View From The Top – Mid-Season Reflections From Tim Greaves

View From The Top – Mid-Season Reflections From Tim Greaves

Thoughts of Chairman Tim

The longest day in motorsport has come and gone for 2012. Greaves Motorsport’s Team Principal, Tim Greaves, considers the team’s season to date and looks forward.

1. What is the team’s reaction to Greaves Motorsport’s driver, Tom Kimber-Smith winning the LM P2 class at Le Mans for another outfit?

“Everyone at Greaves Motorsport was absolutely delighted for Tom, it shows the breadth and flexibility of his talent in jumping from one car to another. We will be very pleased to see him back with the team at Donington, attempting to continue his winning streak.”

2. At Le Mans car #41 beating car #42 might have been unexpected, what were the factors in that result?

“Well, first of all car #42 had a few problems that could not be foreseen. The ACO IMSA position light box failed, which caused the Zytek Hylus power system to trip and it had to be replaced. We had an unusual problem with the alternator belt which is still being investigated as is the other problem encountered with a sticking throttle. We have effectively completed Le Mans four times with the Zytek chassis, the #42 car seemed to attract all the problems that we have ever encountered and with the LM P2 class being so competitive this year, any time lost is almost impossible to recover.

Car #41’s crew had a plan for the race, which they followed, and the great result they achieved followed on from that. In many ways Ricardo was the discovery of the event, being fast and consistent right from the start. He did two quadruple stints that really helped the car’s overall pace and was good with tyre management, he made a massive contribution. As did Elton who was the true professional that we expected him to be. Christian completed his part of the plan to perfection and could have lit up the paddock with his smile at the end of the race, they deserve the highest praise.”

3. What was it like running two cars for the first time?

“It is like having two children, the sum of the effort required to keep control is greater than the effort would be individually. Perhaps the hardest part is maintaining the team’s balance between the two cars, especially psychologically. Making sure that both elements felt fairly treated, it was a challenge from the beginning but I am sure that we managed to get that balance right at least as best as we could.”

4. It has now been announced that the #42 car and its crew will race at the FIA WEC Silverstone round, how do you think that will go, given the team’s performance at Le Mans?

“I expect the #42 car to challenge for the the LM P2 win at Silverstone. In France I was impressed with the pace of all three drivers, perhaps some other teams treated Le Mans as an extended sprint race, we adopted a more conservative approach. We struggled at night with the throttle issues, costing us time. We could almost do 12 lap stints on the fuel but it was very marginal and rather than run out of petrol we usually came in on 11 laps. Perhaps we need a fuel usage gauge on the steering wheel to help the drivers reduce consumption over the course of a stint. It was possible to run the extra lap as both Christian and Alex managed it during their time behind the wheel. Considering the pace that Alex ran at, it was a considerable achievement to get the extra lap with a sufficient margin of comfort.

In particular, Martin’s pace at Le Mans was a surprise, a very pleasant one, and his technical feedback and clarity of thought was very impressive. His de-briefs were exceptional, he demonstrated that he was a true professional throughout the period of the programme, we all learned some useful lessons from him. So working with the trio from #42 will be great, now we have two cars aiming at the top spot.”

5. We understand Bahrain might not be in your #41 car plans. Are there any changes to this?

“The logistics of running a major investment business and competing in the four fly-away races over September and October has been a problem for Christian but we have now committed to being there with the driver line up. As Christian himself put it “Don’t break up a winning team.”

6. What is your view on the Nissan DeltaWing? What do you think should happen next?

“In reality the Nissan DeltaWing was the only true prototype on the grid at Le Mans, it showed that innovation was still possible in motorsport. I think that the next stage in its career should be running as a one make series where the development of the car and the regulations can be optimised.”

7. Where do you think the LM P2 class is heading , especially with the new Mazda programme?

“Following the real success story of the Nissan LM P2 engine, which was a project ignited by Greaves Motorsport back in 2010, Greaves Motorsport recognised the potential of the Nissan engine and we committed to it then, placing the first orders. The Nissan engine has almost become too successful for its own good, at present LM P2 looks a bit like a one engine series which is not the aim of the ACO’s rules, they would want diversity in chassis and engine combinations. However, diversity comes at a price which is increased expense and that runs contrary to the principles of a cost-capped formula. Diversity means that the opportunity for a chassis supplier or engine builder to cover development costs and make a profit are restricted. I think that this is best explained in the book The Gorilla Game : Picking Winners in High Technology  which I summarise as The Biggest and Best always wins. That is how it has been in motorsport in recent years. The only way to have real cost capping is for everyone to run the same equipment which conflicts with the diversity aims of the ACO. Greaves Motorsport has a €300,000 investment in Nissan engines and the introduction of an alternative form of engine in the LM P2 class could make that investment effectively worthless. I do not think that this will happen with the Mazda turbo diesel programme but one has always to be wary of changes like this and how it effects the status quo.

On a practical level, when costing our racing program what level of depreciation is used on the financial models used to work out the sums required to be earned? One to five years? It makes a huge difference to the risk/reward ratio.”

8. Any thoughts on Lucas’ performance at Le Mans?

“He was brilliant, he gave a great performance. He settled in very well with the Brundles and made a major contribution to the team over the whole event. and no mistakes. There was an off, but this was caused by the sticking throttle issue.”

9. What are the prospects for the season’s results?

“In the FIA World Endurance Championship we are currently lying in fourth place, the opposition is extremely strong and while we do have not the ultimate pace in the #41, we do have a strong team that is able to exploit the endurance side of the competition. We are certainly going to fight for the title all the way to the last lap of the last race. We are optimistic of a top three finish in the World Championship.

With #42 car in the European Le Mans Series we do have the pace to aim at victory, we should have won the first race at Le Castellet but any small mistakes are very costly this year. It is going to be tough to claw back the points that we lost, particularly with the cancellation of the Zolder round, but our aim is to win the three remaining rounds and see where that takes us in the title chase, hopefully to the top.”

10. What will Greaves Motorsport do next year?

“More of the same – but better!

We would really like to have Martin back in the car at Le Mans next year but it is dependent mainly on his Formula One commitments, in particular any clash of dates with the Canadian Grand Prix. In reality our plans will be determined by the calendars of both the FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series, once these are available we can plan our own schedule.”