Britcar Champions Bullrun: Winning The Hard Way

At Donington Park, at the end of the four hour finale to the season its dark and cold, but the celebrations are just getting started. Team Bullrun drivers Richard Adams, David Green and Martin Byford have just been crowned 2012 Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship winners and already there is a bottle of gold-flecked rose bubbly being passed around the trio as they retreat into the comparative warmth of their garage.

For the team the festivities starting around the drivers as we speak to them are the end of a two year target to win the BEC that began when –two years ago – Adams and Green won the Production Cup title. After a 2011 a stuttering attempt to move into the GT ranks with a Ferrari 360 Challenge their 2012 campaign began a little (or a lot) earlier than many of competitors with an announcement at Autosport International in January, unveiling the team’s new Lotus Evora.

“The Autosport Show seems a long, long time ago and there’s been so much go on since then but here we are. We just became champions!” Byford beams.

In the garage the space is filled with guests from sponsors and the manufacture all starting in the party spirit you trust has the same endurance as the Lotus Evora GTC they have taken to the title in a near-faultless season.

Across the eight round season the team scored five class wins, and in the face of some tough competition were never off the podium in terms of points scores. This was despite them facing a Class Three that was numerically the toughest of the season – more cars scored points in Class Three than any of the others three classes in the championship including the teams Adams, Green and Byford would have to beat for the overall championship.

“Class Three has been the hardest fought class in Britcar this year,” Byford tells in the midst of the fledgling party, “and not only have we come away and won the class but we then win the overall championship from the toughest class. For us the icing on the cake it to have won it the hard way, having been pushed hard pretty much every round.”

Five class wins in eight races paved the way to the title (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)
Five class wins in eight races paved the way to the title (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

The Evora – and the men in it – were on the pace straight away, only missing out on a winning start at Silverstone in March when a late puncture forced an unscheduled pitstop. The delay cost them a class win, that and third overall going to Ferrari drivers Toby Tarrant-Willis and Charlie Hollings.

The stop, however, cost them nothing in the championship, both the victorious FF Corse squad and the second placed Porsche team running as invitation entries, rendering them ineligible for points, the maximum score going to Adams, Green and Byford on their debut in the new car.

Though the race was a sign of things to come, the team had had little opportunity pre-season for long runs in the car, the three hour season opener a step into the unknown. However, as the year continued a partnership with Lotus allowed for additional testing and for the car to be developed through the year, keeping Bullrun ahead of the competition a positive start to the year was by no means certain in the minds of the drivers pre-race. Byford explained at the time that they had achieved little endurance running in pre-season testing, runs halted either by the need to make changes, or by others’ accidents on open test days. However, testing, working with Lotus was to continue through the season, improving the car, keeping them one step ahead of the competition, both in class and further afield.

Byford said; “it’s been a nice opportunity to work with the manufacturer, to take car back to the factory from time to time and make sure it’s as it should be and have a few little niceties put on it from time to time and it’s been fantastic. Lotus have given us a little bit of help which has been much appreciated. The car has gotten quite a lot quicker through the season and the team of guys that we’ve got have made the car considerably quicker which I think we needed to do.”

“It’s been an awful lot,” says Adams when asked exactly what the assistance from Lotus has been during the season. “When we decided to help develop the GTC car with them really in December of last year, it was a pretty last minute decision and the agreement was we’d work on a semi-works basis with them so there were things they wanted to achieve out of working with us and things we wanted to achieve as well and we’re both delighted with the results.”

A first class win on track followed at Donington Park, before losing out to the Track Torque Chevron at Snetterton, Nick Jarvis and Tommy Field taking third overall. The Chevron team were Bullrun’s chief rivals for the class championship, but a disappointing result on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit, just sixth in class dented their aspirations beating Bullrun to the class title. For Adams, however, a belief they could win the title had lingered a round earlier.

“I think it was probably about third race,” he said. “It was out third good result in a row and a couple of the other competitors had had one or two wobbles and suddenly having strung three together and then the fourth we started to think ‘maybe the class looks on’. Then five and six are in and we’ve won the class in the first six races and it was between us and Javier in the Mosler and it was all focus on the championship from round six.”

The final battle for the championship came down to Bullrun and the Neil Garner Motorsport run Mosler team of Javier Morcillo, Manuel Cintrano and Paul White, the Mosler team entering the penultimate round of the year at Snetterton just a point in arrears.

A late race clash for Morcillo while fighting over second in his class lost them ground to their rivals in the points, the gap growing to five points, and on track as Byford was one of the drivers to take advantage of Morcillo’s problem, taking third position overall.

At the final round of the championship, the Bullrun team only had to avoid a disastrous DNF to secure the title, though a throttle body problem brought the team to the brink of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory making the mood in the team “a little bit tense” to quote David Green. All the more reason for the celebrations to begin almost as soon as the checkered flag fell.

A Martin Byford inspired fourth overall at Brands Hatch was a precursor to a bigger result at Oulton Park (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)
A Martin Byford inspired fourth overall at Brands Hatch was a precursor to a bigger result at Oulton Park (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

The overall win followed an overall victory in the mid-season race at Oulton Park, when Byford drove the full balance of the three hour race. The drive was a highlight of a summer in which the Essex-based man, a former Clio Cup driver stood out in the Britcar paddock, the Cheshire weekend following the race at Brands Hatch when he drove all but the final 15 minutes, putting the team on course for fourth overall. Byford – a former Clio Cup champ who drove all too briefly in the BTCC last year – explains the Oulton Park strategy that led to a “very, very special” win;

“It was never the plan for me to drive the whole race, Richard was always going to drive the second half and the way the strategy fell and the way the safety cars fell and the way we got the fuel in the car we were all about the class win but it got to within the last hour and the discussion on the radio was ‘we’re leading the race outright, we can come in, Rich will go out and we’re pretty much sure we can win the class and we think third overall on the podium’. And for us an overall podium in Class Three is fantastic.”

“The other option to that was to leave me out in the car and go for the win because those opportunities don’t come up very often. To be fair it was Richard’s call to not get in the car and on that occasion we went for the outright win which was just awesome to go and do.”

Adams, selfless at Oulton Park gave up his drive again when the race dictated it at Snetterton, helping the team pick up a second podium result from a helming role in the pits.

Having won the BEC title, the obvious question is where they go next, the three obviously keen to maintain the relationship with Lotus forged during their championship. They maintain that any plans for 2013 will keep the team at the three drivers together “in a Lotus probably,” says Green.

“Not necessarily in the UK,” adds helmsman Adams, intriguingly.