A late race downpour scrambled the order of the second Britcar Endurance Championship race at Donington Park. As several drivers faltered in increasingly treacherous conditions Nigel Greensall slipped and slid the BAMD Motorsport Ferrari 458 Challenge to victory.
“The conditions are constantly changing so you you’re looking into the distance to see the clouds and seeing the rain coming in,” Greensall told www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk after the race. “At one point the Melbourne Loop was dry, but Redgate was slippery the Craners were dry and the Old Hairpin was slippery but it was evolving every single lap so it makes it fantastic from a driver’s point of view.”
Greensall took the car over from Darren Nelson around the halfway point of the 90 minute race, starting his stint in a comparatively lowly sixth place. However, from that point on his progress was always up the order.
He inherited one place as Mike Millard made one of four visits to the pits during the race in his Rapier SR2 – the first of which had been necessary to tighten a chin strap when the driver found his helmet blocking his view as he plunged down the Craner Curves in the early laps – but then made a clean pass on track to take a position from Guillaume Gruchet’s Porsche 997 to take fourth away.
Then the rains came, and Greensall began to handsomely outpace those ahead as he started to bite into the margin to Peter Cook in the Audi R8 LMS started by Frank Pelle. Ahead of Cook and Greensall, who were converging towards a brief battle for third that was settled in the Ferrari man’s favour, were David Mason and Manuel Cintrano.
Mason’s co-driver Callum Lockie had been the only potential overall winner to start on slick tyres. The choice paid dividends as some initial laps behind the safety helped Lockie through the worst of conditions before the day’s mercurial conditions meant the track dried throughout the opening half of the race.
Lockie recounted his stint; “the first couple of laps under the pace car were a wee bit hairy when I came down to Old Hairpin and it was all wet so it was a bit [panicked noises] and I had some big opposite lock moments. But I wasn’t under pressure because we were behind the safety car and by the time we went green there were only about three places that were slightly iffy and by then we’d got heat in the tyres.”
Lockie needless to say stayed out as did Nelson as the two Ferrari 458 – one in Cup spec, the other Challenge – held the top two positions for much of the early running. That was despite Nelson running on wet tyres, the team having calculated that there was more time to be lost in making an additional pitstop than racing on less than ideal tyres, Greensall eager to praise his teammate after stepping off the podium.
While other teams were forced into an extra pitstop to exchange the treaded tyres for slick Dunlops Lockie was able to build up a lead of nearly two laps before pitting to hand over to Mason. Still growing to learn the car’s capabilities in the dry, let alone the wet, Mason was unable to match Lockie’s scorching pace allowing second placed Cintrano to move onto the lead lap before the first rain drops arrived during the race.
A visit to the gravel for Mason gave Cintrano an easy route to make up much of the lead margin that remained and as he slowed as conditions worsened Cintrano was able to move the Neil Garner Motorsport Mosler into the lead. It was, however, only to be a brief stay in P1 for the car that Javier Morcillo had started from pole position before having to pit once the wet tyres surrendered to the dry track. Morcillo also had to battle a worrying problem with the brake bias cable that meant the brake pedal – indirectly – applied the throttle. After a series of small offs as he tried to drive around the problem by trial and error and an attempt to cure the problem while still at racing speed Morcillo was forced into another extra stop, losing more time to the Lockie piloted Ferrari.
Only corners after completing the all-Spanish crews’ fightback Cintrano spun the car down the Craner Curves as the rain worsened, ending up facing back up the hill from the gravel trap. He and Morcillo would finish sixth overall and second in Class 1 behind the Millard Rapier which became the fastest car in the closing laps.
Mason retook the lead but his slower lap times made him a sitting duck for Greensall, then Cook who took first and second as Class 2 cars locked out the overall podium ahead of the Rapier, a lap down in fourth overall. Such was Greensall’s form in the rain that he won by 28 seconds despite leading for only the final four laps of the race.
Gruchet – driving his Porsche solo – finished fifth overall with Class 3 winners Nick Barrow and Robert Hall in Saxon Motorsport’s fearsome V10 engined BMW 1-Series.
Intersport’s E46 BMW, the Bullrun Seat Leon Cupra and Jensen Motorsport’s Chevron completed the classified finishes.