Words fail me. It’s not often I say that. I am proud to have a set of the most talented, supportive and dedicated teams, partners and sponsors around us to achieve what we did this weekend.
Whilst the 24hr race is a singular event for most; for us it was the crescendo of a season with an eye on next year. As a team we’ve had a difficult year, drivers will faltering budgets, race series’ with faltering grids and an E92 M3 GT3 car that absorbed funds quicker than a divorce lawyer. When the E92 M3 project commenced we were expecting high costs and engineering challenges, however, the adversities we have overcome this season have nothing short of monumental. The BMW E92 chassis and the S65 V8 is not an easily developed car. As we’ve discovered, but we did it and I we’ve done it with some style.
The 24hr weekend did not begin that well. Despite a huge amount of testing (and phone calls) the ultra expensive BMW Motorsport ABS and Traction Control systems refused to boot up. Our equally expensive paddle shift also refused to work so we began the weekend with a car somewhat less spec’d than we had anticipated. The staggeringly poor weather over the last few weeks also meant that whilst we had a reasonable dry and wet set up on the car it was far from optimised. There were also two large question marks over the engine and the gearbox. We blew one engine in testing mid season and the gearbox was the only one in the UK and had spent most of the season causing problem after problem to the extent that we’d even asked for a refund. A lack of drivers also created some issues, an unproven car is not an easy proposition to promote especially when budgets are so tight
Despite these set backs I actually felt confident that we’d do ok, the car felt easy to drive, we ran the engine on lower power to ensure longevity, the set up was benign and flexible and the team was prepared and professional. We’d managed to get a very experienced 24hr driver in Clint Bardwell and Mark Steward being a regular CSL Cup driver for us for the last two seasons filled the third driver slot with myself. We could have done with more spares, more money, more lights and more of everything generally but then when don’t you in racing?
Day qualifying went well and we had a deliberate plan to qualify around mid-pack, the idea was to avoid the very fast Class 1 and 2 cars at the beginning (having been here for 2008 we’ve seen what can happen) but ahead of the slower cars and classes, the plan was to be around 25th but we ended up 27th which was close enough.
Night qualifying indicated how the race was going to be – wet, amazingly wet actually so we simply spent the time getting used to the car and playing with the lights (which weren’t enough so a trip to GPR got us some nice new PIAA ones which we added the next day).
It’s hard to write out what happens in a 24hr race without sounding like the ramblings of a deranged person but I’ll give it a go. The race started well, Clint had first stint and rapidly got us from 27th to 24th in the first few laps and in the dry conditions was making excellent progress through the pack – at one point reaching 11th place. However, at the end of his first stint a quick inspection of the tyres showed the right rear was destroyed. Clint confirmed that he’d hit a kerb and that was enough to knock the toe out enough to wreck the tyre, the fronts showing excessive wear as well (too little camber for the dry conditions) we had no option but to pit the car to make the adjustments, failure to do this would have meant losing too much time in tyre changes, the tyres would not last a full stint. At the driver swap over to Mark we pitted the car and lost 22 minutes changing camber and tyres. This left us in 42nd position, crap.
Mark then jumped in the car as the rain started to come down and kept our position nicely. The wet weather played nicely into our hands as it masked our power differential to some of the teams and highlighted the chassis work we’d done. At the end of Marks double stint (3 hours) we remained in 40th place, not great but with time lost in the garage for adjustment due to hitting the kerb we weren’t despondent. As I started my first stint the heavens opened, I’ve not seen rain like it, the fast speed on the wipers couldn’t keep up and quickly the tracked filled up with water. Pitch black, down the Hanger straight the car would side step and wheel spin in 6th gear – that’s 165mph.
I don’t know if it was fear or pure adrenalin but I loved it, grinning like an idiot on three occasions I radioed the pits to ask if the Safety Car had been deployed as we were overtaking so many people I’d assumed the race had been suspended but each time Richard came back saying “no, we’re just lapping faster than anyone, keep it up”, during this time our lap times were faster than everyone but the top 8 cars overall.
In less than 1 hour and 48 minutes we’d gone from 40th to 27th position. At this point sanity regained control and the organisers brought out the Safety Car due to the conditions being unsafe, I didn’t know if I was relieved or hacked off, if I’d carried on either I’d have binned it or perhaps gone even higher up the grid, we’ll never know.
