Oliver Bryant Racing

07946 524 941 info@oliverbryant.com
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19th July 2009

Fun In The Sun!

Bernie Chodosh once again organised a package for Historic racing cars from the UK and Europe to travel to the States and race alongside the HSR series that runs over there. Of the 16 cars which went along we took the trusty Morgan +8, 1 MOG, that has been raced by my father Grahame since the late 1970’s. For the last few seasons the car has enjoyed great success in the Heritage series that has supported the British GT Championship, which I have been racing in. This trip to Sebring in early March was to be my first time racing in the States, but not for Grahame who has raced in the Sebring 12 hours before, and the Daytona 24 hours. In the few days before the event, we travelled up to Daytona to enjoy some of the sites and sounds of Bike Week.

The circuit is very rough and bumpy but nonetheless offered fantastic racing, and a great challenge against the powerful American cars that are so fast on the straight but not so nimble around the corners! The event was well organised and we felt very welcome., the permanent sunshine and 30 degree plus temperature was also a welcome break from the English winter. Bernie and Richard efficiently dealt with race entries and all the aspects of shipping the cars out there. It was a very relaxed atmosphere at the circuit, with the cars organised into groups prior to qualifying and then these groups re-jigged to ensure you were amongst a field of cars you could compete with! We were initially in a group with a 2005 Audi R8 Le Mans car, and Porsche 997 cup cars, but this was soon rectified once we got black flagged in our first test session, the organisers rightly spotted that a car made of wood should not be racing against Germany’s finest!

You can then basically do any race which your group is allowed into. So we did 5 races including a 3-hour Enduro. Grahame drove the car in the first heat for our group and got swamped down the straights by the American machines and finished up in 10th place. I then drove for the first time at Sebring, in a 40-minute night race! I was on pole but couldn’t see anything! So a well driven local Porsche 911RSR took the lead, I was content to sit behind this car until later in the race to use his lights to see where I was going. We swapped positions several times and enjoyed a fantastic battle, which I managed to win, including claiming fastest lap. I was now really looking forward to racing around there when I could see something! We then had the 3-hour Enduro which included several of the cars brought over from the UK, in addition to Sports cars from the 1990’s. There was a Riley and Scott prototype as driven by Dyson and Weaver, and the 2005 Audi R8, being driven at this event by the cars owner and Gunnar Jeanette. This car did win the race, as it should have. We knew we were outclassed in this race, so settled into a nice easy pace for the 3 hours throughout which the car ran perfectly to end up in 10th place overall and first in class. Another visit to the podium and a quick check round the car to add fuel and oil, before driving straight onto the grid for the International American GT Challenge. I would be taking driving duties and from starting 6th I managed to fight my way through in the short 6 lap race up to third place and secure another fastest lap, against the rapid and highly modified Corvette and E type that are regular winners in the HSR races. Sunday would bring another race for me as Grahame opted to let me drive again. Off the rolling start, the more powerful Camaro of Alec Hammond and Graham Hathaway came flying passed as did the Mustang of Leo Voyazides. I knew I had to get passed them as soon as possible in this 8 lap race and I managed to do so. I then set off after the lightning quick AC Cobra driven by Steve Hitchins. I have had fantastic battles against this car and driver combination at Spa for the last few years so I know what a rapid pairing they make. I exploited my cars superior handling to get through in the fast turns before the back straight, before then loosing the position due to sheer horsepower down the straight. I braved it all the way around the outside through turn 17 and then stayed on the left, so I would have the inside line for turn 1, where I retook the position and held it to the end to claim 3rd place and my 4th podium of the weekend.

It had been a fantastic event for all those involved and we were fortunate enough to be awarded a signed chequered flag by all the corner workers who voted our car as best car of the weekend. Not bad for a car that is made of wood, 32 years old, and can be driven on the road! My thanks must go to the organisers from the HSR, Bernie for all their efforts in getting a great contingent of cars over from the UK and to a marshal on turn 17 named Barbara who has been there since 1957! Now imagine all the great names, cars and battles she has seen enter that fantastic corner. I returned to Sebring 10 days later for the 12-hour event, in order to meet teams to discuss the possibility of driving in the Speed World Challenge ALMS or the IMSA GT3 Challenge, Barbara was there again, as no doubt she will be more many years to come!