After Warren Gilberts recent return to racing, it was deemed time for wife Charlotte to return to the racing seat after a 4 year sabbatical to have 2 children. With the Mosler remaining at the workshop in preparation for the 24hr race at Zolder, it was left to the 2 Marcos Mantis race cars to uphold the teams honour.
The weekend also saw the return of Richard Fores after missing the previous races of 2009. He would be partnering Mick Mercer in the GT2 Marcos and Charlotte in the GT3 Marcos with regular driver Jon Harrison.
With limited testing on the Friday, only Jon Harrison and Charlotte Gilbert made the most of the 3 fifteen minute sessions a piece. Charlotte settled into the car more quickly than expected and was able to better her team mate’s best lap by the end of the session.
The final 2 sessions were academic as they were both red flagged early and never restarted.
Pole-sitter Sumpter took the lead from the rolling start, with Sean McInerney in the Eclipse Mosler just slightly behind. It’s just a short blast from the start line to the tight hairpin at La Source, and Almo Coppelli, starting Peer Slipsager’s Ferrari 430 from the inside of the third row, saw a clear swathe of tarmac against the pit wall right up to the apex, and powered into it, arriving on the brakes almost alongside the Bayhar-backed Porsche. It’s tight there now, though – very tight on the inside – and as Coppelli struggled to turn the car through the acute radius, the tail wiggling as he laid on a bit too much power, McInerney, Steven Brady’s Prosport, and Pat Gormley in the Topcats Mosler all tiptoed back past him round the faster, wider line.
The plumes of spray from the Paragon Porsche left everybody in the wake guessing , and Sean McInerney got the Mosler’s nearside wheels on the rumble strip as he powered for the climb up from Eau Rouge, the seemingly innocuous spin being just tagged by the recovering Coppelli, the Ferrari careering hard into the barriers, then spinning across the track into the opposite Armco. The situation with the Ferrari was serious, causing the immediate deployment of the Safety Car and the medical team. It was eight long laps, and 38 minutes of the race, before the safety car came in, with the rain now torrential, and the return to racing speed, in very changed conditions, caught some out.
It was a weekend of major highs and lows for the team and drivers at the Rockingham Motor Speedway. Having set impressive times in testing ,an unfortunate twist of fate would befall team driver, Rachel Green in qualifying. A little too much kerb on the apex, whipped the Mosler round and saw the car rear end into the Armco at high speed, extensive damage to the car put paid to Rachel’s already tight budget and an end to her seasons racing in the Mosler. The incident denied Luc Paillard his first outing of the season with the team.
In the Marcos camps, spirits remained high as both cars, driven by Mick Mercer and Rupert Bullock in the GT1 Marcos and Jon Harrison and Neil Huggins in the GT2 Marcos, qualified 7th and 8th respectively.
With a 90 minute race on Saturday and a 90 minute race on Sunday, Jon Harrison would start the proceedings in the driver’s seat for the first race with Neil Huggins taking over for the second half. For Sunday’s race, the finishing position from Saturday would determine their starting position on the grid. For Sundays race starters, Neil would be first to drive of the racing duo.
hree cars entered again in the Britcar Championship means another big schedule for the Topcats Racing team for 2009.
In the Mosler, the driver pairing composed of Rachel Green and Henry Fletcher and in the Marcos Mantis GT2 and GT3 respectively, Mick Mercer / Rupert Bullock and Jon Harrison / Neil Huggins, all with past and successful experience with the team.
An atypical qualifying position following a tyre choice dilemma in the rain meant that Green/ Fletcher in the Mosler would start in 14th place with the Marcos Mantis’s fairing better in the conditions, Harrison/Huggins in 12th and Mercer/Bullock in 9th on the starting grid of a healthy 29 cars.
Henry Fletcher would start the race, as would Neil Huggins and Mick Mercer with changeovers scheduled at around the halfway point of the 2 hour race. Fletcher proved that he is far more than consistent by clocking up 6 positions on the first lap and by lap 29 had stealthily established himself in 2nd place.
The sister Marcos’s driven by Mercer and Huggins had made up 2 places apiece by the end of the first lap and were holding position from each other as they both lapped with similar times, levelled by the damp track conditions.