Laurent De Meeus and Jamie Stanley, driving an FF Corse-run Ferrari 488 Challenge, took a brace of Sprint category wins at Snetterton, while Endurance honours in Race 1 went to Simon Rudd and Tom Barley’s Team Hard Ginetta G55.
To be honest, barring incidents, the overall result was never in doubt to the hardened Britcar armchair analyst; as ever, hotshoe Ross Wylie bagged pole in the FF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 he shares with owner David Mason, half a second to the good of stablemate Stanley’s best effort in the Class 2 488, and streaked off into the lead, building an advantage of around three-quarters of a minute over first-stinter De Meeus’s 488. The Belgian finance guru pitted three laps earlier than Wylie – does the undercut work in endurance racing? – and once Mason was installed in the leading 458, and the race re-settled, it took Stanley only three laps to take first position, posting the race’s fastest lap as he made sure of his assault, then settling for a run to the flag, after 25 laps in the 50-minute race.
Standard stuff, you might reckon, but behind this leading pair was a race of heartache, intrigue, and giant-killing.
Let’s deal with the heartache first, and start with Peter and Mark Cunningham; the father and son duo were having their first event together this season, after Peter’s enforced solo effort at Donington went pear-shaped with trouble for their Porsche 997 Cup. Mark, nursing the late-stage recovery of hip surgery, was straight back into his 2017 groove, proving the best-of-the-rest with third place on the grid, but a niggling oil leak determined for them that discretion was the better part of valour, and that withdrawing would eliminate the risk of fire, accident or a lunched engine. Then there was the #285 Team Hard Ginetta G55 of Sam Randon and Angus Dudley, sidelined with driveshaft failure at the start, and then the pair of Track Focused KTM X-Bows, who had, as you will see as you read on, a mare of a race.
Mike McCollum’s X-Bow was straight into the pits at the end of the pace lap, a single cold tyre having caught him out. New rubber, some bodywork re-configuring, and he was on his way, but from a last position from which he, and second-stinter Sean Cooper, would barely recover. Team mate Sandy McEwen was in trouble too, pitting at the end of the first racing lap. Son Ross took over straight away, but his drive was blighted by gearbox gremlins, and the pair finished well down the order.
There was some good news though – it was a clean getaway as the red lights went out, and behind the leading Ferraris, Colin Willmott’s more powerful Porsche got the jump on Kristian Prosser’s BMW M3, and a fast-starting Alex Day had the Audi A4 “Sherman” well up the order. This would be short-lived, though, for others that faltered slightly at the start were getting into their stride; Sarah Moore’s Ginetta G50, then Clio Cup frontrunner and BTCC aspirant Max Coates, making his Britcar debut in Guy Colclough’s SEAT TCR car passed as well. Coates was showing his true mettle, taking Tom Barley’s Ginetta G55 and mounting a serious pursuit of Prosser’s BMW, holding fourth place, and the Class 4 lead magnificently. Other Class 4 action saw Tim Docker’s TCR VW Golf chasing Chris Bentley’s similarly-specced SEAT, though several instances of light contact saw Bentley pit for repairs. Also pitting early was Mal Sanford in the EDF Aston Martin, the drying conditions after a short pre-race shower proving slick tyres would be better than the chosen wets.
The mandatory pit stops put paid to several pursuits on the road – Coates was up to second place before pitting – and once the race settled again, it was Guy Colclough’s SEAT and Jon Watt’s BMW behind the leading Ferraris, and disputing Class 4 honours. Watt’s outstanding performance saw him pass Colclough, who would have little answer to the group of Ginettas coming up behind.
As the clock ticked down, first Simon Rudd’s G55, the Matt Greenwood’s G50, passed the SEAT on the same lap, but the move by Ed Moore’s similar Tockwith G50 at Riches next time round didn’t come off as planned; there was a clash, which saw Colclough’s TCR machine spinning into retirement, and the Ginetta carrying on minus its bonnet. And that wasn’t the end to the woes of Tockwith – Matt Greenwood just about made it to the flag with a loose front wheel hampering progress, maintaining his well-earned position.
