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Dunlop Britcar

Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship, Brands Hatch - Race Report
Spanish Win, No Inquisition.

Yes, it was another win for Manuel Cintrano and Javier Morcillo, but the Azteca/Strata21 Mosler only led for the final couple of laps in the two-hour race, in which the Paul Bailey/Andy Schulz Ferrari 430 starred. Two class titles were wrapped-up too - owing to the dropped-score ruling in the class points system, the Azteca/Strata21 squad of Cintrano, White and Morcillo cannot now be beaten in Class 1, and the Bullrun team of Adams, Green and Byford have sealed the Class 3 title.

Qualifying

There had been spots of rain as the cars filtered through the paddock up to the collecting area, but it was sparse, and soon disappeared, all the cars taking to the drying track slightly later than expected, and all on slicks. Missing was the #17 Optimum Ginetta G55, a crankshaft spigot seal having failed in Friday’s free practice session. Also not making the session was the Strata21 Porsche 997, the machine still on its way to the circuit after a late transmission rebuild- Adam Sharpe would gain dispensation to start at the back of the grid for the race, but, being the only driver in the squad with prior circuit experience, would have to tackle the two-hour race alone.

The Bullrun Lotus Evora was the early pace-setter, and it was the Class 2 and 3 cars that made the running in the opening 15 minutes, with the Abra/Poole BMW GTR, Charlie Hollings in the FF Corse Ferrari 430, Danny Winstanley (sharing Owen O’Neill’s Topcats Marcos)and Tommy Field’s Chevron GR8 all trading places in the top five, but Andy Schulz hit the top at the halfway mark of the 40-minute session, before sealing it for good with 1:27.442 on the last of his 10 flying laps.

Javier Morcillo , having qualified Paul White's Aston in an earlier GT Open session, let Manuel Cintrano take the early-session stint in the Azteca/Strata21 Mosler, and once the Spanish pro-driver was installed, it was too late to challenge for pole; four laps of waved yellows (for Matt Smith's beached Ginetta G50), then oil on the circuit, followed by an invitation Aston nerfing the tyre wall along the Brabham Straight, followed by a sudden downpour, brought his session to an un-climatic end, with only two really decent laps posted, and second on the grid, a second and a half shy of pole.

Whilst the session continued for the full 40-minute duration, the conditions made any further lappery worthless, and the track was empty by the time the chequered flag fell.

The talented Danny Winstanley assisted a still under-the-weather Owen O'Neill secured third spot in the Class 2 Topcats Marcos Mantis, while Australian single- seater ace John Martin took Nigel Mustill's newly-acquired Audi R8 to complete the second row. Charlie Hollings signalled notice of intent, heading the third row in the FF Corse Ferrari 430 shared with Jacques Duyver, and the Bullrun Lotus Evora fronted-up a phalanx of Class 3 machines – the Jarvis/Field Chevron, the Poole/Abra BMW GTR, and the second Tracktorque invitation-entry Chevron of Hart/Parr. Languishing midfield were Class 2 runners Team Tiger and Motionsport, the Phillips/Storey Ferrari 458 still suffering from the mysterious, erratic electronic ABS glitch. Class 4 pole went to the invitation –entry Optimum Ginetta G50 of Joe Osbourne and Ryan Ratcliffe, with the top registered contender being the Intersport BMW M3 E92 of Kevin Clark and Wayne Gibson.

Race

With the race starting a few minutes late from its scheduled 16:20 slot, the curfew-beating 18:28 finish meant the race would run around four minutes shy of the intended two hours, and, on a dry track, Paul Bailey eased the SB Race Engineering Ferrari 430 into the lead of a somewhat cautiously-starting field, though making the most of the mass trepidation were Martin Byford and Pete Storey. The Lotus picked off the cars ahead with seemingly consummate ease, and by the end of the first lap Byford was second, but four seconds adrift of Bailey, who was exploiting the virtue of a clear track ahead. Storey, too moved through the order in the Motionsport 458, taking Mustill’s Audi R8 for fourth as they crossed the line for the first time. Cintrano was Storey’s next target, same place, next lap, and the Mosler was demoted to fourth place.

