A close fought championship season has ended for the Britcar Dunlop Endurance Championship with victory in the final race going to the Mosler MT900R of Javier Morcillo and Manuel Cintrano. The Neil Garner Motorsport run class 1 machine took the spoils, with pro driver Morcillo fighting a strong defensive action against the Audi R8 of Tockwith Motorsport.
The qualifying session to set the grid for the 3 hour ‘Into the Night Race” which would end the Britcar Endurance season took place on Sunday afternoon in cool but otherwise perfect conditions. Problems started early on though with the FF Corse run Ferrari 458 Challenge of Bonamy Grimes and Jonny Mowlem in strife almost from the drop of the green. Mowlem had the wheel when the car suddenly snapped into a spin and collided heavily with the pit wall. The safety car was immediately deployed and Mowlem limped the car back to the pits with significant bodywork damage to the left hand side of the car and a left rear wheel which was pointing in the wrong direction.
The team laboured to repair the car and get it out for some qualifying laps while the session continued.
Early on the battle for pole was like an omen of the night’s action. First the Mosler took top spot thanks to Morcillo, then Nigel Moore nabbed the pole in the Audi. Morcillo countered and reclaimed the bragging rights before Moore once again emerged on top. Co-drivers Cintrano and Phil Hanson took middle stints in the session before letting the pros get back into battle in the dying minutes.
Once professional drivers were re-installed new contenders joined the fray. Calum Lockie for FF Corse’s GT3 effort fought to keep not only hopes of pole but the slim chances of a championship victory alive. ING Sport also joined the party with the BMW Z4 GT3 in the hands of Kevin Clarke but couldn’t break the lock on the top three spots. The car that Clarke shared with Ian Lawson ended the session on the outside of the second row, alongside a determined but unsuccessful Ferrari shared between Lockie and David Mason. The title defense and hopes for an unexpected ‘threepeat’ of championship victories was fading fast.
The Audi eventually triumphed, with Moore pulling out a half second advantage over the Mosler to claim pole overall and in class 1. The overall title contender and class 3 pole-sitter placed fifth in qualifying alongside the class 2 pole winner. The strong performance of the Century Motorsport Ginetta in class 3 thanks to Steve Fresle, class 2 pole being claimed by the BMW 1-series M Coupe of Mike Moss and Tom Howard along with final round guest and British GT racer Anna Walewska.
The Moss Motorsport pair had opted to run the 1-series for the first time in Britcar action in the final round with left their season long ride, the E46 M3, needing drivers. Scott Adam, Andy Willmot and AmDTuning.com team boss Shaun Hollamby made up the driving tallent in the #57 and placed seventh in qualifying in pole for class 4 by virtue of being the only entrant.
GT and Production racers also joined in the action, both for qualifying and the first 50 minutes of the Endurance race.
Drama came from the first of two planned formation laps, with controversy starting soon after, in the final race of Britcar’s relaunch year. After securing pole position in a thrilling qualifying session, Nigel Moore threw it all away at Clearways on the first formation lap, parking the Audi R8 GT3 in the gravel trap. The Tockwith car was not only fighting against a determined Mosler, returning to the championship for the first time under it’s new management, but with the Century Motorsport Ginetta of Fresle and Jacob Mathiassen for the title. There was also a very slim chance that the #1 Ferrari might claim the title if both Century and Tockwith failed to score.
The controversy came in the handling of the incident. The race director opted to add additional formation laps, rather than start the race under safety car. This gave the #19 R8 the chance to get pulled from the gravel, run down pit lane and start the race from the pits, crucially still on the lead lap. When the race finally began, Moore then had the chance to drive a stunning recovery, slotting the Audi back into championship contention.
Drama didn’t just rear its head in the championship battle either as the #76 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Jonny Packer fell victim to rare technical problems. The gearbox on the normally ultra-reliable GT4 machine developed undisclosed issues on the formation laps and before the race began, the car was on its way to retirement.
When the race finally started the Mosler took its inherited pole position and immediately converted it into a strong lead. Before long Morcillo had built up nine seconds of advantage over the Ferrari of Calum Lockie with Kevin Clarke in hot, but fading, pursuit. Back down the order the Audi was slicing its way through back markers, aided by early pit stops for the Woodard Racing Organisation MINI John Cooper Works and the #57 of Moss Motorsport. Also cutting back to a representative position was the #5 Ferrari of Jonny Mowlem which started the race after a miraculous repair job by the team at FF Corse allowed the car to qualify, albeit in the GT and Production pack. The final fast mover was the second Aston Martin GT4 of Whitebridge Motorsport.
The Whitebridge Motorsport crew had regularly hit well above their weight throughout the season but suffered from an uncharacteristically poor qualifying. British GT regular and former BRDC Formula 4 racer Matty Graham immediately set to fixing the problem and thus three cars were carving their way to the front of the field from the back of the pack. Soon the Aston was battling for the class lead with Mathiassen in the championship contending Ginetta until a clash with the 1-series M Coupe of Tom Howard halted that particular charge and sent the Vantage to the garage for remedial work. The Aston returned to the fray, the 1-series did not leaving team owner Mike Moss and Anna Walewska without a drive.
Heading towards the top of the first hour, which would also mean the end of the GT and Production race, the Audi had regained its position, dismissing the challenge of the #5 Ferrari under Mowlem’s control with ease. Similarly dispatched was the defensive efforts of Kevin Clarke in the Z4 which left the job of catching and passing the Lockie/Mason Ferrari to teenage hotshoe Phil Hanson. The Ferrari had pulled in the Mosler and was now within half a second.
