Sean Edwards and the Tech 9 crew have recently returned back from round 1 of the FIA GT Championship at Zhuhai in China.
Team boss Phil Hindley reflects on the trip ‘ Zhuhai was a fascinating experience for all of us involved. For me personally having never visited the far-east, it was a great event, well promoted by the SRO, and a fantastic crowd greeted an incredible race.
It was tough logistically to have the first event as a fly-away, also as FIAGT virgins, the Tech 9 crew adapted very well to working out of flight cases and we were not short of anything over the course of the weekend. In fact we had a great garage layout after local co-operation from fellow Porsche racer Matthew Marsh, and his colleague Johnson. This was an invaluable assistance, and our No.1 engineer Steve Hagger (who has visited Zhuhai on a number of occasions) ensured that we were all pointing in the right direction !.
The free practice sessions were rather difficult, the wet-dry conditions played havoc, and true to form matching our conditions during pre-season European testing, as soon as the green light signalled pit-lane open, it started to rain !
We have made some fairly major changes to our Porsche 997 RSR, having ditched the standard fitment Sachs dampers, and reverted to our trusted partner Moton Suspension Technology. Jerome Van Gool (owner of Moton BV, Holland) supported us in China, having flown in directly from Sebring !, a big thank you to Jerome for his commitment to support our team with the latest version of his 4-way damper.
We had previously run in wet conditions at Nogaro, France so had a good base set-up, and this resulted in a car that was well balanced and suited the conditions. Sean Edwards was out early in the session and was comfortably setting top 3 times in class at this stage.
Free Practice 2 finished with a comfortable P4 in class, and both drivers settling into the circuit and reporting a very balanced car, which was encouraging news.
Qualifying, we decided to select the Michelin ‘soft’ compound tyre. It was frustrating that with a lack of consistent dry testing, the tyre engineers did not have sufficient data to confirm that the correct choice was made. With the 2007 regulations stating that the race start must use 3 of your qualifying tyres, it is crucial to make the correct decision.
Sean secured a credible P7 in qualifying, pipped only by 1/100th of a second by the other Michelin shod 997 of Ebimotors. Leo also ran in the qual session to get some dry running, and was amazed at the grip level and balance of the car, so he had a good feeling for the start of the race.
The grid assembled for the race, an incredible crowd had gathered in the grandstand across from us, and performing dragons and ‘drift cars’ entertained the crowds that were eagerly awaiting the ‘Main Event’.
Our strategy for the race, was for Sean to start, then Leo drive the middle stint, with Sean completing the final stage of the race.
As the race began, Sean made an incredible start and forced his way through the opening corners to settle into P2 !, and lot of elbowing ensued on the next few laps, and quite heavy contact was made between our car and another Porsche (thought we were supposed to fight the Ferraris !) driven by Marc Basseng, the RSR stood up well to the impact though, and Basseng retired with suspension damage.
Sean settled down to produce a fine drive, and held station in P2 behind Kirkaldy (Ferrari 430) who was disappearing off into the distance at incredible pace. Another 430, the AF Corse car of Dirk Muller managed to force through after around 30 minutes that dropped us to P3, but having decided to capitalise on a clear track, we decided to run Sean a long first stint, that saw us retake the lead of the race at the hour mark.
Such a strong start to the race was a dream, but that dream was to be shattered with a jammed left rear wheel nut during our pit-stop. The crew worked frantically to remove the nut, but we lost a lap with the problems, then fate struck a cruel blow with a safety car three laps after we had pitted, that lost us another lap as the teams that had stopped earlier gained a ‘free’ stop over us.
Leo spent a frustrating period sat at the head of the train directly behind the safety car for much of his stint, then Sean resumed with 20 minutes remaining to run to the flag.
P6 in class was reward for all the hard work of the crew, and the 3 points gained will certainly kick-start our season, for the anticipation of the journey ahead of us.
To summarise the weekend, the pace of our car is there, we set a 1.37.037 on the final lap of the race, compared with fastest lap in class of 1.36.831. This is very encouraging, and had we not had the jammed wheelnut and the unfortunate timing of the safety car, then a possible P4 was definitely within our grasp. The competition at this level is fierce, the combination of Pro drivers, and very successful and experienced teams is a welcome environment for us to operate and achieve the goals that we have set ourselves’.
Sean Edwards made a rare appearance in British GT again. Piers Maserati wanted him to produce some data for their new drivers and set a base time. Sean was comfortably faster, around 9 tenths faster than Ed Morris and 1.3 seconds faster than James Littlejohn, round the short Silverstone National track.
“It was nice to get back in a cup car again, but it felt like a boat compared to the RSR! I am just here helping out Tech9 and their new drivers. I set a decent enough time in 4 laps, as I have never done this configuration in a Porsche.” Said Sean.
Tech 9 got some more valuable testing miles in before the opening round of the FIA GT championship in China. The main aim was to give Leo as much seat time as possible, to get him up to speed with the new Porsche.
The team changed their dampers to Moton and have the owner and chief engineer of Moton, Jerome Van Gool, working on their car for the season. “The Moton’s are working really well and Jerome is superb at putting my feedback about the car, into the setup of the car. The dampers worked superbly in the wet conditions as well, we were 1.5 seconds than the BMS Porsche with Collard in” Sean said.
The team only took part in session 1 of day two, as they took time out to prepare the car for Zuhai. The car had to be flown out just 4 days after the test.