The final round of the 2023 British Endurance Championship came from Donington Park where the top three entered with a chance to win the overall title.
Another stellar performance from the Team HARD Porsche 991.1 Cup car of Brad Thurston and Daryl de Leon saw them leave Donington as the 2023 British Endurance Champions having performed consistently well throughout the entire season.
Class A was brought back up to two entries once again but still without the howling Aston Martin Vulcan. Instead, the 7TSIX McLaren 720s GT3 was acquired by Breakell Racing after their Mercedes-AMG GT4 expired during Friday testing.
This left Ameerh Naran and Tom Jackson with a steep learning curve with their first time in the car being Saturday’s practice session.
Meanwhile, PB Racing’s Peter Erceg and Marcus Clutton were on fine form once again. They secured the class pole during qualifying (despite missing out on the overall pole position) but had to fight for a fifth successive outright victory.
Despite leading the majority of the race and even lapping the McLaren, Clutton would pit the Audi R8 GT3 EvoII for a third time which paved the way clear to Jackson to assume the race lead.
However, Donington and Marcus Clutton go hand in hand and with just 12 minutes remaining, Clutton retook the lead and scampered off to a 14-second margin of victory over what was an impressive debut performance for the McLaren pairing.
With the overall championship at stake, Team HARD’s Brad Thurston and Daryl de Leon were gunning for that all-important class victory to seal their season’s efforts in the best possible way.
However, it was the SG Racing Porsche 997 Cup Car of Mark and Peter Cunningham that got the holeshot at the start. Running in the lead pack for the first half of the race, it looked as if the bright yellow Porsche would claim an easy class victory with Thurston mired down in the pack.
However, Peter’s aggressive opening stint, fighting with GT3 machinery wore out his wet tyres and after an elongated stint, the car swapped ends on him leaving the Porsche beached in the MacLeans gravel trap. This was a huge break for the Thurston / de Leon car as they gained a two-lap advantage over their class rivals.
A margin which young star, de Leon would keep to the flag despite having to nurse the car home in his final stint. A perfect result saw them leave Donington as the 2023 British Endurance Champions.
The Cunninghams recovered well to finish second whilst the Team HARD BTCC programme had its best outing with an untroubled run to the flag including an impressive opening stint from Ginetta Junior graduate, Maurice Henry.
An influx of entries for Donington bolstered Class D to six cars (with two being invitational runners).
One of these inviational runners came from championship regulars, Team BRIT who fielded a second McLaren 570s GT4 for James Whitley and Paul Fullick. A car which also was running on a new 70% sustainable fuel in what is an important project for the automotive industry.
It certainly seemed to pack a punch as Whitley managed to qualify on the outright pole position with a last-gasp attempt on slicks with the rest of the field sticking to wets in the drying session. He even managed to continue this impressive performance come the race itself. With a cloudburst just minutes before the race start, the track was soaked through once again but this didn’t phase Whitley who managed to hang onto the train of Class A and C machinery in front of him until he pitted at the halfway phase of the race.
From then on, Sean Cooper in the Track Focused KTM X-Bow managed to snatch the lead away from the McLaren and pulled out a lap advantage by the time the chequered flag appeared. Not only was this another class victory, but also the KTM’s second consecutive outright podium finish after a second-placed finish at Snetterton.
Whitley and Fullick got the best out of their Team BRIT McLaren to take second in class whilst Chris Jones and Matthew George rounded out the top three and clinched the class championship in the process. However, a third-place finish (and second-place points due to the Team BRIT car being an invitational entry) meant that they came just short of winning the overall title by 4 points.
Class E (TCR)
TCR featured an additional entry coming in the shape of TCR UK runners, George Jaxon and Scott Sumpton who commandeered the JW Bird Audi RS3 TCR.
Unfortunately, things got off to a rocky start as the Sheard Automotive VW Golf failed to move away from the grid due to a brake system issue which ultimately delayed the start by a lap. Despite getting moving, the issue was terminal and the car was retired after just 4 laps.
This left the three remaining runners to each take turns in leading the race with the sister Sheard Autosport Audi RS3 of George Heler and Jonathan Beeson taking an early advantage.
An early first stop for them left Snetterton winner Richard Avery at the head of the field in the Race Road Competition Cupra TCR before the Jaxon / Sumpton Audi took over for the second half of the race.
It looked as if it would be a debut win for the TCR UK regulars but Heler had other ideas. Managing to lap upwards of 5 seconds per lap faster, Heler caught and quickly despatched the BEC newcomers before extending his class lead to 5 seconds by the finish.
This result was the best they could hope for in the championship standings but a strong performance from their main rivals saw them also come up just short sitting just one point behind the Jones / George Mercedes. However, they did manage to clinch the class title with another strong performance.
Class F was the main beneficiary of the influx in entries with no less than 5 cars joining up to race against the regular Newbarn Racing Jaguar F-Type.
Woodrow Motorsport brought along two BMW M3 E46 GTRs, both of which have competed in the championship before. Chris Murphy, fresh from his GT Cup campaign returned to complete the final round of BEC as he did in 2022.
Meanwhile, Nathan Wells returned for the first time since the 2021 season in his Digiplat entered BMW.
Unfortunately, it would be a tough weekend for both cars as neither saw the chequered flag. Wells car suffering from long ongoing throttle issues which saw the car pit after just one lap whilst Murphy had an oil pipe let go on the start / finish straight leaving a huge plume of smoke behind him as he pulled off the circuit with just 30 minutes remaining.
This unfortunate demise for Murphy who was comfortably leading Class F gave way for another new entry for Britcar Trophy regulars, Chris Bialan and Simon Mason. They moved up in a 1st generation Cupra Leon TCR and benefitted greatly from Murphy’s misfortune. A 12th-place finish overall and a class victory on their BEC debut, not a bad effort.
Second in class initially went the way of the Newbarn Jaguar but a late driver withdrawal for Adam Thompson meant a 1 lap post-race penalty was awarded leaving brother Callum third in class.
Familiar to touring car fans, Team Dynamics entered a customer car at Donington in the shape of a 1st Generation Audi RS3 TCR for Matthew Stockford and Alyn James. Stockford himself utilises hand controls with the car specially modified to allow him to compete at this level. Having competed within the 750 Motor Club – Club Enduro championship throughout 2023, a 2-hour race was no shock and they proved that by claiming third on the road and being promoted to second after the Jaguars penalty.
As with Snetterton, Class G saw three entries with SVG and MacG returning for the final round. Jamsport also entered Donington with their Ginetta for Dave May and Jamie Going.
Unfortunately for them, their race wouldn’t go quite to plan as a penalty during the final hour cost them dearly having led the class early on.
Meanwhile, MacG racing was in great form. A drive-through penalty in the opening stages may not sound like this but a stellar recovery drive from both Jonny MacGregor and Josh Tomlinson saw them overhaul the SVG Ginetta of Marc Ellman and Own Hizzey and take victory.
The 2024 British Endurance Championship will commence on the 29th of March, also known as Good Friday to kickstart the Easter bank holiday weekend.
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