Britcar Night Race – Brands Hatch, Nov 20
(images to come)
They have been threatening a win all season, always qualifying at the sharp end, and running with the race leaders, and Mark Smith and David Cuff, in the Metcalf Motorsport BMW M3 E36, finally did it on Saturday evening, after a race-long battle with the similar car of Phil Bennett /Angus Dawe.

A significant non-starter was the GTS Motorsport BMW of Harry Handkammer and David Leslie, the car having been damaged in the previous weekend’s Vallelunga six-hour race, and the team having insufficient time to affect the repairs.

dailysportscar.comQualifying wasn’t held until just before the evening race, and the earlier Open race had indicated that maybe a Class 2 machine was the weapon of choice in the cold, damp conditions. Late running of earlier races dictated that the day/night qualifying session be truncated to 30 minutes, and, with each driver needing to do five mandatory laps, track time was at a premium.

The Open race immediately preceded the Britcar qualifying, and had been won on aggregate by the Beechdean BMW M3, with Nigel Greensall and Alastair Davidson at the wheel, and buoyed by their earlier success, the team clinched the Britcar pole, Greensall setting a time of 1:42.859. Cuff had made the early running, but had to be content with second, just over half a second shy. Third was another M3, that of Peter Seldon and Eugene O’Brien (after finishing second in the Open race), and fourth was yet another M3, the German outfit Kruse Motorsport’s car, Phil Bennett setting the time.

Andy Allen’s newer BMW M3 E46 (but not his newest BMW), was next up, followed by the Class 3 pole-sitting Mark Lemmer /Alan Blencowe Honda Civic Type R. Andy and Julian Rouse’s Mercedes, in seventh, was the first of the Class 1 runners, four and a half seconds off overall pole, and the works MG-Judd of Anthony Reid and Fiona Leggate lined-up eighth. Ninth was the old-type BMW M3 E30 of Nigel Stephens and Michael Caine, a splendid performance in what Stephens concedes is an “inferior car” in comparison to many of its Class 3 contemporaries. The Damax Ferrari 360 of Nick Adams and Robin Ward rounded out the top ten, but what of the other Class 1 cars ?

The Marcos Mantis of Jon Harrison and British GT regular Dom Lesniewski was 12th, immediately in front of the similar Topcats car of Rupert Bullock and Martin Parsons.

Team boss Warren Gilbert had placed the Topcats TVR Tuscan in 16th, and the Clarkin / Simms Supertouring Honda Accord was down in 19th .

Class 4 pole was bagged by the Honda CRX of Andre Severs and Phil House, despite an earlier off at Paddock, which saw the safety car deployed.

A non-negotiable 18.30 curfew determined that the 100-minute race would now be trimmed to 90 minutes, and it was Cuff who took the initiative at the rolling start, heading up the hill towards Druids in front of Bennett, Seldon, and a fast-starting Julian Rouse, whilst Chris Wilson, starting the pole-sitting Beechdean BMW, had slipped back to sixth.

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A three-car incident at Stirlings on the opening lap left Stephens’ BMW, Piers Johnson’s Volvo, and Martyn Sims’ Honda Accord stranded, and when Jon Harrison’s Marcos joined them next time around, the safety car was deployed so that the mess could be cleared up. All except Harrison would rejoin, though only the Stephens / Caine BMW would be classed as a finisher, in 21st position. “I got tapped by the Volvo,” explained Stephens, “but the rest of the race went to plan, we maintained the right pace, but we were just so far behind.”

The safety car came in at the start of lap eight, and Bennett was past Cuff into the lead. “I was following the safety car too closely “admitted Cuff later, “and there was a build-up of dirt on the windscreen and lights. I let Phil past, because I needed a marker, and I knew I could stay in touch with him.” The pair circulated routinely just a quarter of a second apart, but Seldon was dropping back, being passed by Rouse, Allen, and Reid, and just keeping ahead of a frenetic Class 3 battle between Ed Moore’s BMW CSL, Lemmer’s Civic, Demetriou’s Honda Integra, and Simon Graves’ Accord (a car that Lemmer would be driving later).

