Britcar At Pembrey, 8 / 9 May 2004
Wyatt Cleans Up the West

Sharing Colin Simpson’s Marcos Mantis, Jeff Wyatt, who turned 40 on the eve of the meeting, won both two-hour Britcar races at the weekend, and thus the aggregate overall honours, at the double-header at the splendid Welsh circuit.

With the professionals like Rouse, Lockie (at Monza) and Leslie electing not to make the journey, this was a chance for the gentlemen drivers to shine, and with some significant new cars entered, it was to be an interesting weekend.

dailysportscar.comAs well as the above-mentioned Simpson Marcos, Jon Harrison and Andy Ray turned up with their example (right), purchased during the previous week. The blue machine had been in the hands of a private collector for several years, and still bore the “PowerTour" number panels.

“After driving the Topcats Mantis last month, I decided this was what I wanted,” explained Harrison. “We’ve sidelined the Audi A4 (blown two engines in testing), and we’ll be using this weekend as a shakedown, to give Andy some time in the car.”

Harrison himself was also sharing the similar Topcats car with ex-Porsche racer Rupert Bullock (above, with the Wyatt / Simpson car, #22), and his time in his own vehicle, also assisted by the Topcats team, would depend on how the two races panned-out.

dailysportscar.comNew, too, for this weekend, was Philip Harris’ shocking-pink Porsche 996, to be shared with Britcar regular Dave Kempton. The Swedish-built machine is planned to compete the series with Nigel Greensall behind the wheel, where possible.

The works MG team continued the trend of placing a personality driver with rising star Fiona Leggate in the Judd-engined ZR, and this time it was F1 television pundit Tony Jardine, who obviously preferred pedalling in Pembrey to beating his gums in Barcelona, and displayed not a hint of regret as he watched the GP under the MG awning at lunchtime on Sunday.

There was to be just one qualifying session, race two grid being set by the results of race one. Rupert Bullock placed the Topcats Marcos on pole, a second-and-a-half in front of the Simpson / Wyatt car, with the Andy Grant and Del Delaronde DTM BMW M3 third. The Harris / Kempton Porsche was next, followed by the impressive Geoff Steel Racing M3 of Peter Knee and Michael Symons, then Sean and Michael McInerney’s Mardi Gras Honda Intregra R, and the Leggate / Jardine MG.

Poorly placed, after a problematical session, were the Foudroyant Porsche of Linus Ridge and Paul Dishman (Piers Masarati was at Monza), and Andy Allen’s M3, starting 11th and 12th respectively, just in front of the acclimatising Andy Ray in the Mantis.

It was overcast and windy as the pace car released the field for the first of the two-hour races, and Bullock flew into the lead, but locking-up and spinning at Hatchetts hairpin, leaving Delaronde’s BMW to take the lead in the ensuing melee. The silver Marcos rejoined in 13th place, with some work to do.

Delaronde’s lead was fragile, though, and Colin Simpson was soon right with him, the pair trading first position for several laps before the number 22 Mantis passed the M3, to maintain a slender advantage.

Sean McInerney (on the grid, above) had managed to haul his Integra into third, but was now under attack from the recovering faster cars, as Andy Allen, Rupert Bullock, then Harris in the pink Porsche, all powered past him. The Porsche however, was beginning to smoke, receiving a black and orange flag. This was the start of an oil problem, which would see them finish 41 laps down, after constructing and fitting a makeshift catch tank in the engine bay, and a spin or two to compound their woes. They would not make the grid for Sunday’s race.

Ray was making steady progress as he got used to the Marcos, making the first of several pit stops on lap 22, just before Bullock once more lost it at the Hatchetts hairpin, as he tried to take Allen’s BMW for third place.

dailysportscar.comThe Porsche marque must have been jinxed this weekend, for Paul Dishman brought the Foudroyant 996 in for a lengthy stop, and, after a few further exploratory laps, the car was retired. “We’ve had everything go wrong this weekend,” explained Linus Ridge, “The guys drove 800 miles Friday night to get new brake components, we had problems in qualifying, and now the engine is finished. I’m frightened to pick my nose now, in case it falls off! “

Meanwhile, the Class 3 lead battle that had been raging between Terry Flatt’s Beetle, and Fiona Leggate in the works MG, came to an end, when Fiona pitted with gearbox problems. The car was pushed back into the paddock, with Mr Jardine maybe now having second thoughts.

Bullock had by now passed Delaronde for second placed, and as the hour ticked over, the driver changes started in earnest. Sean McInerney was the last significant runner to pit, finally handing over to father Michael with just over 45 minutes to go.

The race re-settled with Wyatt maintaining the lead in Simpson’s Marcos, with Jon Harrison in the similar Topcats car second, ahead of absolute beginner Paul Goodey, who was having his first-ever race in Andy Allen’s BMW. Despite a spin at Honda Curve, he was able to respond to pressure from Andy Grant in the ex-Cecotto M3, to maintain third place to the flag.

The circuit was taking its toll on tyres on the smaller cars, the positions being upset as most of the class-leading cars pitted for new rubber during the final 15 minutes.

A jubilant Wyatt took the flag, completing 110 laps, and 21.763 seconds ahead of the following Harrison. “I just paced myself to maintain the lead that Colin had built,” said the Milton Keynes stationer.

Harrison was equally satisfied: “I’m just happy to finish a race for once, and now I can’t imagine driving anything else than a Marcos.”

