International Prototype ace Morton Dons, driving Mike Smith’s Radical RXC Spyder, posted a convincing win in the foreshortened and rain-blighted Britcar All-Comers race on Saturday afternoon.
ELMS racer Dons had served notice of intent during free practice (where he licked the opposition by a clear five seconds), but sanity was restored in the 30-minute qualifying session, with the Radical bagging pole at 1:47.243, less than three-quarters of a second ahead of the Ginetta G57 of BTCC ace Ollie Jackson and local pro-driver Alistair MacKinnon. Calum Lockie headed the GT contingent in the FF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 he shares with enthusiastic gentleman-driver David Mason, pulling everything out of the hat and exceeding expectations with a stunning 1:49.873, though only less than a second ahead of stablemates Johnny Mowlem and Bonamy Grimes in the Challenge-spec Ferrari 458. Geoff Steel Racing turned up with a fresh-out-of-the-box BMW M3 E92 for Britcar Production leader Del Shelton, though experienced pro-driver Phil Keen did most of the running; while Britcar Endurance front-runner Chris Murphy was joined by BGT young-charger Matty George, claiming the Class E3 fastest time in the Whitebridge Aston Martin Vantage, whilst the similar machine of Den Gibbs and Phil Glew sadly expired with gearbox issues before the session got under way.
Rain had been threatening in the early afternoon, and a few spots as the cars gathered in the collecting area turned to drizzle as the bijou but talent-filled grid was let go for a rolling start, with Lockie starting the GT3 Ferrari from the pit lane after a last-minute wheel issue was identified and fixed. The race length had now been reduced by five minutes from the original 90 minutes, and as the field came round to finish the opening lap, Don’s Radical had a five-second advantage over MacKinnon’s Ginetta, with novice Grimes impressively third in the 458 Challenge, ahead of a charging Lockie. Chris Murphy decided straight away that discretion is the better part of valour, and pitted immediately for wet tyres as the drizzle intensified. A good call, it would seem, as both MacKinnon and Grimes had the same idea next time round, then Dons on lap three, leaving Lockie to tough it out on slicks. And tough it out he did – a two-lap advantage over the rest of the field was only gradually diminishing as the wet-shod runners posted lap times up to eight seconds faster than the leading 458, but the wily Scot knew what he was doing, and his lap times reduced dramatically, even in what were now showers rather than drizzle, and as the race reached the 25-mnute mark, he was posting times equal to the competitors on wet tyres. He then pitted with one hour of the race left to run: "The Pirellis were just coming in, but the rain got too much for slicks at that point" he admitted later.
Bonamy Grimes now led in the FF Corse 458 Challenge, thanks to some slick pit work and a truly impressive performance from the relative novice in the wet. He had no answer, though, for the power, nor the driver experience, of the pursuing Radical, which re-took the lead on lap 14. The fired-up Lockie was through to second place next time round, and was barely a whisker off the Radical’s tail, then briefly held the lead once the mandatory pit stops were taken at around the half-way mark. Lockie himself pushed the pit-stop window to the limit, handing over to David Mason with 35 minutes of the race left.
With the rain now pouring, it wasn’t exactly a cruise to the flag for Dons, as Johnny Mowlem, who had inherited a well-placed 458 Challenge from Grimes, put on a spirited pursuit of the leader, bringing the gap down to around three seconds before the flag fell after 37 laps. Ollie Jackson, too, was on form in the Ginetta G57 having taken over from Alistair MacKinnon after a mandatory pit stop that ate up the best part of five minutes. The BTTC ace however claimed the final overall podium place from a cautious David Mason’s Ferrari 458 GT3 at Agostini four laps from the end.
Matty George relieved Chris Murphy in the Whitebridge Aston Martin Vantage at the halfway stage of the race – the pair had a lonely race, circulating at their own pace, coming home fifth overall and winning the Class E3 trophy.
This had been a race with many experienced stars, and, significantly, proved that the Prototype series need not be considered a Ginetta walkover.
The Britcar Dunlop Endurance Championship returns to the track at Oulton Park for its penultimate round on 1st October, accompanied by two further rounds of the Dunlop GT & Production Championship.