The Warwickshire-based Tolman Motorsport team fought to the finish of a very difficult Silverstone 500 race this weekend, the fourth round of the 2015 British GT Championship. Having put in excellent race pace to begin with, the team’s Ginetta G55 GT4 car was involved in an accident and although it was able to affect repairs and finish the race, the team placed 14th in GT4, some ten laps adrift of the class winner.
Following a successful pre-event test, the team was happy with its qualifying position on Saturday afternoon, on a dry and bright Silverstone circuit, with PRO driver Luke Davenport again the fastest Ginetta driver on track.
However, come race day, the heavens opened immediately before the race and organisers SRO declared the start a Wet Race. As the lights went green, AM gentleman driver David Pattison took the start for the team and threaded his way through exceptionally difficult conditions to bring the car back to the pit-lane for the first of the required minimum three pit stops.
He reported the tyres were beginning to go off but the team chose not to change, since this incurs a 70-second penalty, for all four being swapped. Davenport took over at this point and found that the circuit was indeed very slippery but he set about the opposition, before the start of a lengthy safety car period.
By this time, the rain had stopped and the circuit was beginning to dry out, so the team took the opportunity to bring Davenport in to the pits and swap to dry tyres. They dropped a lap behind the safety car but once the race was back to full speed, Davenport began pushing to regain positions.
Everything was going well and on track until he was involved in an accident and span off onto the grass. While he did not hit anything, he managed to keep going to return to the team pit garage, albeit crabbing badly with several significantly bent suspension components as a result of the impact that sent him off the circuit.
The Tolman team set about changing the bent parts and in the process, spent around 18 minutes in the garage. By the time the three-hour race was completed, they recorded a finish in 25th place overall and 14th in class, around 10 laps down on the eventual class winner – a remarkable achievement.
Commenting, Team Principal Chris Tolman said; “This was an incredibly frustrating weekend for all of us. We were happy with the pace that we were running in the car, with Luke again the fastest Ginetta G55 in the GT4 class. We were in a good position – David drove an excellent first stint in very tricky conditions and Luke was also doing well before he got caught up in an accident and spun off onto the grass.
“When we saw the car coming back into the pit lane, I thought the race was over. But we looked at it and as this is endurance racing and we have ambitions to run at the very highest level, we decided that we were not going to call it a day but rather, get the car fixed and get to the chequered flag.
“It must have looked like total chaos in the garage but actually, the team did a fantastic job. Many of us are from a rally as well as circuit background and are used to a huge amount of work in a very short period of time and it reminded all of us of our time in the FIA World Rally Championship!
“We got the car fixed and back out on track and I am delighted that we recorded a finish. And that we were not the last car either! I am extremely proud of the technicians, as well as both Luke and David for their perseverance in a race which many other teams would have abandoned.”
Driver Luke Davenport said; “I’m leaving Silverstone pretty disappointed. We had an amazing race pace in the car today; better than anyone else’s in GT4 so I feel we missed the opportunity to get a great result. Nevertheless, the speed with which Tolman Motorsport got me back out on the track was incredible!”
Gentleman driver David Pattison said; “I think that everything that could have been thrown at us was this weekend. The first three rounds went very well for us, so I guess we were due a weekend like this. Obviously it was deeply frustrating and disappointing but there is a lot of useful experience; it was my first wet race ever and Chris and the technicians did an amazing job of getting the car repaired and back out on track, showing that we are a proper team.”
This weekend’s result drops both Pattison and Davenport to eighth in the GT4 Drivers’ Championship and sixth in the ProAm standings, with Tolman Motorsport now eighth in the Teams’ Championship.
The next round of the series takes the teams abroad, to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, for the fifth round of the 2015 series, on the weekend of 10/11 July.