A rocky time for TBR as we entered the new year with some ups and downs behind the scenes, but that didn’t stop the Prototype guys from putting together a near flawless season to take home the newly rebranded European Endurance Series LMP1 Drivers and Teams Championships with young Belgian Gilles “Little Waffle” Hubin and the TBR Red Car respectively.
Having decided to miss Round 1 at Imola due to it being held on Boxing Day, Gilles and Stephen “Weeb Leader” Kimmins invited LMP1 rookie and ex-TBR driver Carter “Who?” Hutcherson along to Round 2 at Gilles’ favourite circuit of Road Atlanta. Gilles Qualified TBR Red’s Audi R18 TDI in a respectable P6 on the grid, but he wasn’t very happy with the six tenth gap to the pole sitter. He quickly set about rectifying this and was up to P2 pretty quickly, both with some luck and some slick onto track passes. Gilles held P2 behind the leading OCM #27 Car up until the end of his first triple stint where he then handed the car over to Carter for his first stint in an LMP1 endurance race.
Carter was quickly up to speed and begin slowly closing the gap to the leader but a lock up for OCM car into the uphill blind turn 3 and a trip across the run off caused a slight amount of damage to the Audi R18 and Carter was able to make a simple pass for the lead. He then set about building the gap and by the middle of his second stint had a 16’s lead to P2 but then disaster struck. Carter admitted he was getting too comfortable in traffic and an ill advised pass on a GTE car in the esses resulted in a front end change and a damaged steering rack. Nevertheless he re-joined in P2 and was able to complete the stint trouble free.
As darkness began to fall on the circuit Carter handed over to Stephen who now had the task of trying to close the gap with a wounded car and save 10 minutes worth of fuel to remove a splash at the end. Stephen was doing a solid job closing the gap and by the end of his first stint he had taken the lead. Sam Blackwood was now aboard the OCM Car and just a couple of seconds back from Stephen with traffic dictating the gap. A misjudged pass attempt on the exit of the chicane resulted in contact between the two and Stephen was sent spinning, luckily with no damage. Sam showed his class by waiting for Stephen giving the position back, a very sporting gesture and the battle was well and truly on with 90 minutes to go. Sadly it would last just 3 laps as Sam suffered a power outage in his area and Stephen was left for a cruise to the finish to secure TBR’s first EES win of the season.
1)TEAM BUSCHFINK RACING RED – 323 LAPS
2)OCM Racing #27 – -40.476s
3)IPM Gold – -53.721
Daytona was the same weekend as Round 3 at the Nurburgring so TBR were next in action in Round 4 at Silverstone. This time the guys had decided to go with the Porsche 919 across the weekend and would be entering 3 cars. Saturday saw Stephen and Gilles in action and it was a race which never quite came together. Stephen put the car on pole and held the lead but fell to P2 in the traffic. A re-joining LMP2 car caught Stephen out and the slightest contact resulted in 14s of repairs. With Gilles now onboard and fighting back through the field, more contact this time with a backmarker LMP1 ended any hope of catching the two OCM cars out front. P3 and valuable points were still on the table but an LMP2 sideswiping the rear of the TBR Porsche on the Hanger straight finally removed them from the race…
With Sunday being a new day and now TBR had two LMP1 Cars, Team Red was joined by Team Cyan with Gilles joined by excitable Italian Daniel “Nati the what now??” Ntakirutimana (No, we don’t know how that is pronounced) in the Red car and Stephen had guest driver and another ex-TBR pilot Nathan “sell-out” Amess join him in the Cyan. Gilles was able to put the Red on pole by a huge 4 tenths from Stephen in the Cyan making it a TBR 1-2, a wide moment from Gilles in T3 allowed Stephen a run down the Wellington straight and the order was reversed. Gilles then got a painful slowdown in Maggots and Becketts and fell down the field. Stephen wasn’t going to let traffic get the better of him again and had built a 12s lead by the end of his first stint.
