Britcar 3 Hours, Silverstone, 10 October
Endurance Masterclass

A superb team effort, with some brilliant strategy, gave Harry Handkammer, David Leslie, and the GTS Motorsport team a magnificent win on the Silverstone National circuit last Sunday.

Qualifying saw some tales of woe, with Julian Rouse parking the big white Mercedes after the engine spectacularly lunched itself along the Club Straight, leaving a gap on the grid where he would have occupied the fourth slot.

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Colin Simpson set sixth fastest time before the alternator on the Marcos failed, leaving himself and Jeff Wyatt to sit the rest of the day out. Sadly, the lovely Simpson Motorsport Porsche 911 GT2, built-up from bits, for Andy Grant and Del Delaronde, never made the session, electrical gremlins preventing it from firing-up.

It was the ”Barbie” pink Porsche GT3 Cup of Philip Harris and Stuart Turvey that topped the timesheets, setting 60.941 as the best of their 39 laps. Alongside would be Britcar debutant Phil Burton, sharing his Ferrari (the red one! - below) with Ian Flux, just half a second shy.

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Leslie was third, then the absent Rouse, followed by the BMW M3 of Peter Seldon and Eugene O’Brien. There was a gap where Simpson should have been, then the black challenge–spec Damax Ferrari, uprated with the GT aero-pack, of David Back, Robin Ward, and Bo McCormick. Impressive in eighth was the converted road-car BMW M3 of single-seater ace Ed Moore, and absolute beginner Tony Rodriguez.

Ninth was the Topcats Marcos Mantis, Martin Parsons unexpectedly called-on to drive with Mick Mercer, who had hurried back from business in France to be here, while Calum Lockie struggled with a down-on-power engine in the blue GTS BMW to round-out the top 10. The good old droop-snoot Porsche of John Clonis and Piers Masarati was eleventh, and racing returnee Paul O’Neill was the first of the Class 3 runners in 12th, sharing with MG’s First Lady, Fiona Leggate. Ex-touring car and MGF ace Paul was tackling his second race since receiving his racing licence back after being diagnosed with an acute form of diabetes.

“I’m controlling it with medication, which I’m stuck with for the rest of my life,” said the pleasant Liverpudlian , “I’ve never been fitter, and I’m not going to let this beat me – Yvan Muller can beat me, but not this!” The three Class 4 runners were headed by the Honda Civic of Neil Armstrong and BTCC regular John George.

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Phil Burton was late bringing the #5 Ferrari onto the grid, a broken drive shaft needing attention, but once the pace car peeled off, it was Turvey, in the Porsche, who took the initiative, and led the pack into the stadium section at the end of the first lap, in front of Leslie, O’Brien in the BMW, and Masarati. Back was next up in the black Ferrari – Back in Black - then Moore’s similarly-hued M3, and Mercer in the Marcos. Burton had obviously had a moment, for he came through 20th, splitting the Hondas.

Turvey began to open out a sizeable lead, and Masarati was squabbling with O’Brien, taking the M3 at Copse on lap three, then maintaining a slender advantage that he would relinquish ten laps later.

dailysportscar.comBy this time, the leaders were hitting traffic, and Leslie, previously around six seconds adrift, began to close in on the Porsche in front. “I must have been asleep during the first few laps, and I really made a mess of it,” said Leslie later. “I decided that I had to do something about it, and caught him in the traffic.” (Handkammer in the BMW, right)

And do something about it he did, for by lap 18 he was in the lead, and by lap 21 was three seconds ahead. David Back (in the black Ferrari - below) was indeed now slipping back, and Burton was moving up, latching on to the tail of Moore and Mercer, who were slogging it out for fifth. The battle would be settled in Burton’s favour within a few laps, but high drama was on the horizon, and with barely half an hour run, Turvey’s Porsche was crawling into the pit lane, coasting to a halt before reaching the garages, it’s gearbox broken.

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The trail of fluid that it left around the stadium section needed cleaning up, so the safety car was deployed, Gary James (in the MG ZT that is James Tucker’s daily transport), expertly picking up the leader.

Mercer dived into the pits to hand the silver Marcos to Martin Parsons, and Masarati brought the Porsche in for service, staying in the car, neither of them losing a lap - canny strategy that would pay dividends for the Topcats team later in the mandatory two-stop race.

The safety car held station for just four laps, and ironically, Burton pitted the Ferrari just two laps later, concerned by the Ferrari lurching into right-handers. Flux took over after a longish stop, and was obviously unfazed by the apparent mishandling, initiating a carve through the field.

As the first hour of the race ticked over, some first pit stops had already been taken, the whole field on wildly different strategies, and it was non-stopper Leslie still in the lead, ahead of O’Brien, Masarati (one stop), Dave Kempton’s BMW, Back’s Ferrari, the impressive Marcus Fothergill in a BMW, and O’Neill’s MG. Back brought the Ferrari in, complaining of the same condition that worried Burton’s similar car, before he handed over the Damax machine to Bo McCormick.

