Early promise turns to disappointment for LoTRDC at the Barcelona 24 Hours after the success of the two previous events that the team had taken part in, much was expected of them for their third event.
Following a small power upgrade and maintenance of the car the team arrived at Circuit De Catalunya on Thursday and carried out a successful test of the car. This also allowed the drivers to familiarize themselves with the circuit.
Following the successful test day the team felt in good shape for qualifying, with each driver needing to complete the minimum 3 laps in both day and night sessions. The team worked through the 4 drivers, and after they had set the third fastest time in class the team felt pretty happy. With just a few minutes left the teams’ Danish garage neighbors sneaked into 3rd in class, but essential work on the alternator would prevent LoTRDC going for a faster lap. The alternator issue also hampered the night session as it led to a frantic race against time to get all drivers to complete their laps in time, and eventually the team managed it with 10 minutes to spare.
So race day came and so did 32 degree heat which would mean the drivers were in for a hard time. With the team lining up on the outside of the 13th row the run down to turn 1 would be tricky having qualified 26th out of the 52 car grid.
Stanley made a clean start and moved up the order and at end of lap 1 was up to second in class. Over the course of the next hour Stanley vigorously defended the position but eventually succumbed to the faster Mini Cooper. By the end of the opening stint which came just before the two hour mark, the team had climbed to 16th overall and were 3rd in class.
Ken Savage took over the helm but his stint would be short lived after the car threw an oil hose. With the repair taking longer than the maximum 2 hours drive time any driver is permitted, Steve Quick then took out the repaired number 47 Lotus Elise 35 laps behind the class leader. The race would now become a long game if the LoTRDC team had any hope of salvaging a result.
James Knight took the wheel for his first stint and put in some decent laps before Ken’s second stint and then followed by Jamie as the team settled in for the night.
The night would prove to be the busiest period for the LoTRDC mechanics with a string of issues to resolve, including a broken wheel stud and a second failed oil line. The team then fitted the final spare alternator but this was not enough and so decided to remove the cool box and strap another battery in to keep the Elise Sport 160 going. As the sun came up a very weary team had everything crossed that the car could last. With spares running out fast and the gearbox now starting to refuse to play ball, the final few hours became a testament to the teams determination to get the little Lotus to the finish line in time for a classification. As the sun came up the team had one lap spare in the fight to get classified for a race finish; many other teams were already out.
In the end, after hundreds of laps the team crossed the line with Steve Quick at the wheel and classified as the last official team to finish, but after the hours of work during the night this was a huge success. In fact had they entered the top class that contained the winning McLaren MP4 they would have got a trophy for 3rd in class, likewise in the higher A4 class the LoTRDC team would have finished the race in 2nd.
Conclusion: After making a decision to stick with the huge 17 car field of the A2 class rather than going pot hunting in another class, the team were glad they stuck with fair play. After the early hours with the team running in the top 3 the A2 race was going to be the most difficult race of their lives, but the enjoyment and satisfaction was enormous. The K series engine was superb as was the strength of the car, the dilemma being that it’s a 12+ year old car and reliability is going to be an issue unless a newer engine is put in to cut out some of the ancillaries. The difficulty then will be having to move out of Class A2. Simon & Pete’s professionally run Honda Elise won class A5 but would not have got a top 5 finish in A2 so the solution may not lay there, unless we play the class system.
The LoTRDC team would like to thank all the volunteers and helpers who made the event possible along with officials, marshals and event organizers.
The team now look forward to the next challenge which will be the Dubai 24 Hours in January.
Image courtesy of Ryan Savage Photography