Britcar GT Open – Donington Park – Nov. 6
From Fifty To Xero

It was a debut overall race victory for Xero Competition’s Chevrolet Corvette in the hands of regular driving squad Ricky Cole and Peter Le Bas, after an incident packed pair of 60 minute races were aggregated to give the result of the inaugural Britcar GT Open race at Donington Park yesterday (November 6).

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The race had been originally billed as a two hour enduro, an opportunity for prospective entrants to sample the race organisation and paddock atmosphere of the Britcar package, in anticipation of rule changes which will welcome N-GT spec. cars into the fold in 2005. But with the realisation that many entrants would not be equipped with the appropriate dry break refuelling capability, the EERC principals decided that the race should be split into two 60 minute sections (each including a compulsory 1 minute stop) with a ten minute refuelling break in between, the overall result being decided as an aggregate of both sections.

The grid finally totalled a disappointing 21 cars, despite an ‘entry list’ having been released showing a total of 50. Among understandable absentees were Scuderia Ecosse’s Chris Niarchos Ferrari 360 (a problem in testing on Thursday), Stuart Scott’s famous Golf (transmission woes) and Colin Blower’s Vauxhall VX220 – but whether Ian Donaldson (BMW), Stockton and Dowling (TVR T400-R), Paul Cope (Venturi), Mike Jordan (JWR Porsche), Emotional Engineering (Monaro), Mike Newton (Ford Falcon), the second Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari or the Allen Lloyd Jaguar (plus a good many others) were ever planning to attend, despite being listed by EERC, is open to doubt.

But there was still a good field of 21 on the grid for race 1.

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Alongside the Xero Corvette in the N-GT ranks were the Eclipse Motorsport TVR T400R, with team manager John Griffiths getting his first opportunity to race his ‘baby’, alongside Chris Ryan, a sometime competitor in Eclipse Marcos race cars in the past. The third ‘N-GT’ spec. car was one returning to GT racing, the Chrysler Viper of Team Griffin, the ex-Hayles Racing car, now in the hands of a team which intends to campaign it in the 2005 British GT Championship. Team owner Julian Griffin and fellow Renault Clio regular Neil Waterworth raced it.

dailysportscar.comThe ‘Cup’ class runners featured several British GT regulars, the Gavan Kershaw Racing Lotus Elise, Barrie Whight sharing driving duties this time out with Dean Lanzante. Phil Burton and Ian Flux would share the same Ferrari 360 (right) the pair ran at Brands Hatch (with the team’s other car parked around the back of the pits still bearing the considerable scars suffered with a clash with the Paddock Hill barriers).

It was a welcome return to the tracks for Alun Edwards’ ISL Motorsport Marcos Mantis, the car having suffered major damage in a testing accident much earlier in the year, but looking superbly presented here.

Tim Sugden was grinning widely ahead of a start in a Ferrari 360 Challenge car, with Nigel Greensall starting one of his regular Britcar mounts, the fearsome BMW M3-engined ‘Supermini’. The sight of Martin Short in the awning for the Noble M400 was a real surprise, but more surprising still was the fact that the car was no ordinary Noble M12. “It’s a development mule really,” said its proud ‘father’ and driver Lee Noble. The car had its Ford Duratec based twin turbo V6 mounted north-south, rather than its usual transverse positioning (more later on dsc about this car and Noble’s future plans).

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Among the other runners were a trio of very quick Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars with Richard Wesbrook and Julian Westwood among the ‘wheel men’, the beautifully presented BMW M3 CSL of Rodriguez and Dawe, a super-quick but fragile Audi A4 Turbo Supertouring car and the awesome Nissan Skyline R34 of Nigel Mustill.

In the first 60 minute section the greasy conditions caught out several of the front running cars, with the Corvette, Viper, TVR T400R, David Back’s Damax-run Ferrari 360, the BMW CSL, ISL Marcos and Nigel Mustill’s Skyline among several left to recover from spins, while Martin Short pitted early in the Noble, the development car suffering problems with overheating.

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A dice between Nigel Greensall in the Supermini (above) and Barrie Wight in the Lotus Elise got a little too close for comfort, with the Mini spinning wildly to the outside of the circuit opposite the pits. With mercifully no contact with the barriers, Greensall would rejoin. “I think the Lotus had a little blind spot,” he would ruefully comment later. Barrie Whight had a different view of the incident.

