Preview – The Dunlop Arriva Willhire 500

This year marks Willhire’s 40th anniversary, and since 1980, the company has been sponsoring endurance racing at Snetterton. The 24 hour race, the brainchild of the late John Nicol, ceased in 1994, but James Tucker’s EERC revived it, in a shorter form, for the Britcar series in 2002. Last year’s 500-minute format has been truncated this year to five hours, to accommodate the accompanying Britsports and Gold Arts races, and once more, national and international names will join the regulars for Britcar’s flagship event.

GT and sportscar fans will recognise some familiar names, and it looks like a busy weekend for some British GT regulars. RSR’s Nigel Greensall and Lawrence Tomlinson will join Philip Harris in his shocking pink Porsche 996, and their colleague Jonathan Coleman will be assisting novice Paul Goody in the Life Motorsport BMW M3.

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Recent LMES class podium visitor Piers Masarati will pilot the Foudroyant Porsche with Paul Dishman and Simon Gardiner, and the Pinner Porsche protagonist pops-up yet again on the driver list of John Clonis’ venerable droop-snoot 911 RSR. Mosport to Silverstone to the Willhire for Piers.

David Leslie, fresh from the Silverstone LMES podium, will, as usual, partner lawnmower magnate Harry Handkammer in the GTS Motorsport BMW M3, and the smart money could well be on this pair for an overall win. Phil Bennett, who partnered Leslie at Silverstone in the GNM Saleen, will be joining Mardi Gras BTCC and Clio Cup stars John George and Ed Pead in a Honda Integra Type R. Michael Caine, currently racing in the Chambers Porsche in British GT, will be back in the Metcalf BMW E30 with Nigel “the doc” Stephens.

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All this plus, the usual suspects, and a few more guests too. The Rouses return, but have been far from dominant this year, so look to Andy Clarkin and Martyn Simms to make the early running in David Leslie’s old Supertouring Honda Accord. The Topcats Marcos Mantis will be joined by the similar machine of Jon Harrison / Andy Ray, and there’s yet another Porsche, in the hands of Andy Grant, Graham Coomes, and Welsh-Canadian Del DeLaronde.

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Calum Lockie will no doubt be setting the track alight with some storming middle and end stints in the GTS Motorsport M3 that he shares with David Smith (above), and endurance specialists Jeff Wyatt and Tim Christmas, both Britcar winners individually in the last 12 months, team up in one of Geoff Steel’s BMW M3s. The crack German outfit Schirmer will be assisting Richard Meins in his BMW E46, and the BMWs of Allen / Kempton and Smith / Cuff could well be in the reckoning.

BTCC front runner Anthony Reid will once again be helping Fiona Leggate to win class 3 in the works MG ZR, and they are joined by Aussie hotshoe Jamie Cartwright. Talking MG, class 4 regulars John and Mark Hammersley, and Andy Dunlop / ZAK, will be bolstered by the further works entry of 1970s touring car ace Malcolm Leggate (Fiona’s dad) and MG manager Don Kettleborough. The addition of the relatively youthful Colin Willmott to the line-up dispels any notion that this entry could be nicknamed the “SAGA car”!

The Britsports and Gold Arts racers will be having their usual 2x 45 races on Saturday morning. The front-running Jades, and Millard / Flux LM3000, fell foul of the unforgiving kerbs on their last outing to Norfolk, so look to a Radical for the overall win (Rob Croydon’s entered in one), or the stunning Greek F3 and Touring Car ace Andreas Halkiopolios in the Juno.

For those who can’t get enough motorsport on this coming bank-holiday weekend, the Wilhire at Snetterton on Saturday is the perfect start.

For more details, go to www.eerc.co.uk, and to the Willhire button on the left hand side.
Steve Wood

 

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