12 months on from winning the Britcar 24 Hours Richard Abra and Mark Poole returned to Silverstone and left with victory in the Britcar 1000km, the scaled down race taking place in a one year planed hiatus for the 24 hour event.
In the end their victory looked assured, their Barwell Motorsport run, MP Motorsport entered, Aston Martin Vantage GT3 two laps clear of their nearest challenger. That was another GT3 Vantage of regular Britcar front runners Andy Schulz and Paul Bailey who were joined by Scuderia Vittoria team manager Tom Ferrier for the six hour event. While the Barwell pairing reported a race of little trouble after climbing down from the top step of the podium the route to victory, or at least one by the final margin, was a lot less straight forward.
Abra, Poole and the Barwell squad were one of a rich field of invitation entries that joined Britcar stalwarts led by the Bailey/Schulz Horsepower Racing Aston and Javier Morcillo and Manuel Cintrano in the Neil Garner Motorsport run Mosler. By putting the Mosler on pole after the aggregate qualifying session Morcillo defended series pride, but come the art of the race the invitees raced to the front, led by Mike Simpson, who took the lead in the Team LNT Ginetta G55 GT3 that had started from second on the grid.
In the opening laps Simpson was followed past Morcillo by Abra, who took second, Bob Berridge who was tasked with starting Nigel Mustill’s Riley, and Schulz. Abra took the lead from Simpson at Brooklands on lap four after which point the #80 Aston would only fail to lead eleven laps of the 154 that remained as the race made it only 70km short of the grandiose title for the event.
Part of the team’s success was down to Abra and Poole being almost certainly the most closely matched driver pairing in the premier class of the race, with many of the rivals having at least one driver who would always lose ground as teams’ drivers cycled through stints during the race. The other part was down to early attrition that removed many of their fellow invitation entries from the running.
Having lost the lead Simpson would clash with a slower GT car – potentially the Cor Euser Racing Lotus Evora – that broke the rear suspension. Fast work by the Team LNT crew would return the car to the race after just fifteen minutes, but engine issues would result in retirement inside the first third of the race.
Abra’s first pitstop on lap 28 would give the lead to the Motionsport entered Wolf CN Prototype, but no sooner had the car taken the lead than left-rear wheel bearing failed, doing collateral damage to the brakes that put the car out of the race. After seeing off a challenge from Berridge in the second half of his race opening double stint in the Riley that ended with a pitstop under the briefest of safety car periods on the Horsepower Racing Aston came close to challenging Abra and Poole for the lead.
With Poole racing against Schulz toward the century of laps the gap came down to 32 second, but when pitstops on successive laps put Abra on track against Bailey the gap was drawn back out again. Bailey remained on the lead lap until he went off at Becketts. Speaking to www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk Bailey pointed the finger of blame at foot trouble. He guessed that – given the tiny gap between brake and throttle pedals on the Aston he may have had his foot on both as he tried to slow through the complex of tightening curves. To combat the problem Barwell have designed and fitted a footrest to their car, eliminating the risk of the same problem. Elsewhere championships have turned on smaller parts, but the difference at Silverstone left Abra and Poole with a two lap lead to protect for the final two hours.
The gap remained small enough that should problems have befallen the Barwell pair the lead would likely have changed hands but the Horsepower team never had the pace of match them again, Bailey’s off having damaged the splitter to the extent that the team removed it at the next pitstop with predictably detrimental effects on the handling. Instead, after successive stops under a second and final safety car period they found themselves in a battle for second in the race with the Neil Garner Mosler team. Bailey momentarily dropped behind Paul White in the Mosler, though White had to give the place back as the pass was completed as the safety car came out for a stranded Production BMW at Village.
The fight had championship implications, Morcillo and Cintrano trying to take the Class One title fight to November’s night race at Donington. With Morcillo put in the car just inside the final hour he took advantage of the problems for the Horsepower Aston to edge out the gap. However, just 24 minutes from the end of the race Morcillo was called back to the pits, regulations on driver time forcing him to hand the car over to Cintrano – the slowest of the team’s three drivers. The extra stop was a gift for their rivals. Having previously been prepared for the final stint in which Ferrier may have hand to back off to eke out the fuel mileage they were now able to take a extra pitstop of their own, guarantee their way to the end of fuel and install Schulz as an extra counter-measure to any late challenge.
As it was it was not they who had to fight to the flag but Cintrano. Having fallen from the lead battle due to the pace of the leading Astons Bob Berridge took over the Riley for a final 44 minute stint, and the Mosler’s stop dropped Cintrano and a podium spot into his sights. Despite the vast difference in lap times – Berridge’s six seconds faster than the Spaniard – it came down to the penultimate lap, Berridge only sure he would take the position once inside the final three laps. The result was a hard fought third for the team of Berridge, Mustill and Gareth Evans and a greater psychological gap between the Neil Garner Motorsport and Horsepower Racing teams to match the growing gulf in the points between the two teams.
However, they still lie only second in the overall championship standings behind Class Two team Team Parker Racing squad of Ian Loggie, Chris Jones and Julian Westwood who performed a near faultless race to win a closely fought class by less than a lap over the Simpson Motorsport run Audi R8 LMS. Tracktorque Racing were third in class another two minutes behind.
The class suffered little from the reliability problem that halved Class One runners with only the BPM Racing Renault Megane knocked off the pace. The yellow machine, shared by Ashley Woodman and Martin Byford, was forced into the garage twice by gearbox problems eventually finishing 27 laps off the Class leaders.