It’s been a long time coming, but Mike and Anthony Wilds, driving the FF Corse Ferrari 458 Challenge, finally posted an overall win in a Britcar championship race, after numerous class wins (and a couple of Production titles) along the way. Consistency was the key here, along with fuel management and endurance racing nous, and for probably the first time in their Britcar careers, the father and son duo had the equipment and the free rein to challenge for overall honours.
Qualifying – From Parked to Pole, From the Gravel to the Grid
Just 30 minutes to make your mark here, and with around seven minutes lost to a Safety Car period, things were fraught. Nigel Moore made the early running in the Tockwith Audi R8 LMS, and when Manuel Cintrano explored the limits of the Neil Garner-run Mosler a little too enthusiastically at Riches, placing it neatly in the gravel and necessitating the caution period, lap times at the top were still over the two-minute mark. Once the course went green again, Anthony Wilds brought it down to around 1:58 in the FF Corse Ferrari 458 Challenge, trading the top spot with the similar machine of stablemate Johnny Mowlem for a while, and Jacob Mathiassen made an incursion into the top three with the Class 3 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55, as did the Nick Holden/Andy McKenna Renault RS-01.
The times came tumbling further though; Teenage sensation Phil Hanson, now in the Tockwith Audi,
got into the 1:53s, but that wasn’t the end of it, Javier Morcillo took to the track in the dying minutes in the recovered Mosler, and progressively brought the target closer. Hanson lowered the benchmark further, but in precise unison, the clock ticked to zero, the chequered flag went out, and Morcillo’s Mosler crossed the line, seizing pole at 1:53.057, over half a second ahead of the Audi. “It was tough”, confessed Morcillo, “we used the same tyres that Manuel had gone into the gravel with, they were flat-spotted, and the car was bumping up and down”.
The Class 2 pole was held by Mowlem, ahead of Wilds, the two being split on the overall grid by the Renault. Mark and Peter Cunningham, assisted in the SG Racing Porsche 997 by David Nye, bagged the Class 3 pole, with the lone Class 4 runner, the Mike Moss/Tom Howard BMW M3 lining up 12th overall, while Class 5 was topped by the Synchro Motorsport Honda Civic Type R, piloted by regular Alyn James and former Britcar champion Martin Byford. A puncture on the out lap stymied any chance of improvement for Fabio Randaccio’s Lotus; “what more can they throw at us” he exclaimed after a fraught Saturday. We’ll find out later.
Race – Means, Motive, Opportunity
With no time to lose to get the maximum four-hour race in before the 18:30 curfew, there was a no-nonsense pace lap straight from the pit lane, and as the red lights went out, Morcillo charged up to Riches and moved the Mosler across to cover the inside gap that Johnny Mowlem’s Ferrari was looking to fill. Both of these pro-drivers knew what would be in store for their cars later in the race, and whilst Morcillo began to eke out a healthy lead – over 20 seconds at the half-hour mark – Mowlem’s Class 2 machine couldn’t shake off Phil Hanson’s Audi R8, which had pulled away from Anthony Wild’s Ferrari 458, and the blistering fast-starting Mark Cunningham in the SG Racing Porsche 997. The race’s other Porsche, though, that of Darrelle Wilson and Ian Heward, began an in/out relationship with the pits, making the first of several stops in the first 15 minutes of the race.
In the midfield, Jacob Mathiassen in the Century Ginetta G55 was catching Jody Fannin’s Aston Martin, but was caught out as the pair disputed track space going into Murrays, and had a trip across the grass. Mike Moss’s BMW took Fabio Randaccio’s Lotus Europa, which had slipped back after another of the ersatz-Italian’s demon starts, and as early as 45 minutes into the race Wilds brought in the yellow Ferrari for its first fuel stop.
Mowlem was in just a few laps later, whilst Morcillo stayed out, despite pre-race predictions that fuel would be an issue; so much for his threat “I shall be driving with conservation from the start”. Hanson pitted the Audi too, handing over to Nigel Moore, and as the first hour ticked over, right to target, Mark Cunningham brought in the SG Racing Porsche for David Nye to take his one-hour stint.
David Birrell had being going steadily in the Woodard Racing Mini Cooper – the man has had enough heroics in his life – and was relieved by Daniel Woodard, while Stuart Hall was another pit visitor, though the Vantage Racing Aston Martin was driven straight into the garage with terminal engine problems, denying Chris Kemp his stints behind the wheel.
The opening minutes of the second hour saw all hell break loose – a fire in the Tockwith Audi, a slippery surface on the run up to Murrays causing Bonany Grimes, who had taken over from Mowlem, to spin into the barrier, and Nick Holden’s Renault RS-01 too, which avoided any contact.
Grimes’ Ferrari pitted immediately – Mowlem had been driving around a crank sensor problem, and now the contact had damaged the suspension – and lost 14 laps while repairs were effected.
This furore brought out the Safety Car, and with the race coming up to the 75-minute marked, more pit stops, some planned, some opportunist. Ruben Anakhasyan (Century Ginetta G55) handed over to Ollie Hancock, Holden brought the Renault in for Andy McKenna to take over, and leader Morcillo was also in, allowing Manuel Cintrano take his stint. With only 25 litres of fuel allowed in during a Safety Car pit stop, they all did the old favourite “in/out/round again for another fill” trick; the trouble was they did that second fill after following the Safety Car into the pitlane, thinking that the caution was lifted and 50 litres could be administered, and duly filled accordingly. Not so, though, as the regs deem that the Safety Car must have cross the start/finish line within the pit lane for the caution to have ended, which it hadn’t when the guilty cars commenced their stops. The men in serious trousers and MSA lanyards took a view, and awarded 90-second stop/go penalties to the offenders.
