Marcos in GT racing in 2001

2001 is barely a month old, but things are happening fast...

This weekend (3rd and 4th February) sees 2 LM600 Evos in action in the Daytona 24 Hours. Drivers are Cor Euser, BRDC Champion Calum Lockie, Herman Buurman, Peter van der Kolk and local driver, Toto Lassally.

Daytona Runner
John Brooks' shot of an LM600 testing at Daytona - courtesy

The two Marcos LM600s qualified well at Daytona. Cor Euser / Calum Lockie / Herman Buurman are placed 23rd on the start grid (fourth best GTS car, behind a GT1 Porsche 911 and two works Corvettes) with a lap time of 1:49.590. The second car of Peter van der Kolk / Toto Lassally recorded a best of 1:53.450 for 35th.

LM600s do battle at Daytona
The second LM600 is passed by James Weaver on the way to setting pole in practice

However it was an astonishing return to Florida for the rumbling LM600s as, for almost half the race, the lead car of Euser/Lockie and Buurman did battle in the top 10 with the works Corvettes. Both cars encountered some problems in the second half of the race, but held on to finish 24th and 27th overall, 4th and 5th in the GTS class. The team will undoubtedly have mixed feelings, however, as despite the achievement of getting two cars to the end of the tough 24 hour event and battling on the pace of the fastest GT cars in the world, a little more reliability could have seen an overall podium placing.

Tad Todd of the Marcos Maniacs group in the US was fortunate enough to be at Daytona and kind enough to send the following report.

Well, it was a long, wet and cold 24 Hours at Daytona but it was well worth the effort. Both Mantaras performed admirably. Before the race, we had occasion to see the cars being prepped in the garage area. Cor Euser is proud to be the latest owner of MARCOS Maniacs T-Shirts thanks to Mike Denman and his ability to rush me a couple of shirts on very short notice. Cor was very thankful. The pit road was then opened up to spectators as the cars were being gridded. It was quite an experience being able to walk between the 79 cars lined up and just minutes away from the start of the race.

There was some interesting hardware including the new Saleen GTS car, the Mosler GT car, two beautiful GT1 Porsches participating in GTS, several iterations of the prototype cars, and of course the factory GTS C5R Corvettes. While I may be a bit prejudiced, the two MARCOS Mantaras were hands down the most aggressive, mean, purposeful looking cars on the entire grid.

During the first hour of the race, Cor Euser, Calum Lockie et al in the #24 machine turned everybodys heads by passing both Corvettes and a Porsche GT1 to take the lead in GTS. They remained firmly on the leader board in sixth position overall for quite awhile.

At the 6.5 hour mark, they maintained second in GTS class following closely behind the eventual class and overall race winning #2 Ron Fellows et al (Not Earnhart!) Corvette. Total Motor Sport's website described the Marcos effort by stating that "The Marcos has been the hero of the race in many ways."

Trouble struck during hour 11, however, when #24 suffered a broken power steering pump bracket shortly after a pit stop. Subsequent repairs put the car well back in the field. By dawn, with the rain still falling, both Marcos were back out on the track and both were running at the end. Car #24 finished fourth in class and 24th overall at 94 laps down from the race and GTS class winning #2 Corvette. The #25 Mantara was fifth in class and 27th overall at 99 laps down.

While they didn't win, Team MARCOS certainly got everyone's attention and clearly were able to maintain their own against the factory backed class powerhouses. I'm sure this was in no small part due to the wonderfully bright and colorful paint schemes and generous sponsorship, emblazened across the doors of both Mantaras, of our list's own Hayes Harris of Wire Wheel Sports Cars. If you have the opportunity to see them race in the future, take advantage of it. Seeing the MARCOS screaming past at nearly 200 mph is almost a religious experience.

Photo Courtesy
Both LM600s line up behind the winning Corvette to finish the Daytona 24 Hours - Photo Courtesy Grand-Am

Thanks to Tad, our Marcos correspondant on the ground. Anything can do, we at Unofficial Marcos can almost match! :^) and to top even that you can read what Calum Lockie thought about tearing around the Daytona banks at close to 200 mph here.

