Byers Motorsport are in a race against time to make the start line for the National Endurance Championship decider at Hampton Downs on November 16.
Ben Byers and Christina Orr-West overcame recurring gearbox problems in their Dayle ITM Audi R8 LMS at the final round of the South Island Endurance Series in Christchurch to grab a top ten finish against the odds and secure third in the championship.
Now they are working round the clock to strip the car down, identify and rectify the alarming problem and get everything back together in time for the action at Hampton Downs this weekend, where the crew believe they will be very competitive.
“The gearbox issue appeared on Friday testing but was intermittent,” explained Byers. “The car would shift gear then automatically apply the shift blip to the throttle and it basically felt like trying to drive into the corner with the throttle jammed on. This was obviously pretty disconcerting for both Christina and I. The problem only appeared once for me in my qualifying run but unfortunately that also included an on track tangle with the Track Tec Audi and that meant more running repairs for the pit crew.
“The team checked everything and ensured the mechanical and electrical shift systems were operating correctly and for the first 15 minutes of the race we ran issue free. The problem had been happening in second and fourth gear and as I caught the fourth placed Porsche, the problem returned unexpectedly and I almost spun. After that the issue was happening with almost every gear shift and we had to adapt and manage it by changing the driving technique. It even went into full limp mode as I came in for the pit stop. That was when I thought our chances were gone. We hadn’t realised but we had also lost our tow hook in the qualifying incident which didn’t help but I managed to get the rope tied on inside the bonnet on a chassis rail and we got a tow back to the pit.
“The boys refuelled, put on new tyres and got Christina in the hot seat but still no go!! They reset the car systems with the laptop and managed to get it going, and Christina got her head down and drove it very hard indeed to make up the places we required to get some points for third place. It was an amazing performance given we still had the fault rearing its head regularly and I am surprised we managed to finish at all.”
Orr-West is optimistic the team will bounce back from the gremlins and be a force when it counts at Hampton Downs, as long as they can repair the car in time.
“The cards were certainly stacked against us, but we like a challenge,” added Orr-West. “It’s a race against time and we won’t know whether we’ll be there until relatively late in the day, but everyone is head down and bum up trying to get the car fixed. We reckon we’ll have the pace to spring a few surprises if we can make it. The car will love the longer international track and I know we will too.”