The Motionsport Ferrari, though, had Jon Finnemore’s Team Tiger Marcos in its wake, and the venerable orange car was on a roll, seizing third place from Storey at Druids, posting the fastest lap so far, then challenging Byford’s Lotus in the space of three laps. Druids again, lap seven, and the Marcos got past the Evora, and was soon just half a second adrift of leader Bailey.

So early in the race, and some unexpected positions – Kevin Clarke, still nursing a back injury, had made it up to seventh overall in the Intersport Class 4 BMW E92, but had just been taken by Jacques Duyver, the South African novice now mounting an impressive recovery after slipping back a little in the FF Corse Ferrari 430. Ahead of him was Tom Webb, proving a point in the GTS-run GTR.

Adam Sharpe had hauled the Strata21 Porsche 997 up from the back of the grid into a midfield position, but had Matthew Parr’s Chevron tucked in behind him, just ahead of the squabbling Chevrons of Nick Jarvis and Jensen Lunn, going three abreast with Steve Guglielmi’s Elise.

Finnemore had now seized the lead from Paul Bailey, and began to eke out a small lead, then, with barely 20 minutes on the clock, some pit stops were taken – Adam Sharpe first, taking on fuel, then Mick Mercer, who after the Topcats team had made some investigations under the bonnet, handed the #85 Ginetta to son-in-law Gary Smith. Sharpe stopped again, but was soon on his way, and Parr was making a nuisance of himself once again in the lime-green Tracktorque Chevron, having now invited himself into the fight between the BMWs of Mark Poole and Kevin Clarke, who were taking their skirmish towards Owen O’Neill’s Marcos. Jensen Lunn slowed in the Chevron, pulling off onto the service road at Surtees, and with the help of some uphill pushing by the marshals, made it back to the pits for attention, where he was joined by Paul Bailey’s Ferrari, pitting dead on the half-hour mark, for fuel, and to let Andy Schulz take over. Nigel Mustill brought his ex-United Autosports Audi R8 in to, but got back in the car after fuelling.

Tom Webb was now threatening Cintrano’s Mosler for fourth place, and the Parr/Clarke/Poole trio were still at it, three abreast across the line, and somehow all making it through Paddock behind the #35 Topcats Marcos. Two Ginettas pitted – Peter Smith handing the Redgate/Virgo machine to son Matt, while Duncan Pittaway’s Kit Kat liveried G50 took a long stop for attention.

The men in serious trousers had already issued warnings about not respecting track limits, and now three cars attracted five-second penalties – Mark Cunningham’s Seat Supercopa, and the BMWs of Clarke and Poole, who had obviously taken their pitched battle across the white lines of acceptability. Tom Webb moved past the Azteca Mosler, and Parr had enough of following O’Neill, those moves coming on the same 24 th lap as Schulz unlapped himself from second-placed Pete Storey in the Motionsport 458. Storey, in fact, was soon to assume the lead, as the luckless Team Tiger Marcos was retired with an unexplainable rear-end vibration – another dnf for the car which, at this race at least, had shown its true potential.

Forty minutes offered another benchmark – pit stops for O’Neill, handing the silver and orange Marcos to young hotshoe Danny Winstanley, Matthew Parr in for Chris Hart to take over the #73 Chevron, and Paul McNeilly letting Jamie Stanley out in the Fox Lotus Elise. The Topcats crew were kept busy, as Rob Wilson pitted the "big green" Mantis next time round, handing the car to Raphael Fiorentino.

Steve Guglielmi’s Elise was nose-in to the tyre wall at Paddock, allegedly after a misunderstanding with the Cunningham’s Seat, and the waved yellows caused a bunching-up of Cintrano’s Mosler, Duyver’s Ferrari, and the Optimum Ginetta of Ryan Ratcliffe, all squabbling over fourth place.

The waved yellows were soon substituted by the SC board, and with 50 minutes gone, a perfect time for a mandatory pit stop. Most took advantage, with Motionsport executing their signature move with the 458 - two stops, on consecutive laps, for two fills of 25 litres – but the competition has got wise to this now, and both Azteca and Optimum pulled the same stunt. The Kit Kat Ginetta rejoined at this point, with Tim Dutton at the wheel, but there was trouble for another of the marque; Gary Smith slowed in the Topcats machine approaching Paddock, causing the crocodile to brake sharply to avoid passing under the caution, and almost causing a multiple rear-ender. Smith pulled over onto the grass, and was recovered back to the pits, ending the race for the Ginetta, and, once the field was released once again, non-stoppers Byford and Webb were the leading pair, with only a second separating them, but Schulz had been taking no prisoners in the SB Ferrari 430, and within two laps was back in front.

