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GT Cup

Bute Motorsport GT Cup, Brands Hatch – Races 1, 2 & 3
A Jordan Witt Hat-Trick This Time

Brands Hatch mercifully remained dry throughout the weekend, but did feature a very strong wind.

Martin Short, Nick and Harry Whale, Don Grice, Richard Chamberlain, Lee Mowle, Michael Sanders and Colin Broster were amongst those otherwise engaged this weekend, leaving a much-diminished grid from Silverstone but were joined by Dave Shelton’s Mosler. Dan Stringfellow made a special effort to enter in a BMW – not his BMW, but a borrowed one, so determined was he to be out racing if he possibly could. This will be the low point for entry numbers in 2012, over 20 expected when the series gathers at Snetterton on June 30 & July 1. The clash with Le Mans didn’t help.

Rather than three conventional race reports, let’s try and weave a tale around the nine entries and drivers – so that’s Shelton and Stringfellow, plus the Jordan and David Witt Chevrons, Derek Johnston’s Ferrari 458, Kevin Riley’s Mosler, the Peter Smallwood and Chris Bentley Porsches and Peter Rowbottom’s unique Ferrari Spyder.

Jordan Witt won all three 25 minute events in the GT3 development Chevron (he’s got his eye on racing at Le Mans at a later date), but he didn’t have it all his own way, in race 3 at least.

For Race 1 Jordan Witt was concerned about the ‘pack’ bearing down on him, so he floored the throttle and was away out of Clark Curve, but Derek Johnston matched his effort, and was within 0.3s after the first lap.

Witt edged away by a few tenths on each tour, and that was the pattern of both of Saturday’s races. He was eight seconds ahead of the Ferrari after the 31 laps of the first race, six ahead after the same number of laps that comprised the second. “Jordan had a bit more weight (ballast) than me (in the second race) so I was closer to him. I kept him honest,” summed up Derek Johnston.

Jordan Witt’s only concern after the first one was that “we all thought that the track went away from us, because everyone’s lap times dropped off.” He wasn’t aware of anyone putting any fluid down.

Derek Johnston headed back to his hotel to get his head down on Saturday afternoon, before returning to the track to repeat his lunchtime feats, in a 458 that is “basically a Challenge car – it’s even still fitted with air con.”

Johnston was away first in Sunday morning’s race, and led the GT3 Chevron for eight laps, until Jordan Witt made a move stick at McLaren and eased away to his largest margin in the three races, a comfortable ten seconds at the flag. So the 1-2 in the three events was the same.

Third place was filled by the same man in races 2 and 3, and that was Kevin Riley in his Mosler. You might have read about the huge accident at Assen two years ago that destroyed his original MT900R, but the property developer / entrepreneur from Nottingham is delighted with his Mosler – although his weekend got off to a less than promising start.

“The fuel injection was faulty,” he commented, to explain why he didn’t join in race 1 until the leaders were on their 14th lap. “It was fun on cold tyres, but then the throttle stuck one-third open and I slid off. Something in the throttle body had unwound.”

Kevin may not be an engineer, but he’s certainly an ideas man in the engineering field – and it would be hard to imagine a man more excited about the projects he has in the pipeline than one K. Riley. His own KRM carbon business, in association with Amber Composites, has a very exciting aerospace project about to come to fruition, while he spent until 3am on Saturday morning regaling his wife Pauline with a design for a next generation golf buggy. She loved to hear every detail, allegedly, as she lay next to him in bed! Riley the property developer also tells a remarkable story about the behaviour of bankers in what was Fred the Shred’s empire: absolutely remarkable…. but our racing man won in the end.

His pair of thirds in races 2 and 3 were lonely affairs, almost a lap down on the winner each time, race 3 characterised by clouds of smoke from the Chevy V8 on acceleration out of Druids, for example, as oil got past the valve stem oil seals.

Third in race 1 might well have gone the way of Dan Stringfellow in a BMW, a car borrowed from old mate Russell Foster. But poor Dan had had a torrid week in the build-up to this event, as he explains.

“We were out testing at Oulton Park on Tuesday in my supercharged BMW, and it was going very quickly in the morning. But first lap out in the afternoon and it popped a piston. We got the old engine back in by the end of the week, but in testing here on Friday, after four careful warm-up laps, then one and a half at full chat, the tip of a spark plug dropped off and damaged the valves.

“I borrowed Russell’s car, but we had to make some changes to the breathing, and we think (after race 1) that it’s chucked its oil out and damaged the bottom end. I certainly had big oversteer out of Druids.”

Perhaps here was the cause of the lap times going away? Dan described the oil leak as a mist rather than a fluid leak, but despite the oversteer, he was having a very good race for third with Peter Smallwood in his Porsche.

He harried the Porsche for nearly 11 laps before getting by out of Clark Curve, and quickly pulled out nearly two seconds, but on the 15th lap, Stringfellow had to pull off at Graham Hill Bend, the engine’s bearings run. Fortunately, he and Russell Foster use the same engine builder…

Dan Stringfellow doesn’t yet know where the budget to go racing again this year is going to come from, but let’s hope this talented fellow can manage it somehow.

So Peter Smallwood took third in race 1 (with his own oversteer, above), and followed that up with two fifths. He had a lonely run after the BMW expired in the first race, and came home well clear of Dave Shelton’s Kockney Koi Mosler, but the V8 beast hauled in the Porsche in race 2 – and took fourth at the halfway point, easing away to a comfortable advantage of 10 seconds at the flag.

Smallwood looked likely to return the favour in race 3, but although he closed in towards the end, he was ultimately eight-tenths adrift. So the top five were the same in races 2 and 3.

Sixth and seventh were the Chris Bentley Porsche and Peter Rowbottom’s Ferrari – so the Porsches took Group wins in all three races (Smallwood in Group 2, Bentley in #35 in Group 3).

Chris Bentley enjoyed more close racing than anyone during the meeting. He kept the pressure on David Witt’s Group 2 Chevron throughout race 1, Dave Shelton having picked off the pair of them, but not escaped. Witt Snr. was just a second clear of the Porsche at the flag – which set the scene nicely for race 2. Bentley got away (from the neater rolling start) ahead of the Chevron and so began “a proper battle. I really enjoyed that. David was quicker than me so I had to park it on every apex.”

For 27 laps, David Witt hounded the Chris Bentley Porsche in a very entertaining scrap, and they were side by side across the line starting the 28th. The Chevron had the inside line into Paddock and was through, “but instead of getting on with it, I looked in the mirror to see where Chris was, got on the kerbs and was off into the gravel,” reported David Witt.

That backwards trip may well have been the cause of Witt’s retirement in race 3. His engine let go – and he parked it at Paddock.

That just leaves the tale of Peter Rowbottom’s Ferrari Spyder. He joined race 1 late after gear selection problems, but they persisted and he didn’t register a complete lap.

Dan Stringfellow’s team, running the 430, changed the selector, then found a gearbox pump problem, hard-wired the ECU so that the pump was on all the time – and the pump packed up.

A new one was sourced during the afternoon, and for races 2 and 3, Rowbottom had two consistent runs, the car replicating its problem-free running in testing.

He was three laps down in seventh, all on his own, in both races, lapping consistently in the 53s.

So numbers may have been down for this event, but Kevin Riley is convinced that “it’s a beautiful championship and Marc (Haynes) is committed to it. It’s perfect for an owner driver.” Next up is Snetterton on July 1.