Britcar ”Open” Report - Donington Park, November 4
Just Like Last Time - Smiley Riley (And His Mate Flux) Win Again

It’s been three months since we had a “normal” Britcar race – the 24 hours was something special, of course. That last race was at Donington on August 6, and was won by British GT refugees Kevin Riley and Ian Flux, in the Rollcentre Mosler.

And so it was again on Saturday, in the two hour combined Britcar / PS1 Open race.

Fluxie had to fight for it in the early stages, though, but once the challenge from Richard Chamberlain’s Porsche 935 Replica diminished, the Mosler was never headed, apart from during the pit-stop period.

It was Chamberlain’s familiar orange machine which took pole in the morning’s qualifying session, posting 1:08.158, just 0.299 quicker than the Rollcentre car. It was another Mosler third, the Eclipse car of rising talents Craig and Elliott Cole, whilst yet another British GT regular, the JMH Ferrari 360 of Adam Wilcox and Phil Burton, filled the fourth slot. The BGT theme continued on the next row, fifth being the preserve of the Barwell Aston Martin DBRS9 of Paul Drayson and Martin Stretton. Sixth was the GTS Motorsport BMW M3 which had won the Vallelunga six hours in August, with regular pilots Stuart Wright and Philip Walker on board.

Aaron Scott, having moved over to the Shiltech team, headed the fourth row in the ex-Bo McCormick Ferrari 360, sharing with Ferrari Britcar regular David Back. Alongside was Colin Willmott’s ex-Dick Barbour Porsche 996, resplendent in a new paint job after a re-fit. Old MG pal Mark Twyman was partnering Willmott for the day race.

The fastest ProductionS1 runners filled the fifth row, and this was a sign of things to come. The Butler Motorsport BMW M3 of Tony Brown / Ian White, and the Geoff Steel M3 of Andre D’Cruze / Michael Symons were just a third of a second apart, and with all four drivers known for very different but effective qualities, plus two top-notch teams, a tight race was in prospect.

A little further down, the loyal Topcats team had brought along the TVR Sagaris for the day race, but a problem after 12 laps of qualifying - “It’s having trouble breathing” - explained driver and team boss Warren Gilbert, sharing the car with Richard Fores – and they received dispensation to use a Marcos Mantis, which had originally been destined for just the night race, albeit starting from the back of the grid.

The Emotional Engineering Vauxhall Monaro had engine problems, with relegated Alan Bonner and Jimmy Brodie to 18th on the grid, and the Honda-engined Lotus Elise of Marc and Patrick Charlton lined-up 22nd, just behind the BMW M3 E30 of Nigel Stephens and Autosport journalist Henry Hope-Frost, in only his third race, and his first after a 10-year gap.

With the Monaro sadly missing, 29 cars took the start, and whilst Chamberlain took Redgate in the lead from pole, Flux powered past through Hollywood, and by the end of the first lap, the squabbling pair had pulled out a reasonable gap over Burton’s Ferrari, which headed a train comprising Elliott Cole’s Eclipse Mosler, Drayson’s Aston, Philip Walker’s GTS BMW, and Back’s Ferrari. Michael Symons came through stone last after a quick “off” avoiding a lairy moment from Tony Brown’s M3.

With the leading duo 12 seconds ahead of Burton as early as lap two, the impatient quartet behind the white JMH Ferrari began to shuffle, with first Drayson, then Walker passing Cole. Drayson, particularly, was keen to move on, and as Flux and Chamberlain blasted past the pits and into Redgate side by side, so did the Barwell Aston and Burton’s Ferrari.

Drayson made a move stick on lap five, leaving Burton to contend with the threat of Walker’s BMW. Behind Cole in sixth, David Back, having one of his best Britcar races in the Shiltech Ferrari, was holding off Willmott’s Porsche.

Elliott Cole, having stepped back for a while, got second wind, and clawed his way back through to Drayson’s tail, but there was trouble up at the front. Chamberlain and Flux had clashed, with unconfirmed reports of a BMW back-marker being involved, and as the leaders came onto the pit straight, it was Flux in front, with Chamberlain’s Porsche exhibiting considerable front-left body damage.

