With the 2021 Goodyear Britcar Endurance and Trophy championships nearing their close, Brands Hatch was set to add a little drama to the championship standings. However, on Saturday 31 July during the CTCRC Pre 03 / Pre 93 support race, marshal Robert Foote lost his life to a horrific accident. As a result, all of Saturday’s following race activities were cancelled which included the two Britcar Endurance one-hour races.
Sunday saw the action go ahead as planned with some minor adjustments to the schedule. A one-minute silence was held before track action started as a mark of respect for the fallen marshal.
As usual, there were two action-packed 50-minute races for the production-based series.
There was drama before the race even started in Class 1. Lee Frost was wheeled off the grid when the header tank on the Simon Green Motorsport BMW M3 failed causing water to spill all over the circuit. His teammate, Jas Sapra in the sister car also hit trouble as he was sent to the back for a regulation infringement. Jonny MacGregor also pulled into the pits with an issue for the MacG Racing Mazda RX8.
As if this wasn’t enough, just moments before the formation lap, a sudden downpour hit the circuit, soaking the track in the process. This didn’t seem to faze Kevin Clarke who stormed away at the start in his Woodrow Motorsport BMW 1M. Axel van Nederveen pulled off a brave maneuver on the inside of Mark Lee (both in Ginetta G56 Academy cars) to slot in behind Clarke on the run-up to Druids hairpin.
Lee would then spin exiting Graham Hill bend and dropped to the very rear of the field whilst Clarke stormed off into a huge lead.
Things would calm down for the next 20 minutes until further drama struck with Clarke slowing exiting Paddock Hill and coming to a complete halt on the entry to Druids. It would take a further lap before the BMW coughed into life but by this point, Clarke was a lap down to his closest competitors.
The two Peugeot 308 Racing Cup cars of Steve Rothery and Terry Stephens chose this moment to pit anticipating a safety car but it wouldn’t come until a lap later when Rothery collided with the Team BRIT BMW 118i driven by Endurance regular Bobby Trundley putting them both out of the race.
With the safety car deployed, the now leading Van Nederveen pulled a masterstroke and pitted. He would emerge in the lead and just maintain that lead to the chequered flag.
But Mark Lee in the SVG Ginetta made him work for it. With Van Nederveen getting seriously balked by the invitational Class 3 Mazda MX5 and losing 4 seconds in the process, Lee was just 0.8-seconds behind. Despite many attempts to get past, Van Nederveen kept his cool and brought the car home with Lee in second and Stephens in third.
Race 2 was a much calmer affair with the Woodrow BMW absolutely dominating. Lee ran in second throughout the race and kept car owner Simon Baker honest but once Clarke took over the BMW there was no stopping him as he lapped over a second per lap faster than the rest of the field — lapping everyone but Lee and Bryan Bransom in the sister Simon Green Motorsport BMW M3. Albeit only because they were battling and Clarke decided to follow them around rather than interfere with their battle which saw the Ginetta beat the BMW by just 0.278 seconds.
It was a disaster for race 1 winner Van Nederveen. Running third behind Lee, he made a mistake and spun at Graham Hill bend with 36 minutes remaining. With Lees comeback earlier, all was not lost for Van Nederveen. At least until the following lap where he spun again at the same corner and lost a lap to the leaders.
Frustrated, he spun for the third time, but entering Clearways and narrowly missing the barriers. He would ultimately recover to sixth overall and fifth in class.
The results of class 2 might indicate that Richard Higgins dominated the weekend, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
With the wet conditions for the start of race 1, it was the front-wheel-drive machinery that led the charge in the opening stages. Ryan Firth driving the Gen. 4 Clio Cup Endurance Spec car quickly assumed the class lead from Richard Higgins in the County Classics Porsche 911 with Ricky Coomber dispatching of the Porsche shortly after in his RKC Honda Civic.
It was a disastrous start for class pole-sitter Peter Spano in the Ramen Racing Ginetta G40 as he slid back to 25th place. After the first lap drama, things settled down with Firth even running second overall as the powerful Class 1 cars struggled to put the power down.
After the pitstops, Andrew Bentley put on a charge and stormed back up to eleventh position overall and fourth in class, performing a spectacular overtake around the outside of Higgins at Graham Hill bend.
