Led by Tomas Scheckter the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN of he, fellow South African Ashley Oldfield and Qatari Salman Al Khater took their Class Three Nissan 370z to victory in the Britcar Production Cup part of the Britcar 1000km at Silverstone.
The team – Oldfield and Al Khater two of the latest graduates of the GT Academy phenomenon – had qualified on pole position of the Production runners in the race but had to beat opposition from Britcar regulars in cars from classes higher up the pecking order. Their final battle was with Class Two runners Mike Robinson and Graham Johnson who, despite gearbox problems in the Total Control Racing run SEAT, were the best of Class Two and led the Production race into the final hour, only falling into second as they had to make one last pitstop.
Oddly for something that had such an impact on the result that stop in the sixth hour was just their fourth of the race, yet the victorious team visited the pits eight times, including a 27 second stop-go following their first pitstop of the race that was, evidently, some duration shorter than the minimum time prescribed in the regulations.
Oldfield took the first stint in the car and – a little predictably – fell out of the lead as Keith Webster put the Geoff Steel Racing BMW – already a multiple race winner in the series this year – to the lead. Webster shared the car with Michael Symons, one quarter of the team that won the Britcar 24 Hours a year earlier but it was clear inside the first hour that Symons was not to revisit the top step of the podium as Webster bought the car into the pits with front-left suspension damage.
The team fixed the problem with the loss of 25 minutes to keep Webster and Symons in the race only for engine failure to render their work fruitless when the car smoked to halt in the Arena section with 90 minutes of the race left. The early suspension problems gave the lead back to Oldfield and the Nissan team and left the Class One battle to the Cunningham family entered SG Racing SEAT and the Intersport BMW.
Neither could match the Nissan for pace on track or in terms of reliability. The SEAT, father and son Peter and Mark Cunningham dividing the driving between them, suffered from brake wear that necessitated a brake pad change mid-race while the Intersport entry had the bonnet up on nearly every pit visit as minor problems added up to enough to a delay to where the Cunningham’s advantage in class could absorb the six minutes needed to work on the brakes. At the end of the race a lap separated the two cars in favour of the SEAT team, but the three laps of arrears to the Production winners explained much of what sort of race it had been.
The Cunninghams, in fact, finished only fourth in the overall Production standing with the Hoffmans Motorsport Lotus Exige of Michael Schryver, William Schryver and Chris Randall third overall, their performance in another Class Three car just as giant-killing as that of the Nissan team. The best regular Class Three entrant – thus taking maximum points for the championship – was the ING Sport BMW.
While Robinson and Johnson eased to Class Two victory Mike Moss’s BMW M3 showed the potential to mount a challenge. Former Ginetta Junior driver Tom Howard completed a near two hour opening stint – nearly twice as long as any other competitor – before pitting under the safety car brought out when the Simpson Motorsport BMW stopped on the Hanger Straight. However, just a lap later – as the safety car peeled in in – the car, now with Moss at the wheel, returned to the pits in a cloud of smoke due to a diff problem, the first of many mechanical issues for a car that would finish 16 laps behind the Nissan.
A driveshaft failure in the first hour took the Synchro Motorsport Honda Civic or Alyn James and Dan Ludlow out of the race after start from the pole in Class Four, leaving the way open of Intersport’s Mini team of Danny Russell, Duncan Rodgers and Chris Knox to win the class by three laps over the Lohen entered Mini.