With fifteen laps on the board, however, Demetriou went missing, by which time his place in the Class 3 skirmish had been taken by the Ford Focus of Matt Jackson, who had started from the pit lane. Jackson, ably assisted by preparation and racing legend Colin Stancombe, has made terrific late season impression, and within a few laps was leading the class.

Peter Seldon was the first of the heavy hitters to pit, just before the half-way mark, handing over to Eugene O’Brien, and dropping to 12th in the process. “ I had a bit of a moment at Dingle Dell, and thought it was time I came in,” explained Seldon. Bennett was still leading, with Cuff on his tail, then Julian Rouse, Reid’s MG, and Ed Moore, in the Simpson Motorsport BMW M3 CSL. This impressive, road-legal car had been subjected to a partial makeover, with body parts from the GTR that the team is building, and a fresh coat of Ferrari red paint.

dailysportscar.comJulian Rouse parked the Mercedes at Clearways with transmission problems on lap 23, allowing Reid to take third. Bennett had now begun to shake off Cuff, and with the gap between first and second now more than seven seconds, and with just 30 minutes of the race left, the maroon and white chequered BMW was pit-bound. Mark Smith, however, elected not to relieve Cuff, who rejoined after the mandatory one-minute stop in third position. Significantly, Anthony Reid and Andy Allen pitted now too, handing respectively to Fiona Leggate and Dave Kempton, but Bennett stayed out till lap 34 in #37, with just 20 minutes to go, leaving a short stint for novice Angus Dawe.

dailysportscar.comOnce everybody had pitted, and the balance restored, Cuff (right) was back in the lead, with Dawe second, nine seconds behind, then Leggate, Kempton, Seldon, Rodriguez, Blencowe, and Nigel Greensall in the Beechdean BMW. Chris Wilson had looked after the car, and now Greensall was on a charge, the fastest car on track in the closing stages.

Fiona Leggate went off into the gravel at Paddock Hill Bend, and with just a quarter of an hour to go, the safety car was sent out. The marshals, though, were unable to move the stricken MG, and with the race entering its final minutes, it was decided to withdraw the safety car, and operate a local caution at the point of the incident.

Greensall continued his charge to the end, picking off Graves, Rodriguez, and old pupil Kempton to finish a fine fourth. Confusion over the finishing procedure marred the Class 3 result, Jackson thinking he had won, but the officials awarding Lemmer and Graves the honours, after realising that the “last lap” board had been shown too, late, and disregarding the final tour. “I saw the 1-minute-to-go board, and thought the race would have finished by the time I crossed the line again,” said Lemmer, “but then they showed the last-lap board, and Matt was already past me.”

David Cuff was pleased to win at last – “it helped that David Leslie wasn’t here” - enjoying his dice with Bennett, who reciprocated the complement. “That was a great dice with David, but it was difficult to lead, the visibility was poor, and I kept getting dazzled in the mirrors.” Partner Angus Dawe also suffered visibility problems; “I only had dipped beam on, and didn’t realise it until I pulled into the pits at the end of the race, and flashed the crew.” Nevertheless, an impressive performance from the businessman, in only his second race.

Peter Seldon and Eugene O’Brien claimed their second podium of the day, and Nigel Greensall just missed out on his by two seconds. ”I’ve been driving this car on and off for six years, the first time at Paul Ricard with Dave Kempton, and the last time two years ago in a Britcar race at Donington with Tim Christmas. It has run faultlessly all weekend – all credit to the team,” said the Birthday Boy (51).

The two remaining Class 1 runners finished in 11th and 12th places, the Adams / Ward Ferrari 360 ahead of the Bullock / Parsons Marcos. “Very difficult - I had no vision, and I tried to push, but it really wasn’t worth it. But I brought it home at Brands, for the first time in three years!” said Martin Parsons.