Making the early running were the three Porsche ‘Cup’ cars, the trio dicing away and pulling clear from the rest of the pack - with the exception of the Corvette, whose pace now began to bring it into contention.

The safety car now played a part, emerging in reaction to a Topcats TVR finding itself gravel bound and in a dangerous position. Most of the major runners took the opportunity to pit under the yellow, with the significant exception of the leading #28 Porsche of Richard Westbrook.

In close contention were the other two Porsches, too close as it tuned out: the cars touched and poor Julian Westwood was left to cruise back to the pits with coolant pouring from the front of his 911 – race over.

A three way Porsche battle for the lead would soon become a Weissach washout, as Westbrook pitted under green late in the race for his compulsory handover to team mate Taysom. It cost the #28 car the lead and a lap as the N-GT trio and the rapid Flux / Burton Ferrari blew by.

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Consistently quick lappery by both Le Bas and Cole had given the Xero Corvette almost a lap’s advantage over the battling Viper and Eclipse TVR, John Griffiths charging hard to catch the Viper, grabbing the fastest lap of the first 60 minutes in the process. It wouldn’t quite be enough though, the gap just 0.37 of a second at the flag. A great result for the Viper debutants, but a win – its first ever – for the Xero Corvette.

With the surviving cars refuelled it was a grid formed up in the finishing order from the first 60 minutes. A front row formed up of the heaviest of American heavy metal meant it was going to be a V8 Chevy vs. V10 Chrysler drag race down to Redgate.

The Viper seemed to have the legs on the Corvette, but the deciding factor was experience, Ricky Cole keeping his nerve, keeping his line and remembering his braking point as the Viper won the battle but lost the war, the car sliding wide and spinning into the gravel trap, race over for Team Griffin.

Chris Ryan meanwhile was getting to grips with Ian Flux, the Eclipse TVR dragging by the Ferrari for second overall, after a spirited defence by the veteran.

With the overall result in little doubt, the Xero Vette holding a 66 second aggregate advantage, there was just pride at stake between the Xero boys and the Eclipse squad, but pride was enough to set up a titanic battle for the remainder of the race.

Chris Ryan kept Ricky Cole honest and managed the gap beautifully before pitting, the Eclipse squad managing to release John Griffiths quickly enough from their compulsory stop smoothly enough to give “The Boss” an edge. Griffiths did the rest, pushing hard and blasting past the pits before the Corvette was released by Xero boss Dave Beecroft.

It was now Peter Le Bas’ turn (he was officially Lebase this weekend) behind the wheel of the Corvette and with Ian Flux now also pitting from the lead, the TVR / ‘Vette battle would again be for the lead of the second section of the race.

Le Bas immediately started to slice away at the gap and within a handful of laps was right on the TVR’s tail – but, as the commentators are VERY fond of saying, catching is one thing, passing is quite another.

Add to the mix a cocktail of repeated (and quite animated) radio instructions from Dave Beecroft, mindful that nothing short of an on-track incident would prevent Xero from taking an overall win, the reality was a Corvette with badly fading brakes. “I was having to pump the brakes three times before every corner.” Add in the fact that Le Bas is among the hardest charging of the current crop of GT drivers and it was far from over.

Fastest laps were traded by both cars, Griffiths had his mirrors full of Yellow Chevrolet - and the cars’ contrasting strengths were evry apparent, the Corvette faster on the straights, the TVR more nimble through the turns.

Dave Beecroft must have been screaming into the radio as Le Bas had a big look up the inside at McLeans, before getting a run on the TVR along the Dunlop Straight. This time though it was the Corvette’s turn to suffer the indignity of outbraking itself: luckily for Le Bas there was a long, long run-off available (aka the Melbourne Loop!) and the Xero car was soon back into the fray, just over 10 seconds lost but still almost a full minute to the good on aggregate.

dailysportscar.com“I had to chuckle,” said John Griffiths later (with Chris Ryan, right), “exactly the same thing happened to me back in 2000 when I was doing the Mantis Challenge, I can still picture Shaun Balfe sliding helplessly past me onto the Melbourne Loop.”

The Corvette now went back into “There’s a sensible fellow” mode and cruised home to trail the TVR on the road, but to retain its overall advantage for the race win.

Behind this pair, and an impressive Richard Westbrook running in a strong and lonely third place in his Porsche, there was a tussle for fourth which was finally won by Dean Lanzante, grabbing the slot from Phil Burton - but then pitting into retirement with fuel pick-up problems.

