1 September 2003
Rollcentre Racing takes thriller at Spa.
The Rollcentre Racing team won one of the most dramatic races in the history of the British GT Championship during the tenth and penultimate round of the season at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday [31 August].
After nearly six hours of racing in ever-changing conditions, the team's Mosler MT900R of Martin Short/Tom Herridge/Joao Barbosa took the lead within half a lap of the chequered flag. Meanwhile, in the GT Cup class, the Porsche 911GT3 Cup of Liz Halliday/Tom Shrimpton/Amanda Stretton scored a famous victory.
In a race that started dry, then hit major rain, before drying and getting wet once more, the British GT contenders performed superbly in the longest ever race in the championship. To then have the result decided on the final lap of the race proved the value of including such a challenging race in the championship.
The early pace was set by the TVR T400R of Rob Barff, but the Mosler of the Rollcentre team and the Balfe Motorsport MT900R of Shaun Balfe/Thomas Erdos/Jamie Derbyshire were always threatening and duly moved into the front-running slots. Eventually, it all came down to pit strategy and the Rollcentre car, boosted by a mighty performance from Barbosa, started to threaten the Balfe car. Into the closing laps of the race, the Balfe crew knew that they were going to be ever so marginal on fuel, but took a risk and left Erdos out to the finish, even though the car could run dry before the flag.
Finally, half way round the 127th and last lap of the race, the lead changed as the Balfe car did indeed start to run dry and the Rollcentre car swept ahead. Erdos managed to coast his car over the line, still in second place, after a truly dramatic finish to a fine race. "Was that a race, or was that a race?" said an elated Short on the podium. "Wasn't Barbosa a star! I couldn't ask for a better result after all we've been through," he added.
"We had to take a chance," said Balfe. "If we had pitted for fuel we'd have dropped to third, so we risked staying out," he said. Despite the disappointment at losing the lead so late in the race, the result puts Balfe and Derbyshire in a strong championship position with just one race to run. Their major rivals, Piers Johnson and Shane Lynch in the Eclipse Motorsport TVR finished fifth, behind the similar cars of Barff/Michael Caine/Richard Hay and the John Hartshorne/Graeme Mundy/Dan Eagling. On his debut in a TVR, Eagling drove a strong stint and made an excellent impression as the Racesport squad clinched fourth place.
While engine dramas sidelined the Tech 9/Gruppe M Porsche of Patrick Pearce/Matt Griffin/Bob Berridge, the team's other car scored a memorable GT Cup victory for Halliday/Shrimpton/Stretton. "The car was faultless," said Stretton. "But it was very difficult in the rain," she added. Morgans claimed second and third in GT Cup, with the car of Keith Ahlers/Rob Wells/Christian Bock just getting the verdict over the Neil Cunningham/Adam Sharpe/Aaron Scott car.
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