After winning the final race of last year running in Class One of the Britcar Production field the SG Racing Seat Leon Supercopa of Peter and Mark Cunningham picked up where they left off at Silverstone.
The achievement, however, was not that simple, the father and son team using the winter to modify their charge in order to drop down into Class Two for the start of the season in the newly renamed Dunlop Production GTN Championship.
“We slowed the car down,” said Mark after the race. “Adding weight, taking power out and it is a lot slower, carrying 60-odd kilos around with you you know it. You're going down the straight sometimes you're like 'come on'. You really do notice it, the car's heavy in everything it does, the braking and everything like that. And to be honest today was also a little bit of luck, you've got to always take that into account.”
The “luck” the advanced the Cunninghams was quite astonishing attrition among the teams that took turns as overall leaders during the two-hour race. It was a process that began even before the race had begun, the Priocept Racing Lotus being wrongly placed in Production on the qualifying result, therefore handing pole among the GTN runners to the Strata 21 BMW being started by Sarah Bennett-Baggs.
The Silverstone Grand Prix track took only three laps to claim the first race, the Reflex Racing Ginetta G50 smoking almost immediately, a return of the differential problems that had seen the Peter and Matt Smith's machine end qualifying on a flatbed lorry.
From the start the lead was taken by the Nissan 350Z of Rick Pearson, though David Cuff took the lead in their Class Two Invitation BMW M3 E90, with Bennett-Baggs briefly lifting her older E46 BMW into second place before mechanical problems – specifically the car getting too hot – brought the car into the pits. The team believed the problem cured, but sent back out with Jenson Lunn at the wheel, a more serious problem brought the car into the garage for retirement. It brought to an end a season opener to forget, the team’s Mosler entered in the BEC having crashed in testing the previous day.
Cuff was dominant. The Production GTN races run concurrently with the British Endurance Championship and as the thirsty GT cars of the latter series pitted for fuel the BMW climbed the scoring sheets, reaching the halfway point of the Production race in a staggering third overall – mixing with the Ferraris and Moslers of the BEC.
However, they too were soon to hit problems. Cuff brought the car in just after the hour mark, but a standard stop became a repair, the car losing a throttle cable, and so one bank of engine. The team would retire the car soon after.
Assorted engines seemed to plague the BMWs. Having had to trade their ex-WRC Escort Cosworth for an ex-Geoff Steel Racing BMW the MMC entry of Dave and Jason Cox had dropped out of the top five in Production, sending members of the team scattering into the paddock in search of replacement parts.
The 350Z retired inside the race's final half hour, stopping on the outside of Copse, while the no.52 Motionsport Lotus Elise of Simon Phillips led the race, having inherited it when Cuff stopped at half way.
The race had one final twist – a late, late problem for Phillips just five laps from the total of 48 the Cunninghams would complete.
“It was a fantastic race for us,” said Mark Cunningham. “In pre-season testing we've had major problems with power steering pumps and we've managed to solve that but putting a bigger pulley on the power steering pump and the car works like a dream – the car was handling like a dream. My Dad did the first stint perfectly, just a nice consistent pace through the stint. We didn't have a clue we were leading overall, because we were in Class Two so we we're even looking at overall positions and it's come as a shock at the end of things when we found out we won overall in production. All in all, couldn't ask for a better weekend.”
Stephen Guglielmi and Jeff Mileham took second overall, and first in Class One in their Honda powered Lotus Elise ahead of Robert Day and Paul Phipps in the only BMW to run the race without major delay. Owen Thomas and Ashley Woodman claimed third in class on their debut in a Ginetta G50 after their BPM Racing team suffered a devastating fire in the closed season.
The runner-up sport in production Class Two went to the Synchro Motorsport Honda Civic driven by Alyn James and David Vincec – both workers at the Honda factory. JTECH Automotive finished third in class.
Dunlop Production GTN Championship – Round 1 Results
|1||P2||Cunningham/Cunningham||SG Racing||Seat Leon Supercopa||48|
|2||P1||Mileham/Guglielmi||Guglielmi Motorsport||Honda Lotus Elise||47|
|3||P1||Day/Phipps||Simmons Printers||BMW M3 E46||47|
|4||P2||James/Vincec||Synchro Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R||46|
|5||P1||Thomas/Woodman||BPM Racing||Ginetta G50||46|
|6||P2||Mitson/Pascall/Kite||JTECH Automotive||Seat Leon Cupra||43|
|8||P2 I||Cox/Cox||MMC/Race Car Spares||BMW M3 CSL||40|
|9||P1 I||Palmer/Pearson||Pro Motorsport||Nissan 350Z||38|
|P1||Hogarth/Hogarth||T F Motorsport||Seat Leon Supercopa||33|
|P2 I||Johnson/Fotheringham/Chong/Whitmore||Seat Sex Drive||Seat Leon||33|
|P2||Dave Allan||Synchro Motorsport||Honda Jazz||31|
|P1 I||Smith/Cuff||JC Racing||BMW M3 E90||28|
|P1||Ticehurst/Mildenhall||Mazda Motors UK/Jota||Mazda MX5||26|
|P1||Barrow/Corbett||Saxon Motorsport||BMW 135 Turbo||22|
|P1||Smith/Smith||Reflex Racing||Ginetta G50||18|
|P1||Lunn/Bennett-Baggs||Strata 21||BMW M3 E46||18|
|P2||Tim Saunders||T H Motorsport||Honda Civic Type R||10|
|P2||Osbourne/May||APO Sport||Seat Leon||6|