Team Modena recorded their best Avon Tyres British GT finish to date with second place for Piers Johnson and Adam Jones in round five of the series at Rockingham on Sunday. The first weekend running two Lamborghini Gallardos in the series for the team, the sister car suffered the worst of the team's luck in the both the Bank Holiday weekend's races, which were run in difficult weather conditions at the Northamptonshire circuit.
Qualifying Adam Jones placed number 21 Team second on the grid for Monday's round six of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at a rain-lashed Rockingham, the highlight of two extremely wet practice sessions which saw the drivers battling rain and standing water. Guy Harrington placed the sister number 11 car ninth on the grid for that race, while Sunday's one hour race will saw the two Gallardos line up seventh and eighth.
"It was very wet," said Adam. "I know from experience where the water stands, and there were big puddles across the circuit. I was able to be consistent, but we have an hour-long race and visibility is very poor, even if you are just behind one car, and you move out his spray you can be in the puddles. It will be two tough races."
"You had to find where the standing water was and try to get a good lap," said Piers Johnson, sharing number 21 with Adam. "I don't even want to think what it will be like in the race - I followed a couple of cars into turn one and you are just in a big ball of spray."
Ben de Zille Butler was in number 11 for the first 15-minute qualifying session, the track conditions even worse than the morning's wet Free Practice session.
"Conditions were getting worse all the time," said Ben, "and you had to adjust every lap to try to find the quickest line. The car was set up well, and we were quicker in some places than the others, and I know we can keep this pace in the race. There was a huge puddle at the chicane - I went through and got soaked as I had the side windows open."
"I pushed as hard as I could," said Guy, "but was aquaplaning on almost every puddle. We have new wet tyres for tomorrow, we'll see how we go then."
Race One The pairing of Piers and Adam took second place round five, Adam chasing the leader down in the final laps and finishing less than five seconds behind. The duo benefited from a superbly timed pit stop which saw them leap up the order as the Safety Car went out for an incident on the circuit, to record Team Modena's best British GT result to date.
The race was run in heavy rain, and started with the cars lapping behind the Safety Car, the track awash in places, and in the early laps the two Team Modena cars ran in formation, Piers heading Ben de Zille Butler through the spray, gaining places as others were caught out in the treacherous conditions. With the pit stop window just about to open, Ben was caught out at the Tarzan hairpin and locked up the wheels under braking, sliding straight on and just going into a gravel trap in the atrociously wet race conditions.
Piers was already on his way into the pits, and Adam took over, emerging just in front of the Safety Car and gaining ground, to be in second place once all the front-runners had made their pit stop. He gained over ten seconds in the remaining laps on the leader, and set the fastest race lap, but was unable to get on terms before the end of the one-hour race.
"We had some bad luck with one car, but good luck with the other," said Graham Schultz. "Piers was on his way in when the Safety Car was coming out, and everything worked nicely. Everybody is very pleased - the team have worked hard to achieve our best result with the car and take fastest lap. I'm really pleased for Piers - he drove a good first stint and gave us something to build from."
"It was a case of getting a good start and staying out of trouble," said Piers, who had been tipped off the circuit and into a roll on the first lap of the opening race of the season, damaging his Gallardo. "After what happened at Oulton Park I wanted to get a race under my belt. The main problem was the running water on the circuit - it was a good idea to start under the Safety Car - and the Gallardo is strong round here in the wet."
"I could see the leader in the final laps," said Adam, "but he was just too far ahead. All credit has to go to the team for this result, they have had to repair the car after Piers' accident at Oulton Park, and this for all the hard work they have done since then."
For the crew of car number 11 the race was a disappointment, Ben and Guy having their first race in their new car. "I was following Piers on his in lap, and locked up going into the hairpin," said Ben. "I only just touched the gravel - but that was enough to drag me in and strand the car."
Race Two Monday's British GT race was a frustrating one for Team Modena, Adam leading much of the early running in car 21 as the weather changed by the lap, before two spins on the treacherous track later in the race saw the car finish ninth. The sister car switched to wet tyres as heavy rain fell just after the race started, for the track to almost immediately start drying again, leaving Guy and Ben rueing what could have been an inspired decision under other circumstances as they had to make another stop to change back to slick tyres.
"We had a good day yesterday," said Graham Schultz, "but today issues we had no control over caught us out - we even had the race finish early with no warning. The tyre change on the number 11 car could have been the perfect call, but the beauty of running two cars is that you can make that sort of decision."
Adam took the lead at the start, heading the field for the first 12 laps, and was right with the leader when they made their compulsory pitstops on lap 24, and Piers took over the car to emerge right behind the Ferrari, and go past as they rejoined, only to spin on the greasy track later that lap.
"The lead car was weaving all over the place at the start," said Adam, "and I couldn't pull alongside him. Once he went straight I got the run on him and got the better start, and tried to open a gap.
"When it started raining it is hard to tell how wet it is here, and the others could catch up as they could judge their pace from me. I though I could hold the lead but I got blocked out of Turn One and had to back off, and the Ferrari popped underneath me. I could stay with him from then on and the rain started to hold off. We were just relaying on staying with them and getting a better pitstop."
"When I was leaving the pits," said Piers, "the leader got to the pit exit line, then slowed down again, so I thought I would just go past him. Three-quarters of the lap was great, then I spun off as the car swapped ends in the damp conditions. I had a good battle for the rest of the race, but late on a Viper tried to go inside me and hit me right off."
Guy started car number 11, and a heavy rain shower just after the start saw the tem take a gamble and bring the Gallardo in for wet tyres after four laps. Almost immediately the rain began to ease, and though Guy was briefly the quickest car on the circuit, his slick-shod rivals had the advantage and the team swapped the car back to dry tyres when he pitted to hand over to Ben.
"The team did a great job," said Guy, "and when it was raining hard I had to work to make the car stop and turn. We went for wets - and three laps later it stopped and the track began to dry. It could have been the perfect call, but I think I will have to stop gambling!"
Next British GT Races: Snetterton, Norfolk, June 7th / 8th.Click here for the Official Team Modena web site - designed and built by Racecar