with the Fortress Marienburg on the hill opposite.
Then on to Calais and home — 4,000 miles in two weeks. This was one of our easiest trips, with the car taking the long, hard slogs and the gentle meanders in its stride. There’s still something to sort out with the fuel consumption as we only managed 23mpg and a very sooty rear end! Somehow that’s no surprise as there’s always something that needs doing.