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MSA British Endurance Championship Round 1 Report

2013 British Endurance Championship

Round 1 – Donington, April 13th

Spain vs. Aston Thriller Settled by Penalty


In a three-hour race blighted by showers and a continually wet and greasy track, Javier Morcillo and Manuel Cintrano, in the Neil Garner-run Mosler took the win, after the hurriedly-purchased Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Bailey and Andy Schulz traded the lead between pit stops, but suffered a drive-through penalty after a yellow-flag infringement.


Firstly, let’s take a masterclass on how to achieve what you really, really want, by means of tenacity, imagination and wherewithal in more or less equal measures. Towards the end of the preceding Thursday’s test session, the Horsepower Racing Ferrari 430, run by Scuderia Vittoria and due to be raced by Paul Bailey and Andy Schulz, comprehensively and terminally lunched its engine. Contact with Michelotto and fellow 430 owner Witt Gamski could unfurl no support, but by midnight Friday, a brand new, fresh out of the box, untried, untested, but race-ready Aston Martin Vantage GT3 had been delivered from AMR, and Scuderia Vittoria’s spanner men were familiarising themselves with an altogether different prospect.



With the luxury of a warm-up session earlier in the day, the contenders went into the session with a semblance of data, and it was the new Aston, with Schulz at the wheel, that dominated the early proceedings, with Mike Millard’s Rapier prototype, and the GT3 Chevron near the top too. It was the Chevron pulling-up on the run out of the Old Hairpin that brought out the red flag just before the half-way point of the session, and once things got going again, the heavy hitters made their mark – first Nigel Greensall, now aboard Millard’s Rapier, then Javier Morcillo breaking into the 1:05s, before Greensall lowered the benchmark in two stages, eventually securing pole at 1:04.692 (on tyres that had done 400 miles racing), less than a quarter of a second ahead of the Spanish-driven Mosler. The new Aston headed the second row, with the Jordan Witt/Marcus Clutton GT3 Chevron alongside. Top Class 2 runner was the Ian Loggie/Chris Jones Team Parker Porsche 997, ahead of the Tracktorque Chevron of Tommy Field and Chris Hart, though they were split on the grid by the Intersport Mosler of Kevin Clarke, Wayne Gibson and Mike Jordan.  The Webb brothers’ BMW GTR headed the Class 3 contingent, in front of the Fauldsport Ginetta G55 of fast lady Flick Haigh and marque expert Ryan Ratcliffe. Taking no part in the proceedings was the works GT4 Chevron of Anthony Reid and Ray Grimes, which was undergoing a gearbox change after hitting problems in the warm up; they would start at the back of the grid.



The Hayes/Radcliffe BMW GTR had melted a piston in the earlier Production race, so just a lucky 13 cars lined up in the rain for the rolling start, and once the red lights went out, Morcillo took a tentative lead, with the nimble Chevron of Clutton working his way into second. Millard had dropped to third in the Rapier, then fourth as Schulz got to grips with the new Aston, whilst Tommy Field had dropped to the back in the Tracktorque Chevron. Schulz then began to harry Clutton, but in a field of 13 cars, there’s a short front group, some tail-enders, and a rather large midfield, and that’s where the action was; Clarke’s Mosler, Anthony Reid’s Chevron GT4 (already up from the back of the grid), and Tom Webb in the GTS Motorsport BMW. Reid dropped out of the group, leaving the way clear for Flick Haigh’s Ginetta to join the action. In front of this was Ian Loggie, the mirrors of his Porsche full of the battle behind.


After a few laps of passing and re-passing, Flick made a move on Webb stick, and latched onto the tail of a very flat-sounding Intersport Mosler. Unable to find a way past, she then had Webb on her tail again, and the side-by-side action re-commenced. Tommy Field was now mounting a recovery, and was dicing with the stunning yellow BPM Racing Renault Megane Trophy (basically a 3.5 single seater with a silhouette body), driven at this point by BTCC ace Jeff Smith.


Back at the front, Schulz had taken Clutton for second place, and was trading fastest laps with Morcillo, with the gap coming down rapidly, but the leaders were already lapping the frantic midfield battle, and the Aston got bogged-down in the thick of it, losing about four seconds.


Clutton’s Chevron had come to a standstill in the Coppice gravel, and the recovery was handled under waved yellows. The GT3 machine made it back to the pits, and enjoyed an in/out relationship with its mechanics for a good part of the race, eventually running well in the hands of Jordan Witt once some electrical gremlins were exorcised. The midfield shenanigans had eased a little – Flick Haigh had shook off Webb’s BMW, and eventually got past Clarke’s ailing Mosler  – but a little further back, Jeff Smith’s Megane was dicing with series returnee Peter Cook, in his Porsche RSR, with the BTCC regular exacting some decidedly touring car moves on the rear valance of the Porsche.


Morcillo’s Mosler was a surprising first to make a pit stop, with just 50 minutes of the race gone; fuel, but no tyres, and Manuel Cintrano was on his way.  Reid pitted the GT4 Chevron just before the first hour elapsed, Ray Grimes taking over, then Millard brought the Rapier in for middle-stinter Karsten le Blanc to take his turn. These were the vanguard of a raft of pit stops just into the second hour – Jeff Smith, Tommy Field, Andy Schulz from the lead, and Kevin Clarke, who had mixed feelings about his initial race stint in the Mosler; “It’s a godsend that we’ve got an horrendous misfire, otherwise at full power the sheer weight of the sideways movement in this car would be wrenching my shoulder”.


Le Blanc took a couple of unscheduled stops to sort things out with the Rapier, including clearing debris from the ducts, but there was drama for Wayne Gibson, as a stuck throttle sent him straight-lining into the Redgate gravel. A long recovery was dealt with under waved yellows, but the car was retired once inspected, denying Mike Jordan his stint.


