Donington Park Britsports – November 6
(no images available, unfortunately)
A dull Donington morning greeted the Britsports and Gold Arts 100 field for their penultimate race of the season. As other championships draw to a close, competitors arrived to enjoy a drive in the EERC, so the field was boosted by the addition of experienced Radical SR3 campaigner Michael Vergers, sharing his white car with signature chaser James Richardson, as well as Mike Richards, Paul Hogarth, and Jeff Page, all also in various Radicals.

Quickest in qualifying was the Chiron LMP3-04 piloted by Alex Buncombe and Peter Hobday, ahead of the Jade shared by Sam Alpass, then the Greek duo of Andreas Halkiopoulos and Stematis Katsimis, the latter enjoying his first race in the UK. Michael Vergers was fastest in Britsports 2, lining up in fourth, whilst the evo magazine duo of John Hayman and Roger Green, often to be seen behind the wheel of a Radical, were now guesting in the Ariel Atom. Happily for them, they were fastest in the Gold Arts class, starting twelfth overall.

Race 1
Fortunately for those competitors who had a long trip home, race one was run immediately after qualifying, before the Britcar races could be run into the darkness. While there was no actual rain to speak of, the looming greyness had kept the asphalt greasy, and grip difficult to find. Nonetheless, when the race began, the field filed obediently through Redgate without incident, with Buncombe leading in the Chiron, from Katsimis, who had managed to squeeze the Juno past Alpass, who in turn seemed to lose pace early on, but was able to continue seemingly without problem, having dropped to 17th by lap two.

Stematis Katsimis was revelling in the foreign conditions, however, and soon passed Buncombe for the lead. Mike Richards followed him through and began to pressurise the Greek driver, using the nimbleness of his less powerful Radical to his advantage, especially through Coppice.

Then, and by no means for the first time that day, Gary James put in his first appearance in the Safety Car, after Geoff Davies had become stranded in the gravel on the outside of McLeans. This necessitated the usual pit lane dive, and Stematis Katsimis was the first to stop. Co-driver Andreas Halkiopoulos chose not to take the wheel, however, as a new rule halving the minimum stop time to 30 seconds meant that both the Juno team, and most of the field, decided to change drivers during the refuelling break. Notable exceptions to this included the Gold Arts 100 class leader John Hayman, who handed over to Roger Green, and Peter Studer in the Westfield, who undid his seatbelts only to be waved back into the car by an unprepared John Edwards.

Soon everyone had stopped, with the exception of Rupert Laslett in his black SR3, and Graham Booth, class winner last time out, going solo in his Caterham Blackbird. When the Safety Car returned to the pit lane, Mike Richards found himself in the lead, from the similar Radicals of Phil Quaife, Chris Dredge, and Michael Vergers. Leading the Britsports 1 field in fifth was Katsimis, and he went about pulling back the time by setting a series of exhilaratingly quick laps, particularly impressive for a man more used to Greek sun than East Midlands gloom. With Graham Booth - leading Gold Arts - running as high as ninth overall at times, it was as closely matched as the series has been all season.
The other man on the move was now Michael Vergers. He began to make his way steadily up the field, passing Dredge with relative ease, and closing the gap inexorably on Quaife. Despite encountering some strong resistance, Vergers found his way past at Schwantz Curve, having encountered better traction out of the Old Hairpin. Next up was Mike Richards, and Vergers pulled off a daring move into the chicane, passing a backmarker in the process. Unfortunately for Richards, a slight contact forced him into the pits, where his team added a spare yellow nosecone to his previously all-white machine. As if to follow Vergers’ lead, Stematis Katsimis put his foot down, and cut past the same cars as Vergers had. With ten minutes remaining, he passed Quaife, and began to reel in the leader. With just five minutes left, there were only 7.7 seconds between the cars, and when Katsimis passed the final backmarker in between himself and Vergers, pit crews were fortunate enough to witness the spectacle of Andreas Halkiopoulos, obviously excited for his friend (and his team), jumping up and down, shouting encouragement to his compatriot. The final two laps saw the gap reduce from four seconds, to 1.6, but it was not enough, and Vergers crossed the line with just over a second to spare. Graham Booth took the other class win, in eleventh overall, but there was only a small gap between himself and the Studer / Edwards Westfield, which in turn was only thirty seconds ahead of the Green / Hayman Ariel.

