MSA British Endurance championship sees a big battle at Brands Hatch

Winner (photo by Marc Waller)The MSA British Endurance championship was at Brands Hatch last weekend for a three hour race on the Grand Prix circuit.

With hot and sunny conditions on race day and an increased field since the previous race, things looked all set for an excellent race. The race unfortunately needed to be shortened as an over running program meant that 3 hours would be up before the curfew at 6:30pm so it became a 2 hour 50 minute race. BTCC favourite Tom Onslow-Cole joimed the field as a one off in a Strata 21 Aston Martin also driven by Paul White and John Gaw. Several other cars joined the field for this race from the British GT championship, gaining some track time prior to their race at Brands Hatch on the second weekend of August. They included the Trackspeed Porsche and the 888 Optimum BMW Z4. Two Ginetta G55 GT3s also competed; one was the works car driven by boss Lawrence Tomlinson and Michael Simpson. The other was driven by Colin White and Tom Sharp, also regulars from British GT. Both Ginettas would start towards the rear of the field after problems in qualifying.

At the start, Tom Onslow Cole took the pole sitting Aston Martin into an early lead, closely followed by Endurance series regulars, The Neil Garner Motorsport/Azteca driven initially by Javier Morcillo. These two pulled away from the rest of the field, headed by the Bailey and Schultz Aston Martin. Their lead was to be short lived however as on lap five, the MJC Ferrari 360, driven by Witt Gamski spun and was then collected by Anthony Reid in the Chevron. The impact fired the little Chevron into the air and ripped off the side of the car. It also ripped the rear wheel off the Ferrari. By the time the two cars came to rest the track was almost entirely blocked causing the safety car to be scrambled. In the immediate aftermath several cars had near misses as they swerved to avoid both the wrecked cars and the debris that was scattered all over the track. The Safety car itself had to bring the entire field to a halt on track while a safe path through was made.

As the race got underway again, The Strata 21 Aston again pulled away with the Azteca Mosler keeping it, in its sights. Behind Paul Bailey in the other Aston was holding third, from Lee Mowle in the 888 BMW Z4 and David Ashburn in fifth. The Championship regular Mike Millard in his Rapier joined the battle and made it a four car train for third but not for long. The Rapier slowed dramatically and headed for the pits where a brief fire signalled the end of its race.

The two Ginetta’s that had started at the rear of the field were by now getting ever closer to the front and it was clear from their pace that they could be contenders, especially the works Team LNT car. Another car new to the series, a Czech built Praga was next to retire, stopping out on the GP loop with fuel pressure problems bringing out the safety car once more and allowing several front runners to make their pit stops, but surprisingly not the race leading Strata 21 Aston.

As the race went past half way it became clear that it was going to be a three way fight for victory with the two Aston’s battling along with the LNT Ginetta. The Bailey/Schulz car was now much quicker in the hands of Andy Schultz. The Azteca Mosler looked to be in with an outside chance but couldn’t keep pace with the other cars.
Highest points finisher (photo by Marc Waller)Anthony Reid Inspects the damage (photo by Marc Waller)Finish (photo by Marc Waller)It became a very strategic battle with the Aston and Ginetta teams not knowing which of them had enough fuel to run to the end and who would have to stop. The Ginetta was first in for it’s final stop giving the Schultz the lead from the Strata 21 car. It looked as though things might stay that way until ten minutes from the end, when Andy Schulz headed slowly into the pits. Had he run out of fuel? No, this was no ‘splash and dash’. The wishbone had failed and they were out. Although they were still classified in eleventh by the flag, such was their lead over some of the field.

Now the Ginetta with Michael Simpson at the wheel was closing on the Strata 21 Aston, driven for the final stint by John Gaw. It looked like the Ginetta would catch the Aston as it was considerably faster, but would they be able to pass? Soon it became clear why the Aston was now much slower, it had been fuel saving but it wasn’t enough and they pitted for a splash and dash with only 6 minutes to go.

The Ginetta took the lead and went on to win from the Strata 21 Aston Martin who was still comfortably ahead of the 888 Optimum BMW of Lee Mowle and Joe Osboune in third, meaning the entire podium was filled with invitation class entrants.

Class 2 winner (photo by Marc Waller)Class 3 winner (photo by Marc Waller)Podium (photo by Marc Waller)Ginetta have now entered three British Endurance events over the past couple of years and have won all off them, a 100% win record!

The first of the regulars home were Manuel Cintrano and Javier Morcillo in the Azteca Mosler who took maximum points in the championship gaining valuable points over their rivals.

Class 2 was taken by Peter Cook and Anthony Mott in their first race driving their Audi R8 GT3 which previously raced in the Blancpain series. A class victory was an excellent start for their new car. They were nearly a minute ahead of the Ian Loggie and Chris Jones Porsche with the Ferrari 458 of Jaqcues Dyver and Charlie Hollings. Class 3 saw another fierce battle between the Fauldsport Ginetta G55 driven by Flick Haigh and Ryan Ratcliffe against the BMW M3 of Tom and James Webb. The final hour of the race saw the two cars swapping places several times, battling although it was a short touring car race rather than a long endurance race. The Webb BMW eventually got ahead and the result was decided for good when Ryan Ratcliffe was forced to pit a lap before the end although they still were classified as second in class 3.

The championship’s next round is at Snetterton in Norfolk on 17th August. By Marc Waller

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