But first, Welsh Elan. Allison and Peter stopped in the Elan Valley for a photo op before crossing the Irish Sea on the way to their tour.
Photo by Allison & Peter Cotes
Touring the Wild Atlantic Way
by Allison & Peter Cotes
The Irish tourist board has been busy with imagination and signage to create the Wild Atlantic Way, a route meandering round every last bend on the country’s many west-coast peninsulas. Scenic Car Tours picked up on this, and so it was that with an E-type and various others we spent 10 days in our Lotus Elan on Irish roads.
It’s not a great journey from where we live Norfolk in the east of England to Holyhead in Wales for an 8 a.m. ferry, and as we missed a tour of the Elan Valley back in 2020, we decided to stop for two nights and took the indirect route.
Leaving in bright sunshine, we ran into heavy rain on the A14 so the car spent the rest of the trip drying out. The Elan Valley has a very high rainfall, so Birmingham bought it by compulsory purchase in the 1890s to make a reservoir. In 1904 King Edward opened the taps, and two and a half days later water arrived in Birmingham, 70-odd miles away, and all done by gravity — fantastic late Victorian engineering!
Onwards to the Isle of Anglesey and Holyhead, we were unnerved by a rear-wheel wobble. A wheel nut had come loose but fortunately on a nice wide road and not the narrow lanes of the day before. So every morning thereafter I tapped the wheel nuts — feeling like an old-time railwayman, tapping the wheels for cracks!
The Irish Sea was calm, and we arrived in Dublin in sunshine and onto the M50 Dublin ring. This is an electronic toll so Peter paid in advance — only to find they’d refunded me the next day. After we got back home we received a demand for payment of the toll plus a penalty for not paying on time! So they did manage to read the number plate — oh, well, we had hoped...!
We stopped for lunch in Kildare and visited St Brigid’s Cathedral before resuming a meander to sunny Westport, where we met the other three cars in our group.
The E-type brought supplies of fuel additive as it is all E10, 95 octane in Ireland, and the U.K. press has been full of the dangers to old cars of high-ethanol fuel. We just stuffed in whatever we found and had no ill effects, though Peter was intrigued by the 95 octane “extra miles” alternative — we tried that as well but didn’t check the mpg in detail. The other cars were a modern Mazda and Porsche, so they weren’t worried.
Rahinane, a ruined castle in Ireland.
Photo by Allison & Peter Cotes
With Scenic there are group meals, but as a lot of the hotels catered for coach tours as well. The dining room noise levels just rose and rose so that hearing yourself think was a major problem — followed by blessed quiet when the coach tables emptied!
Our next night was Galway, but as it was a wet day we stopped for coffee at Leenane where Allison enjoyed a lecture on wool and weaving. After lunch it was still raining, but as part of our tour of all available peninsulas we came upon Bunowen Bay, Ballyconneely, near the site where Alcock and Brown landed in a bog after the first transatlantic flight in 1919. This remote spot had previously been in the news in 1907 when Marconi transmitted the first commercial transatlantic radio message.
The following day was bright and sunny — just as well, as we had booked a ferry to the Aran Islands and a couple of bicycles. Allison had an electric assist, which was fine but very heavy. There were surprisingly few sheep but the gift shops were still doing good trade in woolly pullies. Our return ferry was via the base of the cliffs of Moher (as seen in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince). We had the sea to ourselves.
Our route to Killarney could have taken us to any number of castles, but this was another damp day and our first stop was a chocolate factory, where the credit card was splashed!
Castles being off the menu for the day, we chose the Flying Boats Museum at Foynes on the Shannon — seemed a logical visit after a trip we took to a zeppelin museum in Germany last year. Flying boats seemed the successor to airships for long-haul flights in the early 1930s, but the war changed that and more advanced aircraft took over. Another meander took us to the ruined cathedral of Ardfert and the nearby monastery.
We had two nights in Killarney, so on the rest day, bright and sunny again, we retraced our route back to the Dingle Peninsula on the lookout for the ruins of Rahinane Castle. We found it — but only because we stopped at a craft shop and asked the next customer where it was. Seems she was off to see the local farmer, who owned it!