Cole took Drayson for third on lap 14, but the politician was having none of it, and claimed the place back next time around. Chamberlain, having fallen back only slightly from the leading Mosler, brought the Porsche in for evaluation, and Mark Smith parked his BMW E30 on the grass at the chicane with suspension failure.

With Flux eventually bullying his way past an uncooperative Drayson, the Rollcentre Mosler had now lapped the entire field. Richard Fores, having carved a way through from the back in the Topcats Mantis, was finding Ian White’s leading PS1 BMW a tough customer, but with the safety car deployed to assist recovery of Smith's E30, the field was stabilised for a while.

With over 90 minutes of the two-hour race left to run, it was too early for mandatory pit stops, but David Back brought the #43 Ferrari in for a brief discussion with the Shiltech team, followed next lap by the sister #42 car of David Foster and Andy Ruhan, for a longer stop. “David is a perfect gentleman,” explained Aaron Scott later, “and came in to tell us that fluid was leaking from the rear of the 42 car.”

With the safety car in after five laps, the field was released, and Colin Willmott had a grassy moment at Hollywood as he got back up to speed once more.

After 45 minutes of racing, many began to take the first of their two mandatory stops, but Cole stayed out until just past the halfway mark, a long stop culminating with the Eclipse Mosler being pushed back into the garage, with gear selection problems. This left Riley in the lead (being belted in, above, by a familiar figure), followed by Stretton’s Aston, Wilcox in the Ferrari (after losing a minute when the Dunlop technician spotted a slow puncture), John Allen recovering well in the damaged Chamberlain Porsche, Gilbert’s Marcos, and Aaron Scott’s Ferrari.

The Eclipse Mosler eventually re-appeared towards the end of the race for some exploratory laps, but would not be classified.

Tony Brown led the ProductionS1 runners, with Andre D’Cruze in the Geoff Steel BMW next (dead last at the end of the first lap, remember), then Witt Gamski’s Ferrari 355, and Don Norchi, in the Class 3 Volvo S60 started by Piers Johnson.

After a relatively uneventful middle period, save for the Willmott / Twynam Porsche being recovered from the gravel, the second-round of pitstops started as the 70% window approached. There was no common approach here, with some drivers changing, whilst others remained for a double stint. This was exemplified by the front two, with Flux re-boarding the Rollcentre Mosler, but Stretton staying in the Barwell Aston Martin.

Adam Wilcox, in possibly the last race for the JMH Ferrari 360, assumed the lead for a while, until the pitstop cycle worked its way through (the JMH car suffering front brakes on fire, first spotted by Wilcox himself (below), but John Allen’s handover of the orange Porsche to Richard Chamberlain would be short-lived, the car returning after 10 laps, down on power. “There’s a large crack in the intake manifold, so we can’t carry on,” said John Allen, adding, “The damage to the front left bodywork meant that we lost downforce, and struggled with severe understeer.”

Aaron Scott, having brought the ex-McCormick Ferrari up to fourth in an impressive middle stint, was the last to pit, handing the car back to David Back. The pair would finish eighth, and fourth in GT3.

With the race drawing to a close, and with no real battle for position in the top five Britcar runners, attention turned to the PS1 lead, and sixth overall. Tony Brown, in the yellow Butler Motorsport BMW M3, was needing to keep an eye on the approaching Geoff Steel M3 of Andre D’Cruze, who had already dispensed with the Team Wireless Elise, and whilst not exactly taking great chunks out of Brown’s lead, was an omnipresent threat. It was too much needed too late though, and there was still over two and a half seconds gap come the chequered flag.

So, with 95 laps on the board, it was Flux and Riley taking the win – again, with the Drayson / Stretton Aston a minute and quarter adrift, but on the same lap, as Flux eased the pace on the final tour.