The Class 4 win was something of a comeback for Daniels Motorsport. Having missed several recent races, the team returned with the ex-B & Q Honda Integra, and were back to their winning ways, with the trio of David Abbott, Alan Wilshire, and Brian O’Connor.

That’s it then – the Britcar season finally over. The recent Open races have given a flavour of the direction in which Britcar would like to move, running separate races for the Class 3 and 4 machines as Production S1. The EERC will be in attendance at the MSV “Race Car Live” Expo at Brands Hatch on December 4th, to show the potential of the new format.
STEVE WOOD

Result
1 33 2 Smith / Cuff BMW M3 E36 1:30:06.927 45 1:42.028
2 37 2 Bennett / Dane BMW M3 E36 GTR 1:30:25.826 45 18.899 1:41.658
3 3 2 Seldon / O'Brien BMW M3 E36 1:30:14.041 44 1:44.090
4 48 2 Greensall / Wilson BMW M3 E36 1:30:16.861 44 1:44.377
5 40 2 Kempton / Allen BMW M3 E46 1:30:25.267 44 1:44.764
6 63 3 Lemmer / Blencowe Honda Civic Type R 1:30:25.848 44 1:46.788
7 72 3 Jackson Ford Focus RS 1:30:28.030 44 1:47.679
8 32 2 Rodriguez / Moore BMW M3 CSL 1:30:37.525 44 1:46.362
9 60 3 Graves / Lemmer Honda Accord Type R 1:30:09.884 43 1:48.928
10 76 2 Fenton / Gardiner BMW M3 E36 1:30:19.060 43 1:47.515
11 5 1 Adams / Ward Ferrari 360 1:30:36.594 43 1:48.174
12 12 1 Bullock / Parsons Marcos Mantis 1:30:59.298 43 1:50.425
13 6 2 Watt / Phillips BMW M3 CSL 1:32:00.038 43 1:47.922
14 78 3 Turner / Allard VW Golf DTI 1:30:49.518 41 1:54.567
15 90 4 Connor / Abbott / Wiltshire Honda Civic R 1:31:14.547 41 1:56.496
16 58 2 Bennett / Donovan BMW M3 E36 1:30:04.889 40 1:53.016
17 99 4 Smith / Cope Alfa Romeo 156 1:30:51.643 40 1:55.642
18 94 4 Severs / House Honda Civic CRX 1:31:09.044 39 1:58.006
19 59 4 Laslett Ford Fiesta 1:31:23.786 39 2:01.721
20 91 4 Connor / Abbott / Wiltshire Fiesta 1:31:34.934 38 2:05.644
21 67 3 Stephens / Caine BMW M3 E30 1:30:33.614 37 1:47.534
22 80 2 Leggate / Reid MG ZR 190 Judd 1:12:31.094 36 1:44.306
Not Classified
84 3 Mussi / Simmonds Renault Clio Cup 1:30:38.467 32 N.C.F. 1:51.074
86 3 Reynolds / Field Honda Integra Type R 1:11:14.458 29 D.N.F. 1:56.167
66 3 Norchi / Johnson Volvo S60TS 1:30:39.914 29 N.C.F. 1:49.153
26 1 Gilbert / Farrell TVR Tuscan 57:02.494 25 D.N.F. 1:57.472
1 1 Rouse / Rouse Mercedes 190evo2 DTM 45:21.377 22 D.N.F. 1:42.418
61 3 Demetriou / Nicolas Honda Integra Type R 33:52.374 15 D.N.F. 1:49.282
89 3 Clements / Webber Renault Megane Coupe 24:55.560 10 D.N.F. 1:54.622
2 1 Clarkin / Simms Honda Accord S'Tour 28:51.602 4 D.N.F. 1:55.588
21 1 Harrison / Lesneiwski Marcos Mantis 1:58.497 1 D.N.F. 1:58.497

 

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