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MSA British Endurance Championship Round 2 Report

MSA British Endurance Championship

Silverstone International, May 11th


Paul Bailey and Andy Schulz, in the Horsepower Racing Aston Martin Vantage run by Scuderia Vittoria, drove a superbly controlled race in extremely challenging weather conditions to take a well deserved win in the first race on Silverstone’s new round-the-Wing configuration.


They didn’t have it all their way in qualifying though, a split power steering hose limiting their track time, and fourth on the grid was the best they could post, with the talk of the paddock, Nigel Mustill’s newly acquired faux Daytona Prototype Riley MkXXII, a trackday version of the real McCoy, but nevertheless an impressive machine with a 6-litre LS3 mill. Mustill had played-down the potential, but he himself set the bar at 1:01.974 just 10 minutes into the 45-minute session, with co-drivers John Martin and Bob Berridge completing just a handful of further laps. Javier Morcillo was the main challenger, the Azteca Mosler just over a second slower, until Nigel Greensall jumped in Mike Millard’s Rapier SR2 towards the end, annexing the front row of the grid on his penultimate lap, 1,021 seconds shy of the Riley.

Class 1 runners are in the majority at the moment, so the works Chevron GT3 of Marcus Clutton and Jordan Witt was respectable time-wise, but sharing the third row of the grid with the Ian Loggie/Chris Jones Porsche 997, the Team Parker crew having to burn the midnight oil to re-fettle the car after Loggie’s serious excursion into the barriers during Friday’s test session. The Intersport Mosler was to have headed the fourth row, but a dropped valve would prevent it making the grid, denying BTCC star Andy Jordan a GT outing, leaving the GTS BMW M3 GTR of Tom and James Webb, the front-running Class 3 car, on its own.

The Tracktorque Chevron of Tommy Field and Chris Hart languished atypically ninth overall, though second in the Class 2 standings, ahead of another drama, that of the BPM Renault Megane Trophy, in which BTCC ace Jeff Smith had incurred suspension damage due to a run-in with a Production car during Friday testing. Some hastily-fabricated replacement components had failed, and a bit of creative engineering was required to make the race. Anthony Reid and Ray Grimes were 11th in the works GT4 Chevron, finally getting the set-up to their liking, and they headed the Peter Cook/Anthony Mott Porsche 997 RSR run by Simpson Motorsport, leaving the Jensen Motorsport Chevron an unlucky 13th and last on the grid, having suffered clutch failure.


A severe and somewhat unexpected squally downpour drifted over the circuit as the cars were about to form up, causing a delay whilst appropriate rubber was fitted, and once the Safety Car did bring the pack round, with the rain still hammering down, it was nine laps and the best part of 20 minutes before conditions were deemed fit to let the field go racing.

Straight away, John Martin splashed off into the lead in the Riley, but the Rapier held back, slipping behind the Aston and the Mosler, though this was a controlled move, as Mike Millard had intimated before the race; “I’m not sure that we’ve solved the ECU issues, and I don’t want to cut out in front of everybody and cause an accident, so I may hang back and let the fast starters go”

Already having issues were the BPM Megane, and Jensen Lunn’s Chevron. Lunn just took the opportunity of the extended starting procedure to switch from an old set of wet tyres to a new set, but the Megane’s issues were more serious. Jeff Smith had spun on one of the caution laps, and pitted to rectify the car’s worrying handling, the team effecting some considerable suspension modifications.

Martin’s lead was short lived – it wasn’t long before the Riley slipped out of the top spot, then further down, before pitting, the harsh weather conditions having got the better of the car. With the compressor that operates the paddle shift located in the waterlogged passenger footwell, there was no option but to retire, but the potential had been realised.

So Morcillo led Schulz, but behind the order had been turned upside down – Clutton’s Chevron was third, much as expected, but on the way up were the Chevrons of Reid and Hart, and Tom Webb’s BMW, whilst drifting backwards was Millard’s Rapier (8th), and Loggie’s Porsche.

Schulz grasped the lead from Morcillo on lap 19, with seemingly little effort, and began pulling away, while Millard decided he’d seen enough of the Class 2 cars, and started to push the big prototype up the order once again. The rain had by now stopped, and some of the field, noticeably Chris Hart, were weaving around trying to find the wettest parts of the track to fully utilise the treaded tyres.

Millard hauled the Rapier up to third as the rain intensified once again, but there was worry at the front, as the Azteca Mosler was dropping back dramatically, the gap to Aston going from nine seconds, 12 seconds, then 21 seconds on consecutive laps, before Morcillo brought the car in with just 45 minutes of the race elapsed.

Manuel Cintrano resumed in the Mosler, but was back in the pits within a few laps, waterlogged electrics causing problems that would take seven laps to rectify, reducing their race to a damage limitation exercise.

A quick spin for Millard at Abbey dropped the Rapier down to fourth place, and Jeff Smith, who had been going well in the Megane despite the handling problems, pitted before the turn of the hour, but remained in the car for a double stint.

Schulz pitted the Aston from the lead dead-on the first hour mark, and told a familiar story that had been echoing around the pitlane interviews; “It was very hard, very dangerous out there, with a lot of aquaplaning. There’s a river running across the track at Abbey”. Next to stop was Millard, handing the Rapier over to Karsten Le Blanc, and the Spanish- domiciled jeweller had his own unique problems; “I couldn’t see, I had to lift my visor up along the straights because it was misted up, and I was driving from memory”. Hart and Reid also pitted their Chevrons, with conflicting tales of their stints; Hart having “liked the wet, liked the car, but overcooked the rear brakes”, while Reid “had a misfire, but flying now and all going to plan”.

