Dunlop Arriva Willhire 300 Race Report - August 28
Incidents, Accidents And Allegations

Time was when stealth and strategy were the vital components required to win an endurance race. Nowadays, those tactics will get you onto the class podium, but raw speed and aggression are now essential too, as 21st Century endurance races become long distance sprints. Saturday’s Dunlop Arriva Willhire 300 saw the overall winner in doubt, and fastest laps being set, until the closing minutes of the five-hour race.

David Leslie and Harry Handkammer were the eventual overall winners, in the GTS Motorsport BMW M3 E36, in a race packed with incidents and post-race protests that, at the time of writing, are still not resolved.

The bad news on Friday evening was that several significant entries had withdrawn due to problems in testing. Three Porsches (the Foudroyant and Lifeforce 996 Cup cars, and John Clonis’ older 911RS) were all out, leaving Piers Masarati doubly redundant, as was the Simms / Clarkin Honda Supertourer. Their gap was filled, in part, by Willie Moore’s spectacular VLN-spec BMW M3 – think an A10 Tankbuster welded onto an armoured car at a Max Power convention on the deck of a battleship, and you’re halfway there!

Lifeforce’s other entry, the ex-Cecotto DTM BMW, threw a rod on Friday afternoon, and a spare engine was rushed through the bank holiday traffic from Wales, necessitating some midnight oil being burned to prepare for the race. Andy Grant and Del DeLaronde would transfer to this car for the race.

Timing constraints reduced the proposed one hour qualifying session to 40 minutes, and the heavy hitters did just a handful of laps to set their times - Andy and Julian Rouse topping the sheet in their DTM Mercedes, with a time of 1:12.811. David Leslie was second, just five-tenths shy of pole, and the Moore / Cox M3 third, nearly a second slower. The impressive BMW of Mark Smith / David Cuff was fourth, followed by the Barbie pink Porsche 996 of Philip Harris and Lawrence Tomlinson, the latter taking time out from his ‘day job’ with British GT team RSR, and forsaking the BGT round at Thruxton; “It’s a bank holiday, some of the guys wanted to go to a concert, so we decided to take the weekend off.“

dailysportscar.comSixth was Calum Lockie in the second, lower-powered GTS M3, followed by the M3 E46 OF Richard Meins / Desmond Smail, then the Topcats Marcos Mantis (right) driven by Martin Parsons / Rupert Bullock / Mick Mercer. Peter Seldon placed Andy Allen’s new BMW M3 CSL in ninth, and Allen’s other BMW, the slightly older E46, was in the hands of “Jono” Coleman, Paul Goody, and Simon Gardiner.

Jeff Wyatt, a man to whom “stationery” has only one spelling and one meaning, was 11th in the Geoff Steel BMW that he was sharing with Tim Christmas, and the works MG ZR-Judd was 12th, in the hands of Anthony Reid, Fiona Leggate, and Jamie Cartwright.

The ceremony and sense of occasion for Britcar’s flagship race meant that there were, atypically, a few minutes preparation on the grid, identifying that the GTS cars had swapped left-hand doors. Melindi Scott explained; “David and Harry’s door came off during qualifying. They need that door, but Calum and David’s car is right hand drive, so they don’t, so we’ve taped the white door onto the blue car”

Missing from the grid, mysteriously, was the class pole sitting MG. Reid had packed his bags and gone, and the team would offer no rational explanation for withdrawing.

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A clean start, and Lockie stormed down the outside into Riches, seizing fourth on the first lap, and relieving Julian Rouse of third a lap later, whilst up front it was Handkammer leading (above), with Moore (passing Rouse, above) in close attendance. Julian restored the status quo two laps later, by which time this leading quartet had pulled out a long, long gap over Mark Smith in the maroon chequered M3.

dailysportscar.comIt wasn’t long before Harris’ pink Porsche, then Meins, in the BMW, both took Smith, but he retaliated, and the ensuing battle ended when Harris spun at Russell on lap 14. Just one lap later, Rupert Bullock in the Topcats Marcos,was bouncing and kicking up the dirt on the outside of the same corner, damaging the splitter in the process. Then it was Mark Lemmer’s turn, as he spun the Barwell Honda Civic whilst battling with John George’s similar Mardi Gras machine (the ex-BTCC, ex-gas powered car).

While this was happening, Rouse had taken Moore for second, but Andy Allen’s BMW and the white Team Think Renault Clio had clashed heavily, and the safety car was deployed.

With just 20 laps, and around 30 minutes elapsed, it was too early for regular pit stops, but DeLaronde took the opportunity to top-up the DTM BMW, as did the Supermini, today in the hands of Bill Sollis, Alastair Davidson, and Chris Wilson.

