In the first of what is intended to be a number of British Endurance Championship outings in the second half of the season Scuderia Vittoria took the checkered flag after a frenetic two hour race at Castle Combe.
The team's Ferrari 458 – the newest design of Ferrari GT also making its first BEC appearance – was crewed by Phil Dryburgh and John Gaw, the pair far from new to the paddock having been half of the team that won last year's 24 Hours.
“I've been racing for three years in Porsches,” enthused Dryburgh after the race, “and worked my nuts off to finish fifth or sixth. I've had two races in Ferraris, and won both of them.”
The pair won the race by two laps from the Aquila CR1 of Nigel Mustill and Gareth Evans as the yellow car enjoyed its best Britcar outing to date. The pair took full points for the race win, the Ferrari competing as an invitation entry.
Contrary to the appearance of the winning margin the race was far from easy for the Scuderia Vittoria squad, indeed they didn't lead the race until 75 laps into the 98 that were completed in the timed event.
When John Gaw completed the pass for the lead on Paul White in the Strata 21 Mosler he became the fifth different leader of the race and one White made a final stop for fuel shortly after the Ferrari was left alone on the lead lap to take the checkered flag with none of the drama of the rest of the race.
Dryburgh had started the car from second – Gaw powerless in qualifying to stop Javier Morcillo from returning the Azteca Mosler to pole position after missing out at Spa-Francorchamps – but fell to third after the first lap, Mike Millard taking second in the Rapier that won so comprehensively in Belgium.
Morcillo, who with teammate Manuel Cintrano is still search for a first win of the season despite qualifying mastery, held off the marauding Rapier for the opening 16 laps – though the Spaniard was helped by a safety car period after an early crash for some of the runners in the Production GTN Championship.
On lap 17 the lead battle tried to go side by side through the fast right kink of Folly. The result was Morcillo spinning the Mosler through the grass and making slight contact with the barrier. However, the damage was done, and though the no.3 car made it back to the tarmac Morcillo only made it as far as Quarry before pulling the car off the track, recovery of the stricken car prompting the safety to come out once more.
From there Millard led the remains of the opening half of the race, only losing the lead when he pitted on lap 51, Ian Heward taking over the car and Jay Shepherd the overall lead in the Class 3 Hawthorns Motorsport Porsche he was sharing with Rod Barrett – Hawthorns normal trio of drivers reduced to a twosome for this event.
Shepherd made his own stop after 62, White taking the lead for a dozen or so laps with Gaw reeling in the Mosler man all the while. Calum Lockie – fresh from a Group C outing at Silverstone Classic the day before – had started the Mosler from the pitlane but took only a dozen laps to break into the top ten. White's late fuel stop dropped the pair to fourth overall, the GT3 Racing of Craig Wilkins and Aaron Scott completing the overall podium and taking Class 2 honours.
Wilkins lost second place late on to the Aquila, lamenting the Vipers lack of aerodynamics, comparing the American muscle car to a housebrick.
Second in Class 2 fell to another invitation entry, the MTECH Ferrari 430 of John Dhillon and Nima Khandon–Nia completing the second half of the race without a rear diffuser. The Bullrun trio of newly announced BTCC driver Martin Byford, Richard Adams and David Green completing the class podium.
Owen O'Neill and Jon Harrison won Class 3 for Topcats Racing, beating the Hawthorns Porsche by a lap after a problematic final stint for Barrett put an end to their hopes of a class win.
“Within a few laps it became obvious that we had a problem with the gearbox,” explained Barrett. “Although I’m not as quick as Jay, I felt that we had an excellent chance to hold position or at least give the big boys a fight for their money. Then it happened, the smell of gear oil was so strong it was making me feel ill. This was followed by a loud bang, the tinkling of various gear parts and the complete loss of fifth and sixth gears. For a lap or so I had a box full of naturals, third finally agreed to participate although quite reluctantly and with a noise accompaniment akin to a wailing banshee. I took a chance and tried for fourth gear, to my amazement she worked so that was it really, another 25 /30 laps with only third and fourth!”
Chris Headlam and Jamie Stanley rounded out the Class 3 podium, surviving their own moment when Stanley span in avoidance of Ian Heward who had stalled the Rapier out on track after an incident with a production Ginetta. The Spa victors were classified fourth in Class 1, though well down the overall order.
Report and quotes with thanks to Steve Wood