Britcar R1, Silverstone Club Circuit, 20 / 3 / 04

It was a wet’n windy Silverstone that greeted the Britcar contingent, as the series started its third season with a two-hour race. The meeting saw the return of some of last year’s cars, some new entries, and a startling array of attractive liveries.

Qualifying was held in the damp, windy conditions of Saturday morning, and despite holding back, Calum Lockie put the Damax Ferrari 360 Challenge car on pole with a 1:08.43, just over half a second quicker than the Rouse Mercedes. David Leslie was third, in the GTS Motorsport BMW M3, ahead of that man Lockie again, Calum sharing the second GTS Motorsport M3 with ‘newcomer’ David Smith. “I took no chances in the Ferrari in the wet, and honestly thought that Rouse would be quicker,” explained the double-driving Scot. “I finished the session in the BMW, but couldn’t get a clear lap, and the tyres were going off.”

Also going off, in his own way, was veteran John Hammersley, straight-lining the Copse run-off area in the MG ZR, and nerfing the tyre-wall head on. Rueing the choice of slicks for qualifying, the team now had a fight against the clock to get the car raceworthy.

The E46 BMW of Andy Allen and Dave Kempton was fifth on the grid, the pair’s new GTR still awaiting completion, and Bill Sollis annexed sixth with the Cadburys Mini, sharing with Alastair Davidson, Next up was the surprisingly rapid Renault Clio Williams of father and son pairing Geoff and Neil Waterworth, the damp conditions allowing it to beat the more powerful Marcos Mantis of Martin Parsons and Jeff Wyatt.

Further down, British GT aspirant Linus Ridge, sharing the Porsche 993 cup-spec car with Paul Dishman was 11th, and the mighty Porsche 993 RS of Ford engineer John Clonis and David Streather was a lowly 25th. “You just can’t get the power down in these conditions, these cars were never much good in the wet,” said the Athens-born Clonis, “We might try smaller wheels for the race, but they look silly!”

The top end of the grid was thus:

1) Back / Lockie Ferrari 360 1:08.430
2) Rouse / Rouse Mercedes 190 DTM 1:08.953
3) Handkammer / Leslie BMW M3 E36 1:09.513
4) Lockie / Smith BMW M3 E36 1:10.595
5) Allen / Kempton BMW M3 E46 1:11.387
6) Sollis / Davidson Mini 1:12.190
7) Waterworth x 2 Renault Clio Williams 1:12.600
8) Wyatt / Parsons Marcos Mantis 1:12.639
9) McInerney x 2 Honda Integra R 1:12.876
10) Gamski Ferrari 355 1:12.964

Gale-force winds and light rain prevailed as 31 of the 33-car field lined-up behind the pace car. Bernie Bowden was struggling with a front wheel of his Cavalier, and the VW Beetle spluttered to a halt as it left the garage – fuel contamination was the diagnosis, and a tank full of diesel was the cause! Both would start later in the race.

David Back capitalised on the Ferrari’s pole position, and stormed into the lead into Copse...

...maybe just a little too fast, since he spun on the exit... (somewhere in the gloom, below)

....causing Handkammer, Julian Rouse, and Lockie’s BMW, to take avoiding action.

Parsons, in the Topcats Mantis, had nowhere to go, and had to bide his time while Back recovered.

dailysportscar.comAt the end of the first lap, Handkammer led, followed by Rouse, Lockie, Allen, Sollis in the Mini, and the Waterworth Clio. David Back was tenth in the recovering Ferrari, with the struggling Parsons a few places further back.

Lockie and Rouse were exchanging places regularly during the opening laps, but Julian had no plans to tarry with the BMWs, and soon took Handkammer for the lead.

The conditions continued to be tricky, Sollis spinning the Mini, Streather making no progress in the Porsche RS, and the Cup class machine of Dishman holding off a trio of Fiestas. Martin Parsons then beached the Marcos at Becketts. The car was recovered and driven slowly back to pits, where after a fuelling and a checkover, Jeff Wyatt took over for the remaining 90 minutes, nine laps down on the leaders. “ I just locked up, and it went straight into the gravel. I’m not very happy,” moaned the east end fruit’n veg merchant.