At the end of the peninsula was Dunmore Head, with views across a quiet sea to the Blasket Islands — but the greater prize was Kruger’s Bar, which claims to be the most westerly pub in Ireland. A good enough excuse for a lunch stop! Then back via some Clochans, “beehive huts,” stone-built and sometimes ancient, sometimes modern and used for storage. And at €3 per person to visit, they help the local farmer buy his Tesla!
We had planned a scenic drive round the Beara Peninsula on the Sunday, missing the popular Ring of Kerry, but events intervened. Before the trip Peter got new rear springs, hoping to stop the car grounding, and apart from a few gentle nudges, that had worked — but not today. Over a bump and boom! The exhaust pipe pulled straight out of the Y piece and was digging into the road.
Fortunately (as ever!) there was a handy track off the road that we could reverse into, jack the car, remove the silencer, put the pipe back, reassemble, and then off we go! Not so easy this time. As Peter jacked the car down, it kept going down and the rear tyre got flatter and flatter.
Absolutely stunning scenery along the way.
Photo by Allison & Peter Cotes
Allison refused to go any further without a spare, so we returned to Kenmare where a garage put us in touch with Shane’s Ring of Kerry mobile tyre repairs. He already had a customer in a hire car waiting on the forecourt, but from his van he produced a new tyre for the hire car and a new inner tube for us. Thirty euros and off we went. Now that was lucky!
Everyone has heard of Fastnet — the lighthouse, the rock and the yacht race — but getting there isn’t an option, so we went to the Mizen Head lighthouse instead, where on a good day you have a clear view of Fastnet, and today was nearly good.
Nearby Crookhaven was another Marconi location. Here he tested ship-to-shore radio transmission before World War I. Crookhaven was also a pirate lair in the 16th century.
Leaving Cork, we found Shanagarry and Ballycotton Bay. We had stopped at a craft shop but talking to a local farmer we found we were opposite Shanagarry House, the home of a teenage William Pitt around 1669.
We continued to Waterford, where we spent some time tracing ancient city walls and visiting the museums. One section of wall is preserved in the centre of a department store, and we found a pub in a shopping street which closed at 6.30 in the evening!
En route to Dublin we had a brief stop at another weaving factory in Avoca. Rescued from near bankruptcy in the 1920s by three local sisters, who introduced modern and vibrant colours to its range, it’s now a large employer, exporting worldwide.
Storms were forecast for our return ferry and all the lorries were strapped down, delaying our disembarkation in Anglesey. The Elan — still damp from the outward journey — was now exposed to sea spray on the upper deck. We should add that the handbrake was still working but we did get chocks just to be sure.
We finished with an overnight stop in Prestatyn before the long haul home, in time to collect the dogs from kennels — and with over 40mpg on that journey Peter was well pleased with how the car performed.
And we have now fitted more new rear springs — U.S.-spec, which gives about 1-1/2” more ground clearance. Time will tell for how long that exhaust stays in place!
[Allison and Peter are frequent contributors to this publication, sharing their many adventures in exotic locales with their Lotus Elan. More photos may be seen on their website, www.rallyelan.com.]
The Heart of Racing Team drivers in GTD Pro (#23) and GTD (#27) at Road Atlanta were (left to right) Ian James, Alex Riberas, Marco Sørensen, Ross Gunn, Roman De Angelis and David Pittard.
Photo by Jack Webster
Petit Le Mans 2023
Strong British Showing as Season Ends in IWSC
by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine
BRASELTON, Ga. — Another exciting season of multi-class racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC) came to a satisfying conclusion at Motul Petit Le Mans, held at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on October 14th.
While British manufacturers did not win any of the class championships, Aston Martin finished a strong 2nd among them in the GT Daytona (GTD) class and 5th, or about mid-field, in GTD Pro.
Similarly, the Heart of Racing Team’s impressive season with their #27 Aston brought Roman De Angelis and Marco Sørensen to 2nd place among the drivers in GTD, and elevated De Angelis’ ranking to Gold for the 2024 season.
And although Petit may have been a race to forget for Inception Racing’s McLaren team — their effort scuttled early in the 10-hour contest in a four-car accident — their performance overall was sufficient to win driver Brendan Iribe IMSA’s Bob Akin Award, which brings with it an automatic invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Bob Akin Award is given to an outstanding Bronze-ranked driver, and Iribe bested his nearest GTD competitor by 20 points. This will mark the first time McLaren has had an entry at Le Mans in 25 years.
