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Accident halts British GT at Donington

23 July 2001

Mike Jordan and David Warnock scored another victory in round nine of the Privilege Insurance British GT Championship at Donington Park yesterday.

Their Lister Storm was ahead when the race was halted early after a serious accident that befell the Marcos Mantis GTO of Shane Bland.

In the GTO class, Martin Short and Rob Barff were leading when the race was halted, although the Porsche of Kelvin Burt/Marino Franchitti was set to challenge over the last 15 minutes of the race.

GT qualifying

The Lister Storm of Jordan and Warnock headed the first qualifying ahead of round nine of the Privilege Insurance British GT Championship at Donington Park. ''The car is phenomenal,'' said Jordan after lapping nearly a second faster than the rest of the field. ''That's the fastest I've ever been around Donington,'' added Warnock, after lapping just over a second slower than his team mate.

However, it was far from all smiles for the major rivals for the Lister, as drivers struggled to find the levels of grip they had enjoyed in testing. ''We've got a lot of understeer since Tuesday. We've certainly got to change the set up of the car,'' said Tim Harvey after posting second fastest time in the Chrysler Viper.

The story was the same at TVR for Bobby Verdon-Roe and Michael Caine in the Cerbera Speed 12, which was around a second and a half away from the time they expected. ''It feels completely different, the grip has just gone,'' said BV-R. The Porsche 911GT2 of Neil Cunningham/Peter Cook was fourth fastest, while the Porsches of Dave Welz/Calum Lockie and Rob Schirle/Stephen Stokoe completed the top six in GT.

The second session had little impact on the qualifying times as most teams found the track slower than in the morning session. That leaves the Jordan/Warnock Lister Storm on GT pole.

The Lister lapped within a second of its pole position time, while Harvey almost matched his morning time in the Viper. ''We knew the track was slower, but we've virtually matched this morning's time,'' said Harvey.

GTO qualifying

In GTO, Ed Horner set a superb time to top the first session in his Porsche 911GT3RS. Horner was delighted to set the GTO pace and reckoned he could have gone even quicker.

''There was a lot of traffic. I wanted to break into the 1m35s bracket,'' he said after lapping in 1m36.097s. Martin Short was also frustrated by problems getting a clear lap after going second fastest in GTO with the Rollcentre Racing TVR Tuscan he shares with Rob Barff. ''I think there's life in the tyres to have another go this afternoon,'' reckoned Short.

Marino Franchitti/Kelvin Burt were third fastest in GTO from the similar Porsche 911GT3RS of Mark Sumpter/Shaun Balfe, while the TVR Tuscan R of Steve Hyde/Richard Stanton was fifth fastest.

In the afternoon session, there was drama for the pole position Porsche when Horner crashed at the Old Hairpin and caused the session to be red-flagged. The rear of the car was badly damaged, and a cracked engine mounting will dictate an engine change for the race.

''We've got all the bits, but it is a lot of work,'' said team boss Paul Robe.
However, the accident cost the team pole position in GTO as Matt Turner had not driven the car during qualifying. That means they will have to start from the back of the grid!

To compound the misery for Parr Motorsport, alongside the Turner/Horner car at the tail of the grid will be the team's other car of Kelvin Burt/Marino Franchitti. After a clash with the Corvette of Roger Walters mid-session, Franchitti's second session time was disallowed for careless driving. As Burt drove throughout the opening session, that meant that Franchitti had not officially qualified, so both cars will be at the back of the grid for the rolling start.

Race: 27 laps

GT category

In the early laps, Rob Wilson fired the Chrysler Viper into the lead from the TVR Cerbera Speed 12 of Bobby Verdon-Roe while Warnock slotted into third in the Lister. That was how it stayed until the driver changes, although Warnock had become the fastest of the trio in terms of lap times. ''It took a while to bring the tyres in and I had a couple of hairy moments,'' said Warnock.

It was a superb pit stop by Lister team that set them on the way to victory. Warnock pitted right behind the Viper and Jordan was able to rejoin the track in the Lister before Harvey got out in the Viper. When Verdon-Roe brought the TVR in, Jordan was able to sweep ahead and take control of the race, with Caine rejoining in second with the TVR.

Any hopes that Harvey had of attacking the TVR were dashed when the safety car came out following Bland's accident. After a lap behind the safety car, the race was red-flagged as the rescue crews attended to the stricken Marcos. ''I'm pleased for the team. It's a great result, but it is a shame about the circumstances,'' said Warnock.

''The car was fantastic in the race and I was just watching the gap to the TVR and the Viper,'' said Jordan after they had extended their championship lead to nine points. ''The car was awesome in testing, but it was sliding everywhere in the race,'' said Caine of the TVR. ''We lost a bit in the pits, but it's a relief just to finish the race,'' said Wilson.

Into fourth in the GT category came the Porsche 911GT2 of Rob Schirle/Steven Stokoe after a strong run, while the Porsche of Calum Lockie/Dave Welz was fifth despite an engine that was down on power.

GTO category

In GTO, Burt was the absolute star by fighting from the back of the grid to take the lead from Barff before the pit stops. However, a very rapid pit stop by the Rollcentre team put Short out in front of Franchitti and that was how it stood when the race was halted early. Had the race run normal distance, it is highly probable that the Porsche would have moved ahead.

''That was very satisfying,'' said Burt of his epic drive. ''It was a bit of recompense for yesterday,'' he added. ''Kelvin drove brilliantly,'' said Short. ''I could see that Marino was chasing down on me and I knew he would overtake,'' added Short. However, with the race result declared at 43 minutes, the Tuscan took the victory by just a second from the Porsche.

Matt Turner/Ed Horner also fought through after starting at the back of the field and took a deserved third, ahead of the Porsches of Mark Sumpter/Shaun Balfe and Adam Jones/Tony Littlejohn. ''Fourth is where we were all weekend,'' said Sumpter, while Jones had again been hugely impressive, running third in the early laps in the Cirtek Porsche.

It was a violent accident that ended the race early when Shane Bland's Marcos Mantis GTO flew across the gravel and hit the barriers at Redgate very hard. There was a major fire, which the marshals dealt with very quickly and Shane was carefully extracted from the car and taken to hospital for x-rays. The initial reports of his condition have been, thankfully, encouraging.



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