The 17th running of the UK’s equivalent to Le Mans took place at Snetterton over the bank holiday weekend. A strong field of 35 teams entered to contest the hardest endurance racing challenge which started on Sunday at 4pm and finished on Monday 24 Hours later.
From the outset the previous 2 years winners Tete Rouge 1 set a blistering pace, with only Ecas – The Return and Team Gadget getting anywhere near the top lap times. The rain started over Saturday night and would continue non-stop, to result in the first entirely wet 24hr race since it was established in 1990. At exactly 4pm on Sunday the field were lead round by the safety car and, as it peeled away into the pitlane, pole man Pete Sparrow’s car fail to build up speed. With a broken rocker arm, the Tete Rouge 1 car limped across the line to start the race before promptly turning left into the pitlane exit. This amazing departure of the lead car had bunched up the field as the lights went green, resulting in frantic jockeying for positions as the tail end cars, unaware of the slower lead field speed, fought to avoid crashing into the back of the cars in front in the totally obscuring spray.
The lead pack of Gadget, Ecas, Tete Rouge 2 and 3, Stinky and Joe 90 circulated as one, as late starters, clockwork orange and Red Nose Scotland picked up the pace. Meanwhile Tete Rouge 1 had been pushed back to the pits and changed an engine in an amazing 7 mins. They would now play catch up in pickup an impressive 5th from 35th by the flag.
The rest of the race unfolded with more stories than a tall tower block. Cars on fire, flywheels exploding, spins, crashes, spins, flooding, aqua planning and spins all occurred throughout the event. This will be fully documented in a race report appearing here soon. That left Ecas – The return to take the flag first after 24hrs of flat out racing with, Gadget 2nd and Tete Rouge 3 3rd. Ecurie Cheveux Blanche posted the only non-finish, expiring 20mins from the end!
A great success, with brilliant coverage via the 24hr radio commentary team, meant the race will return next year and remain the jewel in the 2CV racing crown. Oh yes, did I mention it rained?
The 24-hour race at Snetterton is a highlight in the 2cv racing calendar that attracts drivers, mechanics and spectators alike. This year was no exception with a bumper turn out of 35 entrants that included lots of new names, plus some well known ones including former champions David O’Keeffe and Richard Dalton.
The only problem was the weather. The forecast was dire, the Met Office issued a weather warning for the whole of south-east England predicting 3 inches of rain and high winds – lovely (and just perfect for a Bank Holiday weekend)! Of course, Tuesday when it would all be over, was forecast dry and sunny.
We are used to the odd shower during the race, in fact it adds interest and some drivers love to have their skills tested by driving in the wet. 2007 turned out to be the wettest 24-hour race so far; it did not stop for all 24 hours, making the event testing for everyone concerned.
On Saturday afternoon most teams took advantage of the free practice session. Car 28 Tête Rouge 1 led the field, closely followed by 50 ECAS – The Return, then 54 Prêt a boire, 14 Team Stinky and 79 Tête Rouge 3.
The first formal qualifying session started at 18:30 with all teams participating, once again Tête Rouge 1 was in the lead, followed this time by 19 Gadget Racing, 50 ECAS – The Return, 9 Tête Rouge 2 and 96 RSR Racing.
The second qualifying session always takes place when it is dark, this year’s started at 21:45 and finished with 28 Tête Rouge 1 in the lead, followed by 19 Gadget Racing, 26 Rambo, 14 Team Stinky and 79 Tête Rouge 3.
So Tête Rouge 1 was clearly in Pole position with Gadget, ECAS, RSR Racing, Team Stinky and the other two Tête Rouge cars close behind. The full grid is shown below.
Sunday dawned cold and wet; the warm up session at 11:00 was used by 25 of the teams to iron out any problems; with the Tête Rouge cars not participating in this optional session ECAS and Gadget were the fastest. Then there was the long wait to 16:00 for the start of the race.
At 15:30 the cars came out of the pits onto the track to line up on the grid for the race and just before 16:00 they were ready, with three cars starting from the pit lane.
The warm-up lap started with 28 leading the way, they went round the track and as it is a rolling start to this race, drove up to the start/finish line ready for the lights to change as the leader reached the line. It didn’t work out as planned, the lights changed very late and everyone was shocked to see the car that was in Pole position - Tête Rouge 3 – slow down rather than speed up and roll to a halt 100 metres along the circuit by the exit from the pit lane, where it stayed until it was rescued. But the race was on and
Gadget Racing took advantage of the opportunity and went into the lead.
