Endurance Category round 1:
10th April 2020
So it was another win for Richard Neary's Mercedes in the Sprint category, and once again the Ferrari 488 of Ivor Dunbar and Johnny Mowlem took the win in the two-hour Endurance race, but the way these victories were achieved was totally different to the opening 50-minute race.
Having doubts about risking his Mercedes in a trip through the paddock to the collecting area to start the race, Neary elected to join the rear of the pack from the pit lane after they had taken the rolling start, leaving Ross Wylie's Ferrari 458 to thrust unchallenged into the lead, which by lap two was already eight seconds over Michael Igoe's Porsche, who was followed by Dunbar's Ferrari 488, David Brise's Saker, and John Seale in his 488. Neary was already cutting a swathe through the field, and six laps in was chasing Dunbar, who by now had got back past Igoe for a distant second position.
Behind this, Kevin Riley's Mosler was pursuing the Taranis of Ben Sharich, Jayde Kruger's Ginetta was racing hard with the Volvo Silhouette of Sam Allpass, and in Class 3, Sarah Moore and Adam Morgan resumed their dispute of the class lead; the fast lady from Tockwith had her Ginetta in front at first, but then the BTCC star edged ahead in the SEAT, and Tom Barley got his G55 past too. There was trouble ahead, though - a contretemps over a piece of the Brooklands tarmac saw Rob Young's BMW out of shape and the luckless David Holloway stuck on the grass, unable to move his Ginetta. There was a little confusion - the marshals approached the stricken car, pondered, then backed-off to safety as a light drizzle began to fall. The pit-stop sequencing for the Sprint runners had started - Igoe and Riley were the first - and then the Safety Car was deployed.
By now it was just about the right time for the Sprinters to make their mandatory stops, and they were joined by a smattering of the Endurance runners too; a little too early in real terms, but handy for a 25-litre fuel splash, and maybe a tyre change to wets. Kevin Riley's good run came to an end when the Mosler got caught-out by the worsening conditions and went off, and the troubles for the Watt/Prosser BMW continued, Prosser crawling into the pit lane to retire, joining the Garnham/Young BMW and the Porsche of Peter Challis on the list of early DNFs.
Luke Williams/Andy Demetriou had an edge over their Black Mamba team mates
David Mason had taken over the leading Ferrari from Ross Wylie, gifting the lead to Allpass's Volvo during the pitstop sequence, but now, with the Safety Car letting the field go again, and the rain showing no sign of abating, he had the Taranis to contend with, and, more importantly from the Sprint context, Neary's Mercedes on the hunt. One flying lap was all it took, and when the chequered board was shown to end the 50-minute race, Neary was over half a minute up on Mason, with the Michael Igoe/Adam Wilcox Porsche sealing Class 2 ahead of lone-driver John Seale's Ferrari 488. Tyres were key to Neary's win - "We made a good shout on tyres; we didn't need wets, but we knew the rain was coming" - while Seale said conversely "I stayed out on slicks - that was a poor call".
It was a return to form for Dave Benett and Marcus Fothergill, taking the final Class 2 podium position in the Tockwith-run Porsche 997, and Class 4 saw a reverse of the previous race's finish, with an almost-emotional Rob Day proud to take the class win with son Alex in the ex-BTCC Audi A4, ahead of fellow Essex-boy John Clonis, partnered by Chris Bentley in the SEAT Leon. Tim Docker made it a clean sweep of Class 5 victories, his VW Scirocco finishing ahead of the Lotus of the tenacious Andy Napier, who's endurance driving skills were later praised by sector-specialist Johnny Mowlem, with the handful of a Holden V8 gamely driven by Rob Baker and teenager Lucas Nanetti coming home third.
Once again, the Purbrick/Brise Saker had been impressive, running in the overall top five, but an off-circuit excursion towards the end of the 50-minute race saw it needing recovery, and the Safety Car deployed once more, just as the Sprint runners were being called in.
