Though elsewhere in the top two classes of the 2012 Britcar 24 Hours attrition depleted the field MP Motorsport put together a faultless display of endurance drivers to collect the winners’ trophy at Silverstone.
The BMW M3 GTR driving quartet of Mark Poole, Richard Abra, Michael Symons and Clint Bardwell won the annual endurance race by four laps over the best of the Class One machines, the MB Racing GT3 Aston Martin, who, despite their own problems, easily won their class.
The winning team took the overall lead at 1am after one such problem for the Team LNT.
Between the two of them the Team LNT Ginetta G55 and the Neil Garner Motorsport Mosler, though neither had been trouble free up to that point. Mike Simpson turned an almost symbolic pole position for the 24 Hours into a slightly more meaningful lead, he and Javier Morcillo streaking away from the rest of the pack in the opening stint, Simpson engaging in a little early gamesmanship in trying to force Morcillo to lead the way as they started to lap slower traffic.
Trimmed out for maximum efficiency the normally thirsty Mosler managed a longer stint than the Ginetta, though the G55, now with Lawrence Tomlinson at the wheel, resumed the lead when Adam Sharpe climbed in for his first stint in the Mosler.
After promising pace in Simpson’s opening stint things started to unravel for Team LNT. Tomlinson made two unscheduled pitstops, the first to deal with the after effects of debris at the front of the car, the second after a high speed blow out of the left rear tyre, the Ginetta chairman doing well to bring the (and the tyre) back to the pits without further damage. Their delay swung the race lead to the Mosler crew, Paul White and Manuel Cintrano completing the four man team.
However, with consecutive pitstops for the Neil Garner pitcrew to fix both a sticking throttle, then a broken driveshaft gave the lead back to Team LNT, though the swift work of the British Endurance Championship regulars – especially to remedy the driveshaft problem – embodied the spirit of an endurance race where it is still possible to encounter problems and still win.
As darkness fell there were more problems for Team LNT, struggling to illuminate their way around the track with troublesome headlights for Richard Dean and Tom Kimber-Smith, and MB Racing, who lost a front wheel a problem which did lasting damage to the undertray and splitter on the front of the Aston Martin in its first race.
While the Class One machinery filtered in an out of the pitlane the MP Motorsport BMW made serene progress up the order, taking the lead of Class Two after reliability problems for their class rivals.
Unsurprisingly given the speed they’ve shown in the BEC rounds the Team Tiger Marcos Mantis took the lead of the class early on, but became the first official retirement, completing only 88 laps of the Silverstone track before an altercation with the Rogue Motorsport Toyota MR2 ended with the Marcos backing into the wall on the approach to Maggotts.
In the gathering darkness there were cooling issues for the Topcats Racing Marcos, the car losing all the water from the engine not once, but twice, the second occurrence the catalyst for a midnight engine change by Warren Gilbert’s team that – to their massive credit – took only 93 minutes. They race would come to a premature and deeply unsatisfactory end in the earliest hours of the morning when a loss of control exiting the pitlane put the Marcos broadside infront of Mission Motorsport’s Jim Cameron, the damage from the hefty impact damaging the Topcats’ car beyond repair. Mission Motorsport’s team of former and serving Armed Forces personnel repaired their Nissan 370z – albeit only after cannibalising parts of RJN Motorsport team principal Bob Neville’s road car.
Optimum Motorsports – already class winners in the BEC this season – had been among the favourites for Class Two (if not a surprise overall success) but the combination of Lee Mowle, Joe Osborne, Emily Fletcher and Jake Rattenbury endured a tough 24 hours bouncing from problem to problem beginning with a driveshaft failure on their yellow Ginetta G50.
Optimum were also one of several team to lose a wheel during the race. Shortly before 1am both their and Team LNT’s Ginettas were both hauled back to the pits short of a rear wheel.
Team LNT’s car had stopped at the far extent of the circuit at Stowe, and the time taken to bring the car back to the pits alone – without the time required to repair the damage – as enough to let MP Motorsport through into a lead.
They would never lose the lead, though the Class One cars would never truly fall away to the extent that, speaking to The Checkered Flag, Richard Abra admitted that only in the closing two hours did they believe they would win the race.
Team LNT would fall by the wayside. Through the fast sweep of Farm with Tomlinson at the controls the car would lose another wheel, sending the #6 car into a hair-raising spin before another three quarters of an hour in the pits. The team would return the car to the track, the race increasingly becoming a extended test session for the still developing GT3 car.
Their final problem would an oil pressure issue, the team opting to return the car to the garage rather than risk the engine, though they would re-emerge for the very final minutes of the race to pass under the checkered flag.
