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[1-Apr_24_Era_Colin.jpg] April 2024

Era Motorsport (#18) now has two solid LMP2 wins behind it.

Photo by Colin Sword

‘Respect the Bumps’
Mixed but Promising Results for British Machinery at Sebring

by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

SEBRING, Fla., Mar. 14-16 — The 36 Hours of Florida (the Rolex 24 at Daytona plus the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring) are now behind us, and British marques and British drivers were well represented in both the entry lists and the race results.

First of all, the success of Era Motorsports was superb, as the team won the LMP2 class at both Daytona and Sebring in their ORECA 07-Gibson. Taking part in the effort was Scotsman Ryan Dalziel, who put in a fine performance to take the victory on the bumpy runways at Sebring International Raceway.

It was an exciting and eventful race in LMP2, with the winning car scoring a 1.127-second victory. A record nine LMP2 cars finished on the lead lap, and less than 25 seconds separating 1st and 9th.

A total of 13 LMP2 cars took the green flag at Sebring, and all but one finished under very warm and sunny Florida skies. It was quite an accomplishment for both the drivers and their British-designed-and-built Gibson V8 engines.

But that’s not to say it was easy. As Dalziel later commented, “Felt like every time we kind of got to the front, we ended up in the back. [When] I got in the car, we were in the lead. I think one of the GTPs went off and threw out some carbon, and in the space of one lap, we got overheating, then we got a puncture!

“I knew we were going to be struggling to make time back. We still had pace in the car. We definitely didn’t give up.”

[2-Apr_24_Inception_Jack.jpg] McLaren stands 2nd among GT Daytona (GTD) manufacturers vying for the Michelin Endurance Cup, thanks to Inception Racing.
Photo by Jack Webster

Dalziel had nothing but praise for his team, particularly co-driver Connor Zilisch.

“Once we got the lead, you look at the list of drivers that were behind Connor on the restart — the talent and the guys with experience. Kid just kept his head cool and brought it home.”

In GT Daytona (GTD) and GTD Pro, results were mixed but promising for British cars, with a near-podium finish (4th place) for the Heart of Racing Team’s #27 GTD Aston Martin and strong-enough performance by Inception Racing’s #70 GTD McLaren to hold 2nd place among manufacturers for the Michelin Endurance Cup.

However, you might say the outcome at Sebring was outstanding for British drivers, as Brits Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barncoat combined with American pilot Kyle Kirkwood to take the win in GTD Pro in their Lexus RC FGT3. It was the first Sebring win for all three drivers, and well deserved.

Said Hawksworth, “We knew it was going to be a battle. These long races, you have to do everything perfectly. Everyone has to do their job absolutely perfectly just to be there to even have a chance at the end. Then you just hope that the cards fall your way...

“The guys on pit lane were unbelievable all day. Ben and Kyle were absolutely monsters out there. I couldn’t be prouder of everybody. Yeah, the last four hours out there were absolutely nuts.”

Among the other entries in GTD Pro, Heart of Racing’s #23 Aston Martin finished 5th in class — out of 12 entries — after a tough race, perhaps a disappointment after driver Mario Farnbacher qualified 2nd.

[3-Apr_24_Magnus_HOR_Jack.jpg] Two of the new Aston Evos — #44 in GTD (Magnus Racing) and #23 in GTD Pro (Heart of Racing).
Photo by Jack Webster

Farnbacher’s teammate Ross Gunn was philosophical after the race. “You know,” he said, “this is only the second race for the car. To be fighting some of the best teams, drivers and cars in the world, its early stages are very encouraging. We’ve got a few things to analyze and a few things to work on.”

(The two Heart of Racing Astons are new “Evo” models, which explains his comment. Another team, Magnus Racing in the GTD class, is also fielding an Aston Evo, car #44.)

For the other GTD Pro British entry, Pfaff Motorsport’s McLaren 720S EVO, the race was essentially over on the first lap. They got caught up in an accident that damaged their car and sent it behind the wall. Although they were able to make the repair and continue without further incident, they were out of the running for a good finish. They ended up 12th in class.