Race 2
Race two saw a fine start for Andreas Halkiopoulos in the Juno, taking the lead as James Richardson, in Michael Vergers’ Radical, unused to starting motor races (let alone from pole) was swamped and found himself in fifth place. Also making a fast start was Sam Alpass in the Jade, his co-driver Tony Sinclair having recovered from his early woes to finish race one in sixth.

Sadly for Halkiopoulos, a brake problem-assisted spin at McLeans gifted the lead to Alpass, who led Stuart Brodman, (who had just relieved Chris Dredge), Mike Richards, Alex Mortimer (sharing with Phil Quaife), and the Chiron of Peter Hobday. Alpass set about extending his lead with a series of very quick laps, which distanced him from the battles behind, the most exciting of which was the scrap between Hobday and Mortimer for fourth. With only five minutes passed, James Richardson pitted, and allowed Michael Vergers to retake control. “I think I’ve only done about eight laps all day!” joked Richardson, “but to be fair to Michael, he didn’t put any pressure on me to come in, he simply said he’d be ready whenever I was.”

Another Safety Car period followed shortly afterward, and Mike Richards’ car was again showing the scars of a scuffle. Having already used his spare nosecone, his team contented themselves with kicking the freshly dented new one into shape, before sending Richards on his way. The most notable non-stopper was Alex Mortimer in the SR3, and his decision not to pit elevated him to second overall. Sadly for them, the Dredge / Brodman pair in the Radical developed problems which were to effectively rule them out of the front running, although they managed to keep going and eventually finish 15th overall.

A status quo ensued at the front of the field for another ten minutes, until the intervention of yet another Safety Car period, caused this time by an argument between the Radicals of Geoff Davies and Richard Fearns. As Davies’ car received a liberal helping of tank tape, one couldn’t help feeling that Fearns should perhaps have made some sort of deal with Mike Richards, for as the latter lapped in a white SR3 with a yellow nose, Fearns’ yellow car emerged from the pit with a white one!
The Gold Arts 100 battle was raging on, although with a new leader; the Peter Studer / John Edwards Westfield, although Edwards was under intense pressure from John “the Haymanator” Hayman in the Ariel Atom. Having lost time in race two, Graham Booth was a distant third, hoping he’d done enough for an aggregate class win.

Behind Alpass, the biggest on-track battle was for second place, with Michael Vergers right behind Mike Richards. Having returned to the track, Andreas Halkiopoulos was paying close attention to both of them, despite being a lap down. The trio ran in close formation until for the final five minutes, until the last lap, when Richards made a mistake at Coppice. It made little difference to the overall result, however.

Consistent showings by Phil Quaife and Alex Mortimer, Mike Richards, and the Hobday / Buncombe pair saw them round out the top five. “It’s great to win,” grinned Vergers, “especially as we only had fourth and sixth gears for the last 20 laps, which made braking quite interesting.” Tony Sinclair was pleased with the performance of his team mate: “Sam’s really got the right attitude, he was so quick today and did all he could. It’s a shame not to win but we did our best.”

Peter Studer and John Edwards took Gold Arts 100 honours. Former VW Polo champion Studer paid tribute to the often-overlooked necessity of keeping going, before pointing out: “I think it’s the first time I’ve passed a chequered flag in about four years, so it’s nice to pass it in first place.”

Followers of the series will be able to find out if there is a third new Gold Arts 100 winner in as many races at the final EERC meeting of the season, at Brands Hatch on November 20.
Mark Dishman

RESULTS
Britsports 1

1. Sinclair/Alpass – Jade Trackstar – 65 laps
2. Hobday/Buncombe – Chiron LMP3-04 – 62 laps
3. Halkiopoulos/Katsimis – Juno SSV6 – 59 laps

Britsports 2
1. Richardson/Vergers – Radical SR3 – 65 laps
2. Quaife/Mortimer – Radical SR3 – 65 laps
3. Mike Richards – Radical SR3 – 64 laps

Gold Arts 100
1. Studer/Edwards – Westfield SC – 60 laps
2. Hayman/Green – Ariel Atom – 60 laps
3. Hoskins/Ruben – Ariel Atom – 59 laps

FASTEST LAPS
B1: Sinclair/Alpass – 1:07.983
B2: Quaife/Mortimer – 1:10.124
GA100: Studer/Edwards – 1:14.581

 

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