Lone driver Axel van Nederveen, in the Datum Motorsport Ginetta G56 GTA, made it a clean sweep of overall wins for the 2023 season in Sunday’s two-hour race, run in changeable conditions.
A two hour race around the twisty Indy circuit was a break from the traditional two 50-minute races for the Trophy category, and would involve refuelling, and three 235-second pit stops. Maurizio Sciglio, one of three Datum Motorsport lone-drivers, set pole in his Ginetta G56A, with talented youngster Will Stacey just half a second shy in his Rob Boston-run Lotus Elise, and it was Stacey that led away from the start, with Sciglio behind, and a fast-starting Simon Clark breaking up the Ginettas in his Class 2 Porsche. The Clios, too were looking racy in the damp conditions, hunting as a pack on the tail of the Ginetta gaggle, and it’s doubtful that Neil Wallace, in the SVG G55, expected an ambitious move from Jack Meakin at Surtees on lap two, which saw contact, delaying Wallace and leaving Meakin stationary on the grass, with Ben Jenkins’ Clio spinning off in sympathy. Meakin made it back to the pits, where the Dragon Sport team set about fixing the steering rack, losing seven laps. Axel van Nederveen was now third, and the gap between leader Stacey and Sciglio was broadening as they hit traffic, with the Lotus handling it a little better, aided somewhat by Paul Fullick in the Team BRIT BMW 240i, who was on his own mission to gain places, cutting a natural path for Stacey to utilise. The Safety Car was called 20 minutes into the race, as Ed Cook’s Civic was stuck in the gravel at Druids, and with the pit window just opening, it was an opportune moment to take the first mandatory stop. Stacey was quickly in, changing tyres from the wet option to the dry Direzza tread, and about a third of the field followed, but with such a long mandatory stop, the course went green again while the stops were still being taken. With multiple pit stops taking place, there would be no clear indication of the true race positions until the final 20 minutes of the race, and there were lower-class incursions into the top places at around quarter distance – the four Ginettas of Sciglio, Jim Edwards, Marco Anastasi and Robin Grimwood were at the front, then Jake Hewlett’s Clio, the Scirocco of George Jaxon, and Callum Noble in the Thorney Motorsport BMW M3, allegedly running at 85% upon instructions from team boss John Thorne. It took a while for the dry tyres to be effective, and by lap 35 Stacey, now second, set the fastest lap so far. The second quartile of the race saw the front-running Ginetta of Julian Wantling crawl back to the pits with drive shaft issues, which the Asseto team would fix, and another Safety Car period followed, to recover the Mason / Bialan Clio, which was bedded in the Clearways gravel. Stacey made another pit stop, but didn’t vacate driving duties for Rob Boston, and a spin by Anastasi that blocked the pit exit momentarily held up a queue of anxious returnees, including Stacey’s Lotus. Rob Boston had already alluded that there were issues with the now fourth-placed machine, and just before the hour mark, the Lotus engine let go through Paddock, making it up the hill to spin on its own oil at Druids, cruel luck for the potentially winning car, and necessitating a further caution period. The field was let go again with 49 minutes left, and the three Datum Motorsport Ginettas were line astern on the track – Anastasi led Sciglio by a handful of seconds, with Van Nederveen right behind them on the track, though three laps down in fourth place. A joint enterprise at Clearways saw both Sciglio and Van Nederveen pass Anastasi, then a short Safety Car period, for Luke Newson to self-recover his Scirocco from a spin on Cooper Straight had the three Datum Ginettas, all on different strategies in the pits together. There was a final flurry of stops before the pit window closed, the Grimwood/Goldsmith Ginetta making it’s last stop, and relinquishing the lead to Axel van Nederveen’s similar machine, and now we had a true picture of the race places – Van Nederveen had a lap over the amazing Simon Clark’s Porsche 997, who had a further two laps over Sciglio, while fourth was veteran GT racer Ian Astley, now in the SVG G55; 16th at the turn of the hour, and despite not being able to unlap from Clark’s Porsche, there had rarely been a lap when Astley hadn’t made up a position, and now, in the closing minutes, he was chasing Sciglio for the final podium place, though Anastasi had his own thoughts on that, and the three were nose to tail. A killer move by Astley down the inside at Paddock secured third place, and a muddy trip at Clearways for Anastasi preceded a 48-second stop/go penalty for a pit infringement, but that wasn’t all, as in a final flourish of excitement, Sciglio had a spin while negotiating traffic at Graham Hill, and the Bialan/Mason Clio renewed it’s relationship with the gravel, this time at Paddock, just before the chequered flag fell.
So, Axel Van Nederveen took his third win of the season; the humble Dutch Eurocrat played a strong strategy once again, always in touch but staying out of trouble. Second-placed Simon Clark, in the FormEvo Clark Racing Porsche 997 was unhindered by Class 2 competition, and avoided trouble while mixing it with the Class 1 Ginettas, a sensational lone drive, and the stunning recovery by the SVG Ginetta G55, following Neil Wallace’s first-lap delay, earned them not just the final overall podium place, but Ian Astley the Driver of the Day award too, while late-race spins and penalties meant that Sciglio and Anastasi, for so long trading the lead, were relegated to fourth and fifth positions, and, clearing-up the Class 1 result, the Assetto Ginetta G56 of Grimwood/Goldsmith finished seventh overall, while team mates Julian Wantling/Jim Edwards retired in the final quarter of the race. An amazing sixth overall, and clinching the Class 3 victory, was lone driver William Puttergill, another who kept his head and played it right, an issue in qualifying obviously not a portent of things that were to come. The next Class 3 finisher was eight laps adrift – Paul Goodlad, with hand controls in his JW Bird Scirocco, endured spins, contact, and a 24-second stop/go penalty on his way to the runner-up spot, three laps ahead of the Civic of Ed and Steve Cook, which had it’s own, gravel-related, dramas along the way. Drama too, and rear end damage for the Jaxon/Davidson/Newson Scirocco in fourth, and it was an atypical day for the usually front-running TSR squad, with the Rob Ellick/Fynn Jones Golf fifth in class, while the similar car of Mark Jones and Tony Rodgers finished 62 laps down. The remaining Class 2 finishers were all on the same lap – a stirring performance from Paul Fullick and Tee Mathurin in the Team BRIT BMW240i earned them second place, with a great debut from Tony Whitney and James Walker, who’s Porsche 911 had run as high as third mid-race, on the bottom step of the class podium, and lone driver Arthur McMahon’s Civic eight seconds behind in fourth. Andy Tucker had his “secret weapon” in the class-winning High Row Clio; teenage sensation Maximus Hall, who ensured victory a lap ahead of Dragon Sport’s Travis Coyne/Jake Hewlett, while James Harrison / Ben Jenkins were third, and Jack Meakin / Rhys Lloyd recovered from early lost time to finish fourth. The two Spires Motorsport Clios diced side-by-side at times though, finished laps apart, lone driver Craig Guest ahead of Christie-Rundle/Geerearts, and it wasn’t plain sailing for Brendan Haffner in his Ginetta G40, finishing the race and winning the class despite a rear-end niggle towards the end.
Words: Steve Wood, photos: Steve Jackman, Chris Valentine and Paul Cherry