In GTD, 4th place for the #27 Heart of Racing Aston was a good result considering they qualified 17th and had to battle their way up the field. The #70 Inception Racing McLaren finished 7th, and the #44 Magnus Racing Aston 10th.

Inception driver Frederik Schandorff led the class for 18 laps, which contributed to McLaren’s current 2nd-place standing among manufacturers competing for the Michelin Endurance Cup — one of the “races within a race” in this IMSA series.

After the two longest races of the year in Florida, the IMSA WeatherTech Series will now make the cross-country trip to Long Beach, Calif., for the first of the sprint races of the season on April 19th.

Stay tuned.

[1-Mar_24_Pre-dawn pit stop.jpg] March 2024

A pre-dawn tire change on the Heart of Racing Team’s #23 GTD Pro entry.
Photo by Jack Webster

Rolex ’24
New Cars and Mixed Results at IMSA’s Season Opener

by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

DAYTONA, Fla., Jan. 27-28 — The opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportCar Championship for 2024 (IWSC) took place at Daytona International Speedway in January, with the previous season’s finale, Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, barely a recent memory.

But all the crews, teams, drivers, and journalists (ourselves included) were back for the Rolex 24, the longest endurance race on the IWSC schedule — a full 24 hours.

After the short off-season, several new cars were to make their debut at Daytona — including a new McLaren 720S EVO for Pfaff Motorsports, an updated McLaren 720S EVO for Inception Racing, and Aston Martin EVOs for the Heart of Racing Team and Magnus Racing.

Great weather, incredible participation

For once, the weather was outstanding all race week. After very cold temperatures the week prior to the Rolex, when qualifying was held at the “pre-game” Roar Before the 24, it was just about perfect, with lows in the 60s at night and highs in the upper 70s to low 80s — under sunny to partly-cloudy skies with no rain.

A 24-hour race is grueling enough, without throwing in bad weather to make things even more uncomfortable and exhausting.

Maybe it was a combination of terrific weather, an outstanding field of 59 quality entries and more than 200 drivers (including former Formula One pilots and current IndyCar stars joining the IMSA regulars), but the crowd at this year’s race was easily the largest we have ever seen at the Rolex 24 — even remembering the large crowds that showed up at the height of the last GTP era in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

[3-Mar_24_LMP_2_Winner.jpg] Driver Christian Rasmussen brought home the LMP2 win for Era Motorsport in the #18 ORECA LMP2 07. Like all entries in its class, the car was powered by a U.K.-designed-and-built Gibson V8.
Photo by Colin Sword

There are four classes in the IWSC this year, two prototype (GTP and LMP2) and two GT (GTD Pro and GTD). Since the introduction of the GTP class last year and the expanded manufacturer interest in GTD and GTD Pro — particularly the latter, which fielded 13 cars at Daytona from ten manufacturers — IMSA has gone from success to success. 2024 looks huge for the sport.

Fast cars, teething pains?

Results at this year’s Rolex 24 were mixed for British drivers, cars and teams, but that certainly did not take away from the spectacle of the race or the joy of emerging from our winter slumber to see the likes of McLaren, Aston Martin and Gibson-powered LMP2 cars fight for class wins.

We shall have to wait until next year to see Aston Martin battling for overall wins, as 2025 is when the new Aston Martin prototype is scheduled to debut. With a 6.5-liter Cosworth engine, the LMDH/GTP machine is expected to be campaigned in both the IWSC and the FIA World Endurance Championship (including Le Mans) next year and beyond. Exciting things are certainly afoot for British fans!

Speaking of prototypes, the #31 Whelen Cadillac GTP started on pole, with Brits Jack Aitken and defending race winner Tom Blomqvist sharing the driving duties with Brazil’s very quick Pipo Derani. The car was in contention for the entire 24 hours — taking the lead at several points during the race — only to have to settle for a 2nd-place overall finish behind the winning Porsche Penske.

The second prototype class, LMP2 — all entries running the British-built Gibson V8 engine — was won by Era Motorsport, a team founded, managed and owned by expat Brit Kyle R. Tilley, who now calls Carmel, Ind., home. A native of Bath, Somerset, Tilley is a former driver himself, both in the U.K. and the USA. The #18 Era ORECA bested a very-high-quality field of 13 cars, with five cars in the class finishing on the same lap.

