The team were excited to introduce three new drivers to their Class 2 entry in the Marcos Mantis for the 2012 Silverstone 24Hr Race. Ian Bankhurst, a successful and well practised 24hr racer. Carlos Arimon, a cool and controlled Spaniard with considerable experience and a competitor in last year’s Silverstone 24hr. The third driver and already very much at home in the team, SEAT Production Cup racer, Paul Black, was taking his overdue opportunity to step into GT racing and after much curiosity, to finally experience the Marcos for himself.
The only driver to have driven the car previously and the team’s best advocate for the powerful British machine, Neil Huggins, was on hand to share his data and knowledge amongst his team mates.
A flying lap from Huggins put the Marcos in 5th overall behind the pole sitting works Ginetta G55 of Tomlinson/Kimber-Smith, followed by the Mosler of Morcillo/Cintrano, the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Brown/Wall and the rival, but mutually supportive, Team Tiger Marcos Mantis of Beighton/Finnemore. Both Marcos’s qualified in the 2min 9secs.
With Huggins’ experience of rolling starts he was first nominated driver to ensure a clean getaway. His dependable driving moved the squad up into 3rd as the first round of fuel stops were underway after the first hour. Black was proving to be astutely capable in the car too; an otherwise exuberant character was taking his role very seriously. Bankhurst was third in line to man the controls and take the car into the night time hours. Three of the drivers had served to consolidate a very strong third position, and so far, with the lead cars running trouble free, it was all on merit. Bankhurst came in for his scheduled stop but as he entered the pits the engine overheated without warning. The least time consuming remedies to fix the problem were administered while Arimon was installed into the car hoping it was just a minor glitch.
He ran trouble free for 3 laps but a vapour trail soon indicated that the problem was far more serious.
Further investigation was deemed a waste of time and the spare engine materialised within seconds.
Although it was devastating for the team that success was slipping away, they staged an incredible performance that had the 100+ crowd gathering in the pit garages spell bound. News of the engine change had spread.
Sadly, The Team Tiger Marcos had been hit by another car and was retired from the race. This left the garage next door free and as the team set to work to change the engine a crowd steadily gathered around the sides of the pit garage. Topcats team principal challenged the team to beat their previous engine change record of 1 hour 55mins and so they set to work. Apart from the clanking of tools and quiet exchange of words between engineers, there was silence in the pit garage. It was a treat to watch as each engineer worked on their own designated sections to remove the parts ready to install the new. They were swift but floated round each calmly. They were timed checked at 15 minute intervals. The engine was out in less than an hour and the new engine was steadily being lowered and guided in with engineers underneath and over the car ready to put everything back together again.
1 hour and 35 minutes later the engineers stood back, job done. Chief engineer, Brian Howard, replaced the fluids and 1st engineer, Tom Watson was poised to start the engine. You literally couldn’t hear anyone breathe. The engine turned over, but nothing. A top up and a squeeze of the water pipes, rather akin to heart massage, and they tried again. A couple of splutters and the engine roared into life. The roar of cheers from the huge crowd that had amassed was amazing too. It was a very proud moment as the team wheeled the car out of the garage 1 hour and 43 minutes after it had been wheeled in.
Arimon was allowed to continue his stint unhindered albeit now down in 25th place. The team were working out scenarios and if all was well for the rest of the race the Marcos could get back up into the top ten by daylight.
Huggins and Black had completed their second rounds in the very early hours of the morning. Bankhurst was next out and early into his stint, the safety car was deployed. The perfect opportunity to refuel. Class 2 cars can only refuel 75 litres at a time so Bankhurst pitted on each lap to top up while the safety car was still out on track.
The third stop was for a tyre change. Very cold tyres combined with a very cold track doesn’t make for very nice driving until the tyres have warmed up. It has caught out so many drivers in the past and Bankhurst wasn’t to be excluded. He left the pit lane and with perhaps a little too much throttle as he joined track, the car spun, depositing him on the exit of copse corner.
He had already begun to move off again, out of harm’s way, but the unsuspecting Nissan of Mission Motorsport rounded the corner not able to divert his car in time before swiping the back of the Marcos hard.
Bankhurst managed to limp back to the pits but the rear end of the bodywork was missing, the chassis was bent and the exhaust crumpled underneath the car. With the rear wheel exposed and no rear wing, lights or rear window all other repairs were irrelevant. Team principal, Warren Gilbert, regrettably made the call that it was race over. Four very dejected drivers, none more so than Bankhurst. But as they say ‘That’s racing’.
Lastly, one final shot for anyone that likes our grid girl!