In Britain the Mantis Challenge appears to have disappeared. However, this is proving good news as numerous of the Challenge runners are converting their cars to full GTO spec and planning to run in the BRDC GT series or the newly launched Interactive Sportscar series, which has already received confirmed entries for 2 cars from the NCK Marcos team, led in previous years by Thomas Erdos and Andy Purvis.

After all the excitement of Daytona, things have quietened down a lot with the only really newsworthy piece of news I could find relating to long time Marcos driver, Thomas Erdos. After 5 years of thrilling us in an LM600, Thomas has moved on to the higher profile (but lower powered!) world of the new-look BTCC.

Thomas will be driving one of the ABG Motorsport Lexus IS200 alongside Kurt Luby. Good luck to Thomas and thanks for all those great Marcos moments - including that great wheel to wheel dice (with former team mate Euser's car) at Silverstone at the top of this page. You can keep up with his antics on the BBC, but also on the Total Motor Sport website, which covers Touring Cars and Sportscars in 2001

There have now been 3 rounds of the British GT series, with MRI LM600 evos figuring at each.

In the first round, at Silverstone, there were two LM600 evos out. Defending champion Calum Lockie and team-patron, Cor Euser were in the first, with former TVR man Ian Mckellar and Phil Hindley turned out in a second car. Sadly, despite qualifying well, both cars found themselves victims of a mix up over the closure time of the pitlane and had to start from there after the whole field had rolled by.

Unsuprisingly, neither took long to make there way through the field, although there were a few close calls with slower cars and Calum Lockie (somewhat unfairly underrated by the press last season) set to make an impression in the defence of his title by flying through the field at a pace only fractions of a second off Cor's best (no mean feat as Cor is rated on of the very best around).

Calum had his car up as high as third before the pit stops, with Phil Hindley (new to the Marcos, of course) not far behind after a cautious opening few laps. Calum was an earlier stopper and Cor took over, setting a similarly fast pace to challenge for the lead. Sadly, as the race progress, overheating set in and Cor eased his pace, dropping to third again, with Mckellar setting a great pace to close right up to challenge for the place. Cor was able to increase his speed as the temperatures dropped and the two finished in 3rd and 4th, behind a Viper and a Lister.

Euser chased by Hindley in closing laps
Hindley follows Euser in closing laps - Photo Courtesy : David Lord

The Mantis GTO seems no more competitive in 2001 than it was, generally, in 2000, but with the demise of the Mantis Challenge, there were even more of them out. Sadly the biggest Mantis related event was to be the tragic death, in a post qualifying road accident, of Matt Bettley.

Only a week later, the cars were at the Norfolk circuit of Snetterton. I visited a Snetterton once and a less hospitible place is hard to imagine in the rain, but it can make for some great racing and that's exactly what spectators got at this race; rain and an exciting race.

Almost incredibly, considering he's the champion and his storming performance at Silverstone, Calum Lockie couldn't raise the funds to race the LM600 at Snetterton and looked to be forced to sit it out. The car he would have shared with Cor Euser was withdrawn before practice, but Calum was offered a ride in a Porsche GT2, which on the surface didn't sound too wonderful.

The Hindley/McKellar Jr car was out, but as McKellar was driving the Saleen at the Euro LM round at Donnington (and winning his, poorly supported, class), the car was once again forced to start from the back of the grid.

In the pouring rain the cars started off and McKellar made a strong start. By lap 3, McKellar was up to 9th and Calum Lockie was starting another demon drive in the 911 GT2 he was sharing with Dave Welz, the owner, up to 4th on lap 4!

In GTO, Shane Bland was causing a stir, by bringing the underpowered Mantis into 10th overall, ahead of most of the 911s. Sadly, shortly after handing the car over to team boss, John Griffiths (from 8th overall and 5th in GTO), it ended the race in the gravel.