Clint then jumped into the car and proceeded to carry on where I left off claiming another couple of places to end his second double stint in 24th place, we had a long way to go but we were going in the right direction. Clint handed over to Mark for his second stint and as expected the early morning fog came down, Mark came in three times to have the lights adjusted such were the conditions and pretty soon the Safety Car came out again, this time for two hours, we’d dropped back to 3oth place. Sadly during this time we’d also completed a pit stop too quickly (there was a minimum 90 second rule, one of the stops to adjust the lights was 84 seconds) so we were penalised 2 laps, we weren’t getting much luck. As soon as the Safety Car came I jumped in the car, the fog had lifted enough to see where we were going and in an uneventful stint we went from 30th to 27th again. Clint then jumped in for his third and final stint and 4 laps in gets hit from behind by a Ginetta G50, it seems the Ginetta just outbraked himself, slid into us and continued to hit the side of the car pushing us off circuit. After struggling to get going again for 5 minutes Clint recovered the car back to us and we surveyed the damage, the rear bumper was fine but the subsequent hit to the side smashed the left hand silencer flat, ripped off the side sill and damaged the rear quarter. A bit of hammer work later we got out but Clint reported exhaust fumes in the cabin so in again and this time making up a new exhaust tip extension, this worked but we’d lost another 18 minutes which put us back to back to 30th place, which Clint managed to move up to 27th place by the end of his stint.
Mark then got in for his final stint which he drove well to maintain our 27th place leaving me with the final stint to the line. This was perhaps more stressful than the night time lunacy, keep a decent pace, don’t fall off and keep the car in one piece, you swear you can hear noises and problems everywhere, stare at your gauges looking for problems. I had Richard on the radio saying to slow down as I was still doing 2.30’s in the pouring rain and with a large gap in front and behind there was no need to go too hard. Despite this we managed to pick off one more position and finished the race in 26th place overall, 15th place in class. Whilst we were delighted with the result there is a tinge of regret, if we’d not lost the time in the pits for relatively silly bits of bad luck we’d have finished around 12th overall and 8th in class, however as it is we have achieved so much. This was the first time a BMW E92 M3 had completed a 24hr race, it was the first time in the UK that an the V8 engine had completed more than two hours of endurance racing ever and it was the first time the Drenth DG500 gearbox had completed a 24hr race. For such a new car, with no proven history we are delighted to have achieved so much.
Knocked it out the park!
Of course none of this can happen without the support and commitment from a great many people.
Team Principal, cheque writer and driver.
Spent the last three months questioning why we were doing this and the following three days grateful that we did.
Hugely experienced 24hr racer with a sense of humour that literally had us on the floor laughing, great member of the team. Owns CJ Bardwell, a builders so if he builds as well as he drives he’s your man.
Perennial TMS team driver, reliable and always a pleasure to have in the garage. Owns Clarke Gammon & Wellers Estate Agents, but really is nice, honestly, even got me a mortgage which is a near miracle.
Chief Technician / Co-Team Manager
Responsible for the overall build and mechanics of the car for the event. Car would not have been on track without him, simple as that.
Responsible for overall team management and strategy, his OCD has its uses; nothing escapes his eye to ensure things are perfect.
No. 2 Technician
Responsible with Richard for the build. Didn’t like being interviewed on TV but has a career in major league baseball as a pitcher if it doesn’t work out in motorsport.
Ian ‘Macca’ Mackenzie
Technician and Fuel Crew
Awake the whole night, cheerful the whole night, amusing the whole night.
Technician and fuel crew
Technician and fuel crew, part time child minder for my (out of control) children.
Daren ‘Barney’ Steele
Our only tech that’s not a full time member of TMS, thick yorkshire accent makes everything he said sound like a mickey take (or maybe everything he said was a mickey take, who can be sure?)
Technician and Fuel Crew
Only person who seemed to look more awake at the end of the race than the beginning?
The Team – Support
Only person who can sleep in a Focus RS with race shell Recaros in, kept everyone fed watered and happy, pitched in on the car when needed
Lent a hand in everything as required, never far away from making sure something got done.
Kept everyone fed watered and happy.
Wife, mother, embroidery expert
Palmed off our kids to anyone with a spanner in their hands, sorted evening chilli for the team and guests, spent many a long hour in our garage embroidering team clothing (some of it upside down).