Higgins meanwhile was on a charge of his own. The drying track started to favour the Porsche and he quickly reeled in Andy Mollison who had taken over from Firth in the Clio and passed him with just 5 minutes to go. He would not be headed and took another Class 2 victory. Mollison came home in second with Anthony Hutchins finishing third after a quiet race in his ip/Antac Porsche Boxster.
As with Class 1, race 2 was a much calmer affair. Andrew Bentley starting the Ginetta this time cruised into a huge advantage over Higgins before the mandatory stops.
However, once Spano took over the Ginetta, Higgins was quickly able to catch him and make his move down the inside of Paddock Hill with 9 minutes left. Once again he would not be headed in a weekend that greatly boosted his title chances sitting just two points behind the all-conquering Woodrow BMW.
Spano came home second with Firth and Mollison just 0.052-seconds behind in third. However, it looked set to be a third-place finish for Coomber in the RKC Civic before a 29-second stop-and-go penalty scuppered his chances. Mark Simmons brought the car home in fourth, 30 seconds behind the Clio ahead.
Class 3 didn’t see the same amount of drama as Classes 1 and 2 but that didn’t stop them from giving it their all.
It was Jamie Vinall-Meyer who claimed pole position for both races despite performing double duties this weekend. The youngster also drove the sister Reflex Racing Ginetta G20, fittingly painted in bright Orange.
Co-driver Steve Griffith took the start but it didn’t go quite to plan. Steve spun exiting Paddock Hill on the second lap causing him to drop to the very back.
Arthur McMahon took over the lead and looked set to take a comfortable win until a stop-and-go penalty ruined his chances.
This left the squabbling Alfa Romeo Giulietta and VW Golf to Duke it out for the class win. Barry McMahon in the Alfa made his move on Steven Chandler with just 5 minutes remaining to take his and the car’s first Britcar victory. Arthur McMahon rounded out the podium placings.
It did look set for Team BRIT to haul their BMW 118i onto the podium after a great opening stint by Luke Pound. Shortly after Endurance regular Bobby Trundley took over, an ambitious move by Steve Rothery in the Peugeot caused terminal damage to the BMW forcing them not only out of the race but the remainder of the weekend.
Race 2 got off to a kinder start for Reflex Racing. After Griffith’s spin in race 1, they were left in sixth and seventh places respectably.
With Vinall-Meyer taking the start in what appeared to be the faster of the two cars, he opened up a huge advantage before the mandatory pit window opened.
Griffith took over but ultimately wasn’t able to cling onto the lead.
It would be the Chandler Motorsport Golf going one better and claiming their first Britcar Class 3 victory. Griffith held onto second place and the under-the-radar Rob Taylor brought his TSR VW Golf home in third place.
Griffith and Vinall-Meyer still maintain the lead of Class 3 after their dominance in the opening two rounds and only sit 20 points behind the Woodrow BMW with two rounds remaining.
The ever exuberant Clios relished the damp conditions in race 1 and swiftly moved their way through the order.
Anton Spires made the best getaway and was even challenging the second-placed Class 2 car of Ricky Coomber.
Things then remained fairly stagnant until Tony Davies backed his Westbourne Motors Clio into the barriers at Paddock Hill Bend, bringing out a mid-race safety car.
Spires and closest rival Steve Thompson pitted together just before the safety car was deployed, ultimately costing them the chance to claim class victory.
It was James Black in the Gen. 3 Westbourne Motors Clio who took the win. Following a similar strategy to Van Nederveen, he left his stop until as late as possible. Luckily this was right when the safety car was deployed, saving him huge amounts of time compared to his rivals.
Aaron Thompson (taking over from Steve) tried to close the 13-second gap but it was too much and he came home second with the Motus One Clio of Steve O’Brien and Matt Cherrington in third.
Race 2 looked to be a steady cruise for the Thompsons, leading the entire race right until they were pinged with an 11-second stop-and-go penalty for a short pitstop.
Davies would reap the benefits and win in his hastily repaired Clio sharing with experienced Clio racer James Colburn. Spires and Darren Geeraerts would be second with the Thompsons recovering to third.
The Thompsons still lead the Clio class standings and are just 10 points behind the Woodrow BMW in the overall standings.
Britcar Trophy returns on 21 September for a standalone round at Silverstone Circuit. With the championship battle firmly hotting up, any mistakes could throw the title battle wide open.
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