Nicholas Mee Racing just misses Donington podium in incident-packed Aston Martin Challenge weekend

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Following victory in Round 2 of the Aston Martin GT4 Challenge at Snetterton at the end of May, Nicholas Mee Racing travelled to Donington Park at the weekend as series leader for rounds 3 and 4. However, with Saturday’s 3hr race curtailed and an electronic gremlin hampering progress in Sunday’s extended race, NMR’s highly competitive pace wasn’t accurately reflected in the result.

Saturday morning’s qualifying was held in light drizzle, and, driving well within his limits, Dan de Zille set a lap time that would place NMR third on the grid. Although both de Zille and Team Manager Giles Dawson felt that a better time was within reach, with tricky conditions a safety-first strategy prevailed and the team settled for 3rd.

Saturday’s race started in the dry with NMR’s regular driver Karsten le Blanc at the wheel of the team’s V8 Vantage GT4. Le Blanc made a good start, but drove with caution early on to preserve the Dunlop tyres and in the process lost a place to a hard-charging Michael Mallock who was making his AM Challenge d├ębut alongside his father, Ray Mallock – a name well known in Aston Martin circles due to his involvement in the company’s mid 1980s Group C endurance racing efforts.

Le Blanc then had a good battle with Mike Brown in the MB Racing car, and, after passing Brown for 4th place, le Blanc was then able to reduce his lap times to at least those of the three leading cars who by now had tyres that were starting to ‘go off’.

Unfortunately, after 40 minutes and with de Zille ready to take over and hunt down the leading cars, Mario Cordini’s car had a heavy accident which brought out the safety car and then the red flag due to substantial damage to the safety barriers. With insufficient time to repair the barriers that day a restart wasn’t possible and so, with less than 75% of race distance completed, the race was declared null and void.

Sunday’s race length was subsequently extended from its original 90mins to 120mins with grid positions again taken from Saturday’s qualifying session.

Rejoining NMR for his first race of the 2011 season, Christiaen van Lanschot started from 3rd on the grid and, after a fantastic 40min stint, he pitted while still in 3rd to hand over to Karsten le Blanc.

Le Blanc also enjoyed a good, solid stint before handing over to de Zille who immediately set about reeling in the Generation AMR car of Mark Poole and Richard Abra. Regularly lapping about 2secs faster than the leading car, de Zille’s progress was halted by an electrical issue (most likely an ECU error reading) which caused him to coast to a standstill by the side of the circuit and complete a reset procedure. Team Manager Dawson reckoned this cost the team some 54secs which dropped NMR down to 4th position.

Undeterred by this setback, de Zille set off in hot pursuit of Bonner and Black’s Vantage Racing car in 3rd place but the chequered flag came out before catching it and so NMR finished in 4th, just 8secs behind Vantage Racing and a mere 48secs adrift of the Stratton Motor Co car of Hall, Chittenden and Kemp which snatched victory from Generation AMR moments before the end of the race.

Giles Dawson and the team are now investigating the fault that lost time and preparing for rounds 5 and 6 at the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit on 9-10th July.
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