Silverstone – Luckless and Pointless – FIA GT3 European Championship – Rounds 1 & 2

11th May 2007

Tech 9 is the most successful FIA GT3 team on the planet, thanks to the inaugural drivers’ title (for Tech 9’s 2007 GT2 driver Sean Edwards), which included a trio of race wins and a further pair of podium finishes for their Porsche 997 GT3s

For 2007 Tech 9 returned to the Championship with the coveted #1 on one of their trio of Porsches, and with a new look driving squad.Car #1 Phil Quaife / Tom Ferrier Car #2 Jonny Lang / Phil KeenCar #3 Peter Snowdon / Dimitris Deverikos.

The Porsche had been the 2006 benchmark for the whole GT3 grid, but others had responded to the successful late season run from Phil Hindley’s team and had upped their game. Progress is coming from Porsche too, with an upgrade kit, but not in time for the season’s opening race weekend of the 2007 season, at Silverstone’s Grand Prix circuit: unfortunately it showed.“We have a massive amount of data from both here at Silverstone and with the Porsches from the whole of last season but frankly we are struggling.” That was Phil Hindley’s assessment after a Saturday morning that saw the best of the Tech 9 cars timed at 13th fastest in the 60 minute practice session – that ‘unlucky’ 13th would herald a run of bad luck for Tech 9 throughout the weekend, the like of which the team had literally never seen before.Things would improve in the afternoon practice session, all three Tech 9 cars among the top ten fastest cars, prior to the all important qualifying sessions.

But then the luck turned again. Session One would see Tom Ferrier down in 14th position in #1, with a lap in 1:55.376, but the ex-BTCC star was the fastest of the Tech 9 trio from that session, Jonny Lang a couple of tenths and three places further back and Peter Snowdon down in 32nd place.

Session Two would encapsulate the story of the weekend so far. Phil Keen, best of the trio, more than a second faster than Ferrier’s session one time, with a 1:54.215, but down in 18th slot. Phil Quaife meanwhile was back in 29th position and Dimitris Deverikos could do no better than 34th.A frustrated Phil Keen observed straight after the session that “last season Sean (Edwards) did a 1:54.7 and qualified fourth. I’ve just done a 1:54.2 and it’s only good enough for 18th!” .

With Ferrari, Lamborghini and others having homologated radically upgraded cars, and with the team still struggling to make sense of the mystery of why the same car on what were marked as the same tyres simply wasn’t working as well as it should, it looked like an uphill struggle for the first race.

Race One – The looks of studied concern on the faces of the Tech 9 crew as their charges lined up amidst a packed 41 car grid were a reflection more of the pent-up tension of the lead-up to a major race, rather than any sense of foreboding about the race to come.Sadly though the first 15 minutes of the race would see a combination of bad luck, and bad driving from other competitors, that would effectively count all three Tech 9 cars out of contention.

On only the fourth lap, both Tom Ferrier (#1) and Peter Snowdon (#3) pitted; the former with handling issues and the latter with contact damage, having charged nine places up the order on the first lap only to be hit from behind by an Aston Martin, spun around and hit by the same car at the front, causing damage to the radiator.

Worse was to follow a few minutes later as Jonny Lang in #2 was also forced to pit with contact damage, this time courtesy of an unidentified Ascari. The Tech 9 crew went to work, but with 41 cars on track in a 60 minute race, any delay ends any realistic chance of a top finish and whilst good work from the pit crew meant that all three cars briefly got going again, albeit with a second stop for #1, both Lang and Snowdon had retired by the end of lap six.

The #1 car would get up to speed again, but had lost out badly in track position and could finish no higher than 27th.“I think that’s our worst ever day’s racing,” said a seriously unamused Tech 9 team manager Piers Masarati, post race, as his crew worked to repair Saturday’s damage on all three Porsches. The second race of the weekend on Sunday could only get better – couldn’t it?

Race Two – Tech 9 was in ‘bounce back’ mode on Sunday morning and Phil Keen in particular was looking to show that the team hadn’t lost that winning touch.

The #2 Porsche looked to have the body language of a car on a mission as the race started and Phil Keen began to make progress. Just as things were looking up though, the fickle finger poked Tech 9 in the eye once again. As Keen completed lap one the Porsche cut out, the driver trying desperately to restart the car. He eventually managed to rejoin but the car had lost almost a complete lap – damage limitation rather than a battle for the podium became the day’s objective for Keen and Lang (below) in #2. They would finish just inside the top 20.

Phil Quaife in the #1 Porsche meanwhile had made some steady progress and had brought the car up to 16th place from 29th on the starting grid: he too though was finding the relative lack of pace of the Porsche to some of its competition very frustrating.“The difference between some of the cars out there is silly. In Porsche Supercup I qualified 13th against some very good guys indeed. Here I could do no better than 29th in a well prepared and well run Porsche. That can’t be right.” His humour would not get any better when team mate Tom Ferrier hit trouble almost immediately after taking the car over. #1 would do no better than 18th, the fact that this was the best finishing position of a disastrous weekend for Tech 9 was no consolation whatsoever.

The Dimitris Deverikos pedalled #3 car meanwhile had also climbed well up the order, Tech 9’s Greek star taking advantage as others faltered and battling through some slower traffic. The radio link to the car though was faulty. Deverikos should have been watching his pit boards as the pit window opened. Whether it was as a result of the frustration of Saturday’s meltdown or just that he became engrossed in the battles on track isn’t clear, but the #3 car passed by Tech 9’s ‘Pit-In’ board no less than six times!

When finally the car pitted #3 was rather neatly in 3rd place, but it was by far the latest car to pit, and as Peter Snowdon would discover as he completed his first lap in the car, his team mate had missed the permitted pit stop window by a substantial amount. Snowdon was called in for a stop-go and not realising how long the stop was going to be adjudged, failed to turn off the Porsche’s engine. 30 seconds at idle in the already hot car was enough to put the water temperature warning lights on. The car would retire as a result of the overheated engine but realistically, with the pitlane penalty lasting just a tick or two short of three and a half minutes, #3s race was run, and all at Tech 9 were distinctly unamused.

Tech 9 personnel aren’t used to defeat and the whole team looked positively angry as the Porsches were packed away for the journey back to base. Whilst there was plenty of bad news for the team at Silverstone, their mood suggests that they will arrive in Bucharest, on a brand new street circuit, for round two, pumped up to show the competition their Championship winning quality.

Romania has probably never seen anything like the fireworks that are in store when the GT3 boys, and in particular the reigning Champions, roll into town.

Adam Proctor

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