The 2022 British Endurance Championship (BEC) came to a close at a sunny Donington Park GP circuit over the past weekend.
Heading into the weekend, two driver pairings were separated by just two points which meant either pairing could clinch the overall title. Rob Boston Racings Wayne Marrs / Tom Jackson trailed the leading RNR Performance Ferrari 458 by two points prior to qualifying.
An additional entry for Donington came the way of Iain Campbell in his Greystone GT prepared McLaren 720s GT3. However, as regular co-driver, Oli Webb was on duties elsewhere, fellow Greystone pro-driver, Michael Broadhurst stepped in to partner the GT Cup podium finisher.
Meanwhile, the Aston Martin Vulcan returned after a two-race absence following its gearbox failure at Snetterton earlier in the season.
Qualifying left the Rob Boston Racing entry just one point behind their main title rivals, or so they thought. A penalty for the Class C pole sitter meant the RNR Ferrari also scored pole position in class and therefore the bonus point that went along with it.
Entering the race with the points as they were, Marrs knew he needed to get the jump and build an advantage quickly. Iain Campbell decided he wasn’t a fan of this idea and went right around the outside at Redgate corner overtaking the Mercedes in a move that saw absolute chaos just one week ago.
A multitude of safety cars were then deployed for incidents further back in the field which meant the pit window opened during the third and longest safety car period. Ash Woodman’s TCR Cupra went heavily into the barriers exiting the Old Hairpin meaning the barriers had to be repaired, necessitating the longer caution period. All cars took the opportunity to come in and refuel but most opted not to change drivers this early on in the race.
Campbell meanwhile would hit troubles just one lap later as he would pit again to rectify a power steering issue, dropping him to the very back of the field, one lap down.
When the race finally got going, Hugo Cook led the way in the Simpson Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3 and started to gap Kevin Clarke who had used the safety cars to his advantage to move up into second in class. Cook meanwhile pitted just three laps after the restart to hand over to Sacha Kakad, dropping way down the field.
However, the older BMW Z4 GT3 of Clarke soon came under pressure from Lee Frost in the Racelab Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
Before long, Frost displaced the older machinery but Clarke used his valuable experience to keep the gap under one second until they pitted for driver changes. In the meantime, Cook himself had pitted to hand over to Sacha Kakad who resumed the lead once all class runners had pitted for their mandatory driver changes.
If anyone was expecting an easy run to the flag, they were to be seriously mistaken as four of the class runners were handed drive-through penalties for pit-stop infringements. These were: Cook/Kakad, Frost/Khera, Mars/Jackson and Campbell/Broadhurst who were quietly making progress back through the field.
From then on Tom Jackson (having taken over from Marrs) set about his usual expedition to decimate his competition. So much so, that after he served the penalty, he rejoined in the lead of the race. A position he would keep to the flag, giving the team the best possible opportunity of clinching the title. And once all cars had crossed the line, confirmation was given that Marrs/Jackson were the 2022 British Endurance Championship champions.
Lucky Khera brought his Lamborghini home in second position rounding out another successful season for his team whilst Michael Broadhurst miraculously powered the Greystone McLaren to third overall and on the lead lap despite an extra pitstop early in the race.
After resuming the lead after the second round of stops, the Cook/Kakad car made an extra pitstop with just 35-minutes remaining to install Cook back into the car, losing a lap in the process. They would end up fourth just ahead of the INGsport BMW Z4 GT3.
Overall title contenders Chris Goddard / Charlie Hollings sought outside assistance once again from the ever-rapid Jamie Stanley in their quest to clinch not only the class title, but the overall title too.
Having qualified second in class, they were promoted to pole position (gaining the point for pole) after a penalty for the PB Racing Porsche 911 Cup Car driven by Peter Erceg / Marcus Clutton, a car that would play a huge role in the title fight.
At the start, the Bespoke Defenders Porsche 911 Cup Car spun in the middle of the pack and was swiftly collected by Sam Randon in the Class D Team Hard Ginetta G55 GT4. Both cars resumed quickly but a safety car was deployed to clear the Ginetta’s bonnet which had parted ways with the car, landing on the track.
Erceg meanwhile had jumped Goddard through the multitude of safety cars that followed but the Ferrari would get the jump through the pitstops, despite carrying out a driver change to install Stanley for the middle stint.
What they didn’t account for was the Valluga Porsche Cayman of Carl Cavers / Lewis Plato staying on track and leading the class until their sole pitstop just short of the halfway mark.
Stanley pulled a huge advantage over Erceg in the same stint before handing over the regular driver, Charlie Hollings who would bring the car home the flag.
Erceg meanwhile had lost further ground, dropping behind the troubled Bespoke Defenders Porsche albeit not for long as Clutton soon dispatched them once he took over.
From then on, Clutton lapped consistently faster than all of his class rivals and was able to jump Plato when he came in for his second stop with 35-minutes remaining.
