They both made history with Matt being the youngest ever Britcar champion and Sarah the first female champion. With Flick Haigh winning British GT, two of the main GT categories in the Uk have been won be a female driver this season.
Britcar’s Steve Wood tells us the story of the weekend’s two races;
A Britcar night race is always a thriller, and Saturday evening's 50-minute sprint race encounter was no disappointment. Alan Purbrick and David Brise took a well-deserved win in the ALP Racing Saker RAPX.
It was close though, very close; relative novice Purbrick had been closing on David Mason's leading Ferrari 458 to the tune of two seconds a lap as the clock ticked down to the 50-minutes, and in what he thought was a last-gasp attempt crossed the line just milli-seconds ahead of the Ferrari. But there was still one lap to go, and Mason stayed in touch, the two cars crossing the line less than a second apart as the flag fell. Mason had mounted a serious and impressive response to the Saker's threat, as his is wont in these situations, but likewise Purbrick was determined to grasp victory.
These two formidable performances were only half the story though; the pro-drivers in each car - Ross Wylie in the Ferrari and David Brise in the Saker - had taken the opening stints, and Wylie was off like a robber's dog as the lights went out at the rolling start, and by lap 30 had put a lap over the second-placed Class 2 Saker. The smart money was on a three-lap buffer to enable Mason to take the victory, and while those three laps were shown as the difference during the pit-stop period, it all evened-out into a one-lap deficit to chase as the second stinters settled. Purbrick's efforts earned him the Britcar Driver of the Day award.
Finishing just three seconds adrift of the leading duo was the Ginetta G55 Superprix of Lucky Khera and Declan Jones, and a betting man, knowing Jones to be the slightly faster of the two Ginetta Supercup regulars, would have laid odds on them taking the win, but despite Jones' meteoric comeback from the mandatory pitstop - only Wylie's Ferrari posted a faster lap during the race - it wasn't to be, though one lap more may have sealed it.
Behind the trio that graced to overall podium, there were tales of joy and disappointment. A bit of rubbing on the opening lap, combined with some errant debris from the carnage in the Ginetta Juniors previous race, saw three cars pit to sort punctures almost immediately the race started, leaving Kevin Clarke's BMW M3, Nick Scott-Dickeson's Ginetta G55 and Sarah Moore's title-chasing Ginetta G50 out of contention for the rest of the race despite the best efforts of second-stinters Ryan Lindsay, Ryan Harper-Ellam and Matt Greenwood, though the G55 duo did bag the third-in -class trophy for their Class 3 efforts, and the Moore/Greenwood partnership had done enough to claim the overall title. Worse though, was the smoke coming from Kristian Prosser's BMW M3, a sheared gear tooth having shattered the gearbox casing, forcing an early retirement and a threat to Prosser and Jon Watt's Sprint title aspirations.
It wasn't all bad news though - at last teenage duo Ed Moore and Marmaduke Hall got the result they deserved, their Ginetta G50 running at the sharp end of the race thoughout, and claiming fourth overall and the Class 4 victory, ahead of the whole Class 3 contingent. And that Class 3 contingent was headed by the Team Hard Ginetta G55 of Tom Barley and Simon Rudd, with second-stinter Rudd in danger of "doing an Ocon" as he, faster than the leaders in the final laps, embroiled himself in the intense lead battle as he unlapped himself to pursue the G50 ahead, while second in class was the stunning purple Marc Cars McLaren GT4 of Neil Garnham and Rob Young.
Returnee Stewart Lines, partnered by Tom Walker in the Maximum Motorsport SEAT Cupra TCR, headed a large mixed group of Sprint, Endurance and Invitational Class 4 runners, including lone driver Sam Alpass, who had his BMW M3 up to second overall during the mid-race period, and Chris Bentley/John Clonis improved their championship aspirations by claiming the points-paying Class 4 Sprint win in their SEAT Leon, though Tim Docker's VW Golf got the fastest lap as he chased to finish just 0.657 seconds behind Clonis at the flag.
