Marcos Diary - Trials and tribulations of living with a 30 year old car!
Subj: 2002 -Every now and then, a perk!
Every now and then, a little perk comes along as a result of running this website.
Last year, I had the unique experience of driving the XP Marcos race car and this year (and it's only April!), it came in the form of an invite to the BRDC GT & F3 Press day.
Gary Harman, who'd been taking photos for the TFM team last year (and whose photos have graced this site on many occassions - Thanks, Gary), dropped me an e-mail and asked if I was interested in going along. I had nothing better (else, in fact) planned, so I was able to accept.
The event started at 10, so we met in Bracknell at 8:45 and, due to quiet traffic, had no trouble making Silverstone in time. The roads were quiet, the new dual carriageway up to Silverstone easing our route (although we were both surprised at the lack of a dedicated slip road - You still go through Silverstone village to reach the circuit) and the weather was glorious for March.
The event was held in the BRDC Clubhouse, which is that impressive building at the start of the pit straight, where all those well heeled VIPs watch the GP.
When we arrived, we parked up and walked in, past an impressive display of cars (A Formula 1 Williams, a Le Mans MG-Lola and Martin Short's Mosler) and into the clubhouse, where we were welcomed with a coffee and biscuits.
Looking at the name tags, there were a mixture of Web journalists (a number from Daily Sportscar, for instance), specialist press (Autosport, etc), Freelance photographers and team affiliated people (we fell into the latter category). After a short while we were invited upstairs, where former Eurosport presenter Ben Edwards acted as the compere and various BRDC leading lights and team representatives talked about the season to come. Most notable, to those of not deeply interested in the details, was the presence of Amanda Stretton (looking lovelier than she does on TV, not always true of celebrities!), who is driving a Viper in the GT series with former saloon racer, Annie Templeton and (on occasions) Vickie Butler-Henderson (best known as Charlie's sister - Well, perhaps not...). Also in the audience, waiting to be snapped up by the media boys (and girls) was Nelson Piquet's son, who is racing in F3 this year.
Interesting though that was, the real temptation of the day was the track rides. We wandered out to the track to find that there were no helmets and most people milled aimlessly for a while until some were found. A TVR Tuscan racer was sitting by with a driver looking bored and the team member next to the car asked if anyone wanted a ride. I explained we were waiting for helmets and he replied that they had their own. Of course, it took about 5 seconds for me to have the helmet on and clamber into the Tuscan alongside Ben Samuelson.
Tuscans are fantastic fun to watch, as anyone who's ever seen a race will testify, and I can attest to the fact that they are even more fun to travel in. Quickly away, it was clear that the car is very stable on it's big wide slicks. We surged down the pit straight and then around the first, right hander and up towards the left-sharp right complex familiar to anyone who's played TOCA Touring Cars and then down the straight towards the sharp right hander where the National circuit returns to the GP circuit. On the power, straight up the small rise towards Bridge, where a slight lift sees the right hander despatched and then through the complex where we started, balancing the car on the power and then surging away down the pit straight for another, flying, lap.
The laps in the Tuscan were probably the most impressive, to me, as the car was powerful and impressively stable. The sheer grip around the corners, however, was the most impressive thing, due (I guess) to the big slicks and well developed chassis.
After the Tuscan, I got a chance to take a ride in a GT Cup class Porsche. The driver was Patrick Pearce (who set pole and won in the first round at Donnington, so no mean driver). The route was the same and Patrick started off by saying "Let's catch that TVR" (It was Ben Samuelson, who'd just gone out with someone else). The GT3 Porsche is a totally different beast to the Tuscan. Clearly a developed roadcar, the balance is completely different with the car feeling constantly on edge as Patrick balanced the power and steering against the weight of the engine behind the rear axle. At (or near) the limit, it's easy to see how a Porsche can catch the unwary, but it was a pleasure to watch Patrick at work - We didn't catch the TVR, though...
Over lunch we chatted with Paul Stephens and Gerry Taylor. They plan to run their LM600 in 'selected rounds' of the BRDC GT series this year and had an intriguing idea of returning the car to the Computacenter style livery that it ran in at Le Mans in 1995. Martin Short wandered over to chat at just the moment that the TV showed his TVR being demolised at Oulton last season and he shook his head ruefully as the car slide into the, already wrecked, Saleen, seemingly in slow motion!
We also got chatting to the man from Claremont Corvettes. Turned out he was a long term friend of Jem Marsh and supplied the engines and gearboxes for the prototype LM600. He told us how he provided a rough and ready gearbox to Marcos and Jem rang up 'complaining' that it wouldn't go into 6th. Then he turned round and said "just as well it does 190MPH in 5th!".
I also had a short chat with one of the drivers of the GTO Class ISL Mantis, which was present and did one lap for the tracking shots.
In the afternoon, we hung around hoping to get a ride with Stephen Watson in the Stretton/Templeton Viper, but we were out of luck - Frank Bruno (who is Annie Templeton's next door neighbour) turned up, but declined a ride in the Viper. "Let me drive and I'll have a go", he said, "but I like to be in control" - I did wonder, though, if Frank (big guy that he is) would have been able to squeeze himself into the Viper!
As the day was drawing to a close, it was clear the Viper team had too many guests and sponsors for us to get a ride, so I wandered down to one of the two Elises. These were being driven by F3 drivers and it didn't take me more than a moment to spot the name Adam Carroll on the helmet of the driver in the green car. I jumped in and off we went. Adam was F3 Scholarship class champion in 2002 (a 'budget' class for year old cars) and has stepped up to the Championship class for 2003.
I got the distinct feeling he was having fun, by this stage in the day, making the agile Elise scramble for grip (front and rear) and constantly correcting as we reached the limits of the tyres. It was a great couple of laps and I really felt I'd seen a top class driver at work. Gary went out for a few laps with him too and reported that they'd surpassed the level of grip on their last lap and spun coming up to Bridge! Still, everyone looked to have been enjoying themselves.
Overall, it'd been a great day. A chance to put some faces to names, experience some top class drivers plying their trade and a chance to enjoy the lovely weather.
PS If you think the photos look better than usual, that's because I got an early birthday present of a new digital camera!