A team that, according to the drivers, only came together in the few weeks before the race, emerged victorious from the 2010 Britcar 24 Hours, fighting back to beat a field of international teams and drivers to complete a dream year for the squad.
The four man team at the helm of the MJC Limited Ferrari combined the pairing of Witt Gamski and Keith Robinson, who have won every round of the Britcar championship so far this year at the wheel of the Ferrari, and Phil Dryburgh and John Gaw – more naturally at home in a Porsche under the Kinfaun Racing name.
However, the combination looked to have a tough task to continue the winning run. Fighting against four Moslers and a shockingly quick, star-studded Aquila for class honours plus the Austrian Jet Alliance team from Class 2 and the promised reliability of the GT4 cars of Class 3 there was plenty of opposition on hand in the 60 car field that took the green flag at 4:30pm on Saturday.
From the start everyone's fears were realised. With Rob Huff at the wheel the yellow Aquila romped away, running away with the race. Huff had lapped all but the top three inside the first hour and had pulled a two lap lead by the time the WTCC driver ended his stint in the car, handing the yellow peril to Kelvin Burt.
Four hours into the race the car had a four lap advantage over the Ferrari in second, but reliability was to claim the Aquila's lead – and then race. A pitstop – initially seemingly to fix the car's taillights – turned into a stay in the garage to repair a broken suspension cross member that saw the car plummet out of the top forty before a return to the track, and of the relentless pace began to haul it back up the order past the lower class cars.
The Aquila's race came to an end in the early hours of the morning in the aftermath of a sticking throttle.
While the car's pace deserved better than retirement, it breathed new life into the race for the overall lead. After the Aquila had sacrificed its lead it fell to a fight between the Moslers of Rollcentre Racing and Topcats Racing, the MJC Ferrari and the Jet Alliance Porsche.
The Rollcentre car, the team debuting a new spec 'baby' Mosler, briefly led before a fleet of problems began to frustrate the team – previously the only ones to better the Aquila on pace when they led Friday night's qualifying session.
An electrical problem was the main culprit the car having to be pushed into the team's pit on two separate occasions, though Jon Barnes' heavy off at Priory did nothing for the team's chances as it severely damaged the rear of the car, resulting in what Martin Short called a “big job” in conversation with his team as the swarmed over the car.
The final blow, was left to the electrical malady. The team were unable to find the source of the problem, which caused a worrying burning smell in the cockpit and Short was left with no option but to retire the car he shared with Barnes, Steve Quick and Andy Neate – the BTCC driver returning to the site of his horrific crash two years ago.
Delays for the Topcats Mosler, though nowhere near as serious, left the Ferrari and Porsche at the head of the field.
The stage was set for a duel to the flag.
The pair swapped the lead through the earliest hours of Sunday morning, until the Ferrari was handed a one lap penalty for speeding in the pitlane. The cushion only grew when the Ferrari was penalised a further lap in the sixteenth hour – this time after Phil Dryburgh had passed the red light at the end of the pitlane.
Jet Alliance's lead swelled to four laps shortly after the second penalty was applied before the Ferrari began a headline grabbing fightback. The team's efforts injected new life into a race that only looked to be headed in one direction as they fought their way back onto the lead lap to take the lead five hours to go, Gaw sweeping past Vitus Eckert in the Porsche to take the lead to take the lead away from the Porsche for the first time in seven hours.
The race would be decided in the final hours as both the leaders tried to play with fuel strategy to save time. Gaw, back in the car after a Keith Robinson stint, chasing down Mikael Nkyjaer for the lead before the Ferrari squad blinked first, taking their final stop, taking just enough fuel to get them through the final hour. Once Nykjaer had pitted for his final stop of the race the lead stood at 30 seconds, which after a very brief hiccup Gaw only extended to take the checkered flag by nearly a minute over the Porsche, driven ably through the 24 hours by Marco Seefield, Lukas Lichtner-Hoyer and Martin Rich alongside Eckert and Nyjaer.
The mood of jubilation in the MJC camp was obvious to see in their post-race words. “The best drivers, and the best bunch of people, all working together,” enthused Gamski. “Everybody in the two teams (MJC and Kinfaun)did their bit to make this work, and Cristiano Michellotto built us a great car.”
“We won against a top international professional team, and that makes it even better,” said Gaw, to which Gamski added ”they've probably never even heard of us – they have now!”
The result was not without controversy. Under the final safety car the Porsche had been held by the red light at the of pitlane, losing most of a lap to the Ferrari. It was part of what Martin Rich described as a “bitter sweet” result, though the lone Briton did congratulate MJC Limited on running a “blinding” race.
It has yet to be seen whether a possible appeal over the event could be lodged.
