Piers Johnson, Shane Lynch and Ben McLoughlin took the Eclipse Motorsport TVR T400R to a surprise British Empire Trophy victory at Silverstone today [Sunday] in an incident-packed round five of the 2003 British GT Championship.
Ahead of the three-hour race there had been much discussion in the paddock about the supremacy of the brace of Mosler MT900Rs but at Silverstone their challenge was blunted and it was the Blackpool marque to the fore.
The Balfe Motorsport Mosler was involved in an incident with the Xero Competition Corvette while the Rollcentre version suffered gearbox troubles. The Eclipse trio, meanwhile, enjoyed a largely trouble free race to the chequered flag.
Tom Herridge had led the Rollcentre car in the early stages but when the safety car came out at around the one hour mark he came in to hand over to Rob Barff. It was at that point that Johnson inherited the lead and he amazingly stayed out for another forty minutes, pushing the fuel reserves to their limits.
''We planned to do just the one stop as the calculation showed we could run for at least and hour and a half,'' he confirmed. It was also planned that the two left-hand side tyres would be changed but problems were experienced so Lynch was forced to go out on tyres a long way past their best.
With a large lead over the second place John Hartshorne/Graeme Mundy Peninsula TVR Lynch was able to come in again with twenty minutes remaining to get the car regripped and also to allow McLoughlin a brief stint in the car. ''Everyone in the team did an excellent job,'' said Johnson. ''We couldn't ask for any more,'' added Lynch.
The first Mosler to hit trouble - or, arguably, to be hit - was the Balfe Motorsport car being driven initially by Jamie Derbyshire. Peter Le Bas was showing strongly in the opening laps until a collision with the quadruple race-winning car. ''I was just driving my normal line around Becketts when I just got smashed into,'' claimed Derbyshire. ''I think he must have lunged at me because he wasn't alongside - he did serious damage.'' After a visit to the pits the Mosler rejoined four laps down with major handling problems and after further pit visits Shaun Balfe finally brought the car home several laps down.
After a strong stint by Herridge - although he reckoned the performance of the Mosler was inconsistent - Rob Barff took the car over and almost immediately suffered gearbox problems. Eventually the car stuck in fourth gear but Barff soldiered on claiming fastest lap against the odds and finishing fourth.
Ahead of the Rollcentre car two more TVRs completed the podium, Hartshorne and Mundy taking the middle step and Gareth Evans and Steve Hyde (CDL) the lower one.