John Gaw and Phil Dryburgh took a second successive win in the British Endurance Championship (BEC), winning the three hour encounter at Snetterton by two laps in their invitation entry Ferrari 458.
The pair took advantage of the searing speed of their Scuderia Vittoria run car, as well as misfortune and penalties for their rivals to win, Gaw making the ultimately critical move into the lead in the closing stages of the opening hour after a quick pair of safety car periods to start the race.
The early safety cars arguably saved starting Dryburgh during the opening stint. Almost unquestionably the slower to the two drivers in the Ferrari he was pitched against the faster men, starting for their nearest rivals.
Dryburgh held off Javier Morcillo for the opening lap, but the Spaniard put the Azteca Motorsport into the lead on the second, leaving Dryburgh to fend off Calum Lockie in the Strata 21 entered MT900R.
However, Dryburgh was spared the challenge by the first of the neutralised periods after Chris Headlam's Lotus Elise expired spectacularly on the entrance to Agostini, leaving a trail of oil that needed to be soaked up before the race could restart. Spectators at the corner, a left hand hairpin on the new infield section, had already seen Mike Millard spin his Rapier out of fourth place when trying to pass Lockie around the outside. Millard a sportscar racing veteran on the national and international stage clearly had the pace in the car, and was carving through the production runners and into the tail of BEC field before too long.
Millard's haste was to get the best of him. Though he completed a drive through the field to take the lead after the second safety car – brought out by Henry Fletcher's Topcats Racing Marcos, stranded with a terminal mechanical fault – he was given a two lap penalty for overtaking under the safety car.
The heavy penalty, with only the fastest teams managing laps under two minutes, immediately knocked the Spa winners out of contention for a win, though in hindsight they were perhaps unlucky as evidence showed Millard passed an incorrectly displayed green flag before he crossed the start/finish line.
While Millard – streaking away on the track, but two laps down in the order – and several others had opted to stay out the real battle for the lead was going on behind. Morcillo, Lockie, Gaw and Jonny MacGregor in the bright yellow Ultima had all pitted and were now running together on track, squabbling for position.
Dryburgh may have handed control of the Ferrari over to Gaw, but the duo had still managed to leapfrog the Azteca car, as the Neil Garner Motorsport crew took the extra time to put new Dunlop tyres on the Mosler. Lockie and MacGregor briefly led the quartet by virtue of stopping a lap earlier but were soon shuffled back. Morcillo was the first to move up the order, putting a second set of tyres to good use, sweeping by Gaw at Williams before passing MacGregor in the the following lap at Montreal after he had lost momentum after an unsuccessful passing attempt on Lockie. Gaw then made his own way through the pack, passing Morcillo as the two strode up the order Gaw passing Oliver Bryant to take the lead a few laps before the hour mark.
Lockie was the next man to incur a two lap penalty – his for pitlane speeding – and MacGregor was slowed by fuel pick up issues that had the Ultima cutting out around the faster corners and so the battle for the lease became between Gaw and Morcillo, the former pulling away to a modest 18 second lead before the next set of pitstops.
Morcillo was the first in, Manuel Cintrano taking over the car before Bryant ended his longer than expected stint to bring his Porsche in for its first stop of the race to hand over to Will Goff.
Gaw was now due to stop of his own that would have put Mosler bacl within striking distance, but the safety car was scrambled again affording Gaw time to stop, hand over to Dryburgh and still have the Ferrari emerge on the right tail of the Mosler, a four behind the GT3 Racing Viper in the train of cars behind the safety car.
Once back under green Dryburgh quickly put Cintrano a full lap down, a feat he repeated on the Viper – carrying extra weight for the weekend – when he outdragged the Dodge along the pit straight just before the two hour mark and the safety car that marked the end of the Production GTN race.
With such an advantage the final pitstop came and went without losing the lead and it was left to Dryburgh to complete the win, crossing the finish line victorious for what Gaw believed was the first time.
Their winning margin was helped by the slowing pace of the Craig Wilkins in the Viper in the closing laps potentially paying the price for a risky strategy. Unlike most of the early front runners the team had opted to stay out under the early safety cars, unable to put enough fuel in the car at the time for their strategy to work.
“We really fought because we tried really big time to save fuel because we wanted to see if we could get away with a risky strategy on pitstops and it worked out but, hell, I was nervous,” said Aaron Scott after the race. “In British GT a couple of years ago I ran out of fuel when I was leading and I had visions of it happening again and I had to sit the last bit out in the pits.”
The strategy paid off for Scott and Wilkins with second overall and a Class Two win to keep up their lead in the points standings. Lockie and co-driver Paul White took third overall and the top points for class one, but only after their earlier penalty was rescinded in the final hour of the race and the Azteca Mosler had retired with 20 minutes to go with gearbox failure, another problem in a difficult season despite obvious pace.
The Jones family – Morgan, Phillip and Gareth – won the battle of the Porsches in Class Three, beating the invitation runners Bryant and Goff by a lap to finish fourth overall.
An aggrieved Mike Millard, with teammate Ian Heward was classified eighth overall, though the Rapier’s pace was clear as it claimed fastest lap.