Dunlop Endurance championship is back with a splash at Silverstone

Lockie heads for the wall at the start (Photo by Marc Waller)

Lockie heads for the wall at the start (Photo by Marc Waller)The last time the Britcar Dunlop British Endurance championship had raced at Silverstone the previous season, the grid sizes had shrunk alarmingly and just two cars actually took the flag of one of the races.

But during the winter, Claire and Rob Hedley took over the championship and they’ve relaunched it.

Their new way of running things with new regulations has attracted competitors back in a big way with twenty six cars taking to the track for the first round of the new season on Easter Saturday. Claire had helped to run I the past when it regularly used to attract big fields and it’s her way of doing things that seems to have encouraged past competitors to return to the championship.

The grid had quality as well as quantity with GT3 cars made by Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mclaren, Audi and BMW among the cars on the impressive grid.

The meeting saw regular showers passing across Silverstone which gradually got worse throughout the day. Callum Lockie took pole position in a new FF Corse Ferrari 458GT3 alongside his 2015 champion team mate David Mason. They have won the previous two championships (2014 and 2015) but they have their toughest competition yet this year. Alongside them was the Audi R8 of Hudson and Wilcox with the second row made up of a second FF Corse Ferrari of Mowlem and Grimes alongside returning Britcar favourites Cintrano and Morcillo in their Mosler MT900.

The new Britcar regulations state that whoever sets the best qualifying lap must be the starting driver so Callum Lockie took the start on a now very wet track. He got a good start but had his team mates in the second Ferrari and Adam Wilcox in the HUD Audi trying to edge past.

Unusually for Lockie, something went wrong as his Ferrari turned sideways entering Copse. It wasn’t completely clear if it was a rare Lockie mistake or something else but the Ferrari went sliding off the track.

Lockie did everything he could to halt the errant car but there was a huge bang as it made terminal contact with Silverstone’s unyielding concrete wall. Lockie was out after only a few seconds with heavy damage to the car. It was the worst possible start to their title defence.

It wasn’t FF Corse’s day as they approached Club corner, Johnny Mowlem attempted to avoid a puddle by running round the outside only to find the Brand new Renault RS-01 driven by Nick Holden trying to use the same bit of track. They made contact causing damage to both cars and the Renault spun. Both cars made it to the pits,the Ferrari was terminally damaged but the Renault was patched up and sent back out. Mowlem blamed Holden for the incident, Holden understandably saw things differently! The Renault was eventually classified in twentieth, eight laps down. Bonamy Grimes, Mowlems team mate joined David Mason as FF Corse drivers unable to race!

The HUD Audi was an early leader (Photo by Marc Waller)Horrendous weather brought out the red flags (Photo by Marc Waller)Wilson and Heward took class two (Photo by Marc Waller)The winning TMS run Audi (Photo by Marc Waller)Glyn Geddie was now leading in his Mclaren MP4-12C GT3 but that too hit trouble, this time technical as it slowed going into lap two allowing Adam Wilcox in the Audi to take the lead. The Mclaren became a frequent visitor to the puts over the next few laps as the team tried to sort out the issue but it proved impossible and the Mclaren was out of the race.

Next to strike trouble was Jonny McGregor in his Taranis. This was a rebuilt version of the Ultima that his MacG racing team has run in the past. He was up to third after all the incidents but a faulty relay caused a drive belt to fail sending the car out of the race. A £5 part had cost them a potential podium and possibly even the race win.

The wet conditions were making the gaps between the classes much less and this seemed to be benefiting class three in particular as they raced in a group ahead of some of the class two cars. Mark Cunningham headed the class three pack with Chris Randall’s Lotus Europa. Hanging on to those two was the Chevron of Chris Hart followed by Jody Fanin in a GT4 spec Aston Martin Vantage.

They were soon passed by the brand new Lamborghini Hurracan GT3 of Darren Nelson who had opted to start his valuble car from the back to avoid problems in front. This was now looking like a wise move as the Sinsiter looking Hurracan in unpainted carbon fibre sliced through the field.

Meanwhile in fourth was the Audi R8 run by TMS with Phil Hanson at the wheel was circulating on its own in fourth overall. It was looking quick but not the fastest at this stage. However, Hanson’s team mate this year is the stunningly rapid Nigel Moore. Moore was to take over the car after the pitstop, meaning they were looking like they were in a very good position.

Things weren’t looking so good for Ash Woodman in his Seat Supercopa. He had been leading class 4 but before the race start, he had spun off during one of the two green flag laps. After spinning off he had been passed by the rest of the field but he returned to his grid slot for the start which is against the regulations and so he was given a stop go penalty.

Now the pit stops started with Chris Hart’s Chevron one of the first to stop as he handed over to former Travis drummer, Neil Primrose. The car was suffering from fuel feed problems as well as faulty windscreen wipers so Primrose was going to have his work but out to try for the classlead.

The first class 1 car to stop was the ING sport BMW Z4 GT3, Ian Lawson handing over to the quick and experienced Kevin Clark, their reward being fifth overall.

The stunning Lamborghini Hurracan was second (Photo by Marc Waller)Synchro won class five (Photo by Marc Waller)Cintrano and Morcillo were back and took third (Photo by Marc Waller)Century Motorsport took a class win (Photo by Marc Waller)As expected though, when Nigel Moore took over from Hanson he started setting repeated fastest laps. He quickly unlapped himself from current leader Morcillo in the Mosler and started shooting up the order. With the rules stating that the driver setting the fastest qualifying lap starting the race, Moore was unsually a quick driver in amongst mooslty “gentleman” drivers but the Lamboghini Hurracan also had a quick driver in the form of Nigel Greensall. Soon it was Moore leading by a minute and a half from Greensall In the Lamborghini. The Mosler was now down in third after making it’s pitstop as late as the rules would allow for Manuel Cintrano to take over for the final stint.

But by now the weather was worse than ever with what was quite heavy rain now changing into monsoon levels on top of strong winds blowing it across the circuit. The red flags came out and with just over thirty minutes left, the decision was made that the race would be declared a result as the weather showed little signs of improving with the circuit now heavily waterlogged.

So Nigel Moore and Phil Hansons TMS Audi R8 GT3 won from the Lmabroghini Hurracan GT3 of Darren Nelson and Nigel Greensall. Third were Manuel Cintrano and Javier Morcillo on their return to the championship. Fourth was the HUD Audi R8 GT3 of Hudson and Wilcox. The ING sport BMW Z4 GT3 of Lawson and Clark was fifth.

The class two victory was taken by the Porsche 911 RSR of Ian Heward and Darelle Wilson beating the Garnham/Young Ferrari 430 which had looked strong until a series of pit visits saw it lose any chance of a class win.

Class three was the closest class with Century Motorsport taking the class win in a Ginetta G55 GT4 driven Jacob Mathiassen and Steve Fresle just ahead of the Cunnigham and Randall Porsche and the Hart Primrose Chevron. The Fanin and Murphy Aston was fourth in class.

Class four was a one-two result for Geoff Steel racing with Sam Allpass and Lee Atkins taking the win in their BMW E46 GTR just three tenths ahead of Del Shelton in his BMW after doing the entire race on his own. The Ashley Woodman and Keith Hemsworth Seat took the final class four podium spot.

Finally class five was won by Synchro Motorsport’s Honda Civic Type R, yet another brand new car having it’s debut race ahead of the Finn Burrows Cuda Drinks Ginetta G40 and the Mini Cooper JCW of Alex Craven and Adam Bewsey.

Britcar is certainly back in a big way for 2016 and we look set for an entertaining season with a closer battle for the title than we’ve seen in recent years.  By Marc Waller

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