The father and son pairing of Mike Wilds and Anthony Wilds have claimed victory in the second round of the 2016 Britcar Dunlop Endurance Championship on a sun-drenched Snetterton 300 circuit. The FF Corse run pairing proved once again that Class 2 is no barrier to overall glory a four hour encounter which saw several faster entries hobbled in the pits. The win is the first outright victory for the pair who have claimed several class wins and two Production Championship titles on their way to the top step of the overall Britcar Endurance podium.
Qualifying: Mosler Goes from Stuck to Star.
The qualifying session for the Dunlop Endurance Championship, which in a new format for 2016 is raced all on one day, gave 15 cars 30 minutes to claim the front row of their respective classes. Initially the session looked like disaster for the #3 Molser MT900R of Javier Morcillo and Manuel Cintrano after the latter dropped the car into the gravel at Riches Corner. That little error not only put the Neil Garner Motorsport run Spaniards on the back foot, but the entire field as the safety car was deployed for seven of the 30 minutes to allow recovery.
Once the session went green again though it was Anthony Wilds who brought the lap times around the 2.99 mile circuit down below 2 minutes. It looked to be an all Ferrari front row for a while as the #5 machine of Bonamy Grimes and Jonny Mowlem spent several laps trading fastest times with their FF Corse team mates. Century Motorsport hit the top three briefly in their class 3 entered Ginetta G55 GT4 for Jacob Mathiassen and Steven Fresle while a less unexpected top three runner was the Holden Autosport entered, Neil Garner Motorsport run Renault RS01 of Nick Holden and Andrew McKenna.
Next to top the timesheets was the round 1 winning Tockwith Motorsport thanks to Phil Hanson who shares the car with Nigel Moore. Hanson would improve again just as the chequered flag went out but while he had been on track the Neil Garner team had been working hard. They very quickly removed several kilograms of MSV’s gravel from the Mosler before bolting in Javier Morcillo. The team didn’t even take the time to change the tyres.
Morcillo went out to bang in a time as quickly as he could and despite the flat spotted and gravel contaminated Dunlops took half a second out of the Audi R8 LMS of Tockwith at the flag. “It was tough”, Morcillo told Britcar, “we used the same tyres that Manuel had gone into the gravel with, they were flat-spotted, and the car was bumping up and down”.
Class 2 pole was taken by the #5 Ferrari thanks to Jonny Mowlem with the sister car in second place in class. The two Ferraris were split on the grid by the second Neil Garner car, the RS01, which took third in class 1. Class 3 was topped by the SG Racing Porsche 997 Cup of Mark Cunningham, Peter Cunningham and David Nye. Class 4 was decided long before cars even came to the circuit. Only one entry, that of Mike Moss and Tom Howard assured the Moss Motorsport BMW M3 E46 of pole. Alyn James and former Britcar Champion Martin Byford took class 5 pole in the Synchro Motorsport Civic Type-R despite an early puncture.
Race: Wilds Delight as Clock Stops McKenna Charge.
Scheduling robbed the Britcar Dunlop Endurance Championship field of much of the pomp and ceremony associated with the start of an endurance race. A packed support package took up all the available time in the day meaning that the Endurance field didn’t have time to park on the grid, let alone allow the sparse spectators access to a grid walk. The formation lap was conducted straight from the pit lane which still allowed only two minutes of cool down lap before racing engines breached Snetterton’s 18:30 noise curfew.
Not that the lack of ceremony dented the competition at all.
Under new for 2016 rules, the faster of the drivers entered into a car has to take the start. This allows drivers on National B licences to participate in the race and also gives exciting racing throughout the first stints as evenly matched professionals go head to head. As the lights went out on the gantry, the fastest of the pros, Javier Morcillo was immediately on the defensive, sweeping into Riches on a tight line designed to keep the opportunist Jonny Mowlem behind him.
Morcillo was granted a reprieve early on as the #19 Tockwith Motorsport Audi R8 took the fight to the Mowlem driven 458 Challenge. Wasting no time, the Spanish driver pulled out a lead of over a second a lap. The battle for the final podium positions was joined by the SG Racing Porsche 997, Mark Cunningham driving the wheels off the class 3 machine to keep pace with the GT3 Audi and the Challenge Ferrari.
Spectators were robbed of an even more exciting battle at the head of the field by problems for the #34 Porsche 911 RSR of Darrelle Wilson. The Porscheshop machine first hit the pit lane on lap 12, then again on lap 16 as the team battled overheating problems with the rear mounted flat-6 engine. The crew fought hard to keep the car running and managed to get it to the end of the race, though it completed 82 laps to the winners 116, calling on the pit lane 8 times. The car spend most of the four hours with no engine cover in a bid to keep the power unit cool enough to complete the race.
