Though the winter brought change the racing on track, and result, remained familiar as 2010 champions MJC won the three-hour British Endurance Championship event at Silverstone.
The story for the team too was a familiar one. Fulfilling his regular duty as starting driver Witt Gamski recommenced his hostilities for the season – not only with the rest of the field, but with his own Ferrari 430 GTC. The car is renowned for being tricky to drive on cold tyres – and it is clear the new season will bring more of the same, Gamski singling out the opening six laps as particularly “hard work”.
While MJC fell back – ninth at the end of the first lap around the Grand Prix layout and 14th after six laps – the pair of front row starters began to pull away. After taking the rolling start second Aaron Scott led the opening tour in his GT3 Racing Dodge Viper – running in Class 2 of the GT ranks – pushing pole sitter Javier Morcillo into second in the Azteca Mosler.
Scott's initial lead would only last five laps, Morcillo quickly making up the deficit to the back of the Viper – running a red livery after years of silver in British GT – and taking the lead. Morcillo was then able to stretch the legs of the MT900, showing the same pace that put the no.3 car on pole by nearly two seconds. Only twenty minutes into the race the advantage was nine seconds, though the first of two safety car periods after the Orbital Sound Lotus Elise stopped down at Stowe, saw the advantage whittled down to nothing.
The safety car saw the first pitstops for the leaders, but while Morcillo stayed out, Scott brought the Viper in from second dropping it down the order and handing second to the TVR Sagaris of Glynnsport Ltd driven by Steve Glynn and Danny Winstanley.
“The other guys are just getting up to speed with their cars,” said Scott after his first stint. “We had a good dice with the Mosler but once that gets going it's a much quicker car and he got away from me but I think it will be good over the course of the season. I would expect a couple of years ago British GT with the Lamborghini and the Ferrari is was always good battle, so I expect it'll be like that through the season.”
Sadly, once the green flag flew again the TVR had no answer to the Mosler ahead, Morcillo streaking away into a 28 second lead before the safety car was called into action once more.
The green flag stint – less than 20 minutes, however, saw the Viper leap back up the order. After taking the restart after the first yellow flag in eleventh overall it met the second safety car in third before pitting for the second time – Morcillo again stayed out in a race where the varying fuel consumption of the array for cars on show was expected to be crucial.
That now left another car familiar to Britcar followers in second place – the Ultima. Driven by Jonathan MacGregor and Adam Wilcox the opening hour of the race was one of the best showings by the car in Britcar competition. The race, however, was to end frustratingly early for the team, struggling for the remainder of race calling on the pits multiple times, eventually ending the race unclassified, 16 laps down.
Morcillo's stint finally came to an end at almost exactly the halfway point in the race, bringing the car for fuel, tyres and to hand over to co-driver Manuel Cintrano. It looked like a text book stint from the Spaniard, but talking to TCF minutes after climbing from the car he revealed otherwise – apparently he spun on the warm-up lap.
“This car is really bad on cold tyres, really difficult to drive, so I was on brand, brand new tyres with stickers on,” he said. “I had one lap to make them warm and I was working very hard and I made the mistake and spun the car around, just a little spin. No bit dramas but a little bit embarrassing.”
He explained the monster opening stint; “we have our fuel consumption calculation, and we were planning to stop earlier than that but I had two safety cars and we save huge fuel because basically I was on idle in third gear so we took no fuel and I was changing early every gear with that in mind, but I was really aware we were going after our window. It's a good surprise.”
Cintrano was unable to keep up the pace of his countryman, and a storming Keith Robinson took the lead shortly for MJC before the two-hour mark and began pulling out an – in hindsight – unassailable lead. He was four seconds a lap faster than the Mosler, and Cintrano slipped back to third behind Aaron Scott, in for his second stint in the KJ&TG backed Viper on the other side of the two-thirds point of the race.
Behind the leading trio were the two Invitation Class Two Mtech Ferrari 430 GT3. The team's lead car – driven by British GT pairing Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron had been running as in fourth before it crawled to a halt on the Wellington Straight with a wheel bearing failure prompting early retirement.
