Blancpain Endurance Series racer Daniel McKenzie and the Beechdean AMR team endured a very tough outing at Silverstone for round two of the 2013 season, with gearbox problems early in the three-hour encounter triggering a very long afternoon.
After fine-tuning the No.99 Aston Martin Vantage GT3’s set-up in practice, Daniel and team-mates Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam went into their individual qualifying sessions at the Northamptonshire track aiming to achieve an overall top 10 starting slot.
While Daniel posted the sixth fastest time in class, 24th overall, it wasn’t indicative of his true pace as he was saving fresh rubber for the race by using old Pirelli tyres, and fuel issues cost further time. The quickest session proved to be the third, where Adam’s ninth place in Pro-Am and 29th overall became their starting slot for the 180 minute race.
Taking the opening stint, Daniel made a good getaway and gained three places on the first lap before climbing the order further on lap two. Disappointingly though, any further progress was halted on the third tour due to a major problem with the gearbox.
After Daniel did well to coax the Aston back to the pits, the Beechdean team leapt into action. They rapidly fitted a new gearbox and sent him back out, several laps down but able to run properly again until lap 31 when he handed the car over to team principal Howard.
He ran a relatively short stint before Adam took the wheel on lap 46 and the squad was able to complete the race without any further drama, finishing a much lower than anticipated 18th in Pro-Am and 43rd overall.
Daniel said: “The weekend didn’t start too badly in the first practice with my team-mate in the car, but as the circuit gripped-up the balance of the car changed so we had to alter it quite a lot for qualifying. We did make good improvements with the car throughout the weekend but things went wrong that shouldn’t have gone wrong, like the fuel problems in qualifying.
“The problem was with the lambda setting and it led to the engine thinking it was running a lot richer than it actually was. The trouble is, when you have a computer telling the car what to do you can’t reason with it.
“When the race began I made up some places on the first couple of laps but, when I down-changed for the hairpin on lap three, the compression unit in the gearbox went catastrophically – literally sheared to pieces. There was no indication that it was going to go. It was just a freak thing – it had only used half its life. The team are investigating it.
“I managed to crawl back to the pits in fourth gear and the team did a 24-Hour Race style pit-stop to fit a new box. The team worked really effectively – in a not-so-good situation, that was a real positive to take away. They didn’t know what was wrong until I arrived in the pitlane, but they diagnosed the problem in seconds, grabbed the part, and got to work. It was a stressful environment and they worked very efficiently.
“So it wasn’t the best of weekends. The car was a bit average, but we worked on it and we figured out why, so in the future we’ll know exactly what we have to do in the set-up to get past these things. Hopefully it was a one-off and we’ll be back where we should be at the next round.”
Round three of the Blancpain Endurance Series will take place at Paul Ricard HTTT in the south of France on 29th/30th June.