The Ferrari and Porsche won in Classes 1 and 2 respectively, both my comfortable margins. The Topcats Mosler finished second in the top class 18 laps behind at the end of their own recovery drive after earlier delays. The Strata 21 Mosler claiming third position in class.
The Porsche's advantage was even greater. The Class 2 field serious under-subscribed as only four cars started the race, one of which – the Track Torque entered Chevron – only completed a handful of laps before chassis damage ended its race. The Topcats Racing Mosler finished second in the class, 52 laps behind the Porsche.
Similarly Classes 3 and 4 were won by supremely reliable performances and by large margins.
The Neil Garner Motorsport/Azteca run Porsche won Class 3 with a six man crew that included three Spaniards – Javier Morcillo, Manuel Cintrano and Oliver Campos-Hull – and past champions Jan Persson, Rob Barrett and Jay Shepherd.
The team emerged ahead after the early pace of the Team Lotus Evora GT4 and the RJN Motorsport Nissan was thwarted by mechanical problems – the Lotus with a gearbox failure that kept the team of Ollie Hancock, Johnny Mowlem, James Rossiter and Gianni Giudici in the garage for a number of hours.
Rather than the star studded international squads the stiffest challengers appeared to be the Intersport team and their BMW. The team, which included Mike Jordan, had led the class before a cruel twist of fate ended their race shortly before half way.
Ian Donaldson at the wheel of the car, he went off avoiding a spinning car, lightly hitting the wall in the process before continuing on. However, when Donaldson reached Club the car refused to turn the resultant incident doing heavy frontal damage to the car.
Still with the bulk of the field made up by the Class 3 ranks many other teams were rewarded for their trouble-free runs with finishes well up the overall order – six of the top ten came from the class. The six-handed Porsche ran “like clockwork” in the words of Persson, the only blip coming inside the first few hours when contact with the Evora resulted in the need to change a tyre.
The Aston Martin N24 GT4 of AMR Jota Sport finished second in class, though eight laps behind the Porsche with the Welch Motorsport Seat Leon Supercopa of Clint Harvey, Malcolm Niall, Brett Niall and Daniel Welch emerged in third place in class, three laps to the good over the all-German Tischner Motorsport squad in fourth.
The Production class was all about one car – the Team LNT Ginetta.
The car, running in Ginetta's familiar orange, was only built at the company's Yorkshire factory on Tuesday before being driven down to the track for the test sessions, the plan being to drive the car back up to Yorkshire after the race.
It did, however, look very different in the build up to the race. BPM Racing had led the class easily in both qualifying sessions with their Leon Supercopa and they took an unsurprising early lead. However, after only a few hours they found their charge temporarily halted by broken suspension after contact with another car, and when they returned to the track they had fallen down the order. They would retire permanently shortly after midnight with an ECU fault.
BPM's early halt left the Ginetta in the lead and almost unstoppably the team of Stewart Linn, Mike Simpson, Nigel Moore and Lawrence Tomlinson pulled the G40 further and further into the lead, an easily replaced windscreen wiper about the squad’s only problem.
They were inevitably helped by problems for many of those who took the role of their nearest competitors. Chimp Tune Racing's Lotus, Mardi Gras' Honda Integra and the better of the two Mazda MX5s all took turns in applying increasingly distant pressure to the Ginetta squad but all would fall foul of mechanical problems.
It was Ginetta owner Tomlinson who was given the honour of finishing the race in twelfth place overall and a whopping 16 laps ahead of the next car in class – the Cox family run Ford Escort Cosworth Turbo. Saxon Motorsport claimed third in class having lost late ground to the Cox car.
“The only change we made was to remove the number plates,” said Tomlinson after the race. “We're taking motorsport back to its roots, when people drove their cars to the circuit all the time. All the team and drivers did a great job, and the car fitted well in its class.”
The race saw several safety car interventions, including two for the weather conditions – a ninety minute tranche for fog in the early morning and another for heavy rain during the daylight hours of Sunday. It must be said that compared to past years when the race has had to be suspended for fog the 2010 edition escaped lightly – especially given the fog on Saturday morning would have surely resulted in another suspension.
As with any 24 hour race there were heroic performances. Topcats Racing – the only team to enter three cars into the race saw all three cars finish the race – the trio crossing the line in formation. The team included a Marcos Mantis driven by an all-Japanese squad of which two had never raced outside of Japan of which one who had only raced a Mazda MX5. The foursome of Yusuke Shimojima, Masashi Kakiuchi, Ryu Seya and Toru Nakano. Team Lotus fought their gearbox and clutch issues after a promising start – which included setting the fastest lap of Class 3, ultimately faster than the best lap of the Jet Alliance Porsche. A sure fan favourite, the Synchro Motorsports Honda Jazz went through three engine changes en route to finishing the race without a rear wing and with race tape adorning much of the car.
The car completed 316 laps – the last of 52 classified finishers.