Mustill’s Audi R8 had by now retired, as John Martin explained: "I took the car over from Nigel, and ‘bang’, suddenly no drive. Nigel took a bump in the side early on, so maybe that fractured a driveshaft". Another retirement was the Motionsport Elise; Ben Gower had taken over from Gary Coulson, but the officials had identified a concern, and called the car in, causing an atypical non-finish for the usually reliable machine.

Javier Morcillo was now making up for lost time, those two pit stops during the caution attracting an extra minute of success penalty for the Mosler, but he'd taken Simon Phillips (now in the Motionsport 458) for sixth place, then carved through the lapped cars to get on the tail of the Optimum Ginetta now driven by Joe Osbourne. The two cars still yet to stop, Martin Byford's Evora and Tom Webb's BMW GTR, were engaged in a skirmish which was interrupted by Raphael Fiorentino, showing no respect as he muscled the #34 Marcos assertively between them to claim a lap back.

Charlie Hollings was Morcillo's next target, then Webb, then Byford, all on consecutive laps, and then he was second, 23 seconds adrift of leader Schulz, with around 40 minutes to go, but only a second a lap quicker, and Schulz responding.

Possible?

Maybe.

It then suddenly looked a whole lot more possible, as waved yellows at two places on the track became a full-course caution. Jeff Mileham had rejoined in the Elise that had been recovered after Guglielmi's altercation, but all was obviously not well with the car, which had come to a halt on the grass at the entrance to the GP loop, whilst, in a separate incident, Wayne Gibson had stopped out in the country after a wheel hub sheared from the spokes on the BMW E92 started by Kevin Clarke.


Both Byford and Webb dived in for their mandatory stops, but while James Webb rejoined in GTS BMW, finding the lights green at the pit exit, David Green had to sit tight in the Bullrun Lotus, waiting for the 30-second success penalty to tick over, added to which he was held at the pit exit as the Safety Car train trundled by. Also making a stop was Danny Winstanley, having picked up a puncture in the #35 Marcos, and Peter Cunningham, handing the SG Racing Seat Supercopa to veteran Formula Ford and frozen fish exponent Frank Bradley. The Safety Car had picked up the leading car, and Schulz only had the BMWs of Mark Radcliffe and Richard Abra between his Ferrari and Morcillo’s Mosler.

Once the field went green again, Morcillo had to hold back whilst Abra and Radcliffe conducted a bit of business through Paddock, the white GTR unlapping itself from the Class 4 Intersport E46, but once that was settled, the Mosler latched onto the Ferrari’s tail, and the pair circulated around a second apart. Charlie Hollings had got the jump on the Class 3 contingent, and now led them, with James Webb second, a mercurial Tommy Field making up ground in the Tracktorque Chevron, and Green in the Bullrun Evora.

Hollings then squandered the potential class win with a fuel stop, 22 minutes from the end, whilst out on track, the leading pair were cutting through traffic, and Schulz was slamming the door on Morcillo when they found clear air into a corner. More late pit stops – Adam Sharpe’s Porsche 997, and another puncture for Winstanley’s Marcos, plus the retirement of the Fox Motorsport Lotus Elise, which Jamie Stanley had skillfully moved up to 10th place in earlier - were distractions from the lead battle, which came to a head on lap 68. As they rounded Druids, the Mosler dived for a gap on the inside, but the Ferrari turned in. A light tap put the 430 into a half-spin, and Morcillo carried on, leaving Schulz to perform a laborious three-point turn to continue.

And so it finished, four minutes short of the intended two hours, and on the cusp of the curfew, but it was a strangely unsmiling Spanish duo that lined up awaiting the podium presentations. "It shouldn’t have finished this way. Andy turned in aggressively, as he should, that’s what you do, but I saw a gap, then he used it, so I had nowhere to go. I must say, I am broken hearted" rued Morcillo.

