It was a weekend full of potential for the Thunderhead Carlin Racing team in the third round of the European Le Mans Series in Barcelona this weekend. The Team’s trio of drivers, Jack Manchester, Harry Tincknell and Ben Barnicoat did a fantastic job to take the team’s best finish of the season so far with a ninth place. It was the team’s pace that was most promising though, after contact in the early stages and bad luck with safety car timing took away a potential top six finish.
Manchester lined up 8th for the rolling grid at the start of the 4 Hours of Barcelona. As the racing action began Manchester immediately made a good start, looking up the outside before finding a way through up into a strong fifth place after just a couple of corners. The Thunderhead Carlin Racing man held the position for the first couple of laps, with some fantastic defensive driving to keep the #30 Duqueine Engineering car behind.
With the front pack fighting hard, Manchester pushed hard to stay ahead but dropped to seventh, sustaining rear damage which also affected the handling of the Dallara P217. As a full course yellow was called for a stranded car in the gravel, the Thunderhead Carlin Racing crew took the opportunity to pit, with Harry Tincknell taking over driving duties after a strong first stint from Manchester.
After a delayed first stop, which saw the #45 take on new Dunlop rubber, fuel and most significantly a new rear wing after contact earlier in the race, Tincknell returned to the field at the bottom of the LMP2 rankings. The 2016 ELMS LMP2 champion soon set about making progress though and was threatening the top ten again in the early stages of his stint. By lap seven, Tincknell had managed to muscle his way back up to seventh, which then became fifth just before a planned pit stop for the Thunderhead Carlin Racing car.
Lap 47 saw Tincknell hand back driving duties to Manchester, but the LMP2 rookie was immediately faced with a full course yellow, handing an almost free pit stop to the team’s rivals. Despite losing time in the pit stop cycle, Manchester was holding 10th place which became 9th on lap 63.
A tap from another car while running in ninth place put Manchester into a spin, but the 20-year-old managed to recover quickly to 12th and pitted for fuel and a driver change as Tincknell took over. Once again, a safety car straight after gave advantage to those that were due to stop with luck once again not on the side of the Thunderhead Carlin Racing team.
By lap 78 Tincknell was running 11th, which became 10th after an issue for the 34 car. Finally luck was on the side of the team when a full course yellow was issued just as Tincknell pitted for fuel, tyres and to hand over to Ben Barnicoat for his first stint. Shod with new Dunlop tyres Barnicoat took to the track in tenth place. Barnicoat kept on the pace, pushing as the drivers raced in the dark for the first time in the European Le Mans Series. A stop for fuel on lap 125 put Barnicoat back on track for the final few laps, as the Thunderhead Carlin Racing man climbed to ninth place, the position he would take to the flag for the team’s best finish in the series so far and the first top ten for the Thunderhead Carlin Racing machine.
Speaking about the team’s race, Manchester said, “The start went really well for me, making up places straight away, but obviously one of the main objectives of the first stint was to manage the tyres as a new Harry was going to be in the car after me. I maybe could have pushed a little more but it would have taken more out of the tyres which wouldn’t have been good. I got a bit unlucky with someone clipping the rear of the car which meant we had to change the rear wing which cost us time but the boys did a great job to replace it quickly. In my second stint I was unlucky to spin when avoiding an incident in traffic and had to take avoiding action. That’s frustrating for me so to take our first top ten finish despite that shows our potential.”
Tincknell added, “This was a really good result for us; our first top ten in the championship, best qualifying, best race result. Our race pace was really strong. We had the ability to be top 5, top 6, we just had a couple of really unlucky things that went our way. A small spin and safety cars coming out at the wrong moment which put us a lap down on the cars we were fighting with. But I really enjoyed it; I got in the car in P13 and out of the car in P5 so it was great to battle through the field. It was a great team effort as well, the boys had to change a wing and the tyre changes were great and I think the strategy overall was good, so P9 was definitely a strong reflection of the weekend. We’re getting to the bottom of the Dallara car and we’re learning all the time. It’s only the team’s third race in sports cars so to be moving up the grid like we are is fantastic. Onwards and upwards to our home race.”
Team mate Barnicoat, who took the chequered flag said, “It was an eventful race. We had quite a few things go wrong; not our fault, but bad luck. Jack had a bit of contact after his great start, not his fault so that put us on the back foot a little bit with having to change the rear wing in the first pit stop. Then we got unlucky with the timing of safety cars and full course yellows which was never with us, we’d pit and the safety car would come out straight after. It was just really unfortunate. It shows what good pace we had in the car to come P9 with all that thrown at us. My pace at the end was one of the quickest cars and I think being able to fight with the leaders in terms of lap time is good and shows how we’re progressing as a team. Every session we’re getting better and better and I’ve no doubt we could have been fighting with the top five without the misfortune we had. Thanks to the Thunderhead Carlin boys for a great car and now we’re looking forward to our home race at Silverstone.”
The team will be back in action for the fourth round of the series at Silverstone from 30- 31 August.