The caution lasted for three slow laps, and once the field was let loose again, all having taken at least one pit stop, it was Johnny Mowlem now leading in Ivor Dunbar's Ferrari 488, ahead of Jayde Kruger's Ginetta, and Black Mamba team mate Luke Williams. The Class 3 theme continued with the KTM X-bow, the Barley/Rudd Ginetta, then Class 2 runners Alpass/Primrose Volvo and the Porsche of Ian Heward and Oliver Willmott. Not in the top overall places at this point were any of the Class 4 contingent, the Team Hard Ginetta of Adam Hatfield/Callum Hawkins-Row, nor, significantly, Jonny MacGregor, who was now piloting the Taranis. But, oh, how things would change before the flag fell!
The rain was now intense, and the Kruger/Papageorgiou Ginetta was delayed by electrical issues, though there was some real racing going on in the dismal conditions, Sean Cooper, Neil Primrose and Luke Williams all playing a part in the action. But then the weather started to catch people out, and it wasn't a case of if you were going to go off, but where, and how well you could recover; the Porsche Cayman of Rick and Brad Nevinson was recovered under yellow flags after an off, but would go no further, and Mal Sandford retired the Aston Martin started by Ben Seyfried with a gearbox issue.
Mowlem carried on in the lead, but even he was using all of his considerable expertise to keep the Ferrari on the road, his wet tread Dunlops, as with many, now way past their best. Simon Rudd pitted the #24 Ginetta - running too cold and a battery issue was the official Team Hard line - and the Volvo went off just before the end, as did Luke Williams' Ginetta. So those that had been languishing now moved up the order; Stewart Lines had pushed the SEAT into the top five, but was now the target for the faster cars behind him - Sean Cooper's KTM had to make a pit stop which thwarted progress, and Callum Hawkins-Row endured a spin or two in his enthusiastic pursuit, but it was Jonny MacGregor who was coming on best - a trip over the scenery dislodged a clip which threw the bonnet of the Taranis off, but he continued unabated.
Mowlem made a very, very late pit stop for tyres, but he had time in hand, and the FF Corse-run Ferrari 488 shared with Ivor Dunbar finished the race still a lap ahead of the bonnet-less Taranis of MacGregor/Sharich, a stunningly reliable drive which earned Jonny MacGregor the Sunoco Driver of the Day award. "Ivor handed me the car in the lead, and it just got better in the wet, though towards the end it was aquaplaning so we came in and changed the left rear" summarised Mowlem on the podium.
Luke Williams/Andy Demetriou had an edge over their Black Mamba team mates
Stewart Lines, his tyres down to the canvas, held on to claim third overall and first in Class 4, after Adam Morgan's solid opening stint in the Maximum Motorsport SEAT Cupra, ahead of the Tockwith Ginetta G50 of Sarah Moore and Matt Greenwood, her celebrated dicing with BTCC ace Morgan earning her the Britcar Driver of the Day award, while lone-driver Alyn James found the rain a leveller in the Synchro new-shape Honda Civic Type R, bagging third in class, though not entirely happy with the car's place in the structure.
Fourth overall, and first in Class 3, despite a frenetic final half-hour, was Callum Hawkins-Row, stepping back from British GT for a last-minute drive in the Team Hard #285 Ginetta G55 with Adam Hatfield, who had been praying for rain before the start - his faith obviously paid off. Stablemates Tom Barley and Simon Rudd drove through their issues to finish second in class, with the problems for the Kruger/Papageorgiou Ginetta and the McCollum/Cooper KTM X-Bow relegating them to third and fourth respectively.
And lastly - the final finisher, the Newbridge Porsche Cayman of Britcar's own Chris Valentine and absolute beginner Nick Scott-Dickeson, who kept in on the island - well almost as Nick did have a spin late-on - and did what they set out to do, though the team did incur a slapped wrist from the men in serious trousers in the form of a stop/go penalty for a refuelling infringement under the Safety Car. Chris held-out on slicks in the pouring rain right up to planned pit stop a half-way mark, and fulfilled his ambition of bettering his lap times and keeping in touch with/ahead of the Nevinson's Cayman, and Nick got two valuable and well-earned signatures on his licence.
Text: Steve Wood; photos: Paul Cherry