Britcar GT, Brands Hatch Night Race, 13/11/10
Martin’s Mosler Masterclass – but MJC Take the Overall Title
This one was easy at the front – Martin Short, driving alone in the brand-new Rollcentre “Super GT” spec Mosler, streaked away from pole into a lead that was never relinquished, at one point holding five Indy-circuit laps sway over the rest of the field, and completed 109 laps in the 90-minute race, finishing two laps up on the top points-scoring MJC Ferrari 430 of new 2010 champions Witt Gamski and Keith Robinson.
This end-of-season finale brought out a raft of invitation entries to queer the pitch for the regulars, and it was the the Aquilla and two Moslers that disputed pole in the late-afternoon 30-minute qualifying session, with Phil Bennett and Rob Huff setting the bar in the yellow Danish machine (which had suffered drive shaft breakages in the earlier untimed practice session). Short’s late-session time of 45.491 secured pole by 0.120, but the session was red-flagged four minutes early, when the Aquilla lost its left rear wheel, and was slewed across the track on the run-up to Druids. Bennett had pitted the car just a lap or so earlier, complaining of handling problems, and, now with broken and bent suspension componentry, and the race just an hour away, the machine was withdrawn, leaving a gap on the front row of the grid. The second row was headed by the returning Eclipse Mosler, Phil Keen sharing with Sean McInerney, alongside the little Orbital Sound Lotus Elise, though Jamie Stanley’s fortnight-old prediction of a potential overall win for the nimble machine was now looking doubtful in the face of the formidable opposition that had shown up.
Impressive, and heading the third row, was the Tim Hood/Fred Tonge TVR Sagaris, next to the MJC Ferrari , with any paddock-wide rumouring that a spectating John Gaw would join the join the driver line-up scotched by Witt Gamski; “It s been me and Keith all year, and that’s the way we intend to win this championship tonight”.
Alistair James has been plying his trade in various GT series, and joined the Britcar fray with regular Aston Martin driving partner Charlie Hollings, in a Plans-entered, but Team Parker-run Porsche Carrera Cup machine. They lined-up seventh, but turned-out starting the race from the pit lane, leaving the Class 2 Topcats Marcos Mantis, in the hand of guest father and son duo Steve and Jonny Hyde alone on the fourth row. Atypically towards the rear of the GT runners were newly-crowned Class 3 champions Javier Morcillo and Manuel Cintrano, the Spanish pair perhaps now having nothing to prove in the up-for-sale Azteca Porsche 996, and lining-up 10th were BTCC ace Alex McDowall and one-make specialist dad Ray, in a TCR Ginetta G50. Split by the faster Production cars, the GT grid was completed by the Barwell Ginetta G50 of Julian Draper and Time Attack supremo Andy Barnes, the Class 3 Topcats Marcos of regular Owen O’Neill and circuit instructor Graham White, and Steve Glynn, driving alone in the purple Sagaris, and complaining bitterly of understeer.
It was a clean rolling start, with Short’s Mosler converting pole into the lead, and pulling away from the pack at just under a second a lap in the early stages. The big movers in the opening laps were Morcillo’s Porsche and Hyde’s Marcos, up to fourth and fifth respectively, whilst slipping down the order were Chris Headlam, who had started the Orbital Sound Elise, and Gamski, managing the usual nightmare of a heavily-fuelled car on cold tyres in thick traffic. Within 15 laps, and with a 15 second lead, the Rollcentre Mosler put a lap on the seventh-placed Ferrari, but the Michelotto machine was now coming into play, and moved up in front of Headlam’s Lotus a few tours later.
Press-room speculation that Witt would run a short stint was confirmed when the Ferrari pitted after just 18 minutes of the 90-minute race, but, while the car was being refuelled, and Keith Robinson was pacing like a caged animal on the pit apron, the Safety Car was deployed. Tim Hood had already taken a cursory trip through the Paddock Hill gravel a lap or so earlier, but the yellow TVR Sagaris was now planted in the Druids gravel, and needed recovery.
Now, pitting under the safety car is more than often a wise move, but on the short Indy circuit, can sometimes prove disastrous. No problems for Robinson, though – the boards had only just gone out, the crocodile had yet to be formed, and the red and white Ferrari blasted through the green lights at the pit exit, and into the straggling mid-field traffic.
Taking the opportunity for the mandatory stops at this point were Steve Glynn, Chris Headlam , Javier Morcillo, and whilst Short, eighth in the queue behind the Safety Car, saw his 16-second lead over Phil Keen’s Eclipse Mosler dwindle to just eight seconds under the caution.