The Greensall / Davidson Supermini followed the Ferrari home ahead of the Nissan Skyline.

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On aggregate then it was a convincing win for Cole, Le Bas and Xero Competition, 53 seconds clear of the Eclipse TVR, with the impressive Burton Flux Ferrari a distant third.

The Taysom / Westbrook Porsche was next up, ahead of the Nissan Skyline.

Alun Edwards’ ISL Motorsport Marcos finished sixth, with the BMW CSL seventh and the fast and steady Witt Gamaski Ferrari 355 eighth. Tim Sugden had a miserable time in the Ferrari (below), the car reverting to safe mode.

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All in all, an entertaining but disjointed event. A real shame that the race couldn’t be run as a two hour enduro, but there was plenty of good racing and incident on offer. Whether that will be enough to attract some of the established British GT teams over to the EERC fold remains to be seen. James Tucker however should be reassured that several of the teams filling the lower end of the finishing order pronounced themselves impressed, ready, willing and able to join the Britcar bandwagon for 2005.
GG

Race 1 Result
30 Cole / Le Bas 1 Corvette C5 1:00:37.023 46 89.08 1:11.123
22 Griffin / Waterworth 2 V10 Viper 1:01:43.253 46 1:06.230 87.49 1:12.168
17 Griffiths / Ryan 3 TVR 400 1:01:43.627 46 1:06.604 87.48 1:11.090
43 Burton / Flux 4 F360 1:01:01.679 45 1 LAP 86.56 1:12.684
28 Taysom / Westbrook 5 Porsche GT3 Cup 1:00:38.978 44 2 LAPS 85.16 1:11.790
88 Whight / Whight / Lanzante 12 Lotus Elise Cup GT 1:00:59.560 44 2 LAPS 84.68 1:13.983
10 Back / Wood 7 Ferrari GT Cup 1:01:47.092 44 2 LAPS 83.60 1:15.586
37 Young / Healey 8 Porsche GT3 Cup 1:01:06.833 43 3 LAPS 82.59 1:12.409
11 Edwards / Demitriou 9 Marcos GT Cup 1:01:09.323 43 3 LAPS 82.54 1:16.798
24 Nigel Mustill 10 Nissan Skyline 1:01:42.638 43 3 LAPS 81.80 1:16.408
32 Rodriguez / Dawe 11 BMW CSL 1:01:46.141 43 3 LAPS 81.72 1:18.464
33 Thorpe / Reynolds 12 Lotus Exige Cup 1:00:26.849 42 4 LAPS 81.56 1:17.815
35 Witt Gamski 13 F355 1:01:28.471 41 5 LAPS 78.29 1:18.609
23 Treasure / Cummings 14 Lotus Exige 54:49.391 35 11 LAPS 74.94 1:21.533
15 Upton / Arford / Watt 15 TVR Tuscan 1:01:03.865 35 11 LAPS 67.28 1:17.127
5 Hurst / Wood 16 Audi A4 Super Tourer 52:08.517 27 19 LAPS 60.77 1:12.149
4 Westwood / Corridan 17 Porsche 996 GT3 35:47.463 26 20 LAPS 85.26 1:12.331
99 Davidson / Greensall 18 Super Mini Britcar 31:36.910 21 25 LAPS 77.94 1:14.751
26 Gilbert / Howard 19 TVR Tuscan 29:41.507 13 33 LAPS 51.35 1:20.669
20 Noble / MacKinon / Short 20 Noble 400 35:28.817 10 36 LAPS 33.04 1:17.636
21 Coleman / Sugden 21 Ferrari F380 Cup 1:01:48.116 6 40 LAPS 11.37 1:14.894