Brits were the story
British drivers did quite well in other classes at Petit, including the new GTP prototype class (all hybrids) and LMP2.
Though they finished 6th in this race, Brit Alexander Sims, along with his Brazilian teammate Pipo Derani, won the GTP drivers’ title for their season-long efforts in the Whelen Engineering Cadillac.
Inception Racing’s McLaren left the race early, but is on its way to Le Mans.
Photo by Jack Webster
Said Sims after the race, “It’s been an incredible year. It’s pretty mad to think we wrapped it up. [Petit] was as crazy a race as we expected coming into this. I’m just so proud of the job everyone has done.”
“Crazy” included Derani’s late-race contact with GTP rival Filipe Albuquerque’s Konica Minolta Racing Acura. The Cadillac was able to recover and finish the race. The Acura veered off and hit a wall heavily, however, and was not.
Petit was Brit Tom Blomqvist’s last race for the other Acura team, Meyer Shank Racing, and not to be denied the glory he and teammates Colin Braun and Helio Castroneves won the GTP class and the race overall.
Asked his impressions of the race, Blomqvist called it “fantastic” and “topsy-turvy.”
“That race was full of everything,” he said. “In my last stint I thought we were done there. This team is incredible!”
Victory came when Braun grabbed the lead following the race restart after the caution from the Albuquerque crash, and held it till the end.
In LMP2, Brit Ben Hanley won the class along with his co-pilots George Kurtz and Nolan Siegel in the Crowdstrike APR ORECA. It was Hanley’s fourth career IWSC win. In doing so, he secured 3rd in the LMP2 championship.
“It was awesome,” grinned Hanley. “The whole team did a fantastic job. Through traffic [the car] just went wherever I wanted it to go. It made life a lot easier!”
And finally in GTD Pro, the British duo Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth took the top spot in the drivers’ championship, having been hard to beat all season long in their Vasser Sullivan Lexus. Ironically, they too had a race to forget at Petit, being taken out after completing only 153 laps.
Inception Racing will be back in GTD next season with their McLaren, again vying for the season-long championship in GTD.
They’ll be back!
Photo by Jack Webster
The huge news announced at Petit is that Pfaff Motorsports will be trading in their Porsche RSR for an all-new McLaren 720S to run in GTD Pro in 2024. The car’s livery has not been announced as of yet, but we are sure it will contain some of the plaid we have become used to on the Pfaff Porsches.
Drivers were recently announced for the Pfaff McLaren. IMSA veteran and McLaren factory driver Oliver Jarvis from the U.K. will be joined by McLaren factory driver Marvin Kirchhoefer from Germany for the season-long campaign, while popular Canadian James Hinchcliffe will be on board for the endurance races. McLaren IndyCar pilot Alexander Rossi will join the team for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Said Jarvis, “I am really excited to be joining Pfaff Motorsports driving a McLaren. The opportunity to join a proven championship-winning team and to return to IMSA full-time after winning the championship in 2022 made it an easy decision.
“Whilst it will be my first full season competing in GTD Pro in IMSA, I am relishing the opportunity together with my new teammates to fight for victories and ultimately the championship. A huge thanks to everyone at Pfaff Motorsports and McLaren for making this happen!”
Aston Martin will be back, strong as ever, with the Heart of Racing Team for 2024. Next season they will continue to campaign their GTD and GTD Pro Vantage GT3s. The big news comes in 2025, when they will be entering both the FIA-WEC and IMSA championships with the new Aston Martin Valkyrie GTP/Hypercar.
“Performance is the lifeblood of everything that we do at Aston Martin, and motorsport is the ultimate expression of this pursuit of excellence,” said Lawrence Stroll, the executive chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda.
Stroll has set his company’s goals quite high, and as evidenced by the advances made by their Formula 1 team in 2023, we can look forward to great things from Aston Martin in the future. They have made a strong commitment to both sports car racing à la IMSA and Formula 1 — which is exciting news.
We can’t wait to see these new cars take the grid. The 2023 season ended on a high note, and it looks like moving forward we can anticipate even greater results.
[Jack and Eddie have been British Marque’s boots on the ground at almost all the IWSC races this year. Additional sources include John Dagys from Sportscar365 and the IMSA Wire Service’s John Oreovicz.]