The second round of the 2023 British Endurance Championship came from a rather sunny Brands Hatch. The forecast rain didn’t arrive as the sun belted down on the Kent circuit.
With Blackthorn absent from Brands Hatch, PB Racing sought redemption after a series of errors cost them dearly at the season opener. A six-lap margin of victory over the second-placed car put to be any doubts that they are serious title contenders.
With Brands Hatch being a two-hour event, three mandatory pitstops were required across the course of the race with the pit window closing just 20 minutes before the end of the race.
Silverstone winners, Blackthorn Motorsport were absent from Brands Hatch leaving just two runners to duke it out for overall honours. PB Racing’s Peter Erceg clinched a convincing pole position in his Audi R8 GT3 EvoII, 2 seconds clear of his nearest competitor. That just so happened to be class rival, Glebs Stepanovs in the Venture Innovations Aston Martin Vulcan.
Unfortunately for Stepanovs, a lengthy delay in the previous race meant that the conditions had cooled significantly prior to the start of the 2-hour enduro. Entering the fast left-right sequence of Surtees-McLaren, the Vulcan continued off stage left and hard into the barriers, causing significant damage to the left front of the priceless hypercar and bringing out an early safety car.
With Stepanovs out of the race, Erceg along with Marcus Clutton could cruise to a dominant victory, 6 laps clear of the second-placed Team HARD Porsche from Class C. A car which in fact did take the overall lead briefly through the pitstop window shortly after the early safety car.
Fortunately for Stepanovs, the Vulcan had been fitted with composite body panels to replace the originals which means the team are still hoping to get the car ready for the next round at Oulton Park in a month’s time.
As with Silverstone, John Seale and Jamie Stanley were the only runners in Class B in the RNR Performance Cars Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo. Unlike Silverstone, they did make it further than the 30-minute mark but the checkered flag still eludes the experienced pairing. With just 25 minutes remaining, the car peeled into the rear paddock entrance with gearbox issues ending its day early.
Despite this Seale enjoyed an early race battle with Team HARD’s Brad Thurston in his Porsche 911 Cup Car with the former scrabbling to get past the German machine for several laps. He eventually managed the pass but immediately pitted to complete one of the three mandatory pitstops required.
Class C saw one of the drives of the day as the Team HARD Porsche 911 Cup Car announced its intentions. With a driver swap happening just before the meeting, Adam Hatfield was replaced by young superstar, Daryl de Leon who had been expecting to compete in the BTCC Audi S3 as he did last time out.
This left Maurice Henry to partner with 2x TCR UK Champion, Lewis Kent in the Audi in what was expected to be a strong contender for class victory.
However, it was the RNR Performance Cars Ferrari 458 Challenge of Charlie Hand who got the jump and wound up second after Stepanovs’ mishap. Unfortunately for them, a gearbox issue arose just after their first pitstop which ultimately saw them retire from the race.
The demise of the Ferrari left de Leon clear to mount his challenge. Quickly passing the now leading SG Racing Porsche 911 Cup Car and even then setting about mounting a charge on race leader Erceg. A position he would gain when Erceg and Clutton completed their mandatory pitstops.
de Leon now held the overall lead of the race at the midway stage but was quickly caught and passed by Clutton who went on to clinch victory. The Porsche would remain in second for the remainder of the race with Brad Thurston completing the final 20 minutes to claim second overall and the Class C win.
The SG Porsche was two laps further back in second whilst the Team HARD Audi rounded out the top three despite a difficult day.
Class D was another close-fought affair as all four cars were separated by less than 30 seconds after 2 hours of action.
Team BRIT led away after yet another impressive qualifying performance but once the pro drivers got aboard their respective cars, the all-amateur pairing fell back to third in proceedings.
It would be a closely fought scrap between Matt George in the Venture Innovations Mercedes-AMG GT4 and former WEC champion Stuart Hall in the MKH Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4. George admitted in post-race interviews that the car had struggled for pace all weekend long but he ultimately played the traffic better than Hall and was just able to keep the Vantage far enough away to resist any challenges.
George clinched victory whilst Hall closed the gap to just 4 seconds at the flag. Team BRIT came home third whilst the Breakell Motorsport Mercedes finished only 8 seconds behind in fourth after a great stint by Tom Jackson who also clinched the fastest lap of the race in class.
Class E (TCR)
The newly announced partnership with TCR UK sees Class E become the official TCR class within the British Endurance Championship for 2023.
It was the Paul Sheard Automotive Audi RS3 TCR that clinched a convincing pole position but was let down in the early stages of the race with a hub issue which cost the team several laps to their closest rivals.
EDF Motorsport and Dragon Sport quickly capitalised on their misfortune by battling it out for the class lead. The Dragon Sport Astra of Rhys Lloyd initially came out on top before further gremlins with the troublesome Opel Astra TCR curtailed their progress significantly. This however didn’t stop co-driver for this weekend, Yannick Mettler from setting the fastest lap in class.
After the Astra hit trouble, EDF maintained a one-two order until the checkered flag flew. Ash Woodman and Martin Byford once again stormed their competition by winning with a whopping 16-lap advantage over the sister car. Nick Hull and Richard Avery missed Silverstone with technical issues but a P2 at Brands Hatch certainly made up for their earlier disappointment. A set of early race penalties for track limits violations didn’t help their cause but a podium is a podium.
The troubled Audi managed to round out the top three after the Astra stopped on track with only minutes remaining in the race.
The lone Class G runner of Owen Hizzey and Scott Symons put in an impressive performance in their SVG Racing Ginetta G55 Supercup car. After the first safety car had ended, the pairing never ran lower than fifth position for the remainder of the race, holding back much faster machinery in a determined effort to make up for the disappointments of Silverstone. Despite being the only class runners, they managed to finish a strong fifth place overall amongst a well-stacked field.
The Newbarn Racing Jaguar F-Type made its first appearance of the season with its brand-new V8 engine. Gone is the troublesome Jaguar V6 which has been replaced by a Chevrolet LS3 which the team hopes will give them the reliability they’ve been chasing for the past two seasons.
Things were going well until a driveshaft issue forced the car to stop on track bringing out the second and final safety car of the race. The car was recovered and repaired and sent back on its way just 20 minutes later to secure class honours and take the checkered flag on the road.
The third round of the 2023 British Endurance Championship comes from Oulton Park in Cheshire on the 27th of May in what will be a 3-hour test of speed and durability around one of the UK’s toughest tracks.
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