The opening hour of the 2011 Britcar 24 Hours was dominated, from pole, by the Aquila CR1 driven by Bob Berridge.
The Danish car led the opening lap as defending winners MJC – again relying on Witt Gamski to start the race – slipped back from their second placed starting spot. Gamski ended the opening lap in ninth place before slipping back out of the top ten on subsequent tours.
“It’s very hot and physical,” said Gamski after stepping out of the car toward the end of the hour. “I’ve not been the car since May, so I’m not in my best, but the car was nice. We just want to get these first hours out of the way and then start racing at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning.”
“We’re going calm and will see how things are at midnight – that will be a good indicator, because the reliability and the big engine cars will stop more than we will. The biggest worry out there is the McInerney car [No 2] and the No 5 Porsche [ARC Bratislava]. They’re the ones we have to watch out for.”
The ARC Bratislava Porsche picked up the early lead in Class two, while the Japanese crewed Marcos Mantis – affectionately nicknamed the Orient Express – lead Class Three after jumping the Optimum Racing Ginetta of Stuart Linn in the early laps.
Linn's problems soon became more serious, stopping the yellow G50 out on track and bringing out the first safety car of the race after only a handful of laps. As the safety car scrambled he picked up the RJN Motorsport Nissan of Alex Buncombe running in fourth overall and second in Class two behind the Porsche ahead.
The forced split in the field gave the first three cars a massive advantage – Berridge's Aquila, the Strata 21 Mosler of Calum Lockie and the ARC Bratislava – allowing them to latch onto the tail of the safety car train Buncombe was heading.
Once the race was restarted Berridge began to pull away again, though the gap back to Lockie stretched and contracted as both men worked their way through the slower traffic.
Berridge's progress, unfortunately turned out of be too good. The hour ended with a 30 second stop-go penalty for the Aquila for overtaking the slower traffic before crossing the start line when the race was restarted.
The first hour saw several mechanical problems striking up and down the grid. Though early class leaders The Japanese Topcats Racing crew stopped with a driveshaft failure – the team having to push the orange hi-lighted car down the pitlane.
Their issue handed the Class Three lead at the close of the hour to the Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta G50 – their engine issue of yesterday now cured.
Class four leaders at the end of the first hour were Britcar regulars APO Sport – normal drivers James May and Alex Osborne joined by Guy Parr.
2011 Britcar 24 Hours Class Leaders after hour one:
1 – No.6 Aquila – Berridge/Martin/Mustill/Evans
2 – No.4 Mosler – White/Lockie/Cintrano/Morcillo
3 – No.3 Mosler – Beaumont/Fletcher/Draper/Hetherington
1 – No. 5 Porsche – Konopka/O'Donnell/Myszkowski/Lewandowski/Edwards
2 – No.31 Nissan – Buncombe/Ward/Mardenborough/Heitkotter
3 – No.27 Marcos – Upton/Huggins/Fletcher/Orton
1 – No.61 Ginetta – Denis/Jones/Spencer/Thorne
2 – No.66 Porsche – Winter/Mundy/Morris/Speed/Raven
3 – No.68 BMW – Clarke/Gibson/Radcliffe/Hayes
1 – No.81 SEAT – May/Osbourne/Parr
2 – No.83 Lotus – Chamberlain/Randeria/Fillingham/Webb
3 – No.84 SEAT – Breukers/Thijssen/Jensiew/Han
Follow live coverage from The Checkered Flag here: http://www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk/2011/10/2011-britcar-24-hours-live-coverage/