At 45 minutes into the race the scheduled pit stops started with the Wilds car coming to pit lane for service and a driver change. Anthony got out, 75l of fuel went in and Mike Wilds climbed aboard for the next stint. A couple of laps later Jonny Mowlem pulled into the same pit box for similar service, handing over to Bonamy Grimes as the well drilled FF Corse pit crew gave attention to the red Ferrari.
One of the last to stop was the #3 machine, the LS7 powered, decade old Mosler. Prior to the race Morcillo had been saying that fuel would be their Achilles heel and that the Mosler would be on fuel conservation almost from the second the lights went out. Once again Morcillo was showing the skills which have claimed him, his team mate Manuel Cintrano and the Neil Garner team numerous Britcar Championships, an ability to almost refine his own fuel while racing!
Soon the first round of stops was over and drivers and teams settled down to another hour of racing. Almost immediately after the clock ticked over to 3:00:00 though all hell broke loose. Something had dropped fluids in the terrifyingly quick approach to the Murrays left hander and the resulting slippery surface caught out Grimes. The #5 Ferarri took a trip across the grass, clouting the barrier and adding damaged suspension to a crank sensor problem which had been plaguing Mowlem in the first stint. That put the #5 back into the pit lane for more loving care from the FF Corse crew.
Nick Holden’s RS01 was also caught out on the slippery surface but avoided contact with both cars and track furniture, continuing on at a slightly more cautious pace.
The big event though, which may explain the slippery surface and certainly explains the deployment of the BMW M235i safety car, came on the Bentley Straight. The Tockwith Motorsport Audi R8 almost made it to the bridge before catching fire. Moore abandoned ship, luckily very close to a marshals post which could well be all that saved the car. Extinguishers were immediately on the scene and the chassis was saved though everyone who saw the car when it was loaded onto the flatbed for the return journey to the paddock expected it to be on the way home long before the race concluded.
Recovery bunched the pack up again and allowed for more pitstops. With Manuel Cintrano now in the Mosler it was nowhere near as dominant as in the hands of Javier Morcillo which left it vulnerable to attack. Not that it was pace that affected their race.
Britcar rules limit teams to 75l of fuel per fill but when the safety car is out on track the limit is 25l. Neil Garner Motorsport opted for the tried and tested Britcar tactic of coming in, taking on a single churn of fuel, going back out and coming back in for more. The bad news for the team was that the Mosler followed the safety car into the pit lane for the second fill, but having not seen the green flag before administering the maximum fuel they could fit into the car, were penalised for over-fueling. That put Cintrano into the penalty box for 90 seconds, gifted the lead of the race to the #9 458 Italia.
Saving graces for the Mosler were both the long time it took the Stewards to decide that the #3 car had in fact broken the rules and the fact that the Wilds Ferrari had a serious drinking problem. A long wait for a decision on the fueling let Cintrano build an advantage over the chasing pack before coming in to serve his penalty. The alarming rate at which the Ferrari was consuming super-unleaded also meant that the father-son crew were destined to make an extra stop.
All of these factors combined to make the final couple of hours of the race an interesting show. The lead rotated between the #3 and the #9 with the #7 Renault RS01 of McKenna and Holden also taking their time at the top of the order. As the clock ticked down to the final hour several cars had ended their participation in the race but two stymied runners had returned to the track.
The #5 Ferrari had come back from its problems but lost 14 laps in the body and paint shop so was well out of contention for the overall victory. A class podium, second behind the sister car, would be Jonny Mowlem and Bonamy Grimes’ reward for sticking it out and a welcome haul of points after lap 1 retirement at Silverstone.
The other returnee was a very surprising turn of events though as the previously well-done Audi had been repaired, re-assembled and returned to the track. At 39 laps down on the leader, both overall and its class leader, the Moore/Hanson pairing were not looking at overall victory but they were determined. This was made explicitly clear with six laps to go as Hanson blasted in the fastest lap of the race, a 1:50.861.
The start of the final hour saw Javier Morcillo on the tail of Anthony Wilds, making the pass in a bold move at the end of the Bentley Straight. That gave the #3 machine just fifteen minutes to build a lead before Morcillo returned to the pits and installed Manuel Cintrano for the final run to the flag.
That pitstop, along with a stop for the #9 Ferrari came as the clock ticked down to the length of a Dunlop Production Championship race, 50 minutes. Cintrano held a 16 second advantage over the #9 car but was nowhere near as fast Wilds the older in the Ferrari. Further complications came in the form of the #7 Renault which held the lead but would need to make one more call on pit lane to get to the end of the race.
