This weeks instalment of the Backfire GT4/TCR Series is arriving from the famously bumpy and occasionally roasting Sebring International Raceway. Located in Florida the track makes up for it’s lack of gradient with a barrage of technical corners and surface changes. It’s a great place to race with braking zones offering overtaking opportunities and places where it’s possible to be 4 wide..(briefly)
As the race fell on Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom there was a Parade Lap and minutes silence with all the cars in the pits before the start of qualification. Such a simple but powerful action to mark this day.
This promised to be a really close race with the track offering the Porsche lots of cornering to take advantage of it’s handling and Kevin Viemont was quick to take advantage; posting the fastest lap in qualification and putting himself at the front of the grid for the GT4 class while Chris Shaw took the honours for the TCR field hotly pursued by Mark Heron and Princess Pete Bingham, raising eyebrows with a cracking lap that put him into 3rd. This track is a fun drive in the front wheel drive Audi Touring Car. It loves corners.. as long as you get it right.. but the bumpier parts of the track are a handful.
As the lights turned green there was instant action as everyone sprang from the line. Andy Hopley was closing the gap to Kevin for the lead. It was hairy stuff with cold tyres but with a beautifully timed overtake he put the Porsche into second place. Mr Hopley is not shy when it comes to building a lead and controlling a race but Kevin was on his tail with Paul Burgess and ‘Triple A’ Abdulkheir al Amry, Stewart Dick and Tyler Newitt Chasing Hard
The TCR’s were cheek by jowl, no one giving an inch in the early stages. Chris Shaw led but Karl Hardy and Garry Craig were making their presence felt Mark Heron dropping a couple of places. Tom Stanley was up to 5th and and David Eyers was in a tight group when he missed a braking point and gave Mark Heron an unwelcome bonk on the bumper and a visit to the pits. Meanwhile Roger Morton; who is improving with every event had re-modelled his bonnet somewhere but was still on track and running in 8th.
Double R, Romaim Rateau, had a pit-lane start but was working his way up the field while Tyler Newitt was making friends with the turf and finding out just how treacherous that is. Lots of brave bold and adventuresome driving happening through both fields.
One of the features of these races is the ‘Random Safety Car’. This throws caution flags and a Safety Car into the mix. It hadn’t happened for a couple of races so I think people were half expecting one and sure enough on Lap 10** Bang!** Pit lane closed and everyone closing up behind the safety car.
This can have consequences.. ‘Princess Pete’ Bingham erstwhile commentator, but currently everybody’s pin-up girl is raising money for various charities and is using a different ‘surprise’ livery every week. This weeks gem features a well known brand of continence product and it’s good to know Pete is so well protected while benefitting worthy causes.
He also got lucky with the Pit stops and gained enough places to hold the lead in the TCR after the dust had settled somewhat although not changing his tyres he knew could come back to haunt him. This is a hard track on tyres and an unusually large proportion of drivers were opting for fresh rubber.. or whatever they make tyres from these days.
With the Safety Car pulling in at lap 14 it was all systems go again, RR & AAA were dicing and Chris Shaw swept past Pete to put him in 2nd with Tom Stanley in close attendance.. a bit too close with a moments contact spinning Pete out of contention and into danger with David Ayers fast approaching.
Meanwhile Mr Hopley was being closely attended by Kevin Viemont and Stewart Dick who were all occupying the same second at the front. Andy’s BMW hounded by some hungry Porsche motor vehicles. Our Princess was Hammer and Tongs with David Eyers who narrowly squeaked it into 4th behind our podium trio of Chris Shaw, Tom Stanley and Garry Craig.
In the GT3’s; despite a valiant race long battle Kevin came in 2nd behind Andrew Hopley with the rapid Stewart Dick in 3rd.
I could sit here all night relating all that happened in this race. Scott Malcolm showed a great turn of speed and like Karl Hardy also had some ups and downs but these are old campaigners and they will be back! One new campaigner is Kevin Boudarel who claimed a very creditable 6th in his first appearance in the series. Well done to him.
Alan Toon. Gentleman Racer.