Before the 17 year old could take up that challenge though the complexion of the race changed drastically as the Ginetta G50 from Tockwith Motorsport obliterated itself on the Brabham Straight. The accident came about as a combination of a last lap battle between the Ginetta, piloted by Ed Moore, and the E92 M3 of Dan Stringfellow and a very hard charging class 1 Ferrari in the hands of Lockie.
The Scotsman had claimed the lead of the race after the notoriously thirsty Mosler pitted early for fuel and to hand over to Manuel Cintrano. Lockie knew well that the two co-drivers were well matched and that the difference between success and defeat may have been down to his moves in the final laps of his first stint. The 458 GT3 was decisive through the GT and Production traffic but upset the rhythm of the Ginetta and BMW. Contact was made, polystyrene boards were demolished and the Ginetta shed parts with abandon. The BMW was undamaged in the accident but was stuck for a while, broadside on and on the racing line. The safety car was immediately deployed.
Both Ed Moore and Stringfellow were unharmed but the recovery operation took a long while. This allowed the Mosler to return to the pits to brim the tank with the reduced allowance of 25l of Sunoco fuel on top of the 75l it took on during its green flag pitstop. It also left the Ferrari of Mason and the Audi of Hanson no choice but to re-visit the pit lane during and after the caution for a full tank of their own.
During the safety car period the Audi had managed to claim the lead, with competitors dropping back with one or more visits to the pit lane. That left Hanson with no worries once the BMW M4 returned to the pit lane, the hammer went down and the Audi rocketed away at the head of the field. Neither Mason in second place nor Cintrano fourth had any hope of answering the pace of the Audi and the BMW Z4, now under the control of Ian Lawson had never been in contention. The recovering Bonamy Grimes had put the repaired FF Corse 458 Challenge into second place by the halfway mark, chased by Lawason.
Hanson was 45 seconds down the road, or to put it more graphically, the battle for second was at Druids while the leader braked for Paddock Hill. On the 100th lap, Hanson overtook Grimes to put a lap on the entire field, in the car which started the race from the pits, by way of the gravel.
Final stops and driver changes came early for the Mosler and the #1 Ferrari which allowed Morcillo to counter attack against the Audi, once the safety car had once again had a spell on the track. This time it was Dave Birrell in the Woodard Racing Organisation MINI who caused the caution with the expected off at Paddock Hill. The MINI was dragged out of the gravel and rejoined the race but the delay had allowed the leading cars to switch their pros back into the car.
The Mosler double stopped, using the time honoured Britcar tactic of stopping on successive laps for a single 25l churn of fuel. Up and down the pitlane the conversation was on one thing, would the notoriously swig-happy V8 need to stop again for petrol? Would the Audi?
Again, the pit stops had shuffled the field but the Audi still held onto a lead. Morcillo gunned the Mosler on and on while both the #5 Ferrari and #19 Audi stopped again for more fuel. The final 30 minutes of the race was a virtuoso display from the Spaniard of defensive driving and lead conservation and from Nigel Moore an equally impressive performance, the Audi reeled of a string of qualifying laps. With ten minutes to go the greyhound saw the hare.
Lap after lap Moore tried all he could to pass the Mosler which had to be in full fuel conservation mode. Morcillo used ever trick in the book to keep the newer, faster and more efficient GT3 car behind. Phil Hanson and the Tockwith team were unable to face the tension of watching the timing screens from the garage and all decamped to the paddock, waiting and longing to see Audi lights appear ahead of the Mosler out of Graham Hill Bend.
At 18:28 the chequered flag was shown, bringing to an end the first season of Britcar under its new ownership. It was the Mosler which saw the flag first, followed 0.557 seconds later by the Audi and the BMW of Lawson and Clarke a lap down in third place for class 1 and overall. Victory in class 2 went to the repaired but reliable 458 Challenge of Mowlem and Grimes with their only class rivals, Moss, Howard and Walewska, classified in 13th overall, 174 laps further back after their race ending accident on lap 15.
Class 4 came next, bringing silverware to the Moss Motorsport team thanks to Hollamby, Adam and Willmot in the M3 who were delayed but continued to run. Class 5 gave a maiden win to the WRO MINI JCW of Birrell and Woodard, a worthy reward for a season of effort and improvement. The MINI’s season long rivals, Synchro Motorsport, had opted to miss the final round of the championship to race in the Race of Remembrance at Anglesey.
The reward to Synchro was overall victory with the Civic which had dominated Britcar class 5 all season, and 4th in class with the Honda Jazz which retired from Britcar competition three years ago.
Podium celebrations for the overall victors were long over while Britcar staff double, triple and quadruple checked the championship positions. Given the unusual start to the race the numbers had to be right. In the end Steve Wood and Chris Valentine confirmed that Tockwith Motorsport had tied on points with Century Motorsport at the top of the points table. Countback of race wins handed the title to the Tockwith Audi R8.
Century Motorsport could console themselves with the Class 3 title by 25 points from their nearest rivals, Whitebridge Motorsport and second in the overall championship table. Fifth in the overall standings gave Synchro Motorsport the class 5 title while the Darelle Wilson/Ian Heward Porsche 996 911 RSR took class 2 spoils despite a season of mechanical problems and missing the final round.
Britcar returns to action in 2017 with the first round of the championship from Silverstone International on 9th April.