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Belcar: Transmission issue halts impressive run
Jos Menten started off his 2011 circuit racing season at Spa-Francorchamps, on the occasion of the 3rd round of the Belcar Endurance Championship, the curtain raiser for the 12 Hours of Spa. The Haelen based Dutch driver was preparing together with Reiter Engineering for the upcoming 24 Hours of Spa, a race which he in fact won two years ago. For the occasion Hans Reiter entered the Lamborghini Gallardo LM560 GT3 for the Dutch-Swiss trio Jos Menten, Peter Kox and Marc Hayek. Menten and Kox have a previous history going back to 2007, when this duo competed in the FIA GT championship with the Lamborghini Murciélago R-GT. For 2011 Hayek is the regular team mate of Peter Kox in the Blancpain Endurance Series.

During the free practice session it soon became apparent that Reiter Engineering wouldn’t be playing a secondary role in the Belgian Ardennes. However the 30 year old Menten does rather dampen the expectations: “It’s great to know that we’re playing up front, however we mustn’t forget what this is really all about. We travelled on down to Spa in order to prepare for the 24 Hours, the Gallardo is in endurance configuration, and that is our main focus point”. During the sixty minutes free practice the Reiter-trio clock up the sixth best time, a respectable distance from the front runners.

Later in the day the qualifying session was on the books. It was soon apparent that the spectators would be in for a great battle. Five makes are represented in the top-six, split by a mere half second. The GT3 lap record is also broken. Peter Kox sets down an amazing time for Reiter Engineering, but the Brabant based driver has to be satisfied with a third best time … “but it could have been a wee bit faster”, a smiling Kox commented. When the rain slowly puts in an appearance during the last fifteen minutes of the session, it is no longer possible to improve on the lap times. The Lamborghini Gallardo LM560 GT3 bearing the colours of Blancpain will start from the second row of the grid.

The climatic conditions during that last quarter of an hour of the qualifying session needed to be taken as a foreboding of the difficult conditions to be expected for the race on Saturday. On a damp track the competitors had the difficult choice of opting for slicks or wet tyres. Reiter Engineering decides to play safe and Marc Hayek takes off from the second row of the grid on wet tyres. Hayek does not take any risks and adapts to the precarious situation. In the meanwhile the track slowly dries out and the Lamborghini no longer finds itself amongst the top-ten. The team calls in its Swiss pupil after half an hour of racing, after which Kox rejoins the track on slicks. The Dutchman climbs brilliantly back up through the pack and is within sight of the leaders. It is then the turn of Jos Menten to take over the relay … just as it started to rain once again!

“We knew we still had a long way to go. The intention was for me to go out on rain tyres, but at the last moment it was decided to continue on slicks. The rain increased and I immediately felt that things weren’t right. The car was skidding from side to side and I just couldn’t keep to the pace of the other competitors on rain tyres”, Menten sighed. The team decided to call Menten back in to the pits and send Kox back out once again … on rain tyres “No sooner had Peter gone back on track that it stopped raining. The track dried out …and we were back on the slicks option. For us a great result was out of the question. Seeing our main target was the preparation for the 24 Hours of Spa we decided to carry on battling it out … until the transmission threw a spanner in the works. Notwithstanding all that I still retain lots of positive things from this race. Over these last two days we have gained loads of experience. We have a perfect endurance set-up, and we were able to experiment under the various weather conditions. Perhaps we didn’t opt for the right choices during the race, but a poor dress rehearsal promises a great show on the day”, Menten commented as he looks ahead to the 24 Hours of Spa, to be held on 30th and 31st July.
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