It was good to see former BTCC ace and current 24-hour specialist James Kaye in the Audi R53 TCR - commuting from the Isle of Wight, he partnered Matt Le Breton to 11th place overall, ahead of fellow 24-hr regulars Dave Cox and Guy Povey's BMW M3, while in Class 5, Alyn James, back in the old-model Honda Civic of Synchro Motorsport, was the first Class 5 runner home, with Andy Napier's Lotus Elise and the Rob Baker/Lucas Nanetti Smart 4/4 taking the first and second place points.
Martin Byford had been impressive in the BPM Racing SEAT Cupra in his opening stint, but an errant fire extinguisher issue put paid to Ashley Woodman's chance to race, and series debutante Michael Crees had gone well in the Team Hard BTCC Toyota Avensis, which sadly expired with mechanical issues during Sam Randon's stint. Gearbox input shaft failure put paid to Mike Moss's progress, denying Chris Murphy his first race in the Moss Motorsport BMW 1M, while what could have been a Local Hero story for the #42 BMW M3 - George Agyeton and Dave Coyne driving, with Dave Bartrum also around - turned sour after disqualification for a pit-stop infringement.
While Matt Greenwood and Sarah Moore had now clinched the overall Endurance title, the Sprint trophy, and some of the class titles, were still to play for, and with some fixing to be done before Sunday evening's finale.
This was a race that, for the Sprint contingent, the Safety Car played a part in the result. The drama started before the race did, with the Team Hard Toyota Avensis visiting the Clearways gravel on the formation lap, and starting the race from the pit lane, while up front it was slightly different story, with Ross Wylie having to fight for the lead with David Brise's pole-sitting Saker. Side-by-side or nose-to-tail, it wasn't until going down the hill from Druids on the opening lap that the Ferrari made it stick, and then the pace of the race was slightly faster that the previous evening - Wylie had a put a lap over the whole field by lap 25 this time, five laps earlier than on Saturday evening. Lucky Khera's Ginetta G55 ran third once again, with a brace of further Ginettas behind - the impressive Marma Hall in the G50, and Tom Barley in the Team Hard G55. Making progress from low down on the grid in the early stages were Martin Byford's SEAT, Kris Prosser's BMW, Ryan Lindsay's BMW, and, after that pre-race off, Sam Randon's Toyota.
Audacious teenager Marma Hall had been running very close to Lucky Khera's higher-specced Ginetta - they swapped places a number of times, Marma got past yet again and kept 3rd with Ginetta Supercup driver Lucky pitting soon after, a good few laps after which Marma then pitted under the safety car whilst still holding 3rd overall.
The first pit-stops for the Sprint runners had just started when Rob Baker's Smart slowed along the Brabham Straight and came to a halt on the grass by the pit exit. The Safety Car was deployed to effect a safe recovery, which prompted all the Sprint runners to make their pit call. Included in this group was Endurance contender Marma Hall, though this wasn't scheduled, and the G50 was pushed into the garage in a mist of smoke and extinguisher spray. There will be winners and losers in a Safety Car situation, particularly on a short lap like Brands Hatch, and the FF Corse team got it right, Mason taking over the Ferrari from Wylie and rejoining in the Sprint lead, and once the Safety Car had done its job, continued amongst the squabbling Endurance racers (which caused him to take to the gravel in avoidance on several occasions) to finish a comfortable 21 seconds ahead of Alan Purbrick's Saker, and Lucky Khera, who was not so lucky this time - the Safety Car didn't fall right for him, and co-driver Declan Jones took the Ginetta G55 to third once again, though a lap down on the leaders after the 50 minutes had expired.
Kristian Prosser had soon risen to the top of Class 4 in the Moss Motorsport BMW M3, and Jon Watt consolidated that position to keep the pair's title dreams alive, though he threw away the class race victory with a spin on the penultimate lap of the race - "I did my celebratory doughnut a lap too early" he joked later - handing the win to the SEAT of Chris Bentley and John Clonis, making it a double win for the duo, followed by lone driver Tim Docker's VW Golf. Third place for Prosser/Watt was good enough for them to clinch the overall Sprint title though, ahead of classmates Bentley/Clonis, who started the season in casual "see how we get on" mode and finished as serious title contenders. Chris Murphy got his drive in the Moss Motorsport BMW 1M this time, handing over to Mike Moss, who took it to seventh overall and the Class 2 win, and with the demise of the Rob Baker / Lucas Nanetti Smart, Andy Napier tooled round in his Lotus Elise to take the Class 5 race victory, and the class title too.