The three leaders made their final stops close together. Cintrano brought the Azteca Motorsport Mosler back in to give Morcillo a final stint on fresh tyres, Scott brough the Viper in, Craig Wilkins climbing aboard, while Keith Robinson remained in the leading Ferrari, now enjoying a 1:40 lead. The gap was too much for Morcillo, but he was still able to reel on the Viper, racking up the fastest lap of the race (2:07.358) in the process, completing the pass at Village on the new GP complex. The second place was the silver lining on a cloudy weekend for the Mosler contingent. Strata21's example had crashed in testing the day before the race, and Martin Short's Rollcentre entry destroyed an engine in qualifying, putting it out of the weekend.
But Keith Robinson was able to get 2011 off to the perfect start.
“The first part of my stint there was oil down everywhere, I was running 2:16s, 2:17s and I was struggling,” he said. “I think a Marcos had dropped oil all around so it was deadly, so it was just finding the confidence to go over the oil. I fought hard to go over the oil and once it wore off I got on the pace and the car just came into it's own.”
“To be fair Neil Garner and the Spaniards did a fantastic job, they're a good couple of guys. They've got a fantastic team and I think it's going to be between the underdog Mosler, and I shouldn't say underdog drivers, but less experienced drivers. I think they're going to be out biggest threat. The team did a fantastic job again – MJC, all the sponsors, Pete, Neil and Darren, got a great fuel strategy and just kept consistent.”
John Dhillon and Mike Edmonds inherited the Class Two win in their Invitation entry Mtech Ferrari, and themselves found themselves promoted to third overall when the GT3 Racing Viper was disqualified. The no.28 Backdraft Motorsport Lamborghini finished second in class with Bullrun, who's car ended the race in the pitlane with a problem, claiming third, just, from the Topcats Marcos.
On their return to the championship Rod Barrett, Jan Persson and Jay Shepherd, won Class Three in their matt black Porsche 997.
British Endurance Championship – Round 1 Results
|1||1||Gamski/Robinson||MJC||Ferrari F430 GTC||73|
|2||1||Morcillo/Cintrano||Neil Garner/Azteca Motorsport||Molser MT900 GT3||73|
|3||2 I||Dhillon/Edmonds||Mtech||Ferrari 430 GT3||72|
|4||2||Atkinson/McMeniman||Backdraft Motorsport||Lamborghini GT4||72|
|5||3||Barrett/Persson/Shepherd||Neil Garner/Hawthorns Motorsport||Porsche 997 Cup||70|
|6||3||O'Neill/Fletcher||Topcat Racing||Marcos Mantis GT3||70|
|7||3||Jones/Jones/Jones||Eurotech Racing||Porsche 997||70|
|8||3||Andy Schulz||Horsepower Racing||Ferrari 430 Challenge||66|
|10||2||Head/Tiley||Topcat Racing||Marcos Mantis GT3||65|
|11||3||Norris-Jones/Mussi||Priocept Racing||Lotus Exige||64|
|12||2 I||Fairbairn/Littlejohn/McLean||GT Classic||Porsche 993 RSR||64|
|13||3||Glynn/Winstanley||Glynnsport Ltd||TVR Sagaris||56|
|DQ||2||Scott/Wilkins||GT3 Racing||Dodge Viper||73|
|1||MacGregor/Wilcox||MacG Racing Ltd||Ultima GTR||57|
|2||James/Wilds||Backdraft Motorsport||Lamborghini GT3||55|
|3 I||Mallock/Ladas/Margaritis||ATLA Racing||KTM X-Bow||53|
|2 I||Griffin/Cameron||Mtech||Ferrari 430 GT3||51|
|3||Mercer/Smith||Topcat racing||Ginetta G50||49|
|1||Millard/Heward||Flat-six.co.uk||Rapier 6 SR2||46|
|3||Headlam/Stanley||Orbital Sound||Lotus Elise||7|