Gilles meanwhile now had work to do and began cutting his way through the field with clean passes using a combination of traffic and just his skill behind the wheel and was back in P2 ahead of the Coach22 Team and the formidable RLR e-sports car. Unfortunately Gilles somehow lost two positions in the pit cycle and came out P3 but sill hounding the cars ahead. Over in the Cyan, Nathan was now aboard with the two Brits deciding that being on fresh tyres was the way to go rather than triple stints. This was quickly justified as Nathan closed down the 3 cars ahead in no time at all, sometimes over 2 seconds a lap and Cyan was back in the lead. The mid part of the race went into a bit of a lul with Daniel driving an assured stint in the Red to give Gilles the chance to charge at the end but that quickly changed with Stephen back in the Cyan and hunting the leader down.
Stephen quickly closed on Martial Hubert in the lead coach22 car and he was all over the rear of the lead Porsche 919 before he pulled a slick outside pass into club to take the lead back. Martial then completely misjudged Stephen’s patience through traffic and put his nose to the inside of Brooklands, a gap which was never there and spun Stephen around. No sportsmanship this time and an angered TBR driver was left to fightback the hard way. A quick pass on the third placed RLR car and some quick times put Stephen within striking distance with 15 laps left in the stint. No nonsense this time around as Stephen passed Martial down the inside of Stowe corner and pulled away into the nights sky, eventually pulling 7 seconds by the final driver swap.
With Gilles now back in the Red he was using the cooler conditions of darkness which was suiting the setup the guys had gone for, he had pulled them back into P4 and was easily one of the quickest cars track but a splash was needed at the end which resulted in a P5 finish, not the race the guys wanted but a solid job and solid points for the championship at the end of the day.
Meanwhile Nathan had taken over the Cyan and set about delivering a hammer blow to the egos of the opposition. Turning that 7 second gap Stephen had given him in to a 90 second gap by the chequered flag. He had even more pace in the tank setting his fastest lap of the day on the final tour showing his alien like qualities. A masterclass from the young Englishman and a second TBR win of the season.
1)TEAM BUSCHFINK RACING CYAN – 216 LAPS
2)Team Coach22 #Green – -1:26.898
3)RLR Abruzzi eSports – -1 Lap
5)TEAM BUSCHFINK RACING RED – -2LAPS
Motegi was the scene for Round 5 and the Cyan line-up remained the same but this time Gilles was joined by young Swedish karting livewire Alxander “Where’s the E?” Spetz in the Red. Both teams had gone back to the Audi R18 for this round. After Nathan’s outstanding showing two weeks earlier he was going to need something special to better it. A new Qualifying WR for LMP1 at Motegi was a pretty good start and he quickly drove off into the distance at the start. Alx qualifield the Red in P5 but it was Gilles who ran a quiet first 3 stints and was up to P3 by the end of his Driving time.
Nathan in the Cyan had built up a 30 second lead midway through his third stint but an LMP2 had other plans. Nathan passed into T1 and then waited behind another LMP2 throught the exit of the corner, but the car behind was caught out by the braking capability of the Audi and ploughed into the back of Nathan resulting in huge rear damage, a crawl back to the pits and throwing Cyan off pit cycle. In total this incident cost the team around 2 minutes and 10 seconds, time which is hard to get back in such a high level of competition. Some more alien like driving from Nathan limited the time loss but Stephen seemingly lacking in confidence all day misjudged a pass on an LMP2 and received floor damage and a long limp home to P3.
As one Star faded another was just beginning to shine. Over in the Red young Alx had settled in for what became a monster 4hour stint. With the Cyan Car out of contention the focus was on hunting down the 20 second Gap to the Lead RLR car. Not like he didn’t make hard work of it though…Blinding pace and aggressiveness in traffic allowed Alx to hunt down the RLR car but a lock up whilst entering pits and contact with the pit wall resulted in a front end change. A moment belonging in a slapstick comedy movie rather than a race. Anyway with all the work to do again he set about doing so. Eventually he had closed the gap and using a GTE car to his advantage he performed a block pass on Woods aboard the RLR car and was away into a lead he would not relinquish, again despite his best efforts and another skirmish with this time the other side of the pit wall.
