Had a great day at Donington yesterday with Mark and James Bates of EB Motorsport, who were racing their 3.0-litre Porsche 911 RS in the Donington 1000kms event. It was not the best day ever for Porsche motorsport on the whole (Spa 6 Hours thoughts to come), but we did enjoy an exciting, well-organised race at a great venue.
Historic racing is an expensive business. Forget about buying and building the cars for a moment: just to take part in a decent event costs upwards of £1000. This covers the entry fee for a car and one driver, but does not always include a second driver, garage space or catering. It does not cover tyres and fuel, it does not cover insurance and it definitely does not include wear and tear or breakages, which on older cars can be highly significant.
The Donington 1000kms was part of the 2015 Donington Historic Festival. Organised by the Swiss-based Historic Motor Racing, the race is one of a series of endurance events run by the company all over Europe. As the EB brothers are putting in a shorter race season this year due to work commitments, more Porsche projects and a new baby for James, the 1000kms schedule of ‘qualify in the morning, race in the afternoon’ was perfect: they could rock up early, get the car ready, qualify and chill out for a bit, then have two and a half hours of racing before heading home.
First job of the day was to scrutineer the car. Slight issue there, as someone forgot the Porsche 911’s FIA Historic Technical Passport. We had a word with the people in charge and, as the car still had its barcodes from the last event, the engine was FIA sealed and the 911 was running in an invitational class and would not score points, we were allowed to take part.
Porsche 911 3.0 RS vs Prototype Racers
Qualifying went well. On a grid packed with prototypes, the single exception – EB’s 911 – went 14th quickest on new post-historic tyres that have only been tried on the team’s yellow 911 RSR for a couple of races so far. While the compound might be a bit slower than previous rubber, the tyres are huge, so the increased width gave excellent grip. We were still almost ten seconds off the pace of the leading Lola T70.
Racing is a very social affair, so there was plenty of craic in the paddock between quali and the race. Our garage was shared with a Chevron B8, Elva Mk8 and a Lola T70 Mk3B. A Lola T70 for sale must be £750k now, Chevron B8 for sale would probably be £200k and similar money for an Elva. Despite there being well over a million quid parked in our garage, the atmosphere was just the same as if all were in cheap track day specials. People dropping in and chatting, bit of banter from previous track outings and one or two compliments for Mark, following his performance in EB’s SWB car at the 73rd Goodwood members meet. He will henceforth be known as “The Sultan of Slide”.
The race was slightly delayed, which gave time for the weather to change and the rain to move in. The boys split the race into two equal parts: James took the start on a slippery circuit and had brought the car up to seventh by the time of his pitstop. With 100 litres of fuel in the tank at the start and the lack of grip keeping speeds and fuel consumption lower than expected, Mark decided to gamble on that being enough to finish the race, avoiding the mandatory 3-minute minimum time for a fuel stop.
As Mark started his stint, the rain stopped and a dry line began to appear. The pace hotted up: 911 lap times falling from the high 1:30s in the wet to an excellent 1:17.9 at one point: quicker than qualifying. Ambient temperatures were very cold, so the rest of the track stayed damp and slippy, leaving a treacherous no-mans-land for anyone who had to go off line to make progress. After two and a bit hours of racing, Mark had no choice: he pitted for fuel and the three-minute stop to go with it. This cost us the best part of two laps and we were out of the top ten.
As the race entered its final lap, we had news that, while fighting for the lead, our garagemate – the beautiful Lola T70 (above) – had passed a backmarker on the damp part of the track through the fast downhill Craner Curves, lost traction and hit the wall at high speed. When the car was brought back, it was not the best sight, but owner/driver Leo was safe and well. At times like this, no one worries where they’ve finished: it’s just good to get home in one piece and live to fight another day.