Among the Era drivers was veteran Scottish pilot Ryan Dalziel, winning in IMSA for the 14th time and the third time at the Rolex 24. (He is amassing quite a collection of Rolex Daytona watches!) Also taking turns at #18’s helm were Dwight Merriman, Christian Rasmussen and 17-year-old phenom Connor Zilisch.

[2-Mar_24_Pfaff_McLaren_Side.jpg] GTD Pro contender Pfaff Motorsports switched to McLaren this year and carried over their distinctive plaid livery.
Photo by Colin Sword

As Dalziel commented after the race, “You can’t afford to have mistakes at this level. Of the 13 cars this year I’d say ten of them were contenders from the green flag, [though] it narrowed down to a four-car race at the end.”

In GTD Pro, the new-look Pfaff Motorsports team, which switched to McLaren from Porsche last season, had an eventful debut race, sadly failing to finish the contest. Their new #9 McLaren was beautiful with its orange-and-traditional-Pfaff-plaid livery, and the team battled back from early setbacks to be in contention for a repeat of their 2022 Rolex victory. A powertrain failure at 8:40 a.m. on Sunday morning ended their race with just five hours remaining.

Brit and Pfaff McLaren driver Oliver Jarvis described what happened. “From the start of the race, the car felt good,” he said. “It’s impressively quick, so we were optimistic from the start that we could be fighting for the win. Unfortunately, there were just too many issues to overcome.

“But,” he added, “the team did an amazing job keeping us in for as long as they did — so we look forward to Sebring and getting back into it there.”

Also in GTD Pro, fan favorite Heart of Racing did well enough in their #23 Aston to take 4th in a class of 13 cars, five of which did not finish. The Aston came in six laps back from the class-winning Ferrari.

Said one of the #23 pilots, Brit Ross Gunn, “It’s amazing to get through a really tough race. The team never gave up and really kept pushing even with a few setbacks. Fourth is probably the best that we could have hoped for. We now head to Sebring and look to build on it.”

In GTD, only one of the British cars managed to finish the grueling race — Inception Racing, which took 13th in class at the finish. The #70 McLaren led at different times for a total of 38 laps, including the stretch when driver Ollie Millroy pitted for fuel and tires, but then stalled and couldn’t restart the car. A half-hour behind the wall dashed the team’s chances for a win.

[4-Mar_24_Ross_Gunn.jpg] Heart of Racing’s Ross Gunn, already looking forward to Sebring.
Photo by Jack Webster

In GTD, only one of the British cars managed to finish the grueling race — Inception Racing, which took 13th in class at the finish. The #70 McLaren led at different times for a total of 38 laps, including the stretch when driver Ollie Millroy pitted for fuel and tires, but then stalled and couldn’t restart the car. A half-hour behind the wall dashed the team’s chances for a win.

Both the #27 Heart of Racing Aston and the #44 Magnus Racing Aston retired in the early morning, at about the race’s midpoint.

Last year Heart of Racing took the GTD win with Magnus in 2nd and Inception’s McLaren in 3rd. This year HOR driver Marco Sørensen stopped on course, then continued slowly to the pits where the crew changed some wiring and the car’s ECU, but to no avail. The car went behind the wall shortly after midnight and less than two hours later called it quits.

Rolex in review

Attrition was high across the board. By the end of the 24 hours, from 59 entries, 19 were not running — one for every three entered — with each class affected.

On a more positive note, a total of 20 drivers from Britain took part in this year’s Rolex, including five Scotsmen. A pretty good representation of talent from the U.K., in our opinion.

The IMSA series now moves on to the other endurance race to be held in Florida — the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, which will take place on March 16th.

If the Rolex 24 was any indication, the 2024 edition of the IWSC will be one for the record books. See you at Sebring.

[1-JanFeb_24_Elan_Valley.jpg] January/February 2024

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

Irish Elan
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.

[2-JanFeb_24_Rahinane_Castle.jpg] 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.

[3-JanFeb_24_Wild_Atlantic_Way.jpg] 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,]

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