Winning Formula at Donington

Winning Formula at Donington
20th July 2020 Ed Barton-Hilton

Winning Formula at Donington

Winning Formula at Donington 3 Hour Relay

Like all our fellow racers, we’ve been waiting all year to get back on track and last weekend saw our first outing with the Equipe Classic Racing Series, a series we are proud to sponsor, which celebrates racing cars from the 1950s and 1960s, battling it out on track in period livery and specifications.

This first race in what is usually the highlight of the year, is a 3 hour endurance relay race with teams of 2-4 cars from Sprites and MGBs to E-Types and Cobras.  The overall results are calculated on a handicap system allowing any team to be in with a chance of winning, regardless of performance.

After a week of ‘sub-optimal’ weather, conditions mercifully broke clear for Saturday morning’s qualifying at Donnington Park. Our team, Scuderia Tartargua, consisted of Rob and Ed in the Classic & Sports MGB and father the son team, Jeff and James Marsden in their MGB, who we also teamed with last year and achieved 1st Single Marque team at the end of the 3 hours, so the pressure was on to perform.

Each driver is required to complete a minimum number of qualifying laps yet each of the team were unable to find space on a busy track to get in that all important hot lap, placing us 26th on the grid in a field of 32 cars. Not an ideal start however we knew we had 3 hours to make up the difference, so the fight was still on!

“Why is there smoke coming out of the bonnet? And what’s that puddle under the car?”, our team manager observes. With just 4 hours until the race start, disaster strikes as the Marsden MGB has a major oil leak. A large puddle had gathered under the car and another couple of litres lined the engine block and the underside of the car. It appeared our race was already over. Cool and calm the team, set to diagnosing the issue which, it was hoped, was a combination of an overfill of oil combined with a bolt not correctly torqued. After plenty of fettling and a few runs up and down the paddock, the issue seemed to be resolved but we wouldn’t really know until the car was put back under the strains of racing. Had we already run of out luck before the race had begun? The signs weren’t looking good.

Despite the concerns, the team decided to use the same strategy as last year which won us a trophy and we agreed to go for it, and what ever luck or lack thereof came our way, we would deal with accordingly. James Marsden took the start form 26th and put in a smooth and consistent 45 minute stint – the key to endurance racing and crucial for a handicap race. Any spin, slow lap or mechanical issue, however small is almost guaranteed to put you out of contention for a top spot. Up to 24th on track but 9th on handicap an hour in, result! It seems the issues after qualifying had been successfully resolved.

Safety car… we had planned for all eventualities, so the PIT NOW board was thrown out. James in. Rob out. Rob spent 7 laps behind the safety car, waiting for his chance to pounce and take us further up the field. Race goes green and Rob picks up 6 places in just 6 laps and then, another safety car…

The decision was taken to maximise our chances and use the second safety car as an opportunity to make another stop. Rob in. Jeff out. Thankfully the safety car period soon ended and it was Jeff’s turn to put in as many laps as he could, as consistently as he could. Jeff put in a flawless 20 lap stint, not losing any time on track and the once poorly MGB finished without fault. Hurrah! We were now 21st  on track and 6th on handicap. With just 1 hour to go, we were heading the right direction… Jeff in. Ed Out.

Ed settled into his stint, putting in some the team’s fastest times of the day but would it be enough to claim a podium position on the handicap system, or even to repeat last years Single Marque Team success… With just 30 minutes to go, the team sat 17th on track and 4th on handicap. A result of sorts felt possible, but could we defeat the Cobras, E-Types and dozens of well peddled MGs on track.

After 100 laps and 3 hours, Ed brought the car over the line for the final time, 10th on track which itself felt a massive achievement given our earlier mechanical scares. No further details on were released on handicap positions, so the final result would be a mystery until all cars crossed the line and returned to the paddock. The news came in, via a socially distanced Whatsapp message. Scuderia Tartargua – 1st Overall on handicap. We couldn’t quite believe it but it was confirmed. The team’s consistency throughout, avoiding any incidents on track, no spins and no mechanical issues sealed the win – Tartaruga indeed.

Reliability and consistency – something we apply to our racing and our business. Thank you to our teams mates and team managers, the Marsden’s and to Equipe Classic Racing for another memorable weekend of racing.