Results – Race 1
1 1 22 Simpson / Wyatt Marcos Mantis 110 laps
2 1 12 Harrison / Bullock Marcos Mantis 110
3 2 40 Allen / Goodey BMW M3 E46 106
4 1 27 Grant / Delaronde BMW M3 DTM 106
5 3 62 McInerney / McInerney Honda Integra R 105
6 3 68 Frick / Flatt VW Beetle 104
7 4 89 Armstrong / Barnes Honda Civic R 103
8 3 86 Reynolds / Field Honda Integra R 103
9 4 91 Hammersley / Hammersley MG ZR160 102
10 3 75 Gillatt / Fletcher Vauxhall Vectra 101

Sunday morning was dry and bright, and some teams had burned a bit of midnight oil to get their cars fit for the afternoon’s race.

A new gearbox for the works MG had been shipped down from Longbridge, and the Geoff Steel team, after their BMW had thrown a rod in race 1, was prepping the “T Car”, having removed the “for sale” signs. The gearbox from the Grant / Delaronde M3 had been removed and shipped to Simpson Engineering in Lydney. “You can’t shim-up these gearboxes,” explained Del Delaronde, ”so they had to machine-out the housing to fit the new components.”

All in a night’s work, eh?

In the main, Saturday’s starting drivers were reversed for Sunday’s race, with Harrison also due to take over his own Marcos when he’d finished his stint in the Topcats car. Andy Allen elected to take the first stint in the BMW again.

Wyatt took the lead into Hatchetts hairpin, with Harrison very twitchy as he tried to go round the outside. He recovered quickly, taking Wyatt half-way round the lap, and blasting across the line in the lead, with Wyatt on his tail.

'' I must admit...I wasn't expecting that, but frankly I simply did not want to lock up with my brand new pads at the hairpin and flat spot my four new tyres and ruin them for the next two hours,'' commented Wyatt, of that move.

Andy Allen took advantage of the squabbling Marcos pair, and himself grabbed the lead on lap 3, taking Wyatt with him.

Harrison, desperate to get back with the leaders, spun onto the grass at Honda Curve, letting Grant’s BMW, and the rapidly improving Andy Ray through.

Ray and Harrison then embarked on an epic dice that raged for several laps, until Ray eventually secured a tenuous advantage. Meanwhile, Wyatt had got to grips with Allen as the pair hit a patch of traffic, taking the lead on lap 15. At the same time, Grant’s BMW slowed dramatically, and crawled into the pits with a blown engine.

Sean McInerney was once more the best of the rest behind the leading quartet, followed by Tony Jardine’s MG. “I really got my money’s worth today,” said the media man later, “Congratulations to everybody involved, this is a great series.”

John Hammersley’s MG, refettled overnight, and now running sweetly, was trading the class 4 lead with Neil Armstrong’s Civic, a lap-by-lap battle that would only cease when the driver changes came about.

It was around half way when most cars elected to pit, the exceptions being Sean McInerney once more, and, unsurprisingly, Andy Allen.

Allen thus inherited the lead when the major players had settled back, and Ray, who had stopped in the early stages for what seemed to be a drink and some advice, pitted once more, for fuel, and to hand-over to Harrison. Lack of a dry-break fuelling system meant that the Marcos had to be pushed out of the pit lane onto an access road, where series boss James Tucker hurriedly prevented them from re-fuelling immediately. “You have to let it settle and cool for about three minutes before you pour the fuel in,” he explained to the pit-lane commentator.

Andy Allen finally relinquished the lead with just over half an hour to go, leaving Goodey to emerge in third place. “After 45 minutes, I concentrated on conserving tyres and fuel, and I’ve told Paul not to fall of,” said Allen.

By now, Simpson was back in the lead, with a lap over Bullock, and thus it stayed to the end. The three Marcos, now running line astern, threw away the chance of a formation finish, and crossed the line 100 metres apart.

So, a good weekend if you had a Marcos then. Andy Ray had confided earlier in the meeting that racing GT cars wasn’t really the direction he wanted to be moving. By Sunday evening, his comment, “This is where I want to be,” accompanied by a broad grin, said it all.

What a difference a day makes!

Donington, next Saturday, May 15, for the next round, when a full grid is promised.

Results – Race 2
1 1 22 Simpson / Wyatt Marcos Mantis 110 laps
2 1 12 Harrison / Bullock Marcos Mantis 109
3 2 40 Allen / Goodey BMW M3 E46 108
4 3 62 McInerney / McInerney Honda Integra R 106
5 3 80 Leggate / Jardine MG ZR Judd 105
6 3 86 Reynolds / Field Honda Integra R 105
7 1 21 Ray / Harrison Marcos Mantis 103
8 4 91 Hammersley / Hammersley MG ZR160 103
9 3 75 Gillatt / Fletcher Vauxhall Vectra 101
10 4 93 Collins / Cutts Proton Coupe 96

dailysportscar.comAggregate Results – Races 1 +2
Class 1

1 Simpson / Wyatt (right) Marcos Mantis
2 Harrison / Bullock Marcos Mantis
3 Ray / Harrison Marcos Mantis
Class 2
1 40 Allen / Goodey BMW M3 E46
2 38 Knee / Symons BMW M3 E36

Class 3
1 62 McInerney / McInerney Honda Integra R
2 86 Reynold / Field Honda Integra R
3 75 Gillatt / Fletcher Vauxhall Vectra

Class 4
1 91 Hammersley / Hammersley MG ZR160
2 93 Collins / Cutts Proton Coupe
3 95 Hands / Fulljames Ford Fiesta.


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