It took six laps to clear the damage, and once the field went green again, Willie Moore immediately recovered second place from Julian Rouse (below).

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The closing-up under the safety car had enabled Lemmer and George to resume their conflict, and the pair were nose to tail down the straights and side by side in the corners. Sadly, poor Nick Adcock, helping out Alex Frick and Terry Flatt in the VW Beetle, got caught in the middle of the hustling Hondas, and was punted viciously by Lemmer, necessitating an immediate pit visit for steering repairs, and to allow Frick to take the wheel. “I took a tight line through Coram, but Lemmer kept coming,” complained Adcock. Frick, however, would only reach the end of the pit lane, and their race was over after only 26 laps.

While Handkammer maintained a slender lead at the front, Rouse had once again snatched second place back from Moore, and as the first hour ticked over, the top three were covered by less than four seconds. Lockie was a distant fourth, with the Smith / Cuff BMW the last of the unlapped runners in fifth.

Pit stops began in earnest about now, confusion reigning in the Mardi Gras box, as George’s Civic and the McInerney Integra came in together. The Civic, though, was not taking a scheduled stop. “I went into the back of a BMW,” confessed John George, “and split the radiator and oil cooler”. No drive for Phil Bennett today then.

Handkammer handed over to Leslie, the stop being long owing to sticking wheels, but Rouse, Moore and Lockie stayed out until 90 minutes, when the safety car was required once more, to enable recovery of the Griffin Clio at Riches. Also taking advantage was the pink BS Motorsport Porsche, Lawrence Tomlinson climbing aboard for what would be a short and troublesome, stint, for after several more pit stops, the car was retired with a broken fan belt pulley.

Tomlinson was quickly away once out of the cockpit. “Gotta go, my ride’s just arriving,” was his parting shot. No car or motorcycle in sight, but a black helicopter was descending………

Two hours gone, and Andy Rouse was ruling the roost, but just one and a half seconds in front of Dave Cox, who had relieved Moore. The tardy pit stop, and being caught in the safety car train, meant that Leslie was now a lap down, and the Smith / Cuff and Smith / Lockie BMWs were two laps adrift. Indeed, David Smith had been held at the pit exit for what Calum considered an inordinately long period, and he ran to the marshals to remonstrate, and later to race control.

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Mick Mercer, now aboard the Topcats Marcos, was progressing, and took David Smith for fifth, and the similar car of Jon Harrison and Andy Ray was having a steady run in ninth.

Leslie, still a lap down, was gnawing a second a lap out of his deficit, and just after the half-way mark, unlapped himself. David Smith pitted the blue BMW for Lockie to finish with a long stint, and Andy Rouse handed the Mercedes back to son Julian.

Three hours gone, and Mercer entrusted the Topcats Mantis to regular pilot Martin Parsons, but Andy Grant had retired the Lifeforce BMW, the engine having given up.

Andy Allen had commandeered his old BMW, leaving Paul Goody and Jonathan Coleman kicking their heels in the paddock. “I didn’t crash,” was the novice’s surprised comment, but professional Coleman was more serious; “It’s OK, but I’m used to more downforce, and it feels really nervous, plus, I got hit from behind by the red Honda.”

Leslie had now given the BMW back to Handkammer, but Cox stayed out, meaning that the stunning light blue M3 had a two lap advantage over Rouse. Handkammer was half a lap down on the Mercedes.

With just over 90 minutes of the race remaining, Cox pitted for tyres, fuel, and to hand back to Moore. Received wisdom in the pit lane was that the BMW would never make the finish without a splash’n dash. They rejoined the race in third position, behind leader Rouse, and Handkammer.

With an hour and a half to go, there was drama as the BMWs of Meins and Lockie clashed at Russell. Meins pitted with the right front wheel askew, and his race was over, but Lockie continued, pitting just for new rubber, but returning immediately for more serious suspension repairs. He would rejoin to finish in 11th place, 18 laps down.

Fours hours, and Handkammer let Leslie back in the BMW, followed shortly by the final stop for the Rouse Mercedes. Moore was now in the lead, with a 36 second lead over Rouse, who in turn had a rapidly dwindling eight second advantage over Leslie.

The Topcats Marcos, Bullock now back in the cockpit, was a steady fourth, but seven laps down. The BMW of Wyatt and Christmas was now fifth, but slowed dramatically towards the end without losing position.

