What is it about Axel van Nederveen? Every time he turns up, he wins, and if he doesn’t show up, one of his Datum Motorsport stablemates will keep the top step of the podium warm for him. What’s next – will he work from home and phone-in his performance, or maybe do it by Zoom? It’s never obvious from the start though , the London-based EU finance guru’s white Ginetta rarely bustles for the lead in the opening laps, and Sunday’s two-hour race was no exception. The Assetto Racing team were out in force with a three-car entry, and their Ginetta G56s locked-out the front row of the grid, with polesitter Jade Edwards displaying her BTCC prowess and taking an immediate and increasing lead, though team mate Julian Wantling spun out from second place very early on and rejoined towards the back of the field – once in the vanguard, now in the guards van, he had some work to do on a blisteringly hot day. Already cutting through from a back-row start after missing qualifying due to gearbox issues was Ian Astley in the SVG Ginetta G55A (more on this story later), but what of Axel van Nederveen? He was second, and having to work for it, as his Datum team mates Maurizio Sciglio and Marco Anastasi were menacing him like a pair of Targa Florio hillside bandits in their G56As. Lee Goldsmith spun his Assetto Ginetta at Abbey, and Arthur McMahan pitted his Honda Civic after a slow lap. Tony Rodgers was the best of the rest behind the Ginettas in the lone TSR VW Golf, but Simon Clark soon took the place in the Class 2 Porsche 997, while in the Clio class, erstwhile leader Travis Coyne was nursing a steadily-detaching front bumper, and was passed by Simon Mason and Jack Meakin. Jade was five seconds down the road from the rest of the field, with the front-running Ginettas spreading out, though Anastasi was fending-off the attentions of new team mate Sebastian Debois, though a spin at Brooklands for the Sicilian let the Frenchman by after taking avoiding action.
First to take a mandatory pit stop was Max Hall in the High Row Clio, though the car had some steering damage that had to be fixed before Andy Tucker could take over. Around the 40-minute mark, the leading Ginettas pitted en masse, Jade Edwards being the first, handing over to Mike West, then Ian Astley, by now fourth, being relieved by Neil Wallace. Sticking it out for a little longer was van Nederveen, inheriting a lead he would only lose during two of his three pit stops. Simon Clark had one lap of glory as the overall leader, running on fumes in the Form Evo Porsche, then, as the mid-point of the race ticked over. “cometh the hour, cometh the man” – the white #111 Ginetta was now in control.
A spin into the Copse gravel for Anastasi was dealt with by the valiant marshals, who pushed him out and on his way, and there was trouble for the erstwhile leading Ginetta; Mike West had taken over from Jade Edwards, but within a lap was touring with the left-hand door flapping open, but that wasn’t the real problem, and with compressor failure restricting gear changes, the car was sadly retired. The top four Ginettas – van Nederveen, Sciglio, Wallace, and Anastasi – seemed to be on similar strategies, taking their second stops with around 40 minutes of the race left, and there was no letting up for Clio honours as the final half-hour was reached, with Simon Mason and Rhys Lloyd disputing the lead.
The final pit stops were cycled through, drivers changed where appropriate, and places lost and regained, as the pit window closed and it was a 20-minute run to the flag. But not for Maurizio Sciglio, as with 10 minutes to go, the yellow Ginetta came to a halt on the Hamilton Straight, and was pushed behind the armco. So Axel van Nederveen took the flag, though not without drama in the final five minutes – maybe he was unsettled by another car actually overtaking him for the first time in the race (Debois’s Ginetta, on a final charge), and a quick spin landed him on the tarmac run-off area, so he continued unabated to take another win. Ian Astley brought the SVG Ginetta G55 home second, and thereby hangs a tale to be told; Missing qualifying due to gearbox failure on the out lap, SVG boss Andy Johnson used all his charm to get Mike Simpson to open up the Ginetta factory on a Sunday morning to provide a replacement unit. Collecting from a rendezvous on the M1, the SVG team had the box fitted.
With 30 minutes to spare, and Ian Astley and Neil Wallace took an untried and untested car from the back of the grid to second place, with Wallace never out of the top three in his mid-race double stint. “There were alarms going off everywhere at the start, so I was short-shifting to keep the heat down” said Astley, adding “it was helpful that the slower cars were all so good at giving space”, while Neil Wallace admitted “that was the toughest race I have ever had”, and “it was sort of slippy out there, almost like being wet”. Their performance earned Wallace the Driver of the Day award, in reality a tribute for the whole team for their sterling effort. Full marks too, to the lone drivers in this hot race – Marco Anastasi was third, though Datum team mate Sebastian Debois was just 2.474 seconds behind after a final charge which saw him take the Jim Edwards/Julian Wantling G56 for fourth place in the closing laps, and explains why he was anxious to unlap himself from the leader. The Asseto G56A of Robin Grimwood /Lee Goldsmith was sixth, a lap down, ahead of lone driver Callum Noble in the Thorney Motorsport BMW E46 – this was probably the best performance of the car so far, a seemingly trouble-free two-hour run, and, at least in the early stages, the tail-end Ginettas were catchable. Simon Clark took the Class 2 win in the Form Evo Clark Racing Porsche 997 – he had led the class throughout, even the race overall for one lap, and was six laps ahead of the Steve Wood-run Porsche 911 of Tony Whitney / James Walker, suffering two punctures in quick succession, which were the cause of, or caused by, a drive shaft issue. The Team BRIT BMW240i also had drive shaft concerns; Paul Fullick looked particularly racy in his opening stint, resplendent with an innovative cabin cooling system, but Tee Mathurin caught the problems in his stint, and the car was temporarily retired, coming out to take the flag and bag the final class podium place, while poor Arthur McMahon had a dismal early-stage race, which took no end of pit stops and slow running to sort out, but his Honda Civic recovered to take the flag for fourth in Class 2, 16 laps down.
Class 3 was led initially by the TSR Golf of Tony Rodgers and Mark Jones – they were third at the flag, as lone driver Will Puttergill, racing with full aircon in his Honda Civic, took the class win and leaped onto the podium, fresh as a daisy, to collect his trophy, while father and son duo Steve and Ed Cook were second in their Civic, with Ed tailing the rapid TSR Golf in the early stages. Paul Goodlad was fourth in class in the JW Bird VW Scirocco, a tremendous lone drive from the hand-controls user in the stifling conditions. Brendan Haffner had a race on his hands in the opening stages – not for class supremacy in his little Ginetta G40, but for once he had company out on track with some of the midfield runners, and later on, with little to lose or gain, sensibly took a fatigue break before venturing out to take the flag. There was no chance of a break in the Clio class though, it was fraught action on the track and in the pits. The SIM Dynamics car of Chris Bialan and Simon Mason had been a frequent leader throughout the race, and was leading in the final stages until stymied by a pit stop on the penultimate lap, dropping them down to third, leaving the Dragon Sport machine of Rhys Lloyd and Jack Meakin, which led up to the first, late pit stop, to take the win, followed by the High Row car of James Harrison and Ben Jenkins. Alex Neville and Travis Coyne suffered through that early front bumper issue, Jonathan Christie-Rundle and Andreas Georgiou were rock-steady in the Spires car, but it was disappointment for Andy Tucker, who had such high hopes after recent races in the High Row #88 car; steering issues in Max Hall’s opening stint led to lengthy pit stops, demoting the three-hander driving squad, including team boss Max Coates, to sixth in class.
Words: Steve Wood, photos: Paul Cherry