Round 7 Race Report

National Endurance Championship – Silverstone – 11th October 2008

The final round of the year began very badly for Team GBmoto, with less than two laps completed on Fridays test day, before the bike was wheeled back into the pit lane with ‘engine problems’. Alex Cudlin, who was joining the team for the race (from his normal berth with World Endurance Team - Diablo666), reported serious gearbox failure from the fresh race motor. After early diagnosis confirmed terminal damage, the race mechanics began the job of stripping the bike and removing the engine, to replace it with the Team’s spare motor. Ironically it was the very same reserve engine that was fitted at Silverstone last year, when a crankshaft failure nearly stopped GBmoto in 2007!

With the bike freshly rebuilt and checked, both Alex and regular endurance supremo Mick Godfrey, both hit the track to start the process of setting up the bike for action over the weekend. It was on his return to the garage that Mick reported noise coming from the engine. More diagnosis established problems with the alternator and the subsequent strip down left the Team unable to be sure that damage to the crankcases, would not lead to bigger problems for the motor once back in action. So mid-afternoon, the decision was taken to remove the spare engine and to produce one ‘decent race engine’ from the two damaged ones!

Much spanner work prevailed with ex-team manager Barry Watts drafted in to head up the ‘open-heart surgery’, however things were to take another turn for the worse. Following closer internal inspection of both engines the Team had to admit that there was room for doubt in terms of being able to build a reliable and trustworthy power plant. It was then that an ally came to the fore in the shape of Phil Haynes, chief mechanic to rivals Sweatshop Moores and World Endurance Team Phase One. He offered the use of his engine and the team set out for the 120 mile round trip to pick up the spare bike, with the dark already upon them. To cut a long and very arduous story short, the mechanics finished building the CorporateFX Yamaha at midnight, praying as they then retired to their hotel, that everything would be ‘alright’ on the morning of the race.

Thankfully morning warm-up went to plan and although neither Alex, Mick nor Mark Smith-Halvorsen had enjoyed any real track time, it was not long before they were forcing the pace again in qualifying. In the dying moment the team grabbed pole with a 1 minute 5.73 second lap, as the rest wondered just what they had to do, to stop the newly crowned, 2008 National Champions.

Sun and clear blue skies provided the perfect backdrop for the start of the final round of the 2008 Hottrax Motorsport UK Endurance Championship. In contrast, the 40 bike grid started in the autumn shade of the grandstands at midday at Silverstone. As the Union jack was dropped (by Macca – who was invited to ‘start’ his last race!), Rawlings Racing, GBmoto and TrackCraft Racing sprung to the front, with Alex Cudlin soon pushing the pace on the No.66 CorporateFX Yamaha. The racing was fierce for over 40 minutes, but in the end pace and experience showed whilst lapping traffic as Alex built a 10 second lead. Pitting at around 55 minutes, Mick Godfrey set out to try and extend that lead and after all the initial pit stops were over and second riders were out on track, it was still very close, with Trackcraft never really more that 5 or 6 seconds behind.

Indicating that he needed to pit early, Mick returned to the pits with oil all over his right boot and the pit crew immediately began to investigate, whilst at the same time changing front and rear tyres and refueling. Diagnosing a simple oil filler cap problem and remedying it only took a few moments - but such was the pace that by the time Mark Smith-Halvorsen completed his out-lap, GBmoto were down to 16th place! With a lot of time to catch up, the team watched the monitor as they worked their way back towards the front. Mark SH caught and passed race leaders Trackcraft on the circuit and brought the bike in for the third rider change in fifth place. However with eyes firmly on the remaining Pro-Superbike Championship, the team found themselves only one lap in deficit of rivals Sweatshop Moores and a class win, just before half way distance.

Drama took hold of the race at the 2hour 50 minute mark as a rider threw his Suzuki 1000 into the armco at Woodcote, bringing out the pace car and paramedics. As the race got back into full flow, more drama unfolded for Team GBmoto, as now 3rd placed Alex Cudlin crashed the R1 Yamaha heavily at the far side of the circuit. For a while all was unclear as to the whereabouts and condition of both the bike and the rider. However once the machine was located a van and crew were dispatched to desperately try and fix the extensive damage suffered to the bike, so as to continue the race. If the team could get back out into the race to cover at least 75% of the winner's distance – they would score enough points to beat Sweatshop Moores to the class title!?! Luck was not with Alex Cudlin, who broke a collar bone in the accident and after being helped by the medics at the track took no further part in the meeting. The team all wish Alex a quick and full recovery.

A hastily but thoroughly rebuilt No.66 headed out for one last attempt at doing what it knows best, right on the 4 ½ hour mark. Six laps and eight minutes later, the forlorn figure of ‘Macca’ pushed the bike back into the garage after yet another engine failure on the back straight, finally put paid to the chase. As the team ran out of engines and time, it reluctantly accepted that its season was finally over.

After a tough and exciting years racing, Team GBmoto sealed back to back UK National Endurance Championships for 2007 and 2008 to add to their 2004 title. Sweatshop Moores worked very hard to become 2008 ProSuperbike class winners and the very consistent Darkside Endurance made themselves the 2008 SuperSports class winners. Our congratulations go to those teams and their riders.

“GBmoto team principal and rider, Mark “Macca” Smith-Halvorsen, has announced his intention to retire from the sport after Silverstone following a full and distinguished racing career. His presence in the Endurance racing paddock will be greatly missed. Macca’s final race day was a typically busy affair – he dropped the Union Flag to start the race and the Chequered Flag to close the action, whilst also riding flat out to try and add the Pro-Superbike cup, to the teams UK National Championship silverware.

He will be sorely missed in the paddock and by the club and its officials. However the people, who will miss him most, are those that so often aspire to beat him on track. Hottrax Motorsport Racing Club and the racing fraternity at large would like to wish Mark every success in whatever he decides to do next, in the safe knowledge that there is a always space on our grid for him – should he change his mind! Well done to all at Team GBmoto for your efforts in 2008 and enjoy your retirement Macca!”

Press Office
Hottrax Motorsport Racing Club

Team GBmoto and Mark Smith-Halvorsen would once again, like to thank and congratulate the following people:

Stewart Blake @ Corporate FX
Martin Williams @ Martin Williams & Co.
Pat Walsh @ Dunlop Motorsport
Stuart Young @t YPE Power
Janice @ FW Developments,
Martin Benetar @ Bodyscience
Guy Longley @ Race By Design,
Wally @ PFM Brakes
Brian Gore @ Performance Friction
The Team @ B&C Express,
Kate & Sandra at Hideout Leathers
Andy & Ian @ Primus Coatings
Phill & Aga @ Kapital Moto
Bill, Trigger & the Girls @ May & Newman Limited