Hello there, I'm John Gaw, one of the Tracsport drivers in the Lola B2k/40 LMP2 car that came third in this years LMES series. It's been a privilege to race both in that series this year in the Lola and with the Tracsport team.

Tracsport TalkBack gives us as a team a small opportunity to share with you some of the experiences that we've had this year. For my first column I'd like to share my experience of an LMP2 car - both the Lola we raced to third this year and a subsequent test run in a Courage C65 as we put plans together for 2005.

So here are my thoughts. If you do read through and have any comments please log onto www.johngaw.com and then onto the forums section and leave me some comments and thoughts of your own.

It was with more than a little trepidation that I first set out onto the International Circuit at Silverstone for the first time on 4 June 2004.

No surprise really - although I had been racing for three years in various different cars including Radicals (which in a way are a mini prototype), it was the first time I'd driven anything worth quite so much, or with such a power to weight ratio.

Couple of things happened on the first lap - I was struggling to see much behind, or worryingly in front, and I managed to spin it twice on the exit of the Abbey chicane applying only a modest amount of power. We'll come back to these two things later.

The Lola we raced in this year's LMP2 had a 3 litre Nissan V6 engine that revved to an 8200 RPM red line with a cut out just under 9000 RPM. It sat right behind your ears, sounded fabulous and was linked to a simply superb sequential - change at full throttle without a lift - gearbox. It was an experience that touched every sense you had. The way the speed built up, the ease and speed of the gear changes and the awesome ability of the brakes were the three things that hit me first.

Of course you have to get used to driving these things and not being able to see a lot. You can't see much close around the car and certainly not the corners of it so you tend to quickly drive to the feel of the car in the corner once you have chosen your line.

My first lesson was that in every session we had with the car - either testing, practice on a race weekend or qualifying - you have to bed yourself in gently to the "speed" and let the car warm up if it's cold. Might sound simple and obvious, but for any of you out there who have driven small, light race cars (Radicals, Caterhams or even Saloon cars) the difference in grip in a LMP2 car when the tyres are cold (or dirty after an off!) compared to when things are fully warmed up is staggering. I'd scale it a bit like you push seven or eight out of ten when things are cold in a normal car BUT more like two or three out of ten in a prototype.

It was seriously very difficult to judge the lack of grip when tyres are cold or dirty compared to what I had raced before (hence the big advantage that a set of tyre warmers really are on an LMES race weekend). Added to this the power these things have and how big they are, its not surprising that on the first few laps (its takes about four full GP laps to get things up to temperature) you have to be very sensible indeed.

I'd say I made more mistakes in the car on the first couple of laps of a weekend then in any other session. That includes my stints in the race. I quickly learned to just focus on making no mistakes in any of my first few laps. No hero laps early on then!

I do remember putting the car firmly in the gravel trap at Brooklands on the third lap of the first practice session at Silverstone this year in the LMES race and that was my final lesson about early laps!

Once up to temperature, the car was awesome to drive. The next big lesson for me was learning about downforce. You hear about it all the time, but I knew I had experienced its power first hand in the qualifying session at Silverstone when tucked up behind a Saleen S7R GTS car. I had run very wide through Copse corner through having no downforce on the front. Again simple stuff but when you experience it personally for the first time it's a real eye opener and from there on in you can really believe its working for you. You can then really search out the extra grip through the corners.

I found I needed to start driving with a different mentality, one where I was putting mind over matter on the entry to the corners, entering them faster than I dared and faster than my (before downforce ) experience told me it was possible to go through them. Very satisfying indeed and to get where we did on the grid at Silverstone in fairly old machinery was pretty damn satisfying (we ran as high as 13th in the race on merit... until the starter motor failed!)

So these were a couple of my first big lessons that I took into the Courage test I had recently at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit. The Courage took things to another new level.

It has significantly more power (I guess 550bhp vs. 450) and the turbo gives you a decent kick as well. It's a significantly more stable car from mid corner to exit through traction and frankly pretty damn awesome grip thanks to better downforce on the fast corners.

The carbon fibre brakes were pretty impressive too - although on the fourth lap I had not heated them up enough and I slipped a wheel into the gravel trap coming up to the hairpin before the start /finish straight... not learned my lesson fully yet then!

It's been a fabulous year and we as a team are looking forward to the Paris celebrations early December when we get to pick up our third placed trophy. I'm hugely excited at the prospect of moving onwards and upwards for 2005. With the right equipment we could seriously be challenging for the top step in the LMES - and even at Le Mans. The Courage was running fifth at Spa for the first half of the race, behind the four Audi's... but then there are no Audi's in 2005. Ah yes...

Hope you enjoyed the couple of brief thoughts, log onto www.johngaw.com and leave any comments, thoughts, questions or experience you have had.

See you in 2005.