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Dunlop Britcar

Team O’BR – New Team, New Challenge In The BEC

Mark Burton and Graham Pattle, regulars in the Fun Cup and Saker Sportscar Challenge, will be contesting selected rounds, as an Invitation entry, of the British Endurance Championship in a Saker run by newly-formed Team O’BR.

Close friends for 25 years, some Palmersport track days led them to enter the VW 130hp Fun Cup championship; maximum track time rather than 10-lap sprints being their guiding principle. Within a couple of seasons, the duo had moved up to being regular top ten contenders, but, with their results then seeming to plateau, a decision was made to divert some of their budget into developing their skills with some one-to-one coaching with Britcar (and ex-BTCC) driver Eugene O’Brien. He immediately spotted their potential to become front-runners, and within just a few races they were at the sharp end battling for podiums.  Their first Fun Cup podiums came in 2009, followed by their first win in 2010.

With confidence buoyed they decided to enter the fledgling one-make Saker Sportscar Challenge in 2011.  With Eugene’s help  in making the transition, both drivers were soon close to the pace - despite the massive leap to slicks, downforce and more than double the horse power - and finished the 2012 season on a high with the Saker taking overall victory at the famous Birkett Six Hour Relay race at Silverstone last November.

This was alongside a parallel Fun Cup campaign, which was crowned, with O’Brien sharing the driving honours, by a win in the Snetterton 12 hours.

Whilst O’Brien gives his name to the new Silverstone-based team, it’s most definitely a three-way joint venture with Burton and Pattle. As well as the Saker, they will campaign three Fun Cup machines in 2013, including the Spa 25-hours classic.

The Saker marque has been around for a few years now, in the Dutch Supercar Challenge and in the one-make Saker Sportscar Challenge in the UK.  The Dutch-built car is constructed around a well-proven Subaru powertrain, driveline and componentry and features a two-litre turbocharged Impreza WRX boxer engine, limited to 275hp.  More than 65 cars, in both GT and open-top Sprint form, are active in Europe and Australia. 

With their endurance experience, the team will be unfazed by the three-hour BEC races. O’Brien has Le Mans 24hr experience (holding the GT2 lap record at one time) – part of a glittering career in just about every national single-seater formula and a spell in the BTCC as a works driver for Peugeot. He has a strong Britcar provenance too, winning in a BMW GTR shared with owner Peter Seldon; and more recently, putting in some stirring performances in 2012 in Simon Phillips’ unique Toyota MR2, in which he, literally, set the wheels alight!

Mark Burton is relishing the season ahead; “We are moving up to the big time - the British Endurance Championship - and we have  formed a new team.  Saker’s UK importer, JPR Motorsport, will be offering technical advice and assistance, as will the Saker factory in Holland. We will contest several BEC races this year, starting at Silverstone in May.   Exactly which other races we will enter is yet to be decided, but the aim is to build as much knowledge and experience as possible in preparation for a full BEC assault in 2014”.

Steve Wood