It’s a family affair for Topcats At Snetterton 300!

Posted by | Posted in Latest News | Posted on 16-05-2012

Gilbert Family

Topcats Racing team principals and husband and wife, Charlotte and Warren Gilbert, could no cialis online longer resist the urge to get back behind the wheel of one of their beloved Marcos Mantis race cars at the weekend. Immediately, speculation as to who would be the quickest of the pair dominated the banter about their comeback after 3 years away from the driver’s seat.

Vastly differing in driving styles, Warren, with a very apparent rally background and Charlotte with a much smoother approach, it was to be an interesting exercise in style and substance.

Grid

Also racing at the weekend were resident team pilots, Owen O’Neill and Neil Huggins. Huggins in particular was out to demonstrate a masterclass in driving for the benefit of the team owners.

Charlotte was rather more anxious to ensure that the 550bhp monster remain firmly on the tarmac on a new and unfamiliar circuit than Warren who was willing to adopt a more risky approach and exert some sizeable force very early on to set the benchmark for his wife and, he hoped, for his counterparts in the sister Marcos.

Some experimenting with the grass did not necessarily pay off but Warren was able to get close to his limits early on. For Charlotte, progression and compliance with team strategy saw her lap times come down more steadily but gradually close in within a second of Warren’s best time.

Gilbert / Gilbert

In qualifying, Warren set the best lap time for the car with the help of a tow from Huggins. Warren couldn’t pinpoint where he had found the time. Gritty determination to stay on Huggins tail for his qualifying lap pushed Warren to go a whole second faster than his previous best.

Huggins wasn’t done though. His team mates were left eating humble pie when he finally set his best lap of 1.55.612.  A cool 1.5 seconds quicker than the Gilbert duo.

 The race start was orderly but closely bunched. Warren, never to miss an opportunity, passed the Mosler of White/Morcillo/Cintrano taking advantage of their slow to warm tyres. Warren was tailing O’Neill by the second lap but O’Neill was suffering an intermittent misfire and the pack were swarming. By now the Mosler was looming and Warren took his chance to pass O’Neill on the fast Hamilton corner, before he could be marauded by the pack behind him. Warren’s sideways style can be startling to close observers and O’Neill ran wide as Warren glanced at him through the side window on his way past.

In front

Much of the field were learning to give Warren a wide berth and his progress was beginning to look like the parting of the waves. Even though his antics looked rather hairy from the outside he assured the team that he had everything well under control. So he did, by the time he was ready to hand over to Charlotte, 1 ½ hours later, he was leading the race. An intermittent misfire was now dogging Warren’s progress though and it was steadily worsening. As some of the lead cars had pitted before him Charlotte rejoined in 10th place. With a careful fuel strategy the team calculated that the car would have just enough fuel to run to the end without another fuel stop.

The misfire was now so bad that the car was dropping 50mph down the straights. Short and long shifting the gears did not help but Charlotte realised that by easing off the throttle by a quarter cleared the misfire. Although this compromised top speed it was a far better option. This enabled Charlotte to get the car back into an attacking position and soon hauled the car from 10th up to 7th position and 3rd in class.

A gamble to pit O’Neill for a splash and dash during the first safety car period was close to paying off. Only one more lap under the safety car would have put the Huggins/O’Neill at the head of the field.

That aside, O’Neill handed over to Huggins at the halfway mark. O’Neill had driven a solid and faultless shift and Huggins, a massively underrated driver, did what was needed to finish the job.

Had there been an award for the most overtakes, Huggins would surely have been the winner. He manhandled the Marcos from 14th all the way up to 5th. He could have caused embarrassment for the 458 Ferrari that he was catching for Class win. Another lap would have had Huggins well and truly on their bumper and he would undoubtedly have made his move. In the end, Huggins had to settle for 2nd in Class and 5th overall with Charlotte taking 3rd in class and 7th overall at the chequered flag.

The next round is at Brands Hatch Indy on 2nd June.

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