Meanwhile, Fiona Leggate, last year’s Britcar Young Driver of the Year, had brought the works MG ZR Judd into the pits several times, complaining that the car had suddenly begun to handle strangely. The engineers could find no obvious cause, so rally star Gwyndaf Evans was installed early, to use his considerable MG expertise to analyse the problem. Sadly, this was to no avail, and car was retired.

Well into the second quartile of the race, and Rouse still led, but Handkammer and Lockie were now trading second place, though Calum began to pull away as the hour ticked up. This was the cue for the majority of pit stops, though the front-runners all stayed out until slightly later, avoiding the mayhem in front of the garages.

Streather handed the big Porsche over to Clonis, who bravely elected to change to slick tyres, due to the improving conditions. His choice was a little premature, and he endured several spins in the opening laps of his stint.

dailysportscar.comAs the heavy hitters made their stops a few laps later, though, slicks, or cut slicks were de rigeur, and as Handkammer handed over to Leslie, and Lockie to David Smith (right), the treaded rubber was discarded. Calum strolled up the pit lane to await Back’s Ferrari, in which he rejoined the race in eighth place.

Andy Allen now held the lead, having not yet pitted, but Andy Rouse had unlapped himself, and was taking great chunks out of the BMW’s lead, and both Lockie and Wyatt were men on the move, the Ferrari posting the fastest lap of the race at 1:02.582

With just half an hour to go, the pits became active again, as those who pitted too early (to change to slicks) now had no choice. Rouse was very quickly moving up on Allen, and took the lead 15 minutes from the end, simultaneously letting Leslie, in the BMW, unlap himself. Michael and Sean McInerney had been as high as ninth in the Mardi Gras Honda Integra R, but their fine run came to an end on lap 73, when the engine mysteriously died.

Allen then had a minor clash with the Beetle, and with just eight minutes to go, pitted from second place, changing just the right rear tyre, but strangely remaining in the car, rejoining in third. All was not well, however, and the car limped home with suspension failure. “I’m not concerned that I didn’t get to drive,” said the sidelined Kempton, “we’ve kept everybody guessing, Andy did a great job, and we’ve got a good result”.

Into the final minutes, and Wyatt leapt past a trio of slower cars to claim 16th position, 11 laps down on winner Rouse. '' If the race was an hour longer I truly believe we could have been challenging for a podium spot,” commented Wyatt. “Trouble is it wasn't !!''

This year then, just as last, the Rouses laid down their marker for the season ahead at the first race. Handkammer and Leslie had excelled; “Fantastic – when’s the next one?” exclaimed David Leslie, with a smile as wide as the Cumberland Gap. “It’s great to be back in endurance racing again, though I would have liked the rain to have continued. We’ve still got more to come from this car.”

Driver of the day? Commentator David Addison was undecided – Julian Rouse, for a dominant performance, Andy Allen, for a long, unflagging stint, or doppeldriver Calum Lockie ?

“The Ferrari was really wild on slicks,” said the Scot, “I nearly lost it a few times, and the rear tyres were knackered towards the end. I had lots of oversteer in the BMW, particularly at Luffield and Becketts, but Julian and I had a great, clean battle.”

Class 3 honours were taken by the impressive Waterworth Clio Willams, ahead of the Field / Reynolds Integra, and the BMW E30 of Nigel Stephens and Mark Smith.

Lone driver Andy Robey won class 4 in his Ford Focus, ahead of the repaired MG ZR of John and Mark Hammersley, and Alan Wilshire and Michael Hartley in stalwart team Daniels Motorsport’s venerable Ford Fiesta.

The next Britcar race will be part of an exclusive EERC meeting on the Brands Hatch GP circuit on April 2.
Steve Wood

1) 1 1 Rouse / Rouse Mercedes 190 DTM 104 laps
2) 39 2 Handkammer / Leslie BMW M3 E36 103
3) 40 2 Allen / (Kempton) BMW M3 E46 102
4) 10 1 Back / Lockie Ferrari 360 100
5) 31 2 Lockie / Smith BMW M3 E36 100
6) 84 3 Waterworth x 2 Renault Clio Williams 96
7) 43 2 Sollis / Davidson Mini 96
8) 47 2 Ellis / Salmon BMW M3 E36 96
9) 27 1 Grant / Delaronde BMW M3 DTM 96
10) 86 3 Field / Reynolds Honda Integra R 95.


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