The pit stops handed Clutton the lead, but within a few lap he himself came in to hand the Chevron GT3 to Jordan Witt, leaving Tom Webb’s BMW at the head of the field. His sojourn at the front was short-lived though, as Paul Bailey was powering the Aston back up the order as the weather stabilised, though the track was still strewn with puddles.

Tommy Field, who had taken over the Tracktorque Chevron from Chris Hart, drove a couple of slow laps before driving straight into the garage exactly as the halfway mark of the race was reached. With a suspected water leak from one bank of cylinders, the car was retired. Jensen Lunn pitted his Chevron too, though this was a planned stop, and Alistair Lindsay took over for the final 80 minutes. “It’s crazy out there, and I lost rear end grip, but it’s not ready for slicks yet” reported Jensen, who is still nursing that skiing injury.

There were 75 minutes left when Peter Cook pitted the Porsche RSR for Anthony Mott to take over – “the track is slippery now that it’s drying, and we need inters now, but we haven’t got any” said Cook rhetorically.

Tom Webb was seemingly needed a tyre change too, running very wide onto the home straight while dicing with Ray Grimes’ Chevron, and he too pitted with around 70 minutes of the race left, handing over to brother James, with a new set of wets. Driving a superb middle stint was Karsten le Blanc in the Rapier, faster than anybody as the end of the second hour approached, and catching Jordan Witt’s Chevron for fourth place.

Dead on the second hour Bailey pitted after a superb run, and gave the Aston back to Schulz for the duration on a new set of wets. Loggie pitted the Team Parker Porsche too, though this was his first stop, and Chris Jones took over the apparently economical 997

Cintrano had by now brought the Mosler in for Morcillo to run to the flag, and Neil Garner’s team bolted a set of inters on. It was the way to go, for he set the fastest lap of the race, a fact that wasn’t lost on Nigel Greensall, who went one step further and demanded a set of full slick tyres when Le Blanc brought the Rapier in from his storming middle stint with just 50 minutes of the race left. “I think it’s the right choice – we’ll find out” said Le Blanc as the Rapier was prepared for the final blast.

It was the right choice – temporarily, at least, for Greensall , after a quick out-lap spin to establish the parameters, brought the time down to 1:10.952 and relieved Mott’s Porsche for fifth place, before wind, rain, then hail, halted his progress. He bravely persevered for a few more laps, but was in for more appropriate rubber as the final half hour clocked in.

A lot had been going on whilst attention was distracted by the tyre issues – a spin for Lindsay’s Chevron, Chris Jones’ Porsche had taken James Webb’s BMW for second, and Clutton took another stop in the Chevron GT3. Webb was having none of it, though, and the battle between the BMW and Porsche provided the interest as the clock ticked down. Both drivers had an eye on the fuel gauge, perhaps Jones more so than Webb, and both had their class wins sewn up, but with six minutes of the race left, the BMW was past the Porsche, and away.

So, Schulz took the flag, after three challenging hours. He and Bailey had made it look easy, a perfect drive in a perfect car, but of course there was more to it than met the eye, as the pair told The Checkered Flag’s James Broomhead. “   You’d come around every lap wondering if it was going to be greasy, slippery, has anyone dropped any oil, will there be more standing water. You were judging it every time and if you were pushing hard you’d almost jump across the track and hope you could catch it. I think all of us had a couple of moments where we thought ‘shit this isn’t good, it’s going to be a big one’ but then you’d catch it and you’d be a bit careful there next time” was Schulz’s synopsis, whilst Bailey reflected on the duo’s maiden win; “It’s going to sink in tomorrow. You also have to imagine that we’ve got a car here that we’ve only ever raced in the rain. A brand new car and what it’s like to race on slicks yet! We’re really hoping that at Rockingham which is the next round it’ll be dry day and we can see what it’s like on slicks.”

It was a great finish for the Webbs too, and again James Broomhead was around to catch their comments. “We thought ‘maybe’ then we thought ‘no’ then we went into fuel save mode for about 40 minutes of my stint so I was short-shifting and lifting and coasting and using a higher gear than we normally would just trying to get the car round expending as little fuel as possible. It was tight. I think we’ll pull about three of four litres out of the car when we’ve finished so we could have done maybe two more laps. I think we still would have won our class even if we’d stopped. It was frustrating. We were behind the Porsche for second but they were saying ‘save fuel, save fuel’ and I could see he was pulling away but then we’d catch him up and I was glad to get by in the end because it would have been frustrating” said James, with Tom adding “The original plan was that James was going to go out but at the last minute we had a slight change in strategy. I just thought I was doing a normal stint but they just told me to keep going and keep going but the conditions allowed us to. My feet were getting wet, my head was getting wet, my face was getting wet, the screen was steamed up, I couldn’t see anything. It was horrendous”.

The works Chevrons finished second in their respective classes, the Witt/Clutton GT3 machine and the Reid/Grimes GT4 version being split in the overall order by the Cook/Mott Porsche. The risky move to slicks didn’t pay off for the Rapier crew, though third in class, plus Greensall’s fastest lap, and Le Blanc’s prize of the Sunoco Driver of the Day was a fair haul of booty, and the car had held up in the conditions, despite Millard’s earlier fears. Fourth in class, ninth overall, was an atypical result for the Neil Garner Mosler, but these weren’t typical conditions, and the BPM team of Jeff Smith, Ash Woodman and Simon Leith struggled valiantly with the ill-handling Renault Megane Trophy, 15 laps adrift, but bagging the final podium spot in Class 2. So how was their race? “You don’t want to know” grinned Simon Leith, shaking his head. I did want to know, actually, but that said it all really,

Rockingham’s next, on June 1st, with the teams hoping for a dry race.


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