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Parsons was now coming under attack from the flying Flux, and was powerless to resist as the red Ferrari nosed ahead past the pits, and began to pull away, fifth position in the pocket. Masarati was once more engaged in battle with O’Brien, this time attempting to unlap himself, but trouble was brewing for the rainbow Porsche, and by the 90th lap, Masarati in #54 had parked out on the circuit, with suspected drive shaft failure.

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dailysportscar.comDavid Smith brought the struggling BMW in just before the half-way mark, and Calum Lockie rejoined nine laps down (right), with little hope of one of his stunning recovery drives possible. They would finish tenth, after David Smith put in a spirited final stint. Eugene O’Brien also handed the blue BMW over to Peter Seldon, but Leslie stayed out for a little longer, and with 75 minutes of the race left, many of the front runners picked their moment.

Dave Kempton pitted from third, entrusting the Life Sports BMW to Andy Allen, and Parsons, having just inherited that third place from Kempton, gave the Mantis back to Mercer a lap later. Leslie, with a three lap cushion over Seldon, pitted on the 101st lap, just a driver change and fuel, but Handkammer was back in after two laps for new rubber, and the GTS Motorsport strategy became clear – this need not be a two-stop race for a BMW, so utilise the two mandatory stops to your advantage. Handkammer, having lost the lead to one-stopper Seldon, now had a clear run to the flag, and indeed, when Seldon second-stopped just before two hours had elapsed, it left Handkammer nearly half a minute up the road.

Into the last hour, and some were putting in final spurts. Robin Ward, having relieved Bo McCormick in the Damax Ferrari, and despite earlier reports of mishandling, was positively flying. The mid-fielders, too, conscious of having to make a final stop, were throwing caution to the wind, and James Kaye in the Barwell Honda Civic, David Cuff in the BMW E30, and Marcus Fothergill’s newer M3 were all on the move before their final pit visits. Burton had taken back his Ferrari from Flux, but retired before a broken exhaust melted too much of the engine bay.

dailysportscar.comHandkammer, like Leslie before him, had kept consistent times in the BMW, but with a three lap advantage, now relaxed his pace a little. Seldon was comfortable in second, and Mercer similarly had no threat from Ward at this late stage. Behind them, though, it was a different story. Andy Allen and Paul O’Neill (right) were on the same lap, as was the trio of James Kaye, David Cuff, and David Smith.

Ed Moore brought the BMW in for a splash’n dash with just three minutes to go, and was awarded a two-minute penalty for stopping for less than the regulation 60 seconds. This was not enough, however, to deprive him of seventh position, as Harry Handkammer cruised across the line to win.

A lesson on how to win an endurance race, then, from GTS Motorsport. “We tried to keep it consistent,” said David Leslie “The tyres were shot at the end of my stint, but the whole team did a great job, and we made the best out of the two stops.”

Peter Seldon and Eugene O’Brien’s race was apparently not as easy as they made it look. “Our fuel strategy was marginal. The tank was bone dry after the first stop, and at the end, It was a lesson in economy,” commented O’Brien.

“It came to us,” was Warren Gilbert’s summary of the third place awarded to the Topcats Marcos. “It was a good call to come in during the early safety car period, which left us in no man’s land, and able to run our own race. Nobody in the team put a foot wrong today.”

Paul O’Neill was overjoyed to win Class 3 in the works MG, with Fiona Leggate. “I drove every lap in fifth gear towards the end, just to economise. A big thanks to MG and Malcolm and Fiona Leggate for getting me back into racing.“

Clas 4 honours were taken by Zak and newcomer Barry Linley, in the Airconstruct MG ZR, beating the ageing Honda CRX of Andre Severs and newly-crowned VW champion Philip House.

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Stars of the race?

Ed Moore, used to single-seater sprints, and Tony Rodriguez, with four years of tuition and track days behind him, and their ex-road going BMW M3, with five-stud wheel fixing, are strong contenders. With little endurance experience, and a car not equipped for quick tyre changes, they could do no more that drive with their balls not so much out, as hung on the door mirrors, for as long as they could.
STEVE WOOD

Result
1 39 1 Handkammer / Leslie BMW M3 165 Laps
2 3 2 Seldon / O’Brien BMW M3 162
3 12 10 Parsons / Mercer Marcos 161
4 10 1 Back / McCormick / Ward Ferrari 360 160
5 40 2 Allen / Kempton BMW M3 158
6 80 3 Leggate / O’Neill MG ZR Judd 158
7 32 2 Rodriguez / Moore BMW M3 157+2 mins
8 67 3 Stephens / Smith / Cuff BMW M3 E30 155
9 63 3 Kaye / Blencowe Honda Civic R 155
10 31 2 Smith / Lockie BMW M3 155
16 93 4 Zak / Linley MG ZR 143.

 

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