Topcats driver squad up with the best at Donington

Posted by | Posted in Latest News | Posted on 12-05-2011

First Corner

The Topcats Marcos drivers put on a fine driving display at Donington Park at the weekend but results were marred by mechanical damage and incidents.

With a beefy 39 car strong grid, the sister Marcos’s driven by Owen O’Neill and the team’s usual class 2 driver, Raphael Fiorentino, who was guest driving with the team for the weekend, this time not in his usual class 2 Marcos but the slightly lesser powered Class 3 car. This season’s championship pairing, Sam Head and Kyle Tilley resumed their campaign for the title in the team’s class 2 Marcos.

Fiorentino’s ‘inside out’ experience with the Marcos did see him pip his team mates to 9th place overall by a mere 200ths of a second. An indication  of their pace was evident as they lined up behind last years champions, Gamski and Robinson in the Class 1 Ferrari 430 GTC with only 8 tenths of a second separating them on their qualifiers.

It was a clean start to the race with the exception of the Strata 21 Mosler scooping up the back end of the Class 1 Ferrari of McInernery/Keen/Gore as they concertinaed on the approach to first corner, Redgate. Miraculously both continued without further consequence. It didn’t help Fiorentino though having chosen the inside line, as had the aforementioned cars . He had to back off and steer clear of the commotion. This gave Kyle the advantage as he stuck to the outside promoting him ahead of Fiorentino.

With four hours of racing to be completed, both drivers adhered to team advice and kept clear of trouble in the opening laps, they both dropped a place in the process but this would have no bearing on them since their intentions were to pick off each car ahead of them as the race settled.

Tilley in car

Fiorentino was first on the uptake and set a blistering pace on the first quarter of the race. Tilley took a more progressive approach as Fiorentino picked his moment to pass Tilley and set the new pace. Fiorentino, with his usual and familiar flair set about demoting a string of cars further up the leaderboard that should have remained well ahead of him.  There was a down side to this though, Fiorentino now had to deal with high tyre pressures and had to ease off to compensate. This allowed Tilley to home in on Fiorentino  while he began to struggle a little with his car. A few laps with the sister cars running nose tale is was evident that Tilley’s tyres were starting to work at their best whilst Fiorentino had perhaps ‘overcooked’ his. All parties agreed that the two should swap places and Tilley was able to put some air between himself and his team mate.

Pit straight

It wasn’t long before Tilley radioed to stay that the battery light was coming on arousing fears with the team that the alternator had stopped charging. With instructions to come straight into the pits at the slightest misfire, Tilley continued, acutely aware that this could have a profound effect on the outcome. It was some time though before their fears were realised when Tilley made a dash for the pits as the car made is first splutter. As the voltage was weak enough to down the radio communications between driver and pit crew Tilley had to pit without warning but the pit crew could already surmise the problem and wheeled the car into the garage. It was small relief that a broken connecting wire to the alternator had caused the problem and the car was fixed with 5 minutes lost, which although was not a lot of time was enough to drop them down several places and with some work to do now to  get back to 5th place over all.

Fiorentino, meanwhile, had somehow managed to get the tyres to respond again after some careful laps to try and recondition them. An exciting and impressive performance from the French/Italian driver saw him deliver the car to O’Neill at the pit stop in an incredible 3rd overall.

Avoiding action

O’Neill was showing yet again that he now has the pace to challenge his rivals and kept 3rd place well guarded until being caught in a fracas with two cars in front him. O’Neill was forced to take avoiding action which put him onto the grass and swiftly into the gravel trap. Had O’Neill had his own way he would have got the marshalls to push him out, but they would have none of it and they deemed a tow truck more suitable. However, it was nine laps before O’Neill could rejoin the race again in earnest. A drive past the pits to give the pit crew a chance to assess any damage, signalled the all clear and O’Neill finished his stint to hand back to Fiorentino to finish the race.

Head was working hard to haul the Marcos back up the leader board but his efforts were not rewarded when he radioed in to say that he had lost drive but managed to roll the car back to the pits. A quick inspection revealed a broken diff. Calculations by the team showed that they were still in with a chance of claiming points if they could stay within 80% of the finishing time of the winning car. It took the team just 30 minutes to remove and replace the diff and it was in the hands of the drivers to now race against the clock.

Fiorentino was doing his best to get the car to the finish but a shoulder injury in training was proving too painful and it was left to O’Neill to resume the drive to the finish line and despite the laps lost earlier in the race, the duo still brought the car home in 9th overall and 2nd class.

Tilley had to complete the final stint to the flag and his consolation came in the form of some scintillating laps culminating in a 1min.10.4. Head and Tilley were rightfully gutted that their driving too remained unrewarded and the final blow was delivered as they finished 18 seconds short of classification.  Both drivers deserved a pat on the back for a superb performance.

The next round of the Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship will be at Thruxton on 11-12th June.

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