With just fifteen minutes remaining, Holling’s lead was 17-seconds over Clutton who himself was now lapping over 2-seconds a lap faster than the blue Ferrari. Six minutes later and the gap was down to just 5-seconds as the Ferrari battled with slower machinery. Hollings doing the best he could was baulked by a TCR Golf and the Tom Jackson Mercedes heading into the Melbourne Loop with just 4 minutes 30 remaining. This incident allowed Clutton to attach himself to the gearbox of the Ferrari in what was now a straight fight to decide the overall title.
One lap later into the Fogarty Esses, Hollings defended hard to the inside which allowed Clutton to take the racing line. Hollings then outbraked himself, clattered over the kerbing and as he rejoined, saw the white Porsche flash past having narrowly avoided contact with the Ferrari.
Clutton distanced himself from the Ferrari by just 1.5-seconds at the flag. Holling’s mistake proved crucial as he and Goddard missed out on the outright title by just two points to the Rob Boston Racing Mercedes.
A small crumb of consolation was they did clinch the class title by a mighty 22-points over the Valluga Porsche.
Class D saw less drama than the aforementioned classes, but that didn’t stop the teams from putting on a good show.
As Dave Bennett spun in the Bespoke Defenders Porsche, Sam Randon in the Team Hard Ginetta had nowhere to go except into the back of the Porsche. This dislodged the Ginetta’s engine cover which promptly flew off bringing out the first safety car.
Team BRIT in their Aston Martin V8 Vantage was also involved in the incident but remained on track for the opening segment.
Once the safety cars had completed their laps, the Newbridge Mercedes of Neville Jones / Matt George emerged in the lead with Andrew Tucker / Andrew Whitley in the Team BRIT car running in second, towards the rear of the field.
Unfortunately, the purple Aston Martin would last a further 15-minutes before gearbox troubles forced them into early retirement.
From then on it was a straight fight between the Newbridge Mercedes and the MKH Racing Aston Martin Vantage of Peter Montague / Dan Brown / Stuart Hall who entered the meeting with a remote chance at the overall title.
It was not to be for them but having kept the Mercedes honest all day long, when George pitted for the second time, the Aston Martin took the advantage and didn’t look back. Crossing the line 35-seconds clear of the Mercedes was no easy feat, especially considering George reset the GT4 race lap record at Donington Park on his final stint.
Team Hard continued on having temporarily secured the engine cover with duct tape. Finishing P3 in class by virtue of being the surviving Class D entrant after Team BRIT fell by the wayside.
Class E entered Donington once again with a healthy entry list. Alex Day / William Foster entered as class favourites in the CTR-Alfatune Cupra. However, the ever-consistent pairing of Jonathan Beeson / George Heler in the Paul Sheard Autosport Audi RS3 TCR looked to take glory for themselves.
After an unlucky season so far, Ash Woodman led away in the EDF Motorsport Cupra through the early safety cars.
The second of which was caused by contact between Chris Murphy’s Class F BMW M3 GTR and the Motus One Cupra of Scott Symons. The BMW was left stranded at the side of the road whilst the Cupra limped back to the pits with left rear suspension damage, ending its race prematurely.
On the restart, Woodman’s season got a little worse. Being a little too eager rounding the Old Hairpin, he lost the rear end and ended up skating along the wet grass and heavily into the barriers on the inside of the circuit. He was ok but the car was out on the spot bringing out the third and final safety car of the race.
As the barriers had to be repaired, a longer caution period of 7-laps followed meaning most cars opted for an early pitstop.
Upon resumption of the race, the Day / Foster car led the class and ran third overall briefly before the faster machinery caught up. Main rivals Beeson / Heler ran fourth in class but just ahead of the CTR-Alfatune machine, desperate to remain on the lead lap.
A feat they achieved, putting them in the class lead after the second round of stops had been completed. However, things weren’t over just yet.
As if the title drama wasn’t enough, with just 30-minutes remaining, the class-leading Audi of Beeson suddenly slowed to a stop on the national circuit, ending their race just meters short of the pitlane. Alex Day / William Foster took great advantage of this to take the class lead and hold it to the flag to take yet another class victory in 2022.
This clinched the class title for the Cupra pairing by 10-points from the Audi duo.
Chris Murphy joined the fray for Donington in his thunderous BMW M3 GTR. From the early stages, it looked as if it would be an easy victory for the GT Cup regular. Unfortunately, a collision with a TCR Cupra led to the second safety carry deployment of the race, and the end of the day for the BMW man.
This paved the way for the usual class competitors to battle for supremacy. The Newbarn Racing Jaguar was having its best run of the season, running eleventh overall, albeit two positions behind the RVR Racing Porsche 911. Such a strong performance was met yet again with electrical gremlins for the troublesome Jaguar.
The Porsche meanwhile ran as high as seventh in the early stages before cruising to the flag as the sole remaining class runner.
Having clinched victory in all but one race in 2022, the was no questioning the fact they had won the Class F title.
After a successful first season, the British Endurance Championship returns in 2023 on the 12th of March at the home of British Motorsport, Silverstone Circuit.
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