Racing resumed after five laps of control, but the Eclipse car was intermittently slowing after the restart, and Keen was soon in the pits, a misfire that had been apparent from the start having worsened. Sean McInerney would rejoin after 10 laps were lost, and the car ran faultlessly, but they were now too far back to ruffle the scoresheets, and would finish an unlucky 13th overall, but claim the bottom step of the Class 1 podium.
With the first half-hour – one-third distance – of the race over, Short was over a lap ahead of Steve Hyde’s Marcos, then Draper creeping up the order in the Barwell Ginetta, Chris Headlam, and Ray McDowall in the TCR Ginetta. Alistair James had managed to haul the Plans Porsche up to seventh from that pit-lane start, and Keith Robinson was 15th, and monstering the Ferrari through the Production contingent.
With most of the field clearing their mandatory stops around the hour-to go mark, the final half of the race was entered with just the leading Mosler, and the second-placed Barwell Ginetta of Draper yet to pit. Short posted the fastest lap of the race – 46.622 – on lap 69, and Draper was pitbound one lap later, but short hung it out for a further 11 laps, hitting the limiter with 24 minutes of the race left.
Once the timing screens had settled, they identified that the Rollcentre machine had retained the lead, just over two laps ahead of the MJC Ferrari. The Barwell Ginetta was adjudged to have short-timed its pit stop, and was docked two laps, team boss Mark Lemmer ‘fessing up to misunderstanding the success penalty accrued when he piloted the car to the class win at Donington; “I thought it was the drivers that got the penalty, not the car – if I’d have known that, I’d have brought the other car instead” he rued.
Two late stops – within the final 15 minutes – for the Eclipse Mosler – preceded a very late stop for Jonny Hyde in the Topcats Mantis, for the customary Topcats late-race puncture; nary a race goes by without this happening in the closing laps, and the season finished as it had gone on.
The race ended amid Production shenanigans, and Short crossed the line after completing 109 cold, dark laps. Had it been as easy as it looked? “The car is a credit to all the guys in the team that have put it together, and it’s the best Mosler I’ve ever driven. This is a new model – the Super GT – and I really came here to show it off, to show what it can do in Britcar. It was a really nice race, but I was beginning to feel dizzy out there”.
Coming home second, and thus not completing a clean sweep of 2010 race wins, were Witt Gamski and Keith Robinson, taking the overall title for the second year running; “The highlight of the year was taking maximum points in every race, and winning the 24 hours” said Witt, whilst Keith joked “the only problem we had with the car in a race was when the wiper arm failed at Silverstone – we’ll have to talk to Michelotto about that”.
Third overall, and taking the Class 3 honours, was the McDowall Ginetta , though Ray McDowall admitted that their seemingly drama-less race had some early moments: “I never expected this – I drove like a prat, and spun on the warm-up lap, and the first race lap”. The final race for the Azteca Porsche 996 saw Javier Morcillo and Manuel Cintrano come home second in Class 3, their season’s aspirations already fulfilled a fortnight earlier at Donington; the pair will race a Mosler next year. Sneaking yet another Barwell late-season podium, despite the penalty, was the Julian Draper and Andy Barnes Ginetta, whilst a steady run from Owen O’Neill and team newcomer Graham White saw the Topcats Marcos Mantis complete the class finishers.
Fourth overall, and claiming the Class 2 win, were Alistair James and Charlie Hollings, in the Parker Porsche Carrera Cup car, but that could easily have gone to Steve and Jonny Hyde, who’s solid run in the #26 Topcats Marcos was marred by that ubiquitous late puncture. Third in class, and a bit more low-key than usual, was Steve Glynn in his Sagaris. The McInerney/Keen Mosler finished 11 laps adrift, but this had been a race of low attrition, with just two GT cars lost – the Hood/Tonge Sagaris, after that early trip to the gravel. and the Headlam/Stanley Lotus, which suffered a broken driveshaft.
The last race of 2010 was just as much a curtain-raiser for 2011, as Britcar GT moves into the MSA accredited British Endurance Championship; Aquilla and Mosler set the new benchmark on Saturday evening, and just as importantly, a Martin Short throwaway post-race comment identified why the championship won’t be returning to Brands Hatch next season – “I was beginning to feel dizzy out there” qualified James Tucker’s rationale; “With the Brands Hatch GP circuit not available to us, it’s just not feasible to have the cars we’ll be running in 2011 on the Indy circuit for three hours.”
The Aquilla team claimed a top speed of 180mph along the Brabham Straight in mid-week testing, and forecast 200 mph on a good day at Thruxton. A new era dawns.