6 October 2010

Jon Barnes endured an ultimately disappointing weekend at the Silverstone Britcar 24 hours. Despite the new Rollcentre Racing Mosler GT Cup car showing awesome speed throughout the weekend, the car retired after 7.5 hours of the race with electrical failure.

Jon joined Rollcentre Racing team boss Martin Short , British Touring Car driver Andy Neate and motor racing newcomer Steve Quick in the Mosler. The car was so new in fact, that it hadn't turned a wheel before the Thursday test at Silverstone.

As with any new car, there were some small niggles, mostly with the electrical system, which the team spent the Thursday test sessions trying to track down and fix. Despite the problems, the test day was still very productive, with all 4 of the drivers getting a short stint at the wheel of the Mosler GT Cup car during the day.

The team worked until the early hours to prepare the car for Friday's all important day and night qualifying sessions.

Friday arrived cold and wet for the first competitive track time for the 60 car field around the Bridge Grand Prix layout of the Northamptonshire track. All of the drivers entered in each car would need to complete one flying lap of the circuit – so frantic action was expected during the daylight qualifying session. It was only the lap times posted during the daylight qualifying session that would determine the grid for the race start on Saturday afternoon.

Martin Short took the Rollcentre Racing Mosler out onto the circuit first, with Steve Quick next out in the car. Unfortunately Steve had a mishap at Priory, having a spin into the gravel trap, which necessitated the car being recovered by tow truck and returned to the pit garage to have the gravel removed from the car's floor. This off, cost the team almost 25 minutes of the 60 minute session and meant that Neate and Barnes would get a very limited number of laps in which to qualify the car. Barnes was only able to set a time good enough to qualify the car ninth overall, after being hampered over all three of his flying laps by heavy traffic in yellow flag zones.

An afternoon of near constant rain had made the Silverstone circuit very treacherous. As with the daylight qualifying session, all drivers had to complete one flying lap in the dark to be allowed into the race. The Rollcentre team had again worked their socks off during the afternoon and had finally managed to get all of the electronic systems in the car fully functioning in time for the night qualifying session – meaning that this would be the first time that the new GT Cup Mosler could show it's true pace.

Martin Short again took to the circuit first, still adjusting the wet car setup to try to help extract the best time possible from the Mosler. With Andy Neate's run in the car hampered by a Safety Car period, it was up to Barnes to show the car's speed. On his first ever flying lap of a circuit at night, Barnes set a time good enough to take provisional pole position by over 8 tenths of a second!

With 25 minutes of the session remaining, Steve Quick then got some much needed night time practice in the car. Martin Short then took the decision to put Barnes back into the car with just 5 minutes of the session remaining. While Quick had been in the car, the rival Eclipse Motorsport Mosler of Phil Keen had set a 2:13.250, to go to the top of the time sheets by almost 2 seconds.

Barnes was to have just one flying lap to get the Mosler GT Cup car back to the pole position, and did so with a fantastic effort of 2:12.001 to steal top honours by a whopping 1.3 seconds.

The achievement was a fantastic reward for all of the hard work that the team had been putting in over the course of the weekend and in the lead up to the event, and put everyone in the team in a very confident mood ready for the start of the 24 hour race on Saturday afternoon.

The weather for the start of the 24 hour race was almost perfect, with dry track conditions and the sun still in the sky. Short got a good jump at the start, and within 3 laps he had got the Mosler up into the top 5. He then picked off two rival Moslers and was in second after the first 30 minutes of the race. Phil Keen then battled his way back past, demoting Short to 3 rd , where he would stay until handing the car over to Steve Quick after two hours of driving.

Steve Quick did a great job in the car, driving fast and consistently in his first double stint in a 24 hour race.

With darkness beginning to set in and slight drizzle starting to fall, Andy Neate then got his turn at the wheel just after the 4 hour mark. Andy did a fantastic job and kept the car up in the top 5 through the changeable conditions, even with a couple of pitstops for different tyres.

Shortly after hour 5 of the race Barnes finally got his chance to get behind the wheel of the Mosler. By this time the rain was falling hard, but as he went to start the car, it lost fuel pressure, and despite trying all of the buttons in the cockpit, he couldn't get fuel pressure back.

The Rollcentre team frantically pushed the car back into the garage and began swapping electrical components and changing switch settings in the cockpit. After fitting a replacement ECU in the car, the fuel pressure came back, but in the rush to get the car back on track, it was sent out of the pits without the ECU being correctly programmed, so it lacked the Traction Control, ABS, Speedo and Pit Limiter which should have been present.

Barnes found this out after several rear end lock ups into Vale and a couple of lurid slides out of Luffield whilst trying to apply the throttle.

Then after just 6 laps in the car, a back marker had left the door open for Barnes to pass at Bridge. This left Barnes exiting Bridge side by side with the back marker, and on the extreme right of the track, where unfortunately he encountered a large amount of standing water. Once the car hit the standing water, it aquaplaned and combined with wheel spin caused by the lack of Traction Control from the replacement ECU, he was left powerless to correct the spin and he was backwards and heading for the tyre wall. The Mosler stood up very well to the rear end impact, and Barnes was able to fire the car back up and return straight to the pits for attention to the damaged rear bodywork.

The Rollcentre team swarmed over the car and were able to have the car back in a drivable state after15 minutes of repairs. While the bodywork was attended to, the team's electronics engineer was also able to reprogramme the ECU, so the car went back out in fully working condition.

Barnes immediately set about trying to redeem himself for the accident, and in the worsening conditions he showed that the shunt had not knocked his confidence, lapping the circuit consistently 10 seconds faster per lap than any of the other cars!

Jon was able to keep this pace up for two hours and he dragged himself from 18 th position and 15 laps down on the race leader, up to 9 th position and 10 laps down on the leader.

Then just after midnight , almost 8 hours into the race and towards the final minutes of Jon's double stint, the Mosler's engine died exiting Club corner. Once again the car had lost fuel pressure and this time the problem was terminal. The car was recovered by tow truck to the pits and after several attempts to trace the source of the problem with the electrics, Rollcentre Racing team boss Martin Short made the heartbreaking decision to retire the car from the race.

Jon Barnes is proud to be supported by his long standing sponsors, Arai Helmets, Shredding for Bedding, and Headliners Hair Salon.

For more information visit Jon's website at www.jonbarnes.com


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