Sadly, McKellar Jr's run was good enough, in fact, to clash with the slow starting Lister Storm of Dave Warnock. The incident left the Lister down in ninth, but shortly afterwards McKellar was in with a chronic misfire and the LM600s race was run.

Lister and Marcos - About to end in tears...
McKellar chases the Warnock Lister - Photo Courtesy :David Lord

Lockie, meanwhile, carried on in the GT2 Porsche and was actually leading for a while during the pitstops. By the end of the race, however, despite his team mate lacking his outright pace, Calum was classified 5th overall and 3rd in class, good for his championship hopes and reminiscent of 2000.

Lockie was back in the Welz Porsche for Donnington and the Hindley/McKellar car was back too. However, a nasty moment in the wet practice, with Phil Hindley behind the wheel, saw the car too badly damaged to race on Sunday. Lockie finished a lowly 14th, two laps down, seemingly after throwing an alternator belt when Calum missed a downchange, whilst leading... That was, in the absence of the LM600s, good enough for 5th in GT.

Calum Lockie's plans currently appear to be to be on the grid at Round 4 (Oulton Park) alongside Dave Welz in the latter’s rapid Porsche 911 GT2.

He then hopes to return with Cor Euser in what could prove to be a brand new Marcos Mantara. Cor is building a new, narrower, car to Le Mans regulations after the extra wide Evo was thrown out of the FIA series and Le Mans because it's too wide - Go figure.... Anyway, the plan (According to Motorsport News) is to build a car to compete in the American Petit Le Mans event later this year, with a view to La Sarthe itself in 2002. How the road car problems affect this is anyone's guess, but have you seen many Saleen S7s on the road?

By June, things had gone very quiet on the racing front for Marcos. All the UKLM600s seem to have faded from the scene, with neither Eurotech/MRI car out in the last two rounds of the BRDC GT series and the NCK cars waiting for the start of the ISC series

In Spain, however, Xavier CAMP and Tom PUIG continue to race theirs, taking a 3rd place in one of the double header events at Jarama and a 5th in one in the second round at Cheste.

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LM600 in the Spanish sunshine - Photo Courtesy Spanish GT site

A few Mantis cars are racing still in the GTO class of the BRDC series, but were very uncompetitive against the Porsches and the TVRs. To aid the teams, the BRDC have permitted the Mantis teams a bigger restrictor (34.5mm against 34mm) to try and provide more power. Whether that will really help remains to be seen.

The ISC series came and went with just a single, poorly attended race at Donnington. A lot has been made in the press of the fact that this series foundered, but there was little expressed (at least) skepticism BEFORE the event, so it seems a little churlish. Of course, a number of teams are seriously out of pocket, but no-one forced them to go an unproven series.

The single race saw a single NCK Marcos LM600 out (a second car was damaged in practice), but it never showed strongly and finished in a lowly position in the hands of Andy Purvis/Matt Edwards, due to that familiar LM600 ailment, a chronic misfire.

LM600 passes the carnage in the only ISC round
LM600 passes the carnage in the one ISC round at Donnington - Photo Courtesy

The good side of the collapse of the ISC is the influx of entries into the Privilege series. The two NCK Marcos have returned to the series at Brands Hatch and Donnington.

At Brands Hatch, Geoff Lister and Robin Lidell shared one of the cars with Mike Newton / Chris Maries sharing the second. The Lidell/Lister car qualified well, in 4th, amongst the normal GT front runners, with the other ending up down in 20th.

Come the race, the now famous collision between the Lister and Viper saw them fall into the gravel on the way out of Paddock bend. The bad news (for Marcos fans) is that the second LM600 also ended up in the gravel, having taken avoiding action. Up front, however, Lister joined battle with the TVR and Calum Lockie in the Dave Welz Porsche GT2 (again showing up more modern equipment) and, once Lockie handed over to Welz it was a foregone conclusion that the LM600 would take a promsing 2nd overall. Or, at least, it seemed that way, except that Lister had 'a moment' at Dingle Dell which caused the car to drop down the field.

