Phil Hanson and Nigel Moore steering the team’s Audi R8 LMS to a textbook victory with a lap in hand over the INGSport BMW Z4 of revered local driver Ian Lawson and Kevin Clarke.
It was clear from the get-go, from the morning’s free practice session, that the Tockwith Audi would dominate proceedings, being seven and a half seconds ahead of the INGSport Z4; OK, maybe some weren’t trying too hard in what was basically a warm-up, and Calum Lockie never ventured out in the FF Corse Ferrari 458, but nevertheless it seemed intent had been served.
This half-hour session was pretty straightforward – Nigel Moore went to the top straight away in the Tockwith Audi R8 and was never bettered. Calum Lockie jumped in the FF Corse Ferrari 458 halfway through the session and brought the gap to provisional pole down to just over a second, then 0.508, but his final attempt was thwarted by a violent spin at the Complex. The INGSport BMW Z4 was second for a while before being jumped by the Ferrari, and the Morcillo/Cintrano Mosler never troubled the polesitters this time, pro-driver Morcillo electing to scrub-in some tyres while Cintrano did the lion’s share of the work. The closely-fought Class 3 honours fell to the Whitebridge Aston Martin Vantage, Jonny Cocker having a half-second buffer over Jacob Mathiassen’s Century Ginetta G55. The three-driver Moss Motorsport BMW M3 claimed Class 4 pole, the more experienced birthday boy Rob Gillham letting Formula Jedi rookies Jason Dixon and David Cooper share glory, ahead of another three-hander, the Fothergill/Benett/Dawson Porsche 997 Cup. The Synchro Honda Civic Type R was the Class 5 Pole car, Alyn James and Dan Wheeler sharing the drive, and just making it out for one flying lap was the rather special - and very new - Moss Motorsport BMW 1M Coupe of Mike Moss and Tom Howard, the team fixing a rear suspension issue.
Lockie got the jump on Moore as the red lights went out and the pack was let loose, taking the lead into Clervaux, with a very racy-looking Kevin Clarke trying to find a way though in the Z4, though by the time they crossed the line to mark the first lap, Moore’s Audi was back in front, and the field began to spread out in grid order as the opening laps unfolded. Except for the Class 3 front-runners, that is; it was the usual story here, the fast-men of Whitebridge and Century vying for honours, with Jonny Cocker’s Aston Martin Vantage just ahead of Jacob Mathiassen’s Ginetta G55, and the pair drawing themselves close to Manuel Cintrano’s Mosler, which was rear-gunner for the Class 1 contingent. Mike Moss pitted the unique BMW 1M-E82 for a few checks in what was to be in reality a lone-driver test run; several more stops would be made before the team called it a day after doing 13 laps.
Moore’s lead had stabilised to around 18 seconds as the first half-hour of the race ticked over, but on lap 21 there was drama as Manuel Cintrano’s fourth-placed Mosler slowed coming out of the Jim Clark Esses; Cocker’s Aston seized the opportunity, but it was up at Barcroft before Mathisassen’s Ginetta came across the ailing Mosler – with Cintrano probably distracted by his problem, and Mathiassen surprised by a very slow Class 1 car, there was a clash. No significant damage was incurred, and the Ginetta was on its way again, but the Mosler was stranded, with no radio communication, as co-driver Javier Morcillo later explained to pit-lane commentator Claire Hedley; "There was an alternator problem, which we knew right from the start, so eventually we had no power, and when it stopped Manuel had no battery charge to re-start, and the radio wasn’t working either. This car is an old lady now, and though we could fix it we will be a long way behind, and Manuel wants to save the car for the next round at Silverstone".
The recovery of the Mosler necessitated the deployment of the Safety Car, and with 36 minutes of the race now gone, an opportune moment for a 25-litre splash of fuel. Just three took the opportunity though – leader Moore, second-placed Lockie (both who jumped back in the car), and Dave Benett, who handed the Bespoke Racing Porsche 997 to an un-ready Adam Dawson. Kevin Clarke assumed the lead, but the erstwhile leaders hadn’t lost much time with their stops during the caution period, and once the Safety Car came in, it was only a handful of laps before the INGSport BMW was under threat. Lockie had pitted a lap before Moore, catching him on the undercut, and took the lead from the Z4 assertively, with Moore following him through. There then followed a titanic lead battle - Lockie’s tyres had by now seen their best, and Moore’s Audi was monstering the rear end of the Ferrari. The rubber cried "enough" as Lockie fended-off yet another thrust from Moore at the Complex, the Ferrari getting out of shape and taking to the grass, and the Audi resuming a lead which it would now not relinquish for the rest of the race. Time for a pit stop for the Ferrari though, and once fuel and tyres were replenished, racing veteran David Mason got in the car for a marathon 70-minute stint.
