Race 1 – Mowlem Masterclass/Great Grimes
In the year that he announced his retirement from professional competition, Johnny Mowlem capped the final event of the season with a superb win in the first of a double-header Britcar Dunlop GT & Production races. Partnering relative novice Bonamy Grimes, they took the FF Corse Ferrari 458 to victory in the darkness, enduring very tricky conditions.
FF Corse were one of many Britcar Endurance teams that had elected to contest the Saturday-evening GT & Production race to gain extra track-time and experience for Sunday’s three-hour encounter, and Mowlem laid down a marker in the 40-minute qualifying session, where murkiness turned to darkness in drizzly conditions, posting a time of 53.876, just less than a second ahead of stablemate Calum Lockie in the Class 1 GT3-spec 458, and nearly two seconds in front of Javier Morcillo’s best time in the Mosler MT900. In the Production group, Dan Stringfellow took his BMW E92 V8 – newly acquired from Kevin Clarke – to pole, ahead of BTCC star Shaun Hollamby, who was this week’s ringer in the Moss Motorsport BMW M3, and returning Britcar old-hands Peter and Matt Seldon, in their BMW M3 E36.
There was just a short break before the 50-minute race got under way, in total darkness and with drizzle in the air, and Mowlem was off into the lead through Paddock Hill, with Lockie and Morcillo in his wake, but it wasn’t long before the top three were strung out, and 10-minutes in, the two leading Ferraris were eight seconds apart, with the Mosler a further quarter of a minute back. Dan Stringfellow, heading the Production contingent, was using his V8 grunt to annoy the more nimble Ginetta G55 of Jacob Mathiassen, and Shaun Hollamby’s BMW and Ed Moore’s Ginetta G50 were dicing in the dark. Mathiassen eventually shook off the BMW, and then took care of its Moss Motorsport stablemate, Tom Howard’s BMW 1M, for fourth overall.
Chris Murphy, in the Whitebridge Aston Martin Vantage, had been languishing down the order – tactical, the team admitted, having already sealed the GT title at the previous round – and was the first to stop once the pit-stop window opened, handing over to rising BGT talent Matty George. The stop was too short though, and the youngster was called back in for a three-second stop/go penalty. The leading Ferrari lost the lead briefly during the pit-stop period, but once the order re-settled, Bonamy Grimes, who had taken over from Mowlem, led to the flag, a lap to the better of Manual Cintrano, who lost time in the Mosler after a spin coming out of Graham Hill Bend. With nothing to prove, and night-time running to be used as experience, David Mason tempered the power of the GT3 Ferrari to bag second place in Class 1, ninth overall.
Dan Stringfellow was a fine third overall in his BMW E92 V8, and was the Production victor, only a second shy of the Mosler at the flag, and ahead of Hollamby’s BMW, which had climbed as high as second overall during the pit-stop period. These two were split by teenager Ed Moore’s Tockwith Ginetta G50, who took Class 3 GT honours ahead of gaming sensation Jonny Guindi, the latest winner of the Playstation/ Nissan GT Academy competition, who has mastered the transition from console to track in just three weeks, gaining 10 signatures along the way. They were second in Class 2 GT, with Peter Challis, in the Arrowpak-sponsored Porsche 997 third, and Matt LeBreton’s sinister-liveried Ferrari 458, shared with Rob Young, fourth in class, and Peter Rowbottom’s similar machine a little further down the overall order in fifth.
Steve Fresle, who had taken over the Century Ginetta G55 from Mathiasen, finished third in Class 3 after enduring a spin at Clearways, and the father and son duo of Peter and Matt Seldon, back in Britcar after an over-long absence, bagged the final podium place in Class 3 Production in their trusty M3. Unlucky in 13th after the pit-stop penalty in the Aston Martin, Matty George was at the head of a second raft of Class 3 GT runners, together with the Rob Young/Neil Garnham Ferrari 360 and the Dean Gibbs/Jonny Packer Aston Martin.
An out-of-sorts Martin Parsons called time early in his opening stint in the Track Torque SEAT Supercopa, and Oliver Withington brought the car home fourth in Production Class 1, while Class 2 Production was won by Barry McMahon, who was impressive in his Alfa Romeo 156, ahead of the little Smart 4/2 of Rob Baker and Britcar’s very own Rob Hedley – a truly magnificent performance on road tyres in what was a bit of an unknown quantity in tricky conditions.
Race 2 – Victory for Rowbottom
With the Endurance protagonists now prioritising their own event, a slightly depleted field lined up for the second race of the weekend; the season finale was held as part of the three-hour “Into the night” Britcar Dunlop Endurance event, with the GT & Production contingent being flagged-off after 50 minutes, just as darkness fell.
The contenders lined-up towards the back of the combined grid, with a few Endurance interlopers mixed-in for good measure. Ed Moore was on pole in the Tockwith Ginetta G50, ahead of Peter Rowbottom’s Ferrari 458, Dan Stringfellow’s BMW, the Young/Garnham Ferrari 360, Oliver Withington, now driving alone in the Track Torque SEAT, and the Smart 4/2 of Robs Baker and Hedley, relishing the prospect of racing on proper race tyres in better conditions than Race 1.
It was a scrappy start off for the race, the Pace Car seamlessly becoming the Safety Car as recovery of a front-running Endurance machine from the Clearways gravel was effected. Once let go, the group more or less held station, the front trio mixing it with some of the Endurance runners. An early stop for Rowbottom identified that he might get the jump on the others with the “undercut”, and Stringfellow was stymied by taking a short pit-stop, falling foul of the officials and suffering a one-second stop/go penalty. It all came to a dramatic end just seconds from the flag though: with Rowbottom in the lead, Ed Moore’s second-placed Ginetta was just a quarter of a second ahead of Dan Stringfellow’s BMW as they were shown the “last lap” board at the start/finish line. But the dicing pair had a man in a hurry, Endurance racer Calum Lockie, in the FF Corse Ferrari GT3, bearing down on them. The ensuing contact saw an explosion of polystyrene, foam, and car debris cascade into the air. The Ferrari – damaged but relatively unscathed – continued, but the Ginetta and BMW were stranded on the grass at the top of Paddock, both drivers thankfully OK. The Safety Car was deployed immediately, with the race finishing under the caution, though the official results cruelly excluded Moore and Stringfellow as non-finishers.
Hence Peter Rowbottom claimed victory, ahead of the Rob Young/Neil Garnham Ferrari 360, two laps down, then an ecstatic Oliver Withington, Production winner in the Track Torque SEAT Supercopa, and an equally delighted Rob Baker and Rob Hedley, who, despite several pit stops, including one to take an eight-second stop/go, bagged the Class 2 Production honours in the Smart 4/2.
Photo: Chris Valentine