Since our first experience of Britcar racing at the back end of last year, we vowed to make sure we follow as much of the action as we can throughout the 2011 season, yet despite giving you guys all the goings on right from the word go at Silverstone for the media day, both Rounds 1 and 2 of the MSA British Endurance Championship and Dunlop Production GTN Championships clashing with other major events on our radar, Donington Park and Round 3 has been our first opportunity to catch up with the action!
We sent Coop, armed with his trusty camera, packed lunch and wellies off in amongst the action for the whole weekend at the Donington Britcar Festival to capture all the action from not only the title event, but also action from the supporting races too! With Britcar our main focus, and just writing about these cars and drivers gives me that tingly, excited feeling of an impending 24hr stint at Silverstone later in the year, we thought we would start there.
A rather damp but drying Donington National circuit made for some interesting action even as early as qualifying, with a good handful of teams all putting in impressive lap times making it an almost 10 car fight for the pole position. The pole was eventually grabbed by just over 1.2 seconds after a couple of blistering laps towards the end of the session by Morcillo running the Azteca Motorsport Mosler, completing a hat trick of pole position placings in as many events!
Joining the team on the front row was the Race 4 Slovakia team of Kvetnansky and Sedlak driving a rather unusual Praga R4S, not a car I think I’ve ever come across before! The 3rd spot was occupied by the McInerneys in their Ferrari F430 GTC. 4th qualifiers and top of Class 2 was the Dodge Viper of Wilkins and Scott whilst O’neill and Fiorentino’s Marcos Mantis was handed the best in Class 3 and an impressive 9th overall. The main drama to come out of the qualifying session was title challenger and last year’s 24hr winners; MJC whose Ferrari F430′s engine let go in dramatic fashion with Robinson at the wheel, leaving their weekend in tatters and the chance of being able to make any use of their 8th place qualifying position minimal.
Sunday afternoon saw the 4hr race get underway and clearly these guys have never heard of the phrase “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” as before they had even made it into the first corner at Redgate there was action and drama as the Strata 21 Moseler of White/Lockie collided with the back of the Eclipse Motorsport Ferrari leaving the Ferrari with rear diffuser damage.
After the field had settled down, the first hour’s racing was fairly clean and incident free, with the Azteca Mosler building up a healthy 48 second advantage over the Strata 21 Mosler who had clearly suffered no ill affects from their first corner shunt. Now, in most cases the MJC Ferrari would have been packed up on the trailer Saturday night, with a ruined engine and no chance of repairing it before the race and no-one had expected to see Witt Gamski and his team out fighting it out in the Sunday Race… But, in a bizarre turn of events and after some well placed positioning and investigative journalism from our man trackside; it turned out that there were only 4 of these engines in the WORLD, yet a spare was sat in the Donington paddock as part of the spares package of Dutch Supercar competitors; VEKA Racing. A deal was done late Saturday night which saw the MJC team hook up the spare engine and Witt found the car 3rd overall after the first hour’s racing!
Not long after the first hour the Azteca car ran into problems losing 5th and 6th gears and after a few trips in and out of the bustling pit lane, the team had to call it a day. This punted the Eclipse Motorsport Ferrari up to the top spot for the end of hour 2; showing the car had also received no damage from the first corner incident. The fabulous looking Aquilla had also run into problems in its first 2011 round, going from 4th at the first hour down to 23rd by the end of the second hour!
After 2 hours racing, we see the Production cars’ race end and a safety car slows the field down whilst they are brought into the pits, and once the track is clear the remaining cars continue for a further 2 hours. In the Production Class the BMW M3 of Clarke/Gibson claimed pole position and the race victory after a dominant display, ending the day a full lap ahead of fellow M3 drivers Lunn & Bennett-Baggs. The final sport on the rostrum was taken by the Mazda MX5 team and drivers Ticehurst & Mildenhall. It wasn’t all plain sailing in the Production class either, with the impressive Honda NSX failing to make the finish despite the inclusion of endurance racing specialist Rob Barff, and you have to feel for the Synchro Motorsport Honda Jazz who, with only minutes to go, watched their engine go bang on the exit of Redgate corner.
With the field bunched up, the final 2 hours could get underway and after the 3rd hour mark passed, it was still the McInerneys’ Ferrari that was out in front, but would their 1 lap lead be hampered by the fact the car was sounding increasingly sick as the laps drew on? An excellent effort from Class 3 team; Eurotech Racing saw their Porsche 997 make its way up to 3rd overall. Bad news for the MacG Racing Ultima however, despite a 14th place qualification, a few ignition problems and trips to the pits saw them down in 30th at the first hour mark, yet a fantastic drive saw them up to 16th before the car gave up and lost all drive as it swooped through the Craner curves.
The Aquilla also had problems and spent most of hour 3 with the engine cover off but managed to get out as the last of the Endurance cars to finish, some 25 laps down. The Eurotech team continued to impress and managed to hold on to the Class 3 win and a 6th place in the overall standings. Class 2 frontrunners Craig Wilkins and Aaron Scott maintained their dominance over the weekend with a class victory and 3rd overall! The MJC Ferrari team couldn’t maintain their lucky streak as the car developed a problem and coasted round the last 10-12 laps but hung on to 5th overall and valuable championship points. The Slovakian Praga managed to finish a strong 4th but it was down to the 2 cars involved in that first corner coming together to claim the honours and just as hour 3, the Eclipse Motorsport – Mcinerney Ferrari took the chequered flag 50 seconds ahead of the Strata 21 Mosler.
Even now, this series still astounds me, I’ve said it before and I will say it again; the sheer effort involved in keeping cars running for such a long time and the logistics involved is equally impressive. The series attracts a fairly low number but hardcore fanbase and with very reasonable entry prices, to see epic Supercars do battle! Head over to www.britcar24hr.co.uk and try get to a round to see why we keep being drawn back to this series!
Words – Ollie // Pictures – Rich