In challenging conditions, the Track Focused KTM X-Bow of Mark McCollum and Teddy Wilson took the victory in the ROWE Britcar 6 hours enduro, though it was never a done deal until the final half hour of the race. Wet weather prevailed throughout the race; while the rain stopped and started sporadically, spray from the wet track was ever-present, and stories of courage, determination, bad luck, and even a little comedy, abounded.
Teddy Wilson took the lead from pole at the rolling start, but Bobby Trundley, headlining in the Team BRIT McLaren, was never more than a second adrift, and after a dummy run down the inside at Redgate, literally testing the water, next time around Trundley made the move after 20 minutes of tailing the KTM. Once released, Trundley built an impressive lead, around 23 seconds, before he stopped to hand over to James Whitley after 45 frenetic laps. And this would be the story of the overall race win. Most trading of the lead was executed during pit stops, though a mid-race Safety Car period did bunch the field up, allowing Mike McCollum, double-stinting in the KTM X-Bow, to chase Paul Fullick, still learning the Team BRIT McLaren after his regular runs in the squad’s BMW 240i, the newcomer having no answer in the tricky conditions, and giving best to the KTM. Team BRIT had a four-driver roster, with Chris Overend sandwiched between a middle-stint by Trundley, and Whitley taking over for a penultimate run, and it was in the final hour that the fate was sealed. The Track Focused team had taken their mandatory five-minute Technical Pit Stop early, while Team Brit were saving it till later, and, compounded by a puncture for Whitley minutes into his last stint, and their desire to put Trundley back into the McLaren for a final half-hour thrash, saw them take more than the mandatory number of pit stops. Stop/Go penalties for both the leading cars in the final 20 minutes did little to alter the difference, and the gap was two laps when the flag fell after six gruelling hours of racing. This was a famous victory for the Track Focused KTM, having just returned to the British Endurance Championship after a long lay-off, and a boost for regular driver McCollum. Team BRIT had come into the event expecting no more than an extended shakedown for the newly rebuilt McLaren, which is destined for the McLaren Trophy campaign for Trundley and Aaron Morgan. Trundley’s scintillating performance earned him the Sunoco Driver of the Day Award, while Whitley and Overend are used to the BEC-spec McLaren, and Fullick, new to the car, had to contend with the only real defence of position in tricky conditions.
Third place, at the start and through much of the race, was held by the Sport77 with SGM Ginetta GT4; Will Powell’s new project, in collaboration with Simon Green’s squad, came into the race with little prior testing, and, without traction control and ABS, they were unable to take the race to the leading pair in the awful conditions. Powell gave the opening stints to his paying customers, Sebastian Dubois and Freddie Sheene (son of motorcycle legend Barry), but the campaign came apart in the fifth hour, when wheel hub failure caused the car to halt on the Exhibition Straight. Simon Green’s team effected a repair in quicker time than the recovery probably took, and they finished eighth overall, and third in Class 1.
The SW Engineering Porsche 911 starred in qualifying, James Walker placing it third on the grid, though an early pit stop put them back in the mix, and sadly, Walker and Tony Whitney experienced mechanical issues which ended their race in the second hour. Fourth place, in the first few hours, was disputed by the Datum Motorsport Ginetta G56A of Axel van Nederveen, and Luke Davenport in the Reflex Racing Ligier JS2-R. The Ligier, in it’s first outing for eighteen months, got ahead in the opening laps, but the Ginetta was getting ever-closer, and after tailing for a few laps, van Nederveen seized to opportunity at Redgate, though was pit-bound minutes later for the first mandatory stop. It was in the second stint for these two cars, though, that fate was more or less sealed. A rare spin into the Old Hairpin gravel for Adriano Medeiros stranded the Ginetta, and, once recovered, and returning to the pits under Safety Car conditions, there was a clash with the Ligier, now In the hands of Marcus Vivian; the Ginetta came off worse, crabbing into the pit lane, though the Datum squad fixed whatever was needed in double-quick time. The Ligier continued for a few laps more, but was retired, leaving pro-driver Matt Griffin unable to take his stint. There was more trouble to come for the Ginetta though, cruel luck just into the final hour, when Axel van Nederveen came to a halt with total drivetrain failure. Also falling by the wayside was the Addison Plant Aston Martin GT4, driven by Martin Addison, Bill Addison and Tom Mensley – a defective oil cooler was disconnected, and they ran without, but retired with gearbox issues just after the midway point.
But now for some happier news – County Classics. Their Porsche 996 ran impeccably in the hands of father-and-son duo Ken Briddon and Jackson Goodrum. Aided by economy, they rose up the order during the mid-race pit stops, gracing the overall podium with a third-place finish, and winning the competitive Class 5 by a two-lap margin, ahead of the first relay runners home, the two Whitebridge BMWZ4s of Chris Murphy and Calum Bates – they used the regulations well, the relay format allowing Murphy to make an early change-over forced by wheel bearing failure, and to relieve a fuel-starved Bates for the final few laps, their performance earning the Outstanding Achievement of the Day award. High Row Motorsport, third in Class 5 team elected to run their Clios in a relay format too, championship regulars Andy Tucker and James Harrison being joined by Steve Harrison, the 55-year old father of James having his first-ever race after passing his ARDS test only days earlier. Tucker enjoyed dicing with the Dragon Sport Clio of Jack Meakin in the opening stint, and all though the race, sometimes for position, sometimes laps apart, they were together on track, ducking, diving, dicing, like, as commentator Ian Titchmarsh put it, “two kids in a swimming pool”, and both paid a visit to the gravel in the final hour of the race. Rhys Lloyd joined his young proteges Meakin, Travis Coyne and Harry Hickton in the Dragon Sport line-up, and they finished fourth in class. Dave Cox enters endurance races all over Europe, and knows how to play the game; racing with sons Michael and Jason in the W E Cox BMW E46, Dave suffered an early-race excursion through the gravel, and subsequent pit stop put them down the order, though by stealth, and bad luck for others, they came home seventh overall, and claimed the Class 3 win. Every endurance race needs a do-or-die story, and here’s ours; racing under the Racing Car Experience banner in a Team Hard Renault Clio, Dave Tyson assembled a driving squad of Brad Thurston, who was clearing his garage ahead of a house move, and regular team mate Daryl DeLeon, who was relaxing before his upcoming BTCC debut, at short notice on Saturday morning, and they turned up with just the three of them, the car and a toolbox. Starting the race an hour late after formalities were dealt with, and refuelling in the paddock petrol station when required, they were nonetheless able to compete with the other Clios when together on track, kept the car going and were classified 10th overall at the finish.
Words: Steve Wood; photos: Chris Valentine.