The pace was not letting up, and the Leslie / Rouse battle raged for many laps, until, as the race entered the final half hour, Leslie broke free and established a comfortable gap. Such was the pace that Moore was soon caught, and as Leslie got within sniffing distance, Moore pitted for that forecast splash of fuel. No sooner had Moore rejoined, with just ten minutes to go, the race was red-flagged, due to the Knee / Symons BMW having a trip into the cornfield at Riches.

Race over then – or maybe not.

An ecstatic Jeff Wyatt was observed trotting to parc ferme – “We’re happy – we finished, and with just one gear,” exclaimed the self-styled “international racing driver”.

Willie Moore and Dave Cox were philosophical about losing the lead in the dying moments. ”We tried to work out the economy, what we could afford to lose, and still win,“ said Moore, “but we knew it would be tight”.

“It was hard work, and a quick race,” said Julian Rouse, “in fact, the pace really surprised us – we could only make time when our tyres were good.”

As the cups were awarded, so the protests were being lodged. Andy and Julian Rouse querying the timekeeping, and Michael and Sean McInerney disputing the Class 3 win of the Lemmer / Blencowe / Bridgman Honda, which was successfully upheld, then counter-protested due to the severity of the penalty.

At the time of writing, these matters are still being reviewed, and the results below are provisional.
Steve Wood

Result
1 39 2 Handkammer/Leslie BMW E36 M3 4:49:04.557 213 1:13.253
2 1 1 Rouse/Rouse Mercedes Benz 190evo2 DTM 4:49:38.397 213 1:13.242
3 82 1 Moore/Cox BMW E36 4:49:48.932 212 1:13.213
4 12 1 Bullock/Parsons/Mercer Marcos Mantis 4:49:59.885 206 1:16.121
5 33 2 Smith/Cuff BMW M3 E36 4:49:15.252 205 1:15.233
6 51 2 Christmas/Wyatt BMW E36 M3 4:49:45.224 199 1:16.433
7 62 3 McInerney/McInerney Honda Integra 4:50:00.622 198 1:20.090
8 63 3 Lemmer/Blencowe/Bridgman Honda Civic 4:50:01.635 198 1:18.585
9 40 2 Coleman/Goody/Gardiner BMW E46 4:49:54.223 195 1:18.731
10 31 2 Smith/Lockie BMW E36 M3 4:50:20.252 195 1:15.357
11 81 4 Kettleborough/Wilmott/Cartwright MG 190 N 4:49:11.494 194 1:20.034
12 64 3 Gannon/Gannon/Gane Honda Integra 4:49:57.372 194 1:20.631
13 44 2 Fothergill/Bennett/Cutts BMW E36 4:49:06.873 193 1:19.255
14 91 4 Hammersley/Hammersley/Hill MG 190 N 4:49:07.797 191 1:22.150
15 93 4 Zak/Dunlop MG 190 N Janspeed 4:49:40.104 191 1:22.285
16 21 1 Harrison/Ray Marcos Mantis 4:49:57.672 191 1:16.676
17 87 4 Armstrong/Barnes Honda 4:47:18.672 190 1:21.832
18 86 3 Reynolds/Field Honda Integra 4:49:49.391 188 1:21.956
19 98 4 Frankel/Frankel/Frankel Renault Clio Williams 4:50:06.818 178 1:27.256
Not Classified
67 3 Stephens/Caine BMW M30 M3 4:50:06.325 164 1:18.823
36 2 Meins/Smail BMW E46 3:25:52.785 140 1:16.558
95 4 Hands/Allen/Starkey/Salmon Honda Civic Type R 3:25:20.273 128 1:21.873
75 3 Gillet/Clynes Vauxhall Vectra 4:49:25.393 125 1:25.326
27 1 Grant/Delaronde/Healey BMW M3 E30 2:57:25.543 118 1:16.394
43 2 Sollis/Wilson/Davidson Super Mini 2:54:19.623 104 1:17.869
2 1 Harris/Tomlinson Porsche 996 1:50:44.618 73 1:15.374
84 4 Griffin/Anderson/Quittendon Renault Clio 1:25:55.460 58 1:21.234
61 3 George/Bennett Honda Integra 57:40.338 39 1:18.299
59 4 Lassett/Wilshire Ford Fiesta 1:55:49.696 28 1:28.532
68 3 Frick/Flatt/Adcock VW Beetle RS3 57:43.933 26 1:21.345
6 2 Allen/Kempton/Seldon BMW CSL 23:30.893 18 1:16.743
89 4 Cox/Potter/Selby Renault Clio 23:32.664 17 1:21.829
99 4 Paul/Warburton Renault Clio 5:59.271 4

 

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