At the first two-hour point 50 ECAS – The Return had established a 1 lap lead over 19 Gadget Racing, followed by 79 Tête Rouge 3, 90 JB Doors Racing and 59 Team Gateamation 1. ECAS had also set the fastest lap time of 2 min 01.125. During the two hour period, cars 4 Hollis Motorsport and 26 Rambo received 5-lap tow-back penalties. The problem with Tête Rouge 1 was repaired but the delay had put them back to 34th place.
After 4 hours the first and second cars remained 50 ECAS followed more closely this time by 19 Gadget Racing; 14 Team Stinky had moved up to third place followed by 79 Tête Rouge 3 and 90 JB Doors Racing. Cars 76 Argent Provocateur and 5 received 5-lap tow-back penalties.
After 6 hours the first four cars were the same (50 ECAS, 19 Gadget, 14 Stinky, 79 Tête Rouge 3) but 9 Tête Rouge 2 had taken fifth place from 90 JB Doors Racing. Car 48 Whitwell Motorsport received a 5-lap tow back penalty.
After 8 hours the first five cars remained unchanged and ECAS had increased the gap between first and second place. Car 81 Irish received a 5-lap tow-back penalty.
After 10 hours Gadget Racing had experienced some problems and had fallen back to 13th place. The first five were 50 ECAS, 14 Stinky, 79 Tête Rouge 3, 9 Tête Rouge 2 and 69 MRB Racing. Car 42 Inworth Racing Exttravaganza received a 1-lap penalty.
After 14 hours Tête Rouge 3 and 2 had overtaken Team Stinky; Gadget Racing had caught up with the leading group. The first five were 50 ECAS, 79 Tête Rouge 3, 9 Tête Rouge 2, 14 Stinky and 19 Gadget. Car 53 Team Herbee had been in the wars and received a 5-lap tow-back penalty.
After another two hours Team Stinky had moved up to third place ahead of Tête Rouge 2, the leaders were 50 ECAS, 79 Tête Rouge 3, 14 Stinky, 9 Tête Rouge 2 and 19 Gadget. Tête Rouge 1 was in sixth position but three laps behind. Car 43 Ecurie Chevaux Blancs received a 5-lap tow-back penalty.
After 18 hours Gadget Racing had overtaken Team Stinky to be in third place, at this point the top six were 50 ECAS, 79 Tête Rouge 3, 19 Gadget, 14 Stinky, 9 Tête Rouge 2 and 28 Tête Rouge 1. Cars 76 Argent Provocateur and 97 Fine Print received 1-lap penalties.
After 20 hours, with the end looming the first six remained unchanged 50 ECAS, 79 Tête Rouge 3, 19 Gadget, 14 Stinky, 9 Tête Rouge 2 and 28 Tête Rouge 1. Car 54 Pret a Boire received a 5-lap tow-back penalty.
After 22 hours, with the final fuel stop and driver change done there was all to play for. 19 Gadget Racing was catching up with Tête Rouge 3; 9 Tête Rouge 2 had gained fourth position in front of 14 Team Stinky; the leaders were 50 ECAS, 79 Tête Rouge 3, 19 Gadget, 9 Tête Rouge 2, 14 Stinky and 28 Tête Rouge 1. Car 77 2 Smoking Barrels received a 5-lap tow-back penalty.
The winner – no doubt about it – was 50 ECAS – The Return. Many congratulations on a near-faultless performance by drivers Richard Dalton, Gary Byatt, Philip Myatt and Ed Mason, and by mechanic Geoff Archer.
In second place 19 Gadget Racing was driven by Wayne Cowling, David O’Keeffe and Gary Adnitt, who did the storming last session to overtake Tête Rouge 3.
In third place 79 Tête Rouge 3 driven by Alec Graham, Myles Packman and Merrick Cox.
In fourth place was 14 Team Stinky driven by Neil Thompson, Neil Savage and Chris Yates.
In fifth place was 28 Tête Rouge 1 driven by Pete Sparrow, Paul Robertson, Gareth Howell, Simon Turner and Simon Leith. The sixth car was 9 Tête Rouge 2 driven by Trevor Williams, Sammie Fritchley, Oliver Hall and Andy Kinch.
It was a very good race and we hope to be back at Snetterton in 2008, when we will be hoping for better weather.