The end of the race petered out and despite all the drama and excursions Alx brought the Red car home in a comfortable P1, a great drive from the young Swede in his first weekend of EES action, we look forward to seeing what he can deliver in the future with the enormous amount of potential he displayed this weekend.
Before we forget TBR Red was also in action for the early Saturday Race with Alx and Polish-man Grzegorz “Wheels on fire!” Radecki in action. With only 5 LMP1 cars entered and 23 cars in total it was a small field. With Alx on pole it was over by Turn 1 as the guys just drove off into the distance for a comfortable win.
So two Wins for the Red car this weekend making it 3 in total put them firmly in championship contention and another story of what could have been for the Cyan car.
1)TEAM BUSCHFINK RACING RED – 237LAPS
2) RLR Abruzzi eSports – -20.964
3) TEAM BUSCHFINK RACING CYAN – -39.623
The final Round of the season was at the infamous Le Mans Circuit and a track which has caused an endless amount of problems for TBR drivers in the past. With many of the guys unavailable it was left to the ever present Gilles and the returning Carter to deliver the goods. Gilles missed the qualifying cut off by a mere 2 seconds so was left stranded 12th on the grid.
Gilles spent the entire first stint working has way up to P3 but was over 10 seconds behind the leading Martial Hubert after clearing the traffic. An uneventful next hour with Gilles slowly slipping back but pulling away from p4 in the process, all of a sudden every Frenchman seemingly disconnected from the session and with the P2 OCM car sustaining floor damage on the same lap, Gilles then found himself in an unlikely lead. Sometimes you need luck but the real fight was yet to come.
Gilles handed the car to Carter who is usually driving GT cars these days but he was able deliver a calm and controlled stint delivering consistent lap times and more importantly a clean bill of health for the car. He was also able to hold a lead of around 5 seconds to the IPM and second OCM car behind. With Gilles now back behind the wheel and a gap of 10 seconds to the leader who didn’t change drivers, with his fresh tyres and determination by the end of the next stint he was under a second behind the IPM car and was in the lead when they took tyres and Gilles decided to carry on. The role was then reversed though as the IPM gold car chased down Gilles and an unfortunate slowdown exiting Corvette curve let them into the lead just as both cars pitted for the final time.
It looked almost over for Gilles being on tyres a stint older and not holding the track position, maybe it just weren’t meant to be. The young Belgian had other ideas delivering a intense final 40 minutes stalking his prey, learning his boost strategy and where best to strike. With two laps to go Gilles pounced on the run up to Indianapolis and a sweeping manoeuvre around the outside and TBR was in the lead. It was far from over as IPM came back and were once again in the lead entering the Porsche Curves. But buy the second Mulsanne chicane Gilles had the lead back and it was one he would never relinquish. As the white flag flew Gilles had a 0.7 gap and a nervous 3 minutes 10 seconds on his hands. You would never have known though and his shrieks of emotion crossing the line to Win showed just how much it meant. A magnificent effort and the drive befitting a Champion. The gap at the end was just 0.581, it wasn’t much more than that between the two cars for the final hour.
1)TEAM BUSCHFINK RACING RED – 109 LAPS
2)IPM Gold – -0.581
3)OCM Racing #27 – -17.351
Just because TBR had won it was still a tense wait until Sunday evening to see if their main title rivals could deliver in the weekends final race, but sadly for them P2 wasn’t enough to deny TBR the crown and a very deserving Gilles Hubin the Drivers Crown. A huge thank you to everyone involved and thank you to all our friends in the prototype community, it’s always a pleasure to compete with some of the very best.
TBR RED European Endurance Series LMP1 CHAMPIONS
GILLES HUBIN European Endurance Series LMP1 DRIVERS CHAMPION
Written by Stephen Kimmins
Images by Stephen Kimmins
Edited by Phil Bedford.