Partners and Sponsors
Moton – suspension
Only suspension supplier we’ve ever worked with to hit every possible achievable from suspension. Car was sublime in the wet as testified by our dramatic lap times in the night stint where most drivers were complaining about the conditions being dangerous (the organisers eventually brought out the safety car cutting our charge short) and we went from 40th to 27th place in less than 2 hours.
Pectel ECU, Pi Dash and control systems. NASA in a race car, simple as that. Stayed around late into the night to help resolve a variety of issues and designed and established a data system that meant we recorded every conceivable input from the car for analysis – brilliant.
Drenth – Gearbox
Not sure why I have them as a sponsor as we paid full price for the box but have to give them respect for persevering with the DG500. First one ever in the UK, beset with nightmarish problems from inception but they stuck with it and redeveloped the unit to be the best we’ve ever used. Went 24hrs without even a suggestion of a problem. Finest gearbox we’ve ever used and we’ve already ordered another one.
Milltek Sport Exhausts
Created the nicest sounding (and also the quietest, which is actually pretty important for a 24hr race) exhaust which also stood up to getting driven into by a Ginetta G50. Long time partner of TMS and lovely people to work with.
Pace Products – oil coolers, radiators
Persevered with us even though our demands were sometimes quite ridiculous (‘can we have another one in 3 hours time please?’). Kept oil and water temperatures controlled without issue, concern or problem.
No other chair I will race in, saved my life on more than one occasion, even their fold out chairs feel classy. All drivers so impressed none of us peed in it either during the race which is nice.
CES Europe – Pitrunner air equipment
Watch the TV show when it comes out, no airlines, no fouling, compressed air in backpacks meant the technicians could work on the car uncluttered, brilliant idea.
Eibach – Springs
Forever sending out different sizes, lengths and never a complaint. Only people I can think of who seem to say yes to every demand.
Alcon – Brakes
Biggest, baddest set of callipers and disks this side of a racing truck, system didn’t need even looking at for the entire race from start to finish, feel and sensitivity with every application of the pedal.
Pagid – Brake pads
RS29’s say no more. One set in, looks like they will do another 24hr race as well. There is no substitute in endurance racing.
Vinyl Creations UK (VCUK) – Vehicle Livery
Our car looked absolutely stunning. It’s hard to believe that
underneath the blue/silver is a plain, satin black, paint work scheme.
Rick and his team at VCUK have been our livery manufacturers for many
years, and for Britcar pulled out all the stops to ensure our car looked
Mobile Centre – lighting
LED lighting that is as energy efficient as you can get. Entire corporate area was lit for 24hr’s by 2 24v batteries, that’s it, we like to be green.
Dunlop – Tyres
Yes they sponsored the entire event but they have been our tyre supplier of choice for many years now. Only people I know happy to take 4 credit card numbers just to get paid.
MSAR Safety – safety equipment
No idea why I’ve put them here, they basically keep us alive so I should give them higher priority really. Schroth harness’s keep us in the seat and Lifeline fire extinguishers allow us to slowly smoulder rather than combust into flames. Know more about Hans device options than even Hans do.
Our partner for all of our Diagnostic Equipment. We use them on all of our BMW and VAG work, and without it we’d have been left stuck on a number of occasions!
Motul – brake fluid, transmission fluid
If only they made an oil that BMW were happy to use in the S65 engine we’d use it in a heartbeat, as it is the other lubricants in the car are all Motul which we use in all the road car tuning and other race cars.
Stand21 – race suits, safety clothing and technician suits
No other choice for endurance racing, I spent nearly 36 hours in mine non stop and other than the smell was as good a place can be. Not tested the fireproof claims and hope I never will, but if all goes wrong one day I will look good as I cook.
BMW – for building the E92 M3 in the first place.
This particular car was my road car for two years, was the Safety Car for the CSL Cup for another year and is now a GT3 race car, however you look at it that deserves respect for the guys who built it, thank you.
People always ask me what it takes for a successful race team and I always reply with the same stock answer – team, family and partners. I’m proud to say I have one of the finest race teams in the UK, if not the World, a supportive family who spend one race season to the next wondering if they will ever spend a weekend with me and a group of partners and sponsors who never tire of last minute requests or deviate from supplying the best possible, we are very lucky and thank you all.
The hope next year is a full season in British GT with selected international GT races across the World but time will tell how much of a reality that will be, as ever I will you posted. Thanks once again.
Photography Courtesy of Derek Binsted (Bindel Pics) and our very own Ian Matthews.
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