With the Mac G Racing Ultima ricocheting through a minefield of mechanical issues in a luckless race for the team the hopes of a Class One winner overall lay with either Neil Garner Motorsport of MB Racing.
Despite the early loss of a wheel, and the resulting damage the MB Racing had remained in the chase for the overall victory, despite running the race without the splitter on the front of the car. The team threatened to replace the splitter – estimated at a 15 minute job – under a suitably long safety car but the necessary incident never came and the car ran to the end without the splitter.
Their main problem – the problem which they believe cost them the victory – was one of noise. The Britcar 24 is run under strenuous noise limits, several teams being black flagged to hush their increasingly shouty exhausts during the race and two teams – Synchro Motorsport and Welch Motorsport – being excluded during the night for consistently breaking the event’s sound barrier.
MB Racing’s call to quieten their car came at 10am, and though they lost only five minutes in the pits it was this delay the drivers – Mike Brown, Jamie Wall, Dave West and Paul Cripps – highlighted in costing them the win.
The Strata 21/Neil Garner Motorsport team’s own challenge for the win came apart precisely when the left-rear tyre and the Mosler would not.
Initially the team changed the three other tyres, but after a few minutes of trying to remove the offending tyres sent Paul White back out with the worn left-rear tyre on the car. When White returned to the pits the car was pushed back into the garage for the team to begin to try and remove the tyre. They began with airguns and moved on to chisels, hammers and drills before resorting to putting a circular saw through the spokes of the rim – leaving something akin to the centre of a demonically overpowered cartwheel – all to no avail, the nut still fused to the hub.
The ‘repair’ – if anything so destructive can be called that – cost the team nearly two hours, dropping them to sixth overall, 51 laps shy of the 564 completed by MP Motorsport, nine fewer then the number completed by the winning team a year ago.
The race went flawlessly for the BMW foursome, the only possible problem you could witness from the outside – the team pushing the car away from pitstops – was not treatment of a problem, but an attempt to save the clutch on the car.
The distance discrepancy between 2011 and 2012 winners no doubt owed a little to the rate of attrition amongst the top cars, and the heavy rain that arrived at Silverstone for the closing hours, the race ending in torrential rain. The top two were 33 laps clear of the final team on the overall podium, Class Three winners Perfection Racing the 4/5th Danish line-up (Kasper Jensen, Mikkel Johanson, Kim Holmgaard and Michael Klosterman plus Brit Paul Spires) repeating the showing of Nicholas Mee Racing last year by putting a GT4 Aston Martin on the overall podium.
Endurance racing specialists Red Camel took fourth overall with the Class Four win, lead driver Ivo Breukers one of a handful to shine in the race closing rain.
The three-handed Dutch squad – completed by Henk Thijssen and Bert de Heus – had swapped the class lead for much of the race with British squad Brunswick Automotive, though the Piranha/Fauldsport Ginetta G40 showed good pace in the opening stints of the race before falling back into an eventual sixth place in class.
Of the two Toyota GT86 in the field it was the Team Toyota GB squad who came out ahead, the Chris and Stefan Hodgetts starring line-up taking the final spot on the Class Four podium. However, it was almost certainly the Rollcentre Racing entry that stole the interest. The team lost all the time set up the car to engine and electrical problems, the car only firing up minutes before the end of night qualifying on Friday for Martin Short to turn two ginger exploratory laps.
In the race the car ran with little sign of the problems which forced the last ditch appearance that kept it in the race, Short powering through the rain to take the final spot in the top ten overall.
Class Three was arguably, the most competitive class in the race, though as early as 11pm Perfection Racing had installed themselves in a clear lead after the Corum Sport Chevron had been pulled out of the lead to deal with excessive noise.
The Darron Anley led team, that also included former British GT drivers Bradley Ellis and Chris Hyman bounced back from that dilemma – costing them 20 minutes – and a much longer delay of over an hour for a separate mechanical problem.
Later in the race the car deposited its rear bodywork in the middle of the track at Woodcote, returning reparired to the race only to suffer a broken rear wing. Yet, they were still position to inherit the final step on the Class Three podium from Intersport Racing when contact with Mission Motorsport in the rain at Brooklands left their BMW with damage to the front right that ended their race.
Class Three had its own share of attrition, starting with the Cor Euser Racing Lotus Evora. The international squad finished third overall in 2011 but their challenge in 2012 lasted less than an hour when the suspension ball joint broke through Maggotts. They raced back into the top ten overall, the pace of twelve months ago still evident within the team of Euser, Alistair McKinnon, Martin Rich, Hal Prewitt and Jim Briody. However, gearbox issues would see the car in the garage permanently shortly before half way.