Team LNT once again made history today with their Ginetta-Nissan LMP3 car, as 2,424km of almost relentless running earned Lawrence Tomlinson, Sir Chris Hoy, Charlie Robertson, Mike Simpson and Gaëtan Paletou an impressive class podium in this weekend’s Britcar 24 Hours at Silverstone.
As strong favourites heading into the weekend, Team LNT qualified the Ginetta-Nissan LMP3 on pole position by a 3.064 second margin over its closest rival - the GT2 spec MJC car – with Factory Driver Mike Simpson lighting up the timing screens with a 2:03.916 qualifying time.
Robertson took the start for Team LNT and his blistering pace off the line saw the #12 Ginetta-Nissan pull out a 26 second lead by the start of lap three. The hard work was soon undone as an early safety car once again bunched up the field.
10 laps later, Robertson handed over to his ELMS teammate Hoy with a 44.299s advantage, meaning the car rejoined in fourth, 43 seconds behind the leader. Two hours into the race, Hoy had a lap in hand as he handed over to Paletou, who rejoined in P1 with five seconds to spare.
Five laps into his stint and Paletou had once again used the power of the V8 Nissan engine to pull out a one lap advantage, a pace he maintained throughout his time in the car, allowing Simpson to enjoy a two lap advantage as he took over driving duties around four hours into the race.
A strong stint by Simpson saw him behind the wheel until the clock ticked past hour six, and during his mammoth three hour drive – throughout which he enjoyed a four lap lead at times – the rains came.
A lengthy safety car period saw the heavily congested circuit become even more dangerous as the water pooled and the spray became all but blinding, calling for a handful of unscheduled stops for the #12 car as Simpson struggled for visibility before handing over to Robertson for his second time behind the wheel, six hours into the event.
Robertson rejoined in third place following a routine check by the Team LNT boys, two laps behind the leader, but tricky conditions saw him drop to fourth as he handed over to, with the car running in sixth place as the clock ticked past midnight. Paletou managed to recover to fifth before handing over to Simpson, who powered onwards under cover of darkness to reclaim the race lead by the time the event reached the halfway mark at 4am.
Team LNT were then dealt a heavy blow as contact with a GT4 car on Simpson’s in-lap forced the #12 car into the pit for maintenance as the sun came up. Robertson was the next man on track following a 45 minute stop, but the damage picked up during Simpson’s earlier accident led to a build-up of tyre debris on the exhaust, which resulted in damage to the electrics and a small fire at the rear of the car, causing the throttle to stick open as Robertson followed the Safety Car.
Sensibly pulling off the circuit and into the gravel trap, the Silverstone recovery teams went to work and delivered the car back to the Team LNT garage around 7am. A herculean effort by the factory mechanics saw the LMP3 repaired in less than four hours, with Ginetta owner Lawrence Tomlinson taking the reins as the #12 rejoined on lap 400, albeit 100 laps down with just under five and a half hours left to run.
Emerging third in class and 16thoverall, with no threat from behind and a considerable gap to the two class leaders, Team LNT focused their energies on cycling their drivers through the final stints of the race and ensuring the car was in a position to take the flag.
Robertson followed Tomlinson, before handing over to Paletou for the penultimate stint. The Frenchman reeled in second in class before handing over to Hoy for the final hour of proceedings. With just 15 minutes left to run, Team LNT suffered another blow as a driveshaft broke at Abbey and left the LMP3 needing to be towed back to the pit lane for a second time. The Team LNT mechanics once again proved themselves as some of the finest in the country as they repaired the car with just seconds to go before the pit lane closed for the final time.
As the car made its way back onto the apron, a colossal cheer erupted from all in pit lane and the surrounding grandstands, a proud moment for the team as they sent Hoy back onto circuit to complete one lap and take the flag, rewarding the team in Leeds with a well-deserved second in class to add to their pole position start and fastest lap for Robertson with a 2:02.922 on lap 392.
Lawrence Tomlinson;“Two weeks ago the Ginetta-Nissan LMP3 had not yet competed in an event, and today we proved that we design and manufacture a world leading Le Mans Prototype endurance car by finishing second in class in our first 24 hour race. Tis result adds to the success we enjoyed here at Silverstone with a 1-2 finish in the opening round of the European Le Mans Series. It has been a dream start for Ginetta’s sports car and LMP3 direction.”
Sir Chris Hoy;“We thought we may be disappointed with second in class, but the way it finished at the end - to salvage a podium finish after all the disappointments, complications and bad luck - it was a huge team effort, and to see the way the guys rallied to get the car back out to take the flag gave me goose bumps. To come into the pit lane and see everyone – not just Team LNT – cheering at what the lads did was really cool.”
Charlie Robertson; “It was a tough race and my first experience of driving in the wet at night so it was a steep learning curve. The crew did an absolutely amazing job; the car would pit with an issue and no matter whether big or small, they would get straight on it and be working flat out to send us back out. I think we really owe the finish to them and I can’t thank them enough for all their hard work. To see them change that driveshaft at the end was incredible, it was a really special moment when we went out and everyone was clapping. Now I just can’t wait to get back in the car at Imola!”
Mike Simpson; “It’s been a wonderful event we achieved almost 2,500km of running on the car. To keep it running in spite of all they were faced with is testament to the work ethic of all at Team LNT, so hats off to them, they have been the winners today. It’s fantastic to come away with a class podium and it’s all part of the build-up and development of Team LNT and our LMP3 project.”
Gaëtan Paletou; “The Britcar 24 hours was only my second 24 hour race and it will be one I will remember for a very long time. The pace of the car was fantastic and in spiteof a few difficulties throughout the race an incredible effort by the team brought home more silverware to add to the collection for the Team LNT LMP3 car.”