Silverstone Classic 2011: Katsu Kubota Takes Group C Win In Works Nissan

by James Broomhead

Katsu Kubota won a thrilling Group C Endurance race in the Nissan R90C, beating Alex Buncombe to victory in the into the dusk race on Saturday evening at Silverstone Classic.

The grid brought together some of the most recognisable cars from the Group C era of Le Mans, two 1990 works liveried Nissans taking on a pair of Jaguars resplendent in Silk Cut livery with a Mercedes C11 and Porsche 962 also in the field.

However, from the start it was clear that Kubota, the Japanese driver fittingly in a car that did most of it’s racing in period in Japan, and Buncombe in the Jaguar XJR9 were the class of the field, pulling away from Gareth Evans in the Mercedes that Bob Berridge had put on pole after Friday afternoon's wet session.

Such was the gulf in pace behind the leading pair that the gap only took seven laps to breach the 30 second barrier, with Gary Pearson – like Buncombe a prolific driver at this year's Silverstone Classic – third in the other Silk Cut Jaguar having moved up from the rear of the field after problems before the green flag.

Buncombe led initially, Kubota taking the lead on lap five with a move at Stowe, only for Buncombe to retake the position with eight minutes of the timed race remaining.

With the two cars only more than two seconds apart on two of the 15 laps, it should go without saying that the race was only really decided on the final lap. The pair swapped the lead three times in as many corners on the penultimate lap – Kubota putting the Nissan in front through Brooklands, Buncombe replying to take the lead through the long right-hander at Luffield only for Kubota to retake the lead – for good in hindsight – on the way through Copse.

The win was only sealed, poetically, on the final lap when the pair were making their way past Kent Abrahamson in the sister R90C to Kubota's. While the Nissan driver was able to skip through Buncombe was caught behind the lapped Abrahamson through the fast bends of Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel.

The momentary hold up meant the lead ballooned to a harsh 4.3 seconds at the end of the race. Evans finished third, overhauling Pearson on the penultimate lap. He crossed the line 42 seconds behind, the gap only increasingly slightly in the second half of the race, no doubt partially because of the scrap for the lead ahead.

Steve Tandy finished fifth in the FromA liveried Nissan, Martin O'Connell sixth in the another Nissan, running in the red and yellow Momo livery. Calum Lockie led home the C2 class contingent in the 1987 ADA. The British Endurance Championship regular led the class the entire race, Mike Donovan only gaining in the closing laps in the Spice SE88 to finish 11 seconds behind at the end of the race.

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