Sunday, 12 December 2010

The largest ever Noble track day

So, what was it like at the biggest ever Noble track day? In 2005 pistonheads was there to tell us .

They go in for big numbers at Noble: the prelude to last weekend's Britcar 24-hour race saw 72 Nobles crossing Silverstone circuit’s start line shortly before Noble’s own race car took its place on the grid. And even though the Noble racecar didn't finish the event, Noble's boss, Lee Noble, reckoned the company had learnt a lot.
Officially, this was the largest gathering of Nobles in the company’s history, narrowly beating the 70 cars that lapped Rockingham’s race circuit earlier in the year. All models were present for the one-lap parade, from a trio of early drop-top M10s (only six were ever produced) to the latest, hugely quick M400 model.
Lee Noble, said after the parade: “It’s quite extraordinary that a company of our size can summon up this level of support from owners on anything less than a fully organised owners’ day. Watching all these cars cross the start line illustrates how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time. With our new model out later this year, I’m sure next year’s pre-race parade will exceed 100 cars.”
The parade was led by the company’s M400 press car with Lee Noble’s eight-year-old daughter, Amy, in the passenger seat.
After the parade, the assembled ‘Nobility’ – a name increasingly used to describe a gathering of Noble owners – converged on the race team’s pit garage to watch Noble’s competition car start the 24hr race.
The race
Last weekend’s Britcar 24-hr race at Silverstone gave the Noble race team its first chance to rigorously test an all-new platform that will underpin its upcoming road car, due out later this year.
Noble himself started the race in rain-soaked conditions from fifth place on the grid, after qualifying second in the GT3 class with a time of 2:00.11 -- an average speed of 95.72mph.
Within a few laps, Lee had settled into a steady rhythm behind the wheel of the 500bhp Noble, maintaining his grid position in a sea of spray thrown up by the Mosler and Porsche GT3 Cup cars ahead of him. Lee said: “The car felt as steady as a rock, even though there were rivers running across the track at times. Even when I did push it a bit too hard out of the corners – sometimes at over 120mph – the car was easy to control and gave me no worries at all.”
While the profile of Noble’s racer looks similar to the M12 model, its heavily re-designed chassis and in-line drive-train mark a big departure from those in the current road car. These features, along with its bespoke gearbox, dry-sump and twin intercoolers will be shared with Noble’s new supercar.
As Lee was about to finish his stint after the first hour, a fuel pump relay tripped, losing the team around eight minutes and plunging them into 41st place overall. The setback was frustrating, but as number two driver Alistair Mackinnon took over from Lee, and continued to drive the Noble harder than ever in the worsening rain, the team rapidly clawed back lost ground.
In the next five hours, Mackinnon and fellow team drivers Phil Quaife, Keith Robinson and Dave Baseley pulled the 1,093Kg Noble back 25 places to 16th position overall.
“The car felt invincible,” said Noble. “Other than the blown fuse, it really looked like we were on a roll and would finish well up with the front-runners.”
But just before 11.00pm, the car pitted with serious power loss problems. After checking the engine, it was decided that the fault was beyond repair and a decision was made to withdraw from the race after six hours.
In terms of development, though, Lee and his team gained valuable feedback from the outing at Silverstone. “Our race and road car projects are heavily linked,” said Lee, “So we’re not frightened to experiment with new or re-designed components in the race car if it means that the road car will be better as a result. Next year we’ll be back, faster and stronger than before!”
Pistonheads 2005

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