The 2023 British Endurance Championship entered its penultimate round at Snetterton with a 2-hour battle in searing heat. PB Racing clinched their fourth race victory in as many races whilst a Friday testing drama left them unsure if they’d even be able to compete at all.
Meanwhile, their class rivals in the Aston Martin Vulcan missed Snetterton after technical issues forced them out of the last round at Silverstone paving the way clear for Peter Erceg and Marcus Clutton to power the Audi R8 GT3 EvoII to a relatively unchallenged victory.
With the ever-popular Venture Innovations Aston Martin Vulcan out of the way, PB Racing was left to cruise to an easy victory, albeit not as easy as they had hoped. Issues during Friday testing almost ruled them out of the weekend with critical components having been found to be damaged. Fortunately, everything was rectified in time for Saturday’s running and Erceg qualified on the pole, 5 seconds clear of the rest of the field.
The race itself was plain sailing for the first hour with only a first lap safety car interrupting proceedings. However, Erceg misjudged his stint length and earned the team a 97-second stop/go penalty for the misdemeanour. This was served by Marcus Clutton who took over from Erceg but their advantage over the field was so great that they still emerged in the lead and with a lap advantage over the second-placed Track Focused KTM.
They would finish a lap clear of the KTM after a late race safety car and clinched their fourth successive class victory. However, as they were the only car competing in Class A, they were awarded half points which means they cannot mathematically secure the overall championship title.
Class C saw three runners compete at Snetterton with Team HARD bringing along their usual two entries whilst SG Racing brought their bright yellow Porsche 997 Cup Car out with Mark and Peter Cunningham once again behind the wheel.
Mark himself qualified the car and managed to put his older generation Porsche on the front row alongside the Class A Audi. However, a minor technical issue just prior to the race start meant they missed the grid and had to start from the pitlane. However, it wouldn’t take long for the Porsche to return to the front of the field as Cunningham scythed his way through the field and into second overall after just 30 minutes of racing.
He kept the lead until the driver changes took place which is when young star, Daryl de Leon took over the Team HARD Porsche 991 Cup Car from Brad Thurston and went on a charge of his own. By the second mandatory stop, de Leon had jumped the Cunninghams but a late race puncture scuppered any chances of another class victory. Especially seeing as the safety car was then deployed to recover the stricken SVG Ginetta of Owen Hizzey and the Team HARD Porsche ended up stuck behind slower cars during the wave around, gifting the win to the Cunningham duo.
Thurston / de Leon came home second whilst the NGTC spec Mercedes A-Class driven by Maurice Henry and George Jaxon ran out of steam with just 5 minutes remaining, albeit still finishing third in class.
This result still sees Thurston / de Leon at the top of the overall championship standings with a two-point advantage over the second-placed Venture Innovations Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Four runners took to the grid of Class D with the same entries from Silverstone last time out making the trip to the Norfolk venue.
Despite this, all teams and drivers behaved themselves out on track with each of the four runners finishing in the exact position they qualified within class.
The ever popular Track Focused KTM X-Box of Mike McCollum and Sean Cooper took the pole and their first victory in the British Endurance Championship with a commanding performance to keep the title-contending Venture Innovations Mercedes-AMG GT4 at bay. Chris Jones and Matt George put up a strong fight but ultimately once again it was the late race safety car and subsequent wave around that scuppered their plans of another class victory.
Meanwhile, third place went the way of Breakell Racing’s Ameerh Naran and Tom Jackson also in a Mercedes-AMG GT4. They didn’t have it all their own way, however. The MKH Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Peter Montague and Stuart Hall was right on them in the final 20-minute sprint. Unfortunately for them, the SG Racing Porsche was between them and the Mercedes of Jackson also trying to find their way past.
Jackson pulled a masterstroke by keeping the faster Porsche behind and in turn not allowing the Aston Martin any room to get through, consolidating his third-placed finish.
Jones and George leave Snetterton second in the overall standings just two points behind the leading Porsche with one round remaining.
Class E (TCR)
The TCR battle went to the wire once again with a last-lap lead change, albeit through a post-race penalty.
As with Silverstone, it was between the Paul Sheard Autosport Audi RS3 TCR of Jonathan Beeson and George Heler and the Cupra TCR of Nick Hull and Richard Avery. The latter fresh off their Silverstone victory has switched teams for Snetterton now part of the Race Road Competition stable.
Meanwhile, a late third entry joined the grid with Paul Sheard entering his own VW Golf TCR under the Paul Sheard Autosport banner. He would complete four laps before terminal problems with the Golf forced him into retirement. This left the remaining two to battle it out for the class victory.
A slow start for the Audi meant they had plenty of catching up to do, but that’s precisely what they did. They had a comfortable lead over the Cupra at the halfway stage and looked set to keep it to the flag. A feat they did manage but by bending the rules in the process. The late race safety truly left the Audi in a predicament. With the pit window set to close with 20-minutes remaining, the safety car was deployed with 21 minutes remaining and with the regulations stating that no refuelling can be carried out under the safety car, it was game over for them. Not only this but the slower pace meant they also missed the pit window adding insult to injury as they pitted under the safety car with 19 minutes to go to refuel.
A 4minute and 30-second penalty was applied immediately after the car took the chequered flag demoting it to second and allowing the Hull / Avery car to take their second win in as many races.
Beeson and Heler meanwhile now sit 7-points off the overall championship lead heading into the final round at Donington next month.
Class F once again saw the Newbarn Racing Jaguar F-Type run solo with a performance to match some of the faster machinery. Finishing a respectable eleventh overall, this could have been higher had their driveshaft not failed in the dying minutes of the race. Despite this, they finished just two laps behind the next car and would almost have certainly made the top ten without a driveshaft failure two laps from home.
Ginetta stalwart, Colin White joined the BEC field at Snetterton after his ever-impressive comeback following last year’s horrific crash at Thruxton. Fellow Ginetta racer Dan Morris joined him in the CWS Ginetta G55 Supercup for the two-hour enduro.
Morris even clinched class pole by a whopping 2.5 seconds over Marc Elman who had joined Owen Hizzey in the SVG-entered Ginetta.
Following on from his impressive pole, Morris and White dominated proceedings in class to take a well-earned victory despite a first-lap incident with the Breakell Racing Mercedes.
Elman and Hizzey meanwhile were on a late charge but unfortunately, the car cut out with just over 20-minutes remaining, bringing out a late race safety car and causing the aforementioned havoc throughout the field. They would get the car back to the pits and back out again, but second was the best they could hope for after that delay.
However, it was a better day for them than their rivals at MacG racing. Jonny MacGregor and Josh Tomlinson once again took the wheel of their Ginetta but at the halfway mark, gearbox issues forced them out of the race continuing their disappointing run.
The season finale takes place on the 14th of October at Donington Park, the scene of last year’s dramatic title decider.
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