A three car dash to the flag was set up when Nick Holden brought the Renault to the team for service. Andrew McKenna went in along with enough fuel to last the 18 remaining minutes but the car was left with a mountain to climb. Wilds was right on the Mosler’s gearbox too, setting up a great end to the race.
Cintrano decided that definite points was better than possible retirement and let the Ferrari past with little resistance which cemented the Wilds victory. The charge from the 3.8 V6 powered Renault was set to be the final crescendo of a thrilling race. With no fuel worries, McKenna was ripping off quick laps and caught the Mosler through Coram. A bold move at Murrays looked set to give the Renault second place but Cintrano fought it. The 6.0l naturally aspirated V8 of the Mosler set its teeth into drag racing the Nissan GT-R derived twin-turbo V6 of the Renault the length of the Senna Straight. The fight continued into Riches where McKenna and Cintrano briefly forgot rule #1 of motorsport; Never hit your team mate.
A little paint trading at the first corner was enough of a wake-up call though and both drivers settled down for the dying minutes of the race. The Renault had secured second place and shot off in the distant hope of catching the Ferrari. It would be in vein though and the podium was set. FF Corse on top, flanked by the Renault and the Mosler.
Class 2 was of course claimed by the overall winner, Anthony and Mark Wilds, with the revived and returned #5 car in second place and the still running yet seriously lamed Porscheshop 911 RSR in third.
The fast starting Cunningham Porsche had been set to finish in second place but gearbox problems late in the race left the team with a decision. Peter Cunningham had been driving without third gear for much of his stint but when the time came to hand over to Mark, the decision was taken to park the car. It is after all, much cheaper to replace a single gear than the entire box and the team opted to save as much of the transmission as they could. The decision also robbed them class honours in class 3.
Those honours went instead to the #88 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 of Ruben Anakhasyan and Ollie Hancock. After claiming victory in the Production championship on Saturday, the #88 machine had a quiet race, leaving it to the #43 Century machine to take the fight to the class 3 field. Jacob Matthiassen and Steven Fresle initially took the role on very well but lost out when tangling with the #54 Jody Fannin and Chris Murphy at Murrays. Both cars continued on but the close competition was broken, the #43 finished a lap down on its team mate, the #54 Whitebridge Motorsport Aston Martin a further two laps behind.
The Cunningham’s Porsche was classified in fourth place ahead of the Lotus Europa of Hoffmanns of Henley. The father-son crew of Nick Randle and Fabio Radaccio had been struggling all weekend with issues, plaguing them during the two Dunlop Production Championship races on Saturday and clutch problems halfway through the race left the pairing stuck in the garage. Engine failure for Vantage Racing put the #91 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 out after only 26 laps.
Class 4 wasn’t won at all, the uncontested victory of Moss Motorsport fell apart on lap 28 when the fuel pump failed. The only saving grace for Tom Howard, who started the car, and Mike Moss, who didn’t get a go, was that as the only entry, they obviously completed the required 80% of the class leader’s distance so qualify for the half points awarded to an under-subscribed class.
In class 5 the half points rule was crueller. With only the Synchro Motorsport Honda Civic and the Woodard Racing Organisation MINI Cooper in the class half points were a certainty. The Woodard car of Daniel Woodard and Dave Birrell had a lonely race at the back of the pack, watching mirrors throughout as the pace difference had Javier Morcillo sweeping past to put the first lap on the MINI on just lap three. A determined effort from the crew got the car to the finish and a podium in class 5 but really they were fighting well out of their weight-bracket.
The MINI was unable to keep up even with their only class rival, Alyn James and Martin Byford completing 14 more laps. The fastest laps figure makes the pace difference even more telling, the Honda Civic lapping 22.999 seconds faster than the MINI, while the Civic itself was ‘only’ 17 seconds slower on a lap than the #19 Audi R8 LMS.
The main point of consideration is that the two car class means that despite being the only car to win its class in both races, the Honda Civic sits only 4th in the Dunlop Endurance Championship standings. A welcome 13 points clear of the MINI in class but 4 points down on the championship leaders, Century Motorsport. The #43 car holds 45 points, just 1 more than the class 1 leading Tockwith Motorsport car. The Porscheshop car holds the class 3 title lead on 43 points.
That goes to explain the determination of both the Porscheshop and Tockwith teams to get their cars back out on track and circulating.
Attention now turns to race 3 of the endurance championship. The field head to Donington Park for the first weekend of June where once again the Production Championship will race on the Saturday and the Endurance on the Sunday.