A discussion with the stewards by the SB Race Engineering team identified the conclusion as a "racing incident", and it was relatively friendly podium presentation that ensued, completed by Joe Osbourne and Ryan Ratcliffe, who had driven a subliminal stormer in the Class 4 Invitation Optimum Ginetta G50.

Joe Osbourne related his story of the race to The Checkered Flag's Jame Broomhead: "Ryan had been behind the 70 Ferrari for a lot of his stint as well so it was a long old battle between us and when I came out after my stop under the safety car there he was. Their car had a lot more power than us so he was pulling away from us on the straight. It started to look like he just ate his tyres so I started to reign him back in, then he had a fuel problem which handed the position over to me and I had a relatively easy final 30 minutes to be honest".

Andy Schulz was keen to highlight the importance of Paul Bailey’s opening stint; "Paul’s stint was mega – his best-ever performance in the car; he led a whole lot of laps, and his times were spot on", whilst Bailey himself added "the pressure was extraordinary today, in front of a big crowd, it was important I did well" Schulz also alluded to the late-race battle with Morcillo; "It was a brilliant race, a good scrap, but the Safety Car didn’t help us, Javier did well under the yellows . I really had to focus then, drive every lap like a qualifying lap."

Making light of their ABS issues were Simon Phillips and Pete Storey, winners of Class 2 in the Motionsport Ferrari 458, and fourth overall, while Tom and James Webb at last took a well-deserved Class 3 win. The brothers have always been front runners, but a litany of missed calls, misinterpretations, and punctures, phantom and real, have blotted their record, but today, there were no issues, Tom particularly put in a superb long stint, and the team called the pit stop just right. "I was on holiday last week, and got the most painful sunburn on my shoulders, plus we’d never raced on this track before, so qualifying was a scramble, but we had the pace today. I’d like to thank all the team at GTS for a great car a fantastic effort" said Tom. That class win could have gone the way of the Hollings/Duyver Ferrari 430, but for that late fuel stop. "We’ve only got a 60-litre tank in that car, we’ll have to change it if we’re getting serious" revealed Hollings.

Seventh overall, and completing the Class 3 podium, were Nick Jarvis and Tommy Field, in the Gulf-liveried Chevron GR8, with Essex engine-builder Field putting in his usually stupendous performance after a solid opening-stint by track virgin Jarvis, and they finished ahead of the Bullrun Evora, which didn’t have the legs of the Chevron in the latter stages of the race. The Topcats team had their Marcos duo in eighth and ninth places, propping-up the Class 2 podium, the #35 O’Neill/Winstanley machine surviving two punctures, whilst Raphael Fiorentino assertively complemented Rob Wilson’s opening stint in the #34 car.

Second in Class 4 was the invitation entry Intersport BMW E46 of Adam Hayes and Mark Radcliffe, the Production Cup regulars faring well amongst the GT field. "100% consistency, and a good pit stop, the first production car home" said Hayes, and Adam Sharpe took the untried, untested Strata21 Porsche to third in Class 4 alone, but why so many pit stops? "We had the wheels powder coated, and the nuts slipped loose on the new surface, plus we were running on old tyres, then we were called in because the observers had spotted the car on fire, but it wasn’t, we couldn’t understand that" he explained.

Peter and Matt Smith had a seemingly trouble-free run in the Redgate/Virgo Ginetta G50, which they recognise has difficulty keeping up with the rest of the Class 4 field, and the Kit Kat G50 finished the race despite its long stop, thanks to the resolve of historic regulars Duncan Pittaway and Tim Dutton. The Jensen Motorsport team salvaged their earlier woes, Mark Steward finishing the race sixth in Class 4, and Chris Hart brought the lime green Class 3 Tracktorque car home 12th overall. An atypical low-key finish for Richard Abra and Mark Poole come home 15th, ahead of the three-driver SG Racing Seat, the Cunninghams admitting it was all about racing on a classic circuit as much as anything else.

We may have champions-elect in Classes 1 and 3, but those same teams head the overall points standings, with Bullrun just one point ahead of Azteca/Strata21, so a win and fastest lap for both is essential at Snetterton, to maintain the momentum.

Steve Wood