Despite Kevin Clarke’s relentless pace, the INGSport BMW Z4 went 75 minutes before taking its first mandatory pit stop, and local favourite Ian Lawson took over for his middle stint; Nigel Moore pitted the Audi from the lead dead-on the halfway mark of the three-hour race with Phil Hanson taking over. Whilst they had now done their two mandatory stops, it was a fair bet another would be required. The Class 3 leaders had by now pitted too - Chris Murphy relieved Cocker in the Whitebridge Aston, Mathiassen was replaced by Steve Fresle in the Century Ginetta, leaving Britcar debutante Adam Dawson in the class lead in the Bespoke Porsche.
Synchro Motorsport, lone runners in Class 5, had an atypical issue with the Civic, Dan Wheeler crawling along the straight from the Chicane, and optimistically seeking a short-cut across the infield to the pit entrance - which he was not allowed to complete. Once fixed, both team and driver magnanimously accepted equity in the issue; “I didn’t turn the steering wheel as much as I should have, hit the tyres at Clervaux and broke the suspension” admitted Dan Wheeler, whilst in a separate conversation with pit lane commentator Claire Hedley, team manager Robin Tremblin confessed: “We probably left Dan out on worn tyres with no grip longer than we should have. We’ve straightened out a bit of metal that has bent, and re-aligned.” Wheeler rejoined for a few laps before handing the Honda over to an under-the-weather Alyn James, who, despite some further pit stops, took the team to yet another Class 5 win.
Another car atypically in trouble was the Century Ginetta G55, Steve Fresle failing to make it around the final Hairpin and taking a trip across the bumpy long grass on the infield, pitting immediately with obvious front body damage and possibly more. Twenty-two laps were lost while the team worked feverishly to replace both wishbones and a lower clevis, and Fresle rejoined for a short stint before being replaced by Mathiassen for a final blast into the last half-hour of the race.
As the race entered its last 45 minutes, the front-runners all reverted to the faster drivers for a final stint – Moore, Lockie, Clarke, Cocker, Mathiassen - and particularly notable had been the performance of David Mason in the #1 ff Corse Ferrari: a stupendous 70-minute stint where he brought his lap time down from 1:37 to 1:29 on his final circuit before handing over to Lockie.
There was no showboating for fastest lap in Moore’s closing stint this time - he’d already established that on the second lap of the race, and now untouchable, was stroking the Audi home, whilst Lockie was in never-say-die mode, the fastest car on track at that point. But it was Moore who took the flag with a nice round 120 laps on the board, with the Lawson/Clarke BMW Z4 a lap adrift; “We can’t catch those young lads - they’re fast and the car’s fast” admitted Ian Lawson as the clock ticked down. Calum Lockie was a further two laps down in the FF Corse Ferrari, rightly in admiration of David Mason’s middle stint, which earned the decorated art dealer the Sunoco Driver of the Day award.
If the Class 1 result was cut and dried, the Class 3 finish certainly wasn’t: the Bespoke Porsche 997 had taken the class lead before the halfway mark, and Marcus Fothergill was punching in some fastest laps to consolidate that lead, but two very late and very quick in/out pit stops proved their undoing, the Chris Murphy/Jonny Cocker Aston Martin Vantage seizing the lead in the closing stages and finishing a lap to the better at the flag, with the recovering Mathiassen/Fresle Ginetta coming home third after a frenetic performance by the young Dane as the race came to an end.
The Moss Motorsport BMW M3 took Class 4 honours after a solid performance from all three drivers - relative novices Jason Dixon and David Cooper, both with just one season of Formula Jedi to their name, had handed over to experienced endurance racer Rob Gilham for the final hour. Their win was a fitting pointer for awareness for Rob’s charity, Crohns and Colitis UK, whilst also making it to the finish after those earlier issues were Class 5 victors Alyn James and Dan Wheeler in the Synchro Motorsport Honda Civic Type R.
1st - Phil Hanson/Nigel Moore - Audi R8 LMS - Tockwith Motorsport
2nd - Ian Lawson/Kevin Clarke - BMW Z4 GT3 - INGSport
3rd - David Mason/Calum Lockie - Ferrari 458 GT3 - ff Corse
Round 6 of the Britcar Dunlop Endurance will take place on the Silverstone International Circuit on Saturday 13th August, alongside a pair of GT & Production Championship races on the same day. By Steve Wood