British Endurance Championship

Sub-Zero Wolf Pairing Emerge Victorious After SEAT Battle At Donington Park

5 Mins read
Craig Davies won the race, pitting with flat tyre at the end of the 90-minute race (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

Craig Davies won the race, pitting with flat tyre at the end of the 90-minute race (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

SubZero Wolf pairing Craig Davies and Adam Jones came out on top of a race long tussle with fellow SEAT drivers Bernard Hogarth and Stefan Hodgetts to win the Britcar Production Cup race at Donington Park.

The race was unusual from start to finish. The safety car was called out nearly as soon as the race began as a short, sharp shower was blown across the track. Hodgetts, in the red and gold TF Motorsport SEAT drove all but the final ten minutes of the 90-minute race before Hogarth took over the car, and Davies, taking the second stint in the winning car finished the race by coming into the pits after picking up a left-front puncture on the final lap.

The battle that would decide the race began soon after the field had taken the rolling start under the green flag. The BMWs of Richard Abra and Michael Symons that had started on the front row fell back – Abra later describing the difficulty of transferring the power through the rear wheels onto the track surface as it grew steadily more treacherous.

The no.99 Lohen Mini of Kevin O'Connor was the first to prove the difficulty of a damp Donington Park, spinning through Schwantz Curve and hitting the wall to the inside of track. Fellow singleton driver Tim Saunders was another to find trouble, the red Honda Civic spinning into the gravel trap at the Old Hairpin though he, unlike O'Connor was able to continue in the race after losing three laps while the car was pulled from the gravel.

With the greasy conditions complicated further by a layer of oil left by Gary Smith's rapidly expiring MG ZR the safety car was called upon to bring the pack under control while the early casualties were tended to.

In the space of three laps Hodgetts had claimed the lead, with Jones hauling his ride from eighth to second. The early rain had also given cause for a number of teams gamble on the rain continuing, a handful of pitters led by Eugene O'Brien in the Toyota MR2 and front row starter Symons who had dropped from second to eighth as Jones did precisely the opposite.

The decision, especially with the safety car shortly after could have won either the race, but as the field circulated at reduced pace the rain blew over, revealing clear weather.

Despite this, just after the restart the wet or intermediate tyres were clearly the right choice. Symons set the fastest lap at the time as an inspired O'Brien unlapped himself from behind the lead two SEATs. However, as the track dried out his times and that of those who had braved slick tyres converged O'Brien fell back off the lead lap before handing over to Simon Phillips with a half hour remaining. Phillips was back into the pits after just a single lap, however, brake problems stopping any chance they had of a god result as they – undeservedly – ended the race in 16th overall.

Production Cup battle, Donington Park (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

Hodgetts leads Jones in an enthralling battle down the Craner Curves (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

At the front Hodgetts and Jones fought for the lead, frequently less than a second apart as the sliced between slower traffic, often coming close to making contact as those drivers being lapped had to avoid two cars on different lines as the battle raged around them.

Sadly for those watching two of the best drivers on the grid going head-to-head the combatants parted with 30 minutes remaining, Jones pitting to give way to Davies for the final stint while Hodgetts carried relentlessly on clocking up lap after lap in the 1:14 and 1:15 bracket. Davies was unable to match those times, but was lapping consistently just a fraction slower and when Hodgetts finally pitted just seven laps from the end Davies assumed the lead after the Hodgetts/Hogarth combination lost time in the pits, their combined stop and outlap 45 seconds greater than their rivals.

Once on track Hogarth was unable to match the times of his rapid teammate, and the gap to Davies grew from 15 seconds to 38 at the start of the final lap. That gap allowed Davies to lose nearly ten seconds after a vibration betrayed the puncture that brought him into the pitlane as the checkered flag fell.

The slow final lap allowed Graham Coombes and Mark Cunningham back onto the lead lap, Coombes with co-driver Guy Povey claiming the final step on the podium. Together with Keith Webster , who had replaced Michael Symons in the no.11 BMW mid-race, Cunningham and Coombes were the only men who were able to match Hodgetts' times late in his stint. However, Webster's race came to end half way through the final lap, the orange BMW stopping at the Old Hairpin with heavy left-front damage, though he and Symons were still credited with a fifth place finish.  

Polesitter Richard Abra's race -after struggling in the rain – began to improve as the race winner at Silverstone again set the pace, clawing back two seconds a lap on the lead battle, the gap falling to just 14 seconds as Abra crossed the line behind the Intersport of Kevin Clarke, already delayed by several laps with a mechanical problem. Under braking for Redgate Clarke hit the rear of Abra's charge, sending both cars into the gravel. Both were able to continue, though Abra only completed the lap before pitting into retirement.

Eurotech Honda Integra, Britcar Production Cup (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

After running second to the Ginetta G40 of Howard and Breeze, Eurotech men Nigel Ainge and Mike Jordan won again in Class Two (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

For the second successive race Nigel Ainge and Mike Jordan picked up Class Two honours. Aigne, starting the duo's Integra ran second in class behind former Ginetta Junior racer Tom Howard, paired up with current GT Supercup driver Carl Breeze. Ainge pitted to hand over to Jordan after 21 laps, Breeze climbing about the Ginetta G40 four laps later.

Like in the overall race the time lost in the pitstop proved to be pivotal, the Ginetta pairing losing almost a minute to Ainge and Jordan, despite their minimum pitstop time being ten seconds longer as a success penalty after winning the opening round of the season.

The extra minute dropped Breeze nearly a lap behind, an advantage the former BTCC driver Jordan consolidated by consistently lapping the faster of the two, completing the victory seven laps before the checkered flag by moving an entire lap ahead of their nearest rival. After being one of the teams to swap to wet tyres early on Paul Black and Clive Bailye completed the class podium.

HE Racing, Harry Cockill (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

Driving without his brother as in round one, Harry Cockill took a second win of the season (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

Class Three, too, went to a repeat winner in HE Racing and Harry Cockill – who picked up Sunoco's Driver of the Day award for his winning solo drive. The Piranha Motorsport team of Simon Mason and Rory Bryant. Martin Parsons and Chris Knox – in the other Lohen MINI on the grid finished third in class.

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James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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