A touch at Druids brought a disappointing and premature end to a fine battle for between Andy Schulz and Javier Morcillo the victory, Morcillo tapping the Ferrari ahead into a spin taking the lead and win in the two hour Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship race on the Brands Hatch GP circuit.
The longer layout at the Kent track played its part in the battle for the lead that dominated the final quarter of the race. Schulz in the SB Race Engineering Ferrari 430 continued to struggle with the understeer he described following qualifying around the corners on the Indy circuit – Paddock Hill, Druids and Clark Curve – but was able to pull away around the GP loop through the woods.
Morcillo's advantage in the Neil Garner Motorsport run Mosler was most noticeable under braking into Druids and through Graham Hill Bend. Several times the Spanish driver was able to pull through a tighter line than Schulz ahead, threatening to gain an overlap before turning into Surtees. However, Schulz closed the door, moving into position to pull away for another lap.
Closing under braking for Druids as the end of the two hours approached Morcillo aimed for a gap on the inside, only for Schulz to close the door, resulting in slight contact as the two rounded the apex of the hairpin. But a lap later there was contact again, as Morcillo explained to The Checkered Flag.
“I was holding myself waiting for the right gap,” he said. “I tried a lap before and he closed the door very late on me and we actually touched a little and I thought now he knows I've lost that gap. But the next lap I had a better run and he braked on the outside and I had the space so I went to the inside and then he closed the door but already too late as I was there. He kept closing and he touched me and I thought 'OK, now you know I'm here just give me some space', but he kept turning until he turned around.”
“It's not even close to the perfect way [to end the race]. I'm so disappointed because it was such a beautiful race to end up like this is really disappointing. I would have loved to win the race with him on my rear bumper, it would have been fantastic. Now there's always this discussion of right or wrong and things that shouldn't happen.”
Schulz righted the car and completed the final two laps for second place. Though disappointed, describing Morcillo's move as “optimistic” Schulz, post race focussed on the problems with own car; “we haven't had much testing with the car and we struggled to get a set-up in those two little sessions on Friday and we took a bit of a flyer on it, but we've still got too much low speed mechanical understeer but through the a fast stuff it's fabulous so we're really, really getting there and get these dampers sorted out and the tyres and get it working properly, and really that's what's done it in the end.”
Schulz's co-driver Paul Bailey described the same problem, but still managed to record a fine opening half hour of the stint, turning pole position into an early lead much to his delight.
“I'd never a pole,” he said, “P1, start before so the pressure for me was extraordinary, something I had I hadn't expected before and there was big crowd because of the F3 and European F3 and GT races so it was important for me to do well.”
The Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit also played its part in the strategy during the race. Bailey pitted under green after the opening half hour of the race, while Cintrano waited out the opening hour before pitting under a safety car caused by Jeff Mileham's Lotus Elise in the Paddock Hill gravel trap.
The long lap – nearly three minutes behind the safety car – allowed Cintrano to pit on two laps back-to-back meaning that a full 50 litres of fuel could go into the Mosler, ensuring the thirsty Chevrolet engine in the car was able to run to the end of the race.
The two stops left Morcillo in seventh, the final man on the lead lap, but when the race restarted he dispatched Simon Phillips in the Motionsport Ferrari 458, then Joe Osborne, then Charlie Hollings' FF Corse Ferrari in successive laps to move into fourth place behind Schulz, Martin Byford and Tom Webb, the latter two still to pit in their battle for Class Three honours.
Oulton Park soloist Byford had started the Bullrun Evora, moving into second place from sixth on the grid in a startling first lap. Webb's progress was slower but equally upwards, passing Cintrano for fourth that became third when Jon Finnemore retired the Team Tiger Marcos Mantis from the lead after a sprint in the opening half hour that was ended by a vibration in the rear of the car.
The first safety car allowed Webb to close right up to Byford, deleting a thirty second lead as the two drivers moved into first and second overall as both passed up on the chance to pit. A second neutral period, in relatively short order – brought as the Mileham and Steve Guglielmi Lotus spun again, this time at Surtees, while a sheered wheel left the #77 Intersport BMW off at Sheene Curve – proved too good an opportunity to pass up and both dived into the pits.
“Tom was doing such a good stint out there,” James Webb described the tactic that left his brother out until the final 40 minutes. “He found a lot of time and there was no guarantee that I was going to able to match him so we left him out and left him out and we were using less fuel than we thought so we were able to drop 25 litres so we only needed one dump churn. We got very lucky because the first safety car allowed us to catch back up with the Bullrun car and then the second one, I think we would have been able to overtake him but we were able to get a lap up and maintain the gap in a nice little run to the end of the race. A big thank you to GTS Motorsport for all the work over the weekend. Everything was perfect today.”
Thanks to Byford's Oulton victory the Bullrun team had to serve a longer pitstop, and the extra time not only allowed the Webb's car out ahead but saw the Lotus caught at the end of the pitlane as the field filed past behind the safety car, leaving them a lap down on the new class leaders.
Webb and Webb won the class in fifth place overall behind the Motionsport Ferrari of Pete Storey and Simon Phillips – another to use the back-to-back fuel stop strategy under the safety car – won Class Two in fourth with Class Four victory going to Joe Osborne and Ryan Ratcliffe in the Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G50, Osborne taking the position when Charlie Hollings was forced into an unscheduled stop late in the race.
Hollings, sharing the car with Jacques Duyver fell to sixth place. Nick Jarvis and Tommy Field combined for seventh place in the best of the three Chevron GR8 on the entry list ahead of the Bullrun Lotus and the two Topcats Racing cars that rounded out the top ten.
On its race debut Nigel Mustill's Audi R8 LMS GT3 was put out of the race with a broken driveshaft, but the post-race talk was dominated by the other two Class One cars.