A pass just three laps from the end of the 90-minute season opener gave Mark Poole and Richard Abra victory in the Britcar Production Cup.
For all but the closing minutes of the race the SG Racing SEAT Leon Supercopa of Mark and Peter Cunningham had held the lead, the father and son team intent of starting their season off with a win, just as they did twelve months previous in the Dunlop Production GTN Cup, the predecessor of the 2012 Production Cup.
Mark – the younger of a two drivers – had started the car, and from third on the grid took the lead on the opening lap, racing out to an eight second lead within five laps pulling away from a three way battle for second – front row starters Craig Davies and Michael Symons fighting with Wayne Gibson in the Intersport BMW.
“The opening stint was amazing,” Cunningham told The Checkered Flag. “I got a cracking start, I knew I had to break into the lead if I could to hold onto the BMW and possibly even the other SEAT and while they were battling they left me free to do what I wanted and pull a gap so I just concentrated on not just setting fastest laps but on keeping the car as consistent, as good as I could for when I handed it over.”
Cunningham was the last of the front runners to make his pitstop, handing the SEAT to his father with just over a half hour of the race remaining, Peter completing his first lap on track holding a 26 second lead, but with Porsche Carrera Cup driver Keith Webster now in second place the margin was cut quickly down to nothing.
While the Cunninghams had been among the last of the stoppers, Webster had taken over the bright orange BMW from Michael Symons after less than half and hour. Quickly among the fastest men on track – running lap times down into the 2:15 bracket Webster was galloping, apparently unstoppably, to the lead.
However, Webster's pace was coming at a price as he notched up two five second penalties for straying off the track and then a drive through for the same offence. Webster's penalties – the officials still not satisfied when he brought the car in for the drive-through – led to the no.11 BMW being excluded from the results, the car ending the race parked in the pitlane after a final black flag.
Their exclusion would have been the headline of the race, had it not been for another charging BMW. Mark Poole had fallen as low as twelfth on lap six, reportedly after an on-track skirmish with a SEAT in the pack. Pitting at almost exactly half distance, 20 laps into the 38 squeezed into the race, Richard Abra stepped up the pace, moving towards the front with a sequence of 2:16 and 2:15 laps, enjoying the extra grip given by the fresh left side tyres put on the car as Abra took over the car.
When Adam Jones pulled into the pits out of second in the pole sitting Sub–Zero Wolf car he took over from Craig Davies, Abra took second place and with Peter Cunningham shackled by a niggling gearbox issue in the lead car began to hunt down the lead.
Once on the back bumper of the SEAT Abra had his own issues to contend with, his M3 vulnerable to overheating, but with the difference in speed so pronounced Abra dismissed the move for the lead as “easy”.
He explained the short battle for the lead; “I was going to dive down the inside going into Brooklands but I saw he'd seen me and chopped me off right away. He ran wide at Luffield and I managed to keep my foot in, he tried to give me a bit of nudge coming back onto the track but I saw him coming and I went past.”
Peter Cunningham held onto second place, with the Davies/Jones SEAT completing the overall podium ahead of the Gibson and Clarke's Intersport car, both of which incurred five second penalties during the race, though they failed to affect the order.
“We're still not quite there,” assessed Mark Cunningham after the race. “I think the BMWs have got a bit more power which is interesting. Other than that we've got a good car, we just need to hone it in and finalise it really, but we're still plagued with gearbox problems which is frustrating, it's the bane of our car and it keeps jumping out of gear still. We'll be there – a tight twisty track and we'll be on it.”
Guy Povey and Graham Coombes, and entries from the Nye and Cox families rounded out the seven lead lap finishers. Gavin Spencer and Tom Ferrier finished eighth in the sole Class One Invitation entry for MMC Motorsport. Simon Phillips, racing a Toyota MR2 with ex-BTCC driver Eugene O'Brien finished ninth ahead of Adam Hayes and Mark Radcliffe in a second Intersport BMW.
Another one time Touring Car driver, Mike Jordan, drove to Class Two victory in the Honda Intregra he shared with Nigel Ainge, passing Topcats Racing's Paul Black and Clive Bailye during his stint before beating them to the line by just two seconds, though yet another five second penalty for exceeding track limits, bumped up the official winning margin to seven seconds, Paul Mitson and Paul Kite completed the class podium in their JTECH SEAT Leon Cupra.
Edward and Harry Cockill won Class Three, ahead of single handed Mazda MX-5's of Tony Rogers and Ryan Cefferty.