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LM600 on way to 2nd at Brands - Photo Courtesy David Lord

Initially, Welz was running strongly and the Marcos fell as low as 10th overall. However, Lidell made short work of the GTOs and stormed through the field and finally forced his way back into 2nd on lap 28, despite Welz rising to the occasion and clinging on to the LM600 for all he was worth.

In GTO, the Mantis once again did their sterling job of filling out the field and it's good to hear that some teams are developing the cars to be more competitive next season. A large number of the GT drivers have competed in a Mantis at some time in the last 4 years. On this occasion, Shane Bland / Shane Lynch were fastest in qualifying (with Shane B being the star, but Shane L showing promise at times), but in the race it was their Eclipse team-mates, Michael Mallock / Ben McLoughlin, who were best Mantis home in 13th. David Dove's car was involved in the first corner melee, colliding with the marooned Lister and causing Dave Warnock to be stretchered, fortunately with nothing worse than bruising.

In July, at Donnington, Andy Purvis / Philip Hopkins and Mike Newton / Chris Maries couldn't get the LM600s to perform well, commenting that they "were never right at the back". The two LM600s started a terrible 15th and 20th on the grid. Even worse, Chris Maries suffered a heart attack after practice (reports suggest he is making a good recovery - check for news), so Mike Newton took his place.

The LM600s performed poorly in the race too, with Newton out on Lap 17 and Purvis/Hopkins classified 15th.

LM600 back at Donnington, for BRDC series.
LM600 struggles on return to Donnington, for BRDC series. - Photo Courtesy David Lord

However, the big event in the race was Shane Bland's enormous crash. If you've seen the photo in Motorsports News, you'll know how bad it looked. Totalmotorsport report that :

Although he was travelling in the vicinity of other cars, without any apparent contact, Shane Bland appeared at massively excessive speed into Redgate and there was no way he was going to make the turn. Was it a mechanical malfunction of some sort? The Mantis skimmed over the sizeable gravel trap but didn’t seem to lose any speed. It hit the tyre wall, backwards, with a mighty thud - heard all the way down Craner Curves - before bursting into flames. The impact had been heavy enough to smash three sections of the concrete wall behind the tyres. The news from the scene was that Bland was conscious - merciful enough, given the size of the impact. Several spectators also required treatment, though this was possibly for shock. The marshals responded in force and clearly the recovery work would exceed the remaining quarter of an hour, so the result was called.

A couple of days after the event, we still don't know why the car crashed, but Shane suffered back and neck injuries and needed an operation on his neck. As I write (25th July 21:30), Totalmotorsport report that the operation was completed and a success and that Shane is expected to go home soon and start his recovery. Having seen him race a Mantis on many occasions, I can only add to the wishes that he makes a full and speedy recovery.

Former Marcos drivers, Calum Lockie, Thomas Erdos and Cor Euser continue to do well. Calum, of course, is impressing in Dave Welz's old 911, Thomas Erdos, finally, got to race his BTCC Lexus IS200 and performed very well to take 4th in his class in the sprint race on his first outing, breaking a propshaft on lap 1 in the feature, sadly. Cor, meanwhile is preparing the Spanish GT cars (there are two now), check the Spanish GT site for details, but they have had some good results recently (and Fly have a Spanish GT special edition slotcar available) and one for Hermann Buurman (often FIA partner to Cor) in the Kumho Euro GT series (formerly the Porsche-Ferrari challenge), who had a win in Holland and a second at Donnington.

LM600 wins at Assen.
LM600 wins at Assen - Photo courtesy Euro GT series site

Next stop on the Privilege BRDC GT Trail was Knockhill in Scotland. From a Marcos point of view this was good news as on-off Marcos LM600 stalwart, David Leslie was back in one of the cars (David was one of the drivers at Le Mans in the Computacenter LM600s in 1995), along with fellow Scots, Sandy Mcewen and Ken Thompson (champion in a Darrian a couple of years back) sharing the second car. Long time Marcos driver, Andy Purvis shared the lead NCK car with Leslie and he is also now domiciled in Scotland, so the yellow cars perhaps should have been painted blue and white in honour of the event and their drivers.