The decision on the Mosler took a little longer than the others, leaving Cintrano to pound around and consolidate a respectable lead, but once he was called in, and with the thirsty Wilds Ferrari out of synch with its pit stops, the lead began to ebb and flow between the Mosler, the Renault and the yellow FF Corse Ferrari.
By this time the Moss Motorsport BMW M3 had retired with fuel pump failure, and the troubled weekend for the Randaccio/Randall Lotus Europa came to an end too, before the halfway mark of the race: “The clutch has been slipping from the start, and now we have a crank sensor issue” bemoaned a disappointed Fabio Randaccio. The two significant front-runners that had hit problems were back out on track though; The Mowlem/Grimes Ferrari was going well, but now out of contention, and the Tockwith Audi displayed bursts of brilliance from Moor and Hanson between pit stops to sort continuing issues.
As the final hour approached, Javier Morcillo, now in the Mosler, wrested the lead from Anthony Wilds as the pair entered Brundle, but, with at least one more pit stop needed for each car, and with the Renault of Holden/McKenna still in contention, this was going to be a three way fight to the flag.
The two protagonists In Class 5 were having lonely races; the Synchro Motorsport Honda Civic, crewed by regular Alyn James and guest driver Martin Byford, and the Woodard Racing Organisation Mini Cooper, driven by Daniel Woodard and injured ex-serviceman Dave Birrell were running at very different paces, and had few cars to battle with over the race distance.
Class 3 was dominated early on by the Cunningham’s Porsche, assisted by David Nye, but a misunderstanding during some lappery saw Peter Cunningham take to the grass during his stint, and when, as the final hour ticked over, the car was pitted for Mark Cunningham to take the final stint, the class lead had been lost to the Anakhasyan/Hancock Ginetta. The younger Cunningham was not out on track for very long though, he was soon back in with a gearbox problem, and, deciding that financial discretion was the better part of valour, the SG Racing team retired the car. “I lost third gear during my stint, but drove around the problem, you can just miss it out with a sequential box, but Mark doesn’t want to risk it any further, it would be more expensive to fix a whole gearbox than just third gear” explained Peter Cunningham.
Into the final 45 minutes – Morcillo had just pitted the Mosler from the lead, which was refuelled, and had installed Manuel Cintrano to take it to the flag. He rejoined second, around a minute behind the Holden/McKenna Renault, which potentially had another fuel stop to make, and 16 seconds ahead of Mike Wilds, who had taken over the thirsty Ferrari from son Anthony dead on the hour mark.
The Renault came in for fuel with just 18 minutes of the race left, handing the lead back to Cintrano, who by now had only a tenuous lead over Wilds, who didn’t appear to be concerned with economy. The Ferrari passed the Mosler, and began to eke out a lead holding it steady at around six seconds, and now pacing the lap times accordingly. The Renault, however, with no fuel worries, was on a charge, and with about four minutes of the race left, McKenna took second place from the Mosler at Murrays. Cintrano was having none of it though, and used the power of his LS7 motor to draw back alongside down the Senna Straight. The Neil Garner stablemates nudged briefly as they went through Riches, but it was the Renault that came out best, and set of in pursuit of Mike Wilds. There wasn’t enough time left though – a jubilant Mike Wilds took the FF Corse Ferrari, now running on fumes, across the line nearly four seconds ahead of McKenna’s Renault, with the Mosler now resigned to third a further 21 seconds back.
Despite having a fraught race, The Tockwith Audi was running well towards the end, a feature which the savvy Nigel Moore capitalised on, bolting on fresh rubber in the final quarter of an hour, and proving a point by setting a succession of fastest laps, his 1:50.861 beating Morcillo’s best by nearly a second.
The Grimes/Mowlem Ferrari came home second in Class 2, 14 laps down after some swift and efficient repairs by the FF Corse team, and despite a troubled race with handling issues and many pit stops, the Porscheshop Porsche 911 RSR of Darrelle Wilson and Ian Heward claimed third in class.
It was a one/two in Class 3 for Century Motorsport – the black Ginetta G55 of Ruben Anakhasyan and Ollie Hancock leading the sister car of Stephen Fresle and Jacob Mathiassen home by a Lap difference, while, following the earlier battle with Mathiassen, the Whitebridge Aston Martin of BGT rising star Jody Fannin and Quad-bike champion Chris Murphy completed the class podium.
Alyn James and Martin Byford claimed seventh overall on their way to the Class 5 victory in the Synchro Honda Civic, 14 laps ahead of Dave Birrell and Daniel Woodard in the WRO Mini Cooper.
For the first time in their collective Britcar careers, Mike and Anthony Wilds had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to post an overall win; they had some luck with the demise of the Audi and the other FF Corse Ferrari, but met the considerable challenges of the Renault and Mosler, seizing the opportunity with both hands -“proud” was the word on their lips on Sunday evening.
Full results available here