With the apparent rush to get our own projects completed, and visiting various sites, businesses and race tracks around the UK to get the lowdown on all the 2012 information, it’s left us with a fairly hectic start to the season, and that has meant that a couple of reports have been festering on my desk that we really need to get out there for you to see & enjoy!

Now, as I’m sure you’re aware, we are no strangers to the Britcar Endurance Championship, we covered a good handful of the rounds last year and if you asked any of the team what their favourite event to enjoy and work at, it’s safe to say the end of year 24hr race would; in Family Fortunes style, be the top answer!

Whilst some of us were sunning it up at Santa Pod, Coop was trackside at Silverstone and inhabiting the pitlane to give us fantastic coverage of the first rounds of both the main championship races and the Production classes, and with there being no official media day for the 2012 season and only an entry list to go off, there is plenty of new and improved cars that we managed to uncover!

Britcar

For the first time and no doubt due to the popularity of the championship, we saw the field run 2 separate races. Last year would see the production classes called in after they had completed their race distance and the remainder of the field in the hunt for the overall British Endurance Championship title would continue running until their longer race had run its course. So with the production class out first, that’s where we will begin our coverage starting with a qualifying run-down.

The teams with the fantastic Seat Leon Supercopas dominated the qualifying pace with an astonishing 3 of the top 4 places being upheld by the Leons with only Michael Symons managing to put his BMW M3 amongst them. The Sub-Zero Wolf Team took pole with ex-BTCC driver Adam Jones putting in a lap over half a second faster than his nearest rivals and the entire field of 28 Production cars spanned a 26 second time bracket around the Silverstone GP Circuit.

Abra

The 90min Production race was a great spectacle, with a huge variety of cars to enjoy and follow through the race. The Leons were joined by a handful of superb BMW M3s, Civic & Integra Type Rs, some Mini Coopers, a couple of MX5s, Clio Cup cars, the lightweight Ginetta G40 and even a Seat Toledo! Of course, not all of these cars were in the same class, within the Production bracket there were 5 classes to be won.

The race was dramatic, the same as you would expect from a short, single-make, circuit race and the endurance fans were treated to an epic battle! Mark Cunningham quickly moved his Leon up to the front of the grid where it remained for his stint, accruing a huge gap over his closest rivals. Peter Cunningham took over and although they remained in the lead, gearbox issues meant that the Symons BMW was taking time out of their lead each lap, unfortunately the time was being made up by the over-zealous driving style and despite warnings for exceeding the track limits on numerous occasions, the team were issued a drive through penalty.

The trouble didn’t stop there, as upon entering the pits, the rather frustrated team came in a little too hot which really annoyed the man upstairs, which in this case was the clerk of the course and on lap 34, 9 minutes from the end of the race, the team were disqualified from proceedings. The battle up front continued and the drama went right to the wire as the struggling Cunningham team were caught and passed by Richard Abra’s BMW with only 3 minutes to go, leaving the MP Motorsport team victorious. Symons had set the fastest lap in the class. Class 2 saw another ex BTCC star; Mike Jordan bring his Eurotech Integra home 7 seconds ahead of the Topcats Leon.

leon

Over in the main race, which was contested over a traditional 3 hour event, the action remained fierce with some truly amazing sounding and looking machines out on the track, we don’t say this unless we really mean it, but an endurance race is not a bore and we urge you to give it a go and go witness these cars for yourselves!

Mike Millard lead for most of the qualifying session in his stunning Rapier SR2 only to be pipped at the post by the Michelotto Ferrari F430 driven by Andy Schulz & Paul Bailey. They were also pipped at the end of the session leaving pole position to be occupied by a Mosler driven by Javier Morcillo.

The first of the Topcats Marcos Mantis found itself 4th overall and topping the Class2 list with its sister car 6th overall separated by yet another Marcos driven by Chris Beighton. In the remainder of the classes we saw a hugely mixed grid, just like we witnessed in the Production class, with more Ginettas, BMWs, Lotus Elises & Evoras, Ferraris and a pair of Chevrons.

The race saw the 21-car field spread out fairly quickly and Richard Abra, fresh from his Production victory finding it much harder going, retiring his car after just 5 racing laps. Steve Gugliami is a name we have come across before, the ex Time Attack driver, partnered up with Jeff Mileham in their Elise, managed a 1st in class and 9th overall result, always nice to see drivers we have followed in other series make a sideways step and try something totally different.

Mosler

Martin Byford may have struggled to get to grips with the AmD Milltek BTCC Golf, but behind the wheel of his Lotus Evora, he topped his class and managed to cause a real stir, running 6th overall and only 4 laps down on the lead drivers at the chequered flag! The Jones/Tiley Topcats Marcos managed just over half way before they had to retire, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom as the O’Neill/Huggins car had a clean race and not only managed the Class 2 win, but also stood second overall.

From the start it was a 3 way battle for the lead, Morcillo in the Mosler, Schultz in the 430 and Millard in the Rapier, right away the top 3 pulled a gap over the rest of the chasing pack. Schulz took the early lead with Morcillo right behind. Soon after, the Mosler got past and the Rapier was after the F430 aswell, Morcillo started pulling a gap and after roughly 45mins in, the Rapier managed to put a move on the Ferrari as it was hurting its tyres in the battle to hold its position. The Motionsport Lotus Elise was in after a couple of laps with a misfire, they sent it back out but not long after was back in again, didn’t take them too long to sort before it was back out at full pace. Motionsport’s new Ferrari 458 Challenge car had a decent race but has some oversteer and they are looking forward to getting the Aero on but despite this managed 7th overall.

An hour in, and the Mosler was way in front but after they pitted after 75mins to hand over to Cintrano, they came back out in the lead but not by much, Heward was in the Rapier and taking chunks of time out of them every lap. The Bullrun Evora made it to half race before needing to come in for its pitstop, and at the end of hour 2 this had got them up to 4th overall. Bailey/Schulz had problems, caused when pitting, and lost 20 laps fixing them.

wing

The Mosler had a lucky break after a pitlane speed infringement saw them gain a penalty, although their luck resumed as the closing Rapier was in trouble with suspected electrical problems, and despite its speedy recovery to the pits, they were too many laps down to put in a challenge, allowing Morcillo to take his place behind the wheel for the last stint and cruise to the chequered flag to take first blood in the Championship Season.

2 Fantastic endurance races at Silverstone, the diverse nature of the cars, the enthralling racing and welcoming staff & teams are the main reasons that here at Garage Awesome we add these dates into our calendar as one of the first and ‘must get to’ championships of the year, and as we have previously stated, it’s certainly worth trying to get there yourselves! Next races are happening this weekend as the Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship takes on its next 3 hour race at Donington Park and of course another 90mins of action from the Britcar Production Cup. We will be there, and of course full coverage right here once the action is over! For all your Britcar needs, head over to www.britcar24hr.co.uk to find dates, news and all the classified results.

Words – Ollie // Pictures – Rich