Unfortunately for the spectators, Knockhill delivered the kind of weather Scotland is renowned for, with torrential rain throughout the meeting. A number of support races were shortened (or even cancelled, I believe). The GT race, however, continued and the Leslie/Purvis car qualified 6th overall (5th in GT, with the Porsche GB 996 splitting the frontrunners), whilst the second car was down in 16th as the drivers got to grips with the car and the conditions.

Come the race, the pace car was despatched to try and get rid of the standing water. After 6 laps, the cars were allowed to race.

The Stealth had retired from 5th on the grid during the pace car period, so Purvis held 5th as the race began. This became 2nd in GT, despite a broken exhaust manifold, as first the TVR span off and then the Lister dropped down the order with evil handling. However, in the rain, the nimble GTO Porsches were able to make up for their power deficiency and a couple sneaked past the lead LM600.

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LM600 vs Porsche 996 at Knockhill - Photo Courtesy David Lord

The second car, however, was in the wars, spinning on a couple of occasions and causing the return of the pace car as it was recovered from the gravel. This occured during the pitstop window and caused some confusion. Some cars were held in the pit BEFORE the pace car reached them (normally they'd go around a join the back of the queue) and these cars lost a lap.

Finally the conditions became too much for the organisers and the race was red flagged. At that point, Leslie and Purvis were in a strong 4th overall (3rd in GT), only the Lister having made a comeback to recover second in the class behind the winning Viper.

David Dove / Bill Tully were best placed Mantis crew, down in 14th.

After Knockhill, it was back down to Thruxton for the next round, but sadly Hampshire drivers are either less keen to race at home or less effective at raising funds and the NCK cars were not present. In the Mantis class, best news was probably that Shane Bland was present (albeit in a neck brace) to watch the event and stating that he'd sit out next season (possibly in a team management role) before reconsidering his racing future in 2003. In the race, the Mantis 'class' was won by David Dove / Bill Tully again.

In other news, a contact at Eurotech in Holland confirmed that Cor Euser is going ahead with his FIA/Le Mans legal LM600, but, as yet, there is no word on when the car will appear. Given the impact the car made at Daytona this year, however, a good bet would be the 2002 24 hours.

September 16th saw both LM600s out again on the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit. In a reversal of Thomas Erdos move to the BTCC, recent debut winner in that series, Phil Bennett made his BRDC GT debut in the lead NCK car, sharing with Andy Purvis. The second car was shared by Marcos dealer Paul Stephens and fellow Caterham racer, Gerry Taylor.

Phil Bennett showed well in the race, despite a burnt leg caused by the exhaust. He commented that he "...thought the car was hot inside and then I spotted my leg was on fire!". In practice, the lead LM600 lined up 7th on the grid, 5th in class, behind the very swift Ultima. The second car was down in 17th, as the drivers, unfamiliar with the car, came to grips with it. Fastest Mantis was Ben McLoughlin / Shane Lynch's car, over 2 seconds faster than the next Mantis. Impressive driving around the tight Indy Circuit, but still nearly 2 seconds off the GTO pole.

Bennett in LM600 at sunny Brands
Bennett in LM600 at sunny Brands - Photo Courtesy PowerTour

In the race, the nimble GTO Porsches and TVRs took the battle to the GTs and three of them split the winning Viper and Lister from the two LM600s, which still took an excellent 3rd and 4th in the GT category. Best Mantis in the race was, fittingly, the McLoughlin/Lynch car, finishing 8th in GTO and 14th overall.

The final round of the series took place at Silverstone on 29th September at night. The night race idea has not proved popular and has been scrapped for 2002, but the drivers seemed to like it and it was a big disappointment when an oil leak was found on the sole NCK car, driven by Ian Astley / Neil Cunningham on this ocassion. As the car (and it's sister, which was racing at Castle Combe!) is now for sale, it was decided to withdraw the car, rather than risk damaging the expensive, NASCAR-spec, engine.