The Burton / Wilcox Ferrari was third, and the GTS Motorsport BMW M3 OF Stuart Wright and Philip Walker fourth, the second / third / fourth overall also comprising the GT3 class podium. Fifth overall, and GT Cup winner, was the Topcats Marcos Mantis of Richard Fores and Warren Gilbert – from the back of the grid, in a car that wasn’t the first choice. The Porsche of Willmott and Twynam, which had endured a spin or two, was GTC runner-up.

Kevin Riley was delighted; “For the first time, the car was absolutely perfect,” he smiled, and Ian Flux was typically a man unfettered by the shackles of taste or subtlety, as he joked; “I need to race against Richard Chamberlain once a year to remind myself that he thinks a race is over in 10 minutes.” All good natured stuff, though, which Chamberlain would confirm.

“A pleasure drive,” was how Tony Brown (#13) humorously dismissed his defence of Andre D’Cruze’s late race charge for PS1 overall and Class 1 honours, adding “he kept me on my toes towards the end, but the team kept me aware.” Third in PS1, and class 1, was the Team Wireless Lotus Elise of Marc and Patrick Charlton, at last having a competitive run, and finish.

Class 2 honours fell to Ian Lawson and Anthony Wilds in the HWR Motorsport BMW 320i, in front of the Metcalf Motorsport E30 of Nigel Stephens and Henry Hope-Frost – a solid performance from the out-of-practice journalist.

Stunning stints from Piers Johnson topped-and-tailed Don Norchi’s middle session to win Class 3 – and take an amazing eighth overall - in Norchi’s Volvo S60. The Metcalf BMW Compact, in the hands of Max Ferrari and Andy Howarth, was runner-up, with the BBG Porsche 944 of John Ballentyne, Tom Ballentyne, and Ian Gibson third.

Geoff Steel Racing had the enormous task of running four Class 1 BMW M3s, and as well as the Symons / D’Cruze runner-up, Pete James and Anna Walewska finished fifth in class, Steve Bell and Simon Leith seventh, whilst the ex-Martin Bell E46 of Angus Duke and Nick Padmore was eighth.

Keith Butcher’s newly acquired Audi V8 Star, run by Simpson Motorsport, was never going to go the distance, not being fitted with a dry-break fuel system, and used the race for familarisation mileage. Chris Wilson, his BMW Z3 Coupe not available, teamed-up with Adrian Watt in the Duke Video BMW M3. With the woes of the Silverstone 24 hours now apparently in the past, they finished sixth in Class 1. Cooper Challenge front-runners Arthur Forster and Tony Skelton’s Mini Cooper retired after 46 laps, but the rather special Mini of Martin Depper and Mark Drury completed the Class 3 podium.
Steve Wood

Result
1 79 RS RILEY/FLUX Mosler MT900R 2:01:05.602 95 laps 1:07.944
2 88 GT3 DRAYSON/STRETTON Aston Martin DBRS9 GT3 2:02:19.854 95 1:10.589

3 12 GT3 BURTON/WILCOX Ferrari 360 Challenge 2:01:08.037 93 1:11.054
4 46 GT3 WRIGHT/WALKER BMW M3 E46 2:02:19.542 91 1:12.407
5 21 GT GILBERT/FORES Marcos 2:01:54.156 90 1:14.847
6 13 1 BROWN/WHITE BMW GTR 2:01:24.767 89 1:14.635

7 90 1 SYMONS/D'CRUZE BMW M3 E36 2:01:27.330 89 1:14.974
8 43 GT3 BACK/SCOTT Ferrari 360 2:01:23.179 88 1:13.434
9 54 3 NORCHI/JOHNSON Volvo S60T 2:02:13.906 87 1:18.506
10 40 1 CHARLTON/CHARLTON Lotus Elise Sport 2:02:23.581 87 1:17.497
11 53 1 Witt GAMSKI Ferrari 355 Challenge 2:01:41.785 86 1:18.037
12 7 1 JAMES/WALENSKA BMW M3 E361 2:02:14.994 86 1:17.857
13 87 1 WATT/WILSON BMW M3 E36 2:01:07.061 85 1:18.423
14 91 1 BELL/LEITH BMW M3 E36 2:02:01.911 85 1:19.113
15 55 2 LAