Threatening clouds arrived – and then left – without dumping any dampness and the morning free practice session went without incident. With the 2-hour race scheduled for Sunday, a few of the Endurance drivers had accepted the invitation of drives in Saturday’s Production Championship races, including gentleman driver David Mason, who had never driven Thruxton before.
The Spaniards Manuel Cintrano and Javier Morcillo returned to the Britcar grid in the mighty V8 Mosler MT900R, and Steve Glynn made his first 2016 Britcar appearance in the Topcats Motorsport-run TVR Sagaris. Nigel Mustill and Craig Dolby posted the fastest free practice time in the Wessex Vehicles Lamborghini Gallardo.
Jonny Cocker has taken over the co-driving role from Jody Fannin in Chris Murphy’s Whitebridge Motorsport Aston V8 Vantage, Jody now concentrating on his GT3 racing. Murphy hadn’t raced at Thruxton before either but wisely managed to get on a track day to learn the circuit; this is also to be Manuel Cintrano’s first time on this very fast and challenging circuit.
The Lamborghini and Ferraris show considerable pace in the qualifying session but are tables are turned over free practice with Calum Lockie grabbing pole from the Lamborghini by a mere three hundredths of a second. Afterwards, Anthony Wilds explained his role in the team’s strategy of using the opportunity to bed-in tyres for the Sunday endurance race with their yellow 458 Challenge sitting 4th overall – meanwhile dad Mike was out having fun in the yellow 458 showing the sort of pace everyone has come to expect from the seasoned driver.
In a minor off, the Century Motorsport Ginetta collected a quantity of freshly mown grass in its front grills but Mike Moss is quicker and takes the Production class front spot.
The first of the two 50-minute races kicks off in blustery sunshine, all cars sporting Dunlop slicks as they head off for a green flag lap before the traditional rolling start. With Craig Dolby at the wheel, the Lambo gets off to a rocket ship start as the lights go out, charging over the crest and down to the Campbell/Cobb complex. Mike Moss’s BMW leads the Production classes with Allpass giving chase.
Morcillo puts pedal to metal to close up with Lockie’s Ferrari, less than a second adrift by lap 3, the V8 MT900 thundering past the pits complex. Five laps in and the Lamborghini posts a new best lap of 1:14.89, the Lockie/Mason FF Corse Ferrari now six and a half seconds adrift.
Fresle’s Ginetta trails the Moss BMW by less than four seconds with Allpass, now third, less than two seconds behind him. No drivers have yet taken their compulsory pit stop and all Production class cars are single-driver entries.
8 laps in and Lockie defends a challenge from the Neil Garner Mosler; meanwhile Shelton goes wide in the M36 BMW as the lead cars approach Parsons’ Seat Supercopa to lap him for the first time – the Lamborghini posting another fastest lap in the process.
Morcillo again gains on the GT3 Ferrari as they pass through back-marker traffic and by lap 12 he is less than a 1/4 second adrift. Craig Dolby is the first to pit and the team choose to change the left front tyre (on the incorrect assumption of a puncture) but Nigel Mustell isn’t ready so Dolby does a double stint in the Lamborghini.
The Mosler and GT3 Ferrari swap places twice as the Mosler went slightly wide; Mike Wilds is now third in the other Ferrari, itself posting a new fastest lap.
The Lambo is back in the pits again, this time the left rear receiving attention, the car dropping considerably down the field as a result of time lost.
Dell Shelton is next to pit his BMW with a right front puncture and ironically a success penalty means a considerably long pitstop is opportune. Steve Glynn then pits the TVR in an increasingly busy pit lane, Sam Allpass following in shortly after.
The Lambo is finally off its spindly jacks, Nigel Mustill now at the wheel and Dolby at a loss as to what’s wrong with the car: "At first I thought it was a flat tyre but maybe it’s more severe. I wasn’t pushing and the team said to push."
Jonny Cocker hands the Aston over to Chris Murphy while the yellow Ferrari had already had Wilds the elder replaced by Wilds the younger. With the leaders having completed 20 laps, the Mason/Lockie Ferrari leads with the Mosler still less than a second in trail – but both cars are yet to pit.
The TVR of Steve Glynn is receiving attention from the Topcats team with a leaky diff and sadly they declare they’re out of the race.
Fresle is now third in the Ginetta with less than 20 minutes remaining; both lead cars now pit together and for both its time for driver changes. Calum Lockie reveals his slightly delayed start was down to odd behaviour from the start lights; and that Dunlop’s suggestion to avoid kerbs would help with tyre longevity.
Martin Parsons pits his Seat Supercopa so all cars have now completed at least one pitstop. Of the front-runners, the Mosler is out first to take the lead, already posting a 12-second margin over the red FF Corse Ferrari; the Wilds’ Ferrari, with Anthony now at the wheel, gets past Fresle’s Ginetta to take third. Mike Moss leads the Production cars, 5th overall.
Manuel Cintrano spins the Mosler coming out of Cobb but doesn’t quite loose the lead. With 12 minutes left, Fresle runs wide again suggesting their tyres are on the way out. BMW door trim and wing damage both need attention from Shelton’s team.
Anthony Wilds had closed on David Mason up front as the two start the 29th lap with 10 minutes left on the clock, and Wilds is less than 30 seconds behind the leading Mosler. Fresle’s Ginetta is 4th overall but has been lapped by the lead three cars.
Mike Moss’ tyres are also showing signs of end-of-life as he goes wide at the Club chicane; meanwhile Dell Shelton was wide again at the Cambell/Cobb complex. Atkins is right on the tail of Mike Moss battling for 5th as the pair meet Shelton through the complex; Atkins grabs the lead with the recovering Lambo behind.
Steve Fresle continues to hold 4th overall with the battling Production BMWs around 16 seconds behind. As the clock ticks over to less than 4 minutes remaining, the Mosler is nearly 18 seconds ahead of the Wilds’ Ferrari but the gap continues to shrink.
Moss nearly overshoots at Cambell; Dale Shelton’s BMW is also acting squirrelly.
Wilds is lapping three seconds quicker than the Mosler but there just isn’t enough time left for him to catch the Spaniards. The Mosler therefore takes the overall and GT class win – their first win of the season. The Wilds were 2nd and the Mason/Lockie Ferrari 3rd.
Fresle was well on course to catch the red Ferrari but settles with 4th. Aktins takes the Production class win ahead of Mike Moss; Steve Glynn’s TVR was the only DNF.
Steve Glynn’s TVR had sadly been rendered unserviceable by a failed differential but three other cars decide not to run in the second race: the Lamborghini, Mosler and Ginetta.
At lights out, Calum Lockie is away like a scalded cat in the red FF Corse Ferrari with the Wilds’ yellow 458 in pursuit, but the closest battle is mid-field between Mike Moss and Lee Atkins in the Production BMWs.
Four laps in and Calum’s pace is increasing and he’s soon lapping the Seat Supercopa of Parsons, posting lap times of under 1:14.5 with smooth lines through the chicane – smoother it must be said than those of the more aggressive Cocker, not far behind in the Aston as the last of the GT class cars.
Starting lap 7 there’s less than a second between Atkins and Moss’ cars as the pair of BMWs continue to fight for overall 4th. Dale Shelton continues to run comfortably in the second of the Geoff Steel-run BMWs, which had the mechanics busy in the break between races.
There’s still no let-up in the fight for 4th, Mike Moss just keeping Atkins car at bay until lap 9 when Atkins has finally managed to get past just as Calum Lockie reaches them to lap both cars. Lockie’s lap times have dropped again, now a shade over 1:14 and the gap to the Wilds’ Ferrari in second place now 40-odd seconds. With 13 laps gone, Lockie posts the fastest of the day of 1:13.955. Meanwhile the steam seems to have gone from Mike Moss’ race with Atkins pulling over five seconds ahead.
The Aston Martin is the first car to take a pit stop with Cocker getting out to be replaced by relative newbie Chris Murphy – with 150 seconds as a minimum time, the changeover can afford to be leisurely. Cocker says "there’s a lot of movement – its good fun. You can just murder the tyres here, though".
Shelton pits his BMW as the two Ferrari teams prepare to make their pit stops too; Lockie has managed to lap the 2nd place Ferrari so gentleman driver David Mason has a cushion of time that might see them take an overall win.
Mike Moss is next to pit – no driver change for him. Mike Wilds brings the yellow 458 in next and there’s a new tyres going on – three bulges apparent on the sidewall of the left rear, evidence of the extreme challenge this circuit represents. Lockie carries on past for two more laps to extend his lead a little more having posted yet another new fastest lap. Lockie now pits and David Mason takes over in the lead car – no tyre change for them.
Lockie says "There’s a much better balance in the car – I’m doing Church flat in 5th – we did some adjustments and the car’s going great". Meanwhile Mike Wilds says they’d made a "change for the worse – the car’s sliding all over the place – we’ll make some changes for the two hour race tomorrow".
Atkins is the last to take a first stop in the E46 GTR but now Shelton’s #13 BMW spins at Woodland leading to a safety car deployment – apparently unneeded as he gets the white M3 going again and rejoins. Pitting the car, the team extract the collected grass and Shelton is out again. The safety car peels in after two complete laps – oddly neither with lights flashing – with the entire field bunched up behind, and this the final ten minutes become a new race.
With an entire lap between the leading Lockie/Mason Ferrari and the yellow one with Anthony Wilds at the wheel, is it possible that the lead will change? Atkins is also on a charge in third with his BMW.
There’s just 13.5 seconds between the Ferraris as they cross with line with a lap left; Atkins’ BMW is still third. On the very last lap, Anthony Wilds is through to take the lead from David Mason.
So Race 2 turned into two races in one, David Mason robbed of an overall win by somewhat strange safety car antics. The Wilds father/son pairing celebrate their second overall win this season, the first having been in Endurance; FF Corse will still be happy though with both of their Ferraris taking honours. A solid, consistent performance by Lee Atkins lands him overall third, beating the remaining GT class car (the Aston) in the process.
Overall results – Race 1:
1st – Cintrano/Morcillo – Mosler MT900 – Neal Garner Motorsport
2nd – Wilds/Wilds – Ferrari 458 Challenge – ff Corse
3rd – Mason/Lockie – Ferrari 458 GT3 – ff Corse
1st – Wilds/Wilds – Ferrari 458 Challenge – ff Corse
2nd – Mason/Lockie – Ferrari 458 GT3 – ff Corse
3rd – Lee Atkins – BMW E46 GTR – Geoff Steel Racing
The Dunlop GT & Production Championship’s next outing is a trip to The North for two more 50-minute races at Croft.