Race 2 Result
17 Griffiths / Ryan 1 TVR 400 1:00:11.626 46 5.62 1:10.638
30 Cole / Le Bas 2 Corvette C5 1:00:25.102 46 13.476 5.62 1:10.368
28 Taysom / Westbrook 3 Porsche GT3 Cup 1:00:16.603 45 1 LAP 5.50 1:11.569
43 Burton / Flux 4 F360 1:01:20.999 45 1 LAP 5.49 1:13.513
99 Davidson / Greensall 5 Super Mini Britcar 1:00:40.786 44 2 LAPS 5.37 1:14.412
24 Nigel Mustill 6 Nissan Skyline 1:00:58.616 44 2 LAPS 5.37 1:16.002
35 Witt Gamski 7 F355 1:01:28.566 44 2 LAPS 5.37 1:18.530
11 Edwards / Demitriou 8 Marcos GT Cup 1:00:27.730 43 3 LAPS 5.25 1:16.357
15 Upton / Arford / Watt 9 TVR Tuscan 1:00:34.896 43 3 LAPS 5.25 1:14.190
32 Rodriguez / Dawe 10 BMW CSL 1:01:02.951 43 3 LAPS 5.25 1:18.084
26 Gilbert / Howard 11 TVR Tuscan 1:01:19.290 43 3 LAPS 5.25 1:14.142
88 Whight / Whight / Lanzante 12 Lotus Elise Cup GT 0:55:08.010 40 6 LAPS 4.91 1:12.214
23 Treasure / Cummings 13 Lotus Exige 1:00:26.991 40 6 LAPS 4.88 1:20.288
37 Young / Healey 14 Porsche GT3 Cup 1:00:46.601 38 8 LAPS 4.64 1:12.339
4 Westwood / Corridan 15 Porsche 996 GT3 1:01:21.621 32 14 LAPS 3.90 1:13.063
5 Hurst / Wood 16 Audi A4 Super Tourer 31:38.474 16 30 LAPS 2.01 1:12.541
33 Thorpe / Reynolds 17 Lotus Exige Cup 17:39.202 11 35 LAPS 1.40 1:21.209
22 Griffin / Waterworth 18 V10 Viper 20:31.760 8 38 LAPS 1.01 1:16.121
21 Coleman / Sugden 19 Ferrari F380 Cup 32:35.629 1 45 LAPS
20 Noble / MacKinon / Short 20 Noble 400 47 LAPS N / A
10 Back / Wood 21 Ferrari GT Cup 47 LAPS N / A

Combined Result
30 Cole / Le Bas 1 Corvette C5 2:01:02.125 92 10.58 1:10.368
17 Griffiths / Ryan 2 TVR 400 2:01:55.253 92 53.128 10.57 1:10.638
43 Burton / Flux 3 F360 2:02:22.678 90 2 LAPS 10.33 1:12.684
28 Taysom / Westbrook 4 Porsche GT3 Cup 2:00:55.581 89 3 LAPS 10.23 1:11.569
24 Nigel Mustill 5 Nissan Skyline 2:02:41.254 87 5 LAPS 9.98 1:16.002
11 Edwards / Demitriou 6 Marcos GT Cup 2:01:37.053 86 6 LAPS 9.88 1:16.357
32 Rodriguez / Dawe 7 BMW CSL 2:02:49.092 86 6 LAPS 9.87 1:18.084
35 Witt Gamski 8 F355 2:02:57.037 85 7 LAPS 9.75 1:18.530
88 Whight / Whight / Lanzante 9 Lotus Elise Cup GT 1:56:07.570 84 8 LAPS 9.70 1:12.214
37 Young / Healey 10 Porsche GT3 Cup 2:01:53.434 81 11 LAPS 9.30 1:12.339
15 Upton / Arford / Watt 11 TVR Tuscan 2:01:38.761 78 14 LAPS 8.96 1:14.190
23 Treasure / Cummings 12 Lotus Exige 1:55:16.382 75 17 LAPS 8.67 1:20.288
99 Davidson / Greensall 13 Super Mini Britcar 1:32:17.696 65 27 LAPS 7.69 1:14.412
4 Westwood / Corridan 14 Porsche 996 GT3 1:37:09.084 58 34 LAPS 6.82 1:12.331
26 Gilbert / Howard 15 TVR Tuscan 1:31:00.797 56 36 LAPS 6.63 1:14.142
22 Griffin / Waterworth 16 V10 Viper 1:22:15.013 54 38 LAPS 6.45 1:12.168
33 Thorpe / Reynolds 17 Lotus Exige Cup 1:18:06.051 53 39 LAPS 6.36 1:17.815
10 Back / Wood 18 Ferrari GT Cup 1:01:47.092 44 48 LAPS 83.60 1:15.586
5 Hurst / Wood 19 Audi A4 Super Tourer 1:23:46.991 43 49 LAPS 5.13 1:12.149
20 Noble / MacKinon / Short 20 Noble 400 35:28.817 10 82 LAPS 33.04 1:17.636
21 Coleman / Sugden 21 Ferrari F380 Cup 16:34:23.745 7 85 LAPS 1:14.894

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