There was still the Endurance race running, and during the Sprint runners' pit stops, this contingent had assumed the leading positions in the race, Ryan Lindsay's Intersport BMW in the lead, just a whisker ahead of Tom Barley's Ginetta G55, and Martin Byford in the BPM Racing SEAT. This came to an end rather swiftly when Lindsay avoided a spinner, only to hit another car that was unsighted in the darkness, damaging the radiator on the BMW and finishing a great run that could have resulted in a win. Barley stopped around now to hand the G55 to Simon Rudd, leaving Byford in the lead of the race; he stayed out late, later than late-stoppers Tom Walker (who had been running second, pitting for Stewart Lines), and Ryan Harper-Ellam (for Nick Scott-Dickeson). Ashley Woodman relieved Byford in the SEAT eventually, and almost immediately both Woodman and Lines were awarded drive-through penalties for pit stop infringements.
The MARC cars McLaren had already entertained Neil Garnham and Rob Young in the driver's seat, and now had Mat Le Breton, who had taken the opening stint in the TCR Audi now driven by James Kaye, taking his turn. Lone driver Alyn James, in the Class 5 Honda Civic, was audaciously mounting a pursuit, but Le Breton was able to respond, though he had no answer to his previous mount, which the marauding Kaye was bringing through the order.
BTCC aspirant Michael Crees was getting an early taste of 2019 in the Team Hard Toyota Avensis, and was in a creditable third place when the officials decided the rattling front splitter needed attention. The ensuing rapid pit stop barely remedied the issue, and Crees lost only one place, emerging on the tail of Scott-Dickeson's Ginetta. The Toyota quickly dealt with the Ginetta, which then did a 180 degree spin at Druids, dropping it down the order.
No problems for Team Hard team mate Simon Rudd though, who took the flag after 132 laps, a full lap ahead of Ash Woodman, who had atoned for the issues in the previous race, and performed magnificently in the SEAT, his efforts earning him the Sunoco Driver of the Day award. Sam Randon has performed well in whatever car team Hard has placed him in this year, and sharing the Toyota Avensis with Michael Crees, third overall was no surprise, given the unknown quantity of a BTCC car in an endurance race. It all came good after a nervous start to the weekend for the MARC Cars team; the Kaye / Le Breton Audi TCR, managed by former Britcar stalwart Tom Gannon, and the team's stunning McLaren, crewed also by Le Breton in league with Neil Garnham and Rob Young, were fourth and fifth, ahead of lone driver Alyn James who had punched well above his weight in the Synchro Honda Civic, seizing sixth overall from George Haynes' BMW M3 (with Michael Cox taking the opening stint) and finishing just over a second ahead at the flag. Nick Scott-Dickeson's late spin dropped the #285 Ginetta to eighth at the finish, a lap ahead of the George Agyeton/Dave Coyne BMW M3, with Stewart Lines coming home tenth in a SEAT Cupra shared with Tom Walker that had been dogged by component failures all weekend - they could have been contenders. In a final show of brio and defiance, Tockwith got the #15 Ginetta G50 running again, and Ed Moore rejoined the race for a sponsor-pleasing five final laps.
So, Simon Rudd and Tom Barley become well-deserved GT4 Class 3 champions. It wasn't an easy ride, they faced (and welcomed) fierce and respectful opposition from the McCollum/Cooper KTM X-Bow all season, and still raced as they normally would this weekend, despite the late withdrawal of the KTM for the final showdown due to McCollum's appendicitis.
Conspicuous by their absence in this race were newly-crowned overall champions Sarah Moore and Matt Greenwood, who, with nothing to play for other than dropped score, decided discretion was the better part of valour.