Two weeks on from the opening round of the Britcar Endurance Championship at Silverstone, the championship returned for its second meeting of the year at Snetterton. Where Silverstone had been sunny and warm, Snetterton was cold and wet with rain defining the day.
SNETTERTON: BRITCAR ENDURANCE RACE REPORT | BRITCAR TROPHY RACE REPORT
The grid for race one saw the #23 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 of Richard Wheeler and Danny Harrison on pole position with the class 3 Ferrari 488 Challenge car of Bonamy Grimes and Johnny Mowlem starting alongside. The double winners from Silverstone, John Seale and Jamie Stanley started their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo from P3 ahead of the Praga of Gordie Much and Abbie Eaton who were at the head of the Praga category.
The safety car led everyone around for 2 laps to enable the field to get to grips with the conditions and when they were finally released it was a comfortable getaway for all the cars. All was well until turn 3 when John Seale spun his Lamborghini onto the grass dropping the car to P16. This left Wheeler and Grimes alone at the front and with the weather proving a great leveller, the class 3 Ferrari with the Le Mans experienced Bonamy Grimes at the wheel was soon past the big Nissan and away into the distance.
Wheelers troubles worsened as he was engulfed by a swarm of Pragas that saw him drop a further 3 places in quick succession before the class 2 Ferrari of John Dhillon swung past leaving the Nissan just ahead of Martin Byford in the class 4 SEAT Cupra TCR who was holding P7 overall.
Back at the front and the Praga of Angus Fender made its way past Grimes and looked on course to take an overall victory.
Just before the 30-minute mark and midway through the pitstop window, Jem Hemsworth spun the #87 Praga she shared with Jimmy Broadbent. Broadbent had started the race from the back of the field and had struggled in the conditions to pull himself up through the pack. He pitted to hand over to Hemsworth at the earliest opportunity but unfortunately the 2020 champion got stranded at turn 4 bringing out a safety car.
At the restart Jay Morton and Fender held onto the lead with John Dhillon, driving solo in the class 2 Ferrari, close behind and the class 4 SEAT of Byford and Ashley Woodman in P3. With a Praga looking odds on for the overall win it all went wrong for Morton and Fender when a spin at Oggies let Dhillon through to the lead, Whilst trying to recover Morton spun for a second time at turn 3 leaving the Ferrari 45 seconds ahead of the Praga with 20 minutes left on the clock.
Ashley Woodman, who had taken over from Byford in the SEAT, briefly benefited from Morton’s ill-fortune, taking P2 overall but the Praga was soon back in front of the class 4 SEAT Cupra. The dark horse in all of this was Jamie Stanley who had taken over from John Seale in the Lamborghini and was now charging through the field. With the cars bunched up at the end of the safety car period the Cheshire driver was scything through the field and with 12 minutes remaining had recovered to P2, 1 minute behind the leader and catching him at around 7 seconds per lap.
In the time remaining the gap was too much for Stanley to make up and he finally came home 30 seconds behind the Ferrari of John Dhillon. P3 went to Johnny Mowlem who in the closing stages had to fend off Danny Harrison in the Nissan who took P4.
Chris Wesemael and Richard Morris took the Praga category victory with P5 overall just ahead of Jack Fabby and Charlie Martin in the #91 car. Ashley Woodman took the class 4 win although having held P7 he lost it in the final seconds to Will Powell in the #77 McLaren 650S GT3.
Race 2 was a drier affair with the rain dying away and the drying track playing into the hands of Phil Quaife who had sat out the first race. Starting on the third row in the class 2 Ferrari 488 Challenge, Quaife was in the lead as the cars entered the Bentley straight having steamed past the Lamborghini or John Seale, the Nissan of Richard Wheeler and the pole sitter Bonamy Grimes in the class 3 Ferrari 458 Challenge. Quaife was 7 seconds ahead by the end of the first lap with Grimes and Wheeler resuming their battle from race 1. In the dry conditions the Nissan was able to stretch it’s legs and moved away from the class 3 Ferrari and was quickly joined by John Seale in the Lamborghini.
Through all of this the #111 Praga of Richard Wells and Alex Kapadia emerged in P2 but couldn’t make a dent in Quaife’s lead who by this point was some 26 seconds ahead. 15 minutes into the race it all went wrong for Wells when the Nissan tagged the Praga at turn 4 leaving it stranded on the edge of the track and the safety car was called to recover the stricken Praga.
As with race 1, the safety car coincided with the pit window opening and on this occasion all but one of the field entered the pit lane. In the tight Snetterton pit lane chaos ensued as cars stopped where they could. Amongst all this the Wells/Steward BMW M3 E36, whilst attempting to exit its pit box, struck the #99 Golf TCR car of Jonathan Beeson which was turned around in the crowded pitlane and in turn took out the Praga of Charlie Martin and Jack Fabby ending the race for all three.
The safety car eventually pulled in with 15 minutes left on the clock leaving all of Phil Quaife’s hard work in the opening stint for nothing. As the only class 2 entry in the field, P1 in class was assured but a repeat of the race 1 overall victory was off the table, John Dhillon bringing the car home in P6 overall.
At the restart the Nissan with Danny Harrison at the wheel took the lead into turn 1 and by turn 3 was joined by Jamie Stanley in the Lamborghini. For the next couple of laps the pair fought hard as Stanley tried every trick he knew to jump the Nissan. The move happened around the outside of Agostini, the tightest corner on the track and once clear of the Nissan, Stanley was away down the road towards his third victory of the season and a fastest lap that beat the existing GT3 lap record set by Phil Keen, also in a Lamborghini back in 2016.
Amongst the Praga category Chris Wesemael and Richard Morris secured their position at the head of the championship with victory and P3 overall. Johnny Mowlem took the class 3 win and with it the overall lead in the championship for the Red River Sport team.
The Bridle brothers took P2 in the Praga category having started the race at the back of the field and fought up to P7. The result put them one better than their race 1 result which also saw a drive from the back of the field.
Jimmy Broadbent and Jem Hepworth and a happier race in the dry conditions taking 10th overall and P5 in category.
Class 3 victory went to Bonamy Grimes and Johnny Mowlem who finished P4 overall. Chris Goddard and Charlie Hollings took second in class ahead of the BMW 1M of Matty Evans and Kevin Clarke who took 14th overall.
The class 4 result went the way of Team Brit as Bobby Trundle and Aaron Morgan recovered from an off in the first corner at the start of the race to take 13th overall. Woodford and Byford in the EDF Motorsports Seat Cupra TCR took second in class 4, just 5 seconds ahead of Peter Erceg driving solo in the PB Racing Porsche 981 GT4 MR.
The next race will take place at Oulton Park on the 12th June 2021.
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