The 90-minute mark ticked-over – half distance – and still the midfield bunch, now nearer the front end – had yet to stop. Ian Loggie had distanced the Team Parker Porsche from the Webb/Haigh fracas, and was now up to a solid third place, but dead-on the halfway point, Peter Cook brought his Porsche RSR in for Anthony Mott to take over, and Jensen Lunn was in too; still recovering from an horrendous skiing accident, and limping badly, he was apparently more comfortable in the Chevron GR8 than out of it, but relinquished his drive to co-driver Alistair Lindsay for an equal stint time.


Tommy Field had stayed in the Tracktorque Chevron for a short middle stint, but now pitted again, this time being relieved by Chris Hart; “We’ve got a misfire, and it’s very twitchy, possibly because of a bit of contact with the Megane at the start” admitted the Essex engine builder. With Flick Haigh handing over the Ginetta to Ryan Ratcliffe, and Tom Webb letting brother James celebrate his birthday behind the wheel of the GTS-run BMW, it was only Loggie now still to make his mandatory stop, which he duly executed 100 minutes into the race.


Cintrano held the lead in the Mosler, and was coping a little better in the conditions than his opposite number Paul Bailey, who was still getting to grips with his new Aston in unfamiliar conditions. The Mosler pitted with 68 minutes of the race left – fuel, no tyres, and Morcillo was installed. They had refuelled very early the first time – about 35 minutes early – so would they have enough to see them to the flag? Bailey assumed the lead for a few laps, before himself stopping to let Schulz back in; fuel, a new set of wets, and 5 minutes left to go. Karsten le Blanc came in too, handing the Rapier over to Nigel Greensall, who had helicoptered in from the Fun Cup race at Oulton Park. The prototype was too far down the order now to make an impression on the results, having lost a good few laps in the pits, but Greensall proceeded undeterred. Chris Jones was a surprise visitor in the Parker Porsche, barely half an hour after he took over; there was a churn of fuel, some adjustments to the tyre pressures, and he was away. This temporarily let Ryan Ratcliffe’s Ginetta into third place, after he had re-played the earlier Ginetta/BMW battle with James Webb.


Ratcliffe lost the place when he took a further fuel stop in the Ginetta, but Webb was in trouble shortly afterwards, his BMW cruising out of the Old Hairpin and coming to a rest with a diff failure. Waved yellows dealt with the recovery, and it was coincidentally that Schulz came unstuck; 30 seconds adrift of leader Morcillo, an earlier transgression by Bailey for overtaking under a caution was now dealt with. A drive through penalty was awarded, which Schulz duly took.  Now more than three-quarters of a minute shy of the lead, and with 25 minutes to go, he wasn’t giving up.  There was another pursuit too, for the Class 3 lead; Ratcliffe’s pit stop had brought Anthony Reid’s Chevron within sniffing distance, and the wily Scot was bringing the gap down wholesale, eventually sealing the position round the Craner Curves 12 minutes from the end. Also storming round was Greensall, with nothing to earn but some points (and a Class 1 podium) he unlapped the Rapier from the leading Mosler.


So, would the lead pair go through to the end without refuelling? With only optimism as a benchmark, Paul Bailey stated “I think we’ll make it”, whilst in the Neil Garner garage, there were shrugged shoulders and raised eyebrows from the team huddled round the timing screen.


Schulz had brought the gap down to 28 seconds, but with just three and a half minutes left on the clock, it was the Aston that was pitbound for a splash of fuel, leaving Morcillo to relax his pace by four seconds as he reeled off the last couple of laps. Phew! That had been a thriller!


“It was very marginal on fuel, and we took a risk on not changing the tyres” said team boss Neil Garner after the race, to which Javier Morcillo added (in conversation with The Checkered Flag’s Michael Passingham) “I enjoyed it, but I don’t think [the conditions] suited the car. It was very difficult, we basically ran qualifying laps for three hours and it was really difficult to adapt to see where the grip would be every lap. We knew we had to save three litres in the final hour. I was letting the throttle go and in saving fuel mode, but going as fast as I could in corners. I think we saved way more than three litres.”


Schulz and Bailey had bought redemption after Thursday’s disaster, and the Aston will be their weapon of choice for the rest of the season now. Ian Loggie claimed that he and Chris Jones were only driving at 90%, and following strict instructions from the pit wall; nevertheless, the Cheshire-based Scot had wrung the neck of the Porsche, and fellow Cheshire legend Ray Grimes was the butt of many in-jokes by the Chevron team regarding age, skill and sanity as he accepted the Class 3 spoils with Anthony Reid.


This had been a race of exemplary driving standards, despite the tricky conditions, and the Flick Haigh/Ryan Ratcliffe tem had embellished their polished performances with no small amount of brio, finishing ahead of Peter Cook and Anthony Mott, experienced racers who had to shake the dust off their helmets, but claimed the Class 2 runner-up spot, ahead of the Tracktorque Chevron of Tommy Field and Chris Hart, victims of some ill-handling. Jensen Lunn and Alistair Lindsay, nursing injury and on a learning curve respectively, performed solidly to complete the Class 3 podium in Jensen’s Chevron, and Jeff Smith’s early impressive performance in the stunning Renault Megane Trophy was followed by Ashley Woodman and Simon Leith, maybe not as fast, but somehow bagging a personal best on the very last lap of the race. Mike Millard’s Rapier was the last classified finisher, 17 laps adrift of the winner, and though they were running at the finish, the works GT3 Chevron of Jordan Witt and Marcus Clutton were 32 laps down, and not classified.



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