LM600 in night practice
LM600 in night practice - Photo Courtesy David Lord

The Mantis teams, however, were out in force and once again, in practice, it was Ben McLoughlin and Shane Lynch who set the pace, qualifying only 18th. The Mantis teams found that their lights were insufficient for night racing and a number sprouted spotlights, a la Monte Carlo Rally!

Mantis Bonnet with spotlights!
Mantis bonnet with spotlights! - Photo Courtesy TotalMotorSport

Come the race, things went disastrously for Ben McLoughlin as a driveshaft failed on the formation lap and the car was out on the spot.

McLoughlin/Lynch car in night practice.
McLoughlin/Lynch car in night practice - Photo Courtesy David Lord

There was a tight 3 way battle for the class with Bill Tully taking a narrow victory from Charlotte Osborn.

It remains to be seen if the Mantis will be seen in the GTO class next year and how competitive it can be. Although the Motorfile team already have plans to upgrade theirs to 500 BHP, this year's pace setters Eclipse (who ran McLoughlin/Lynch and Shane Bland before his huge Donnington shunt) are selling their cars and expect to return with more competitive machinery - It'll be a shame if that just means more Porsches.

There's also uncertainty over the presence of Marcos in the GT class next year. Cor Euser seems to be building a LM legal LM600 and the NCK cars are for sale, but as yet there are no confirmed programmes in place. Watch this space!

Meanwhile, in Spain, Tomas SALDAÑA and Angel BURGUEÑO have been battling to uphold Marcos honours. The pacesetter this season is the Saleen S7 (a McLaren F1 lookalike, which has shaken up GT wherever it's appeared) of Carlos Palau and Alberto Castello.

In round 3, at Estoril, in July, the all white, Sharp-backed LM600 took second place (behind the Saleen) in race 1 and repeated the placing, behind a Porsche 911 this time, in the second.

The next round was at Albacete, in September, where Xavier Camp and Thomas Puig drove the car to a victory in the first race and second place in the second event.

Marcos and Saleen battle for lead at Cheste
Marcos and Saleen battle for lead at Cheste - Photo Courtesy Spanish GT site

In the latest round, on October 14th at Cheste, two cars were out with Camp/Puig taking 4th in the first race, with the Saldana/Burgueno car retiring. In the second race, the positions were reversed, with Saldana/Burgueno taking the race victory and the Camp/Puig car being an early retirement.

Finally, Hermann Buurman's challenge for class B of the Kumho Tyres Euro GT championship, ended with an excellent 2nd in the championship. He finished only 5 points behind the class victor after being involved in a first corner shunt in the first of two races at the final round at Germany's Lausitzring. Rob Knook took 4th place in the championship placings.

Marcos queues for Euro GT action
Marcos queues for Euro GT action - Photo Courtesy Euro GT site

In Spain, the final round at Montmelo (home of the Spanish GP) saw Tomas Saldana and Angel Burgueno finish 4th overall, whilst Puig/Camp retired their car after 16 laps. Cor Euser shared a Mantis Euroseries racer with Ignacio Girona in this race, but they too retired. The result left Saldana 10th and Burgueno 11th in the overall standings, whilst Puig finished 16th and Camp 17th.

Marcos LM600 at Montmelo
Marcos LM600 at Montmelo finale - Photo Courtesy Spanish GT site

The motor racing season has finished now and all eyes are on 2002. Cor Euser has big plans for Daytona. He intends to field two LM600s (one shared with Calum Lockie) and two Mantis racers (spec unknown). A quick look back to the beginning of this page will remind you what a big impression the cars made in 2001, taking the fight to the factory corvettes who, of course, took outright victory in the end. Good luck to the team for 2002 - not least with the Daytona rule makers...

In the UK, meanwhile, NCK have sold their cars and there are plans to have them out again, in their new owners hands, in 2002. That's it for 2001 - any more news before 1st Jan 2002 will appear in the latest news section.

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