INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA, OCTOBER 4 — Era Motorsport is proud to have had a successful competition debut of their Ford GT40 last weekend at the Spa Six Hours Endurance Race at Circuit Spa-Francorchamps despite usual endurance racing drama.
In the high-attrition world of historic endurance racing, consistency and reliability is key, and in their maiden Spa Six Hours outing, Era Motorsport proved to be just as capable as the biggest names in the world of historic endurance racing.
The driving trio of Kyle Tilley, Martin Stretton, and Diogo Ferrão battled into the night reaching as high as third place, only for a ball joint failure to bring an end to their race only 25 minutes before the checkered flag.
Despite this, the weekend was still a massive success for the team, overcoming countless obstacles, and still holding with, or even out-performing the biggest names in historic racing.
For Era Motorsport, and their clients, their story of the Spa Six Hour started over a year ago when plans were made to acquire and compete with a Ford GT40 in the iconic race in 2023.
After taking over the build of the car earlier this year testing began promptly, but caused many headaches for the team as the car was broken in.
Team-owner Kyle Tilley explains, “Any time you get a new, or new-to-you race car, you’re going to run into issues.”
“You have to find the right setup, break everything in, figure out its quirks, go through the whole car and check everything, wait for weak points to show themselves, fix those, etc. etc.”
“For us, these teething issues continued right into our final test of the car before the big event, so it was real nerve-wracking arriving at the track for the event last weekend.”
“We hadn’t gotten the seat-time we wanted in the car, we hadn’t gotten the set-up where we wanted it, we hadn’t even gotten to a point where we were confident it would last past 10 laps on a circuit like Spa.”
The Era Motorsport Crew finally got a break though, as things started to turn around the second they hit the track in open-practice on the Wednesday before the event.
“Thankfully, the issues we faced at our last test session were the last we had to deal with, because once it hit the track at Spa it was perfect!”
“We went through the whole test day without issue, and really got the car handling right. I’d fallen in love with it by the end of the day Wednesday!”
Fast forward to Friday’s qualifying, and the weather had turned against the drivers, as it started raining about two hours before the session, and continued off-and-on throughout the 90 minutes of on-track action.
Despitethe rough weather conditions, the No. 18 Era Motorsport GT40 ended up seventh fastest in qualifying out of 96 cars, and was ready to take the green flag on Saturday at 3:50 PM.
It wasn’t just the GT40 that was dialed in though, Era Motorsport also had two cars competing in the Masters Historic Racing support races during the weekend; A Chevron B27S driven by Tilley entered in the Masters Sports Car Legends race, and James Hagan and Chris Atkinson’s Oreca FLM09 entered in the Masters Endurance Legends races.
These races would prove to be good omens for the team, as Hagan and Atkinson pulled out a class podium finish to start race-day on Saturday, while Tilley in the Chevron, and Stretton and Ferrão sharing another car in the Sports Car Legends race were the three fastest drivers on track.
Then it was time for the main event. “We felt pretty good going into things,” said Tilley. “The crew had spent a few late nights double checking everything they could, and even putting a fresh transmission in the car, so we were ready to go.”
Unfortunately on lap one, a scene familiar to anyone who has seen Ford vs. Ferrari played out in real life when the passenger door wouldn’t properly close, and Tilley had to pit right at the beginning of the race. Thankfully the door was closed quickly (without use of a sledgehammer), and Tilley took to the track for the stint of a lifetime.
All the way at the back of a 96 car field, saying Tilley had his work cut out for him would be an understatement, but he quickly started picking off car after car, moving past half the field after only about 20 minutes of racing!
“I was at 100% for over two hours straight in that thing!” Tilley remarked, “absolutely unreal experience, and the car was perfect through it all.”
By the end of his stint, Tilley had driven all the way from 96th to 3rd place, passing 93 cars in the space of just over two hours.
Then it was time for Diogo Ferrão’s stint. Having lost some track position during the pit stop and refueling, Ferrão still couldn’t take things easy, and set about turning in personal best after personal best as the sun set and the track darkened.
By the end of Ferrão’s stint the team had settled into a very comfortable position with a top ten seemingly secured, and still no issues on the car.
With all pit stops done and all competitors on track for the rest of the rest, Stretton was put into the car for the final push. As time ticked down, the No. 18 got into a solid groove and was running seventh overall and fifth in the GTP+ class.
Sadly, with only 25 minutes left in the race Stretton had to stop on track when an upper ball-joint failed on the car, and the rest of the race had to be abandoned for the team.
Despite this, as the checkered flag flew, the Era Motorsport team found themselves 9th out of 20 cars in class, and 35th out of 96 entries with 101 laps completed. A fantastic result by any means for a car that had to sit out the last half-hour of the race.
“This type of thing is actually why the Spa Six Hours is such a big deal,” explained Tilley. “These historic cars get raced a lot, but usually in short stints of about an hour or less. To have them on a track as rough as Spa for six hours straight is absolutely brutal on them.”
“Endurance racing is always about reliability as much as speed, but in a race like this you sometimes end up with attrition rates over 50 or 60%.”
“After how unsure we were of the car's reliability coming into the event, to have it last hundreds of miles through the week, run competitively, and the only part failing to be a relatively cheap bolt-on, something easily fixable if it had happened earlier in the race, we’ll take that as a win for the team. “
“There’s a lot of promise for this car and this team in the future, be it here at the Spa Six Hours or anywhere else we take it to race. I could hardly be happier.”