Nicholas Mee Racing: 2011 Aston Martin GT4 Challenge winners take 1st in class and 2nd overall in Britcar 24hr race

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Nicholas Mee Racing rounded off its victorious 2011 Aston Martin GT4 Challenge winning season with a Class 3 victory and second overall in last weekend’s gruelling Britcar 24hr race at Silverstone. Drivers Karsten Le Blanc, Christiaen van Lanschot, Dan de Zille and Robert Nimkoff completed 560 laps of the 3.6604-mile GP circuit in the NMR Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 to finish behind the winning McInerney team’s Class 1 GT2 Ferrari 430 and just one lap ahead of the 3rd-place-finishing Class 3 Lotus Evora of Marcos Racing International.

NMR headed to Silverstone for this year’s 24hr race with high hopes of completing unfinished business after the team’s disappointment in 2010 when blighted by a crash late in the race while lying in 9th overall. Joining the team’s regular drivers for the 2011 24hr event was Robert Nimkoff who had purchased a V8 Vantage from NMR earlier in the year for SCCA racing in the USA.

With four classes based on power-to-weight ratios, NMR was one of 22 Class 3 entries among the total of 55 cars entered for this year’s race. NMR opted for a conservative qualifying strategy, concentrating on getting each driver to complete the mandatory three laps in both day and night-time sessions, and to allow Silverstone rookie Nimkoff ample time to learn the circuit.

In qualifying de Zille posted a time good enough for 16th on the grid, but rather than gamble on gaining a few positions the team parked the car up and prepared for the race. With the qualifying session completed, NMR was placed 20th on the grid.

The Britcar organisers had gone to great effort to generate a carnival atmosphere and deliver entertainment for the spectators, (rumoured to be in excess of 14,000 on Saturday), with a marching band, fly-pasts by Lynx and Apache helicopters and a drop-in by the Red Devils. Fans were also invited to the pits and the start line for a grid walkabout.

The race got underway at 16.29 on the Saturday with Le Blanc piloting NMR’s Aston. Each driver then rotated through the early hours of the race and into the night with 2-hour ‘double’ stints. The car would pit roughly every hour to refuel, with fresh tyres fitted every two hours or so.

Keeping out of trouble and with an excellent strategy, NMR climbed swiftly up the field and into the lead of Class 3 – a position it would maintain for the most of the next 22 hours. De Zille was the last driver to take his turn and at midnight started a heroic 2hr 53min stint, just 7 minutes shorter than the maximum allowed. During this session he posted some stunning lap times that moved NMR up into the top five overall.

NMR’s race continued unbelievably smoothly with zero car issues, a faultless performance by all four drivers and rapid and efficient pit-work by the NMR crew, ably headed by Giles Dawson. One of the most exciting features of the entire race was NMR’s epic duel with the Lotus Evora GT4 driven by a team of experienced professional and semi-professional drivers including sportscar veteran Cor Euser. The two teams battled it out for the lead of Class 3 and overall podium honours for over half of the race.

With all of NMR’s drivers having completed roughly the same distance, it was down to Le Blanc to drive the final stint to the flag. With the Lotus charging hard from behind it was an extremely tense period with just one lap, and sometimes, just seconds separating the two. Finally, at 16.32 on the Sunday, NMR’s V8 Vantage crossed the line in second position overall and first in the ultra-competitive Class 3.

During the race, held this year entirely in dry conditions, the safety car came out 10 times while NMR pitted 19 times, used 10 sets of tyres, two sets of front brake pads and 1,475 litres of fuel over 2,050 racing miles.

NMR would like to thank its fantastic sponsors and partners: TalentWorks International, GForces and, as well as its various suppliers and support staff who have all contributed to this and indeed a whole season of success.

After the race NMR’s jubilant Team Principal Nicholas Mee said, “Heroes all! In 24 hours of racing we had no driver errors, no car failings, no time penalties, no damage and a dream result, all of which comes on top of five race wins and victory in this year’s Aston Martin Challenge series! I’m immensely proud and appreciative of the whole team’s achievements. Big thanks to our drivers, sponsors, pit-crew and supporters who have all helped make a great racing season even greater.

Photo credit: Will Belcher.

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