So, a nice clean 25 laps in the 50-minutes for winners De Meeus and Stanley, who had a lap advantage over Mason and Wylie. Had the race gone on for one more lap, we could have seen the giant-killing performance of Class 4 runners Jon Watt and Kristian Prosser rewarded with second position, but third overall and the win in Sprint Class 4 for the Moss Motorsport / Woodrow BMW M3 was outstanding in any case. Teenager Ollie Willmott took over from dad Colin in their Porsche 997, taking fourth overall and the Class 2b victory, and making it a worthwhile trip for the Swiss-domiciled pair, while Team Hard’s Simon Rudd and Tom Barley were back to their winning ways, the first of the Endurance runners home, though only eight seconds ahead of the ailing Ginetta G50 of Sarah Moore and Matt Greenwood, who’s Endurance Class 4 win added to their points tally. Lone driver Tim Docker bagged second place in Sprint Class 4, ahead of the Reflex Racing Audi A4, started by son Alex Day and brought to the flag by dad Rob, while, despite that late race incident, the changes for the #15 Tockwith Ginetta G50 – elevated to the Endurance category, and with Marmaduke Hall starting the race instead of the time-honoured format of Ed Moore taking the opening stint – paid off with the teenage pair taking second in the Class E4. The delicious BMW M4 of Chris and Mika Brown endured some contact on its way to second in Endurance Class 3, ahead of the luckless pair of KTM X-Bows, while in Class 5, the ebullient Andy Napier took his Lotus Elise to victory ahead of the almost brakeless Smart 4/4 of Rob Baker and Lucas Nanetti. The SEAT TCR of Chris Bentley and John Clonis was not classified, despite finishing the race after repairing damage, and a late-race issue for Mal Sanford’s Aston Martin caused a DNF to be posted.
At the front, the Sprint element of this race panned-out much as Race 1, with Ross Wylie flying away in the FF Corse Ferrari 458, and gentleman driver Laurent De Meeus in the same team’s 488 holding second place; after the mandatory pit stops the roles reversed, and veteran David Mason took the Class 1 458 over to go head-to-head with seasoned professional Jamie Stanley, who made short work of seizing the lead and taking another win, nearly a lap ahead of Mason, who had no further threat from behind, and Wylie stamped some authority by posting the race’s fastest lap this time. But again, behind this winning pair, what a story…
Here, both in the Sprint and Endurance races, we have some zero-to-hero stories. Starting the race in the midst of the Class 5 cars were the two Track Focused KTMs, on the penultimate row was the DAT Racing SEAT TCR of Guy Colclough and starting driver Max Coates, and stone last was the Team Hard Ginetta G55 of Sam Randon and Britcar returnee Angus Dudley, having totally missed the first race due to driveshaft failure.
At the rolling start it was the usual story: the two Ferraris out front and drifting away, with Ollie Willmott’s Porsche third, but this time it was Sarah Moore who made a fast start, up into fourth place in the Tockwith Ginetta G50. Alex Day, too put in a stormer in the Audi, and kept it up, even passing Simon Rudd’s G55 on the second lap. Cutting through progressively, though, was Max Coates in the SEAT; by lap five he had got up to sixth place, then took fifth from Kristian Prosser, then fourth from Sarah Moore. All was not well with Prosser’s BMW, though, and he pitted with overheating issues. He continued, though having to keep an eye on the engine temperature, which rather hampered progress.
Alex Day’s Audi was proving a nuisance for Simon Rudd, the faster Ginetta taking a while to finally get back past the former BTCC machine, and allowing team mate San Randon, who had rapidly picked his way up the order from the back of the grid, to close up.
As the Sprinters took their mandatory pit stops around 25 minutes in, the Endurance contingent assumed the leading positions, with three Ginetta to the fore, and in close formation, just over five seconds covering Sarah Moore, Simon Rudd and Sam Randon. And fourth? Mike McCollum, with everything now OK with the previously troublesome KTM.
Stanley’s Ferrari assumed the overall lead once again, with a buffer of Ginettas between him and Mason’s 458, though Colin Willmott, now in the Porsche started by son Ollie, was being pursued by Guy Colclough in the DAT Racing SEAT, no doubt inspired by Max Coates’ earlier guards van-to-vanguard opening stint.
And so, after 50 minutes the board with the chequered edging signalled the end of the Sprint race – Stanley and Mason finishing as in Race 1, but then Guy Colclough, who had got past Colin Willmott’s Porsche and hung on to a four and a half second advantage, claiming the final overall podium place and the Class 4 victory, ahead of a cautious Jon Watt, who had one eye on the temperature gauge of the Moss Motorsport BMW M3, with lone driver Tim Docker third in class in the Maximum Motorsport VW Golf, then Chris Bentley/John Clonis SEAT TCR, and Rob Day’s Audi, the father having taken over after the son’s storming start, which earned Alex the Sunoco Driver of the Day award. Class 5 this time was turned around, with the Smart 4/4 of Rob Baker and Lucas Nanetti finishing a lap ahead of Andy Napier’s Lotus Elise.
So now the Endurance runners had the track to themselves. Simon Rudd made an early-ish stop, just as the Sprinters were finishing, and handed the #24 Ginetta to Tom Barley, resuming in seventh place, behind Sarah Moore, Sam Randon, Mike McCollum, Ben Seyfried (giving the EDF Aston Martin one of its best outings yet), Marmaduke Hall’s Ginetta, Chris Brown’s BMW M4, and ahead of Sandy McEwen’s KTM.
All pit stops were taken around the halfway mark, and the leading Marmaduke Hall being the last after posting a stint twice as long as he is normally used to. It had now, too, started to rain slightly, with lap times rising accordingly for a short while. Angus Dudley, by dint of having less of a pit-stop penalty, now held the lead in the G55 started by Sam Randon, a fitting position for the young returnee. Sean Cooper, who had taken over from McCollum in the #262 KTM, was nibbling away at the 35 second gap to the leader. Mika Brown, too, having now taken over the Jackpot Racing BMW M4 from Chris, had his sights set on Mal Sanford’s Aston Martin. To add to this action, an internecine battle between the two Tockwith G50S was brewing - with Ed Moore in the #15 car chasing Matt Greenwood’s #25, which Sarah More had placed well in contention in her opening stint, though this would be short-lived, as Moore’s car was smoking lightly and leaking fluid, and it was sadly retired. Ross McEwen, mounting a recovery in the family-crewed KTM, passed Sanford’s Aston, while at the front of the field, Cooper’s pursuit of Dudley continued unabated, while Tom Barley’s Ginetta, once a threat to the leading pair, slipped back to a comfortable third place, having seen the best of its tyres.
There were just four minutes to go when Sean Cooper took the lead from Angus Dudley, the KTM making an inevitable and fairly easy move around the outside of the Agostini hairpin. That would be the last action of the race; from a disastrous Race 1, Mike McCollum had eased the KTM X-Bow up into contention (which earned him the Britcar Driver of the Day award), and Sean Cooper had consolidated the earlier effort to take a fine win. Sam Randon, a winner on his Britcar debut for Team Hard last time out, did a great job of bringing the back-of-the-grid Ginetta up the order, and Angus Dudley hung on to the lead until the dying moments of the race, while team mates Simon Rudd and Tom Barley were in the hunt until the tyres on the title-chasing G55 went off.
In a field heavy with Class 3 machinery, Sarah Moore and Matt Greenwood held their own in the Class 4 Tockwith Ginetta G50, while Ed Moore and Marmaduke Hall were still classified finishers despite the late-race retirement.
Chris and Mika Brown did a solid job in the beautiful BMW M4 GT4, and Sandy and Ross McEwen atoned for their Race 1 woes with a good finish in the #74 Track Focused KTM, while Ben Seyfried gave the newly-refurbished EDF Aston Martin the race of its life, up to third at one point, leaving it in a good place for Mal Sanford to take it to the flag.