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Britcar Endurance/Sports & Touring Race Report – Donington 10th May

The Neil Garner Motorsport pairing of Javier Morcillo and Manuel Cintrano will be celebrating tonight after taking their second race win in three rounds of the Britcar Endurance Championship. The duo claimed the victory, which Morcillo admits was due to luck, after rivals in both the Rapier SR2 and Riley LMPX hit problems in the 90 minute 3rd round of the championship at Donington Park.

Morcillo took the start in the Mosler MT900 GT3, dispatching the Rapier on the way to Redgate Corner. The Riley however was on fine form and continued its domination of the day’s action which began with a 1.7 second advantage in qualifying. Soon after the start the Rapier, driven by Mike Millard, fought back only to take to pit lane as oil temperatures began to rocket. Millard’s woes were further complicated by a lack of radio communications with the pits. His stop was extended as he had to first communicate his problem before the team could leap into action.

Also joining Millard in the pits early on was the Audi R8 LMS of Peter Cook who picked up a puncture on the opening lap. The Audi would be forced back to the pits soon after as the team didn’t meet the 90 second minimum pit stop time rule and were handed a 90 second stop and go.

The Riley set about building a lead which seemed insurmountable with John Martin setting blistering lap times. The team struck problems on lap 21 of the race when a drive shaft failed, which spelled the end of the closed cockpit LMPX’s race. MacG Racing also suffered early mechanical problems, or so they thought. The car was brought to the pits by Jonny MacGregor with a suspected drive shaft failure only for the team to find on closer examination that the problem was with the rear end of the chassis, which had collapsed. This rare problem may spell the end of the Ultima GTR’s involvement in the weekend though the team were unable to confirm this at the end of the day.

Either way, the Riley and Ultima had set the tone for class 1, which started off with seven entrants but only had two in the classified results. The Spice LMPX of Karim Moudi overheated and cooked a piston forcing its withdrawal while the Ginetta G55 GT3 of Ian Stanton and Nathan Freke spent much of the race in the Stark Motorsport garage with power steering failure. The Marcos Mantis of Team Tiger would succumb late in the race to mechanical problems at Old Hairpin.

With Morcillo laying down fast lap times in the Mosler, the radio problems for the Rapier became serious. Millard’s second visit to the pits was for fuel, but again the solo racer had to wait until he was stationary to communicate with the team which added valuable seconds to the pit stop. Still at the end of the race, with 25 minutes to go, the Rapier was approaching the point of reclaiming the last of three laps lost to the Mosler. Manuel Cintrano was unable to match the pace of Millard and it was only a matter of time.

A safety car was the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of Millards fight back through the field. Regaining the lead lap, catching the leading car and passing it in 25 minutes round Donington Park’s Grand Prix circuit is always a tall order but the Rapier was quick and the chance remained. The safety car doomed this however when it came out to allow the recovery of the stricken Marcos of Jon Finnemore, who had taken over the car from Chris Beighton.

When the green was shown again there was little more than ten minutes on the clock and while the Rapier quickly regained the lead lap, there was never enough time for Millard to catch and pass Cintrano.

When the car spluttered to a halt on the Melbourne loop on the penultimate lap it was merely confirmation of what the team knew. Millard confessed that the car ran out of fuel, though he had sufficient laps in hand over the third placed Ferrari 458 Challenge of Darren Nelson and Nigel Greensall to retain his spot on the podium.

The class 2 victory went to that Ferrari, run by BAMD Racing who were delighted to have made up ground on their class rivals following their disqualification at Silverstone. Nelson took the final stint in the car, fighting his way back to contention. The safety car allowed the #31 to close back to within half a lap of their main completion, the #26 Ferrari 458 Cup of Callum Lockie and David Mason. When the pack was released Nelson put the hammer down and carved up to ten seconds a lap out of the FF Corse run Cup machine.

Five minutes remained on the clock when the Carnell backed 458 finally found range on its prey. A brave move at Goddards Hairpin, which Mason in the FF Corse machine spotted and gave just enough room for, saw Nelson through and he went on to build a 36 second lead in the four laps that remained.

The Audi R8 of Frank Pelle and Cook rounded out the class 2 podium despite the team’s early stop and subsequent penalty.

After a gearbox failure in qualifying which left the team with no choice but to replace it with a spare, Mark Radcliffe had his hands full in the Intersport run BMW E46 M3 GT4. “I had a problem from the moment I left the pits,” Radcliffe explained. “Because we had a gearbox blow after six laps in qualifying and we changed it before the race but it wasn’t set up right. I wasn’t getting my gears when I wanted them and I was having to cruise through the corners, reduce my braking considerably before I came into the corner and wait to get back on the power on the way out.

“I said to the guys should I come and park it but they said no, you are going really quick, you are alright. It felt terrible but I’m pleased to get a result despite the problem.”

Driving round his problem, Radcliffe was able not only to perform well in the class 3 field but beat all the completion by over a lap. He also managed to keep the class 2 entered Porsche 996 Cup of Guillaume Gruchet and the entire class 4 podium between his M3 and the E92 version raced by his Intersport team mates Ian Donaldson and Anna Walewska who grabbed second in the class.

Third went to the Bullrun entered SEAT Leon of David Green and Richard Adams. Green and Adams shared the car with Max Adams who not only had never raced the car before, but had never raced any cars before. Max passed his ARDS test and gained his racing licence in April, he can now claim a podium finish in his first ever race.

The Britcar Endurance Sports and Touring Car Championship proved yet again that it was by no means a make up the numbers series. While class 1 offered long ranged excitement and intrigue and class 2 showed that occasionally the hare can best the tortoise, it was class 4 that lived up to the Britcar billing as ‘the true embodiment of endurance racing’. Mark Cunningham took the chequered flag first in the class, which contained the entire Sports and Touring Car entry after dealing with the problems and trials which make endurance racing what it is.

Mark’s father Peter took the start in the car and promptly flat spotted his Dunlops. Appreciating that a pit stop to replace the damaged rubber would probably hammer nails into the coffin of their race hopes, Cunningham Snr battled on, wearing the tyre to cord in the process. Once the SG Racing team had done their work with tyres and fuel, Mark Cunningham jumped in and during his stint had to deal with a five second time penalty for track limits which was added electronically via the time keepers rather than by the car taking an extra stop. He would later be hit again for going a bit far over the white lines, this time with a drive through which put him on the back foot in the class battle with Barclay Dougall.

Come the end of the race we had the difficult position of the car leading the class on the road actually being scored behind his pursuer. If Dougall was aware of the five second wrist slap which had been laid on the Cunningham car or not is unknown but he pushed too hard on the final lap and spun the BMW E36 M3 at Redgate. The error cost him two seconds over the lap but it was all that the SG SEAT needed. Mssrs Cunningham and Cunningham took the class win by just 0.632 seconds.

Cris Hayes left the BMW in a SEAT sandwich by claiming the final class 4 podium spot.

Nick Barrow and Robert Hall continued to struggle with teething problems in their new-build V10 engined 1-Series. The #45 Saxon Motorsport car came to pit lane after an hour of action and was never seen nor heard from again. SEAT didn’t have it all their own way either as the Zest Racecar Engineering entered machine of Cox and Taylor dropped out even before the Riley came to grief. The only other retirement left Intersport Racing’s cake un-iced. The team’s Ginetta G50, driven by Andrew Donaldson, was unable to repeat its class winning form of Silverstone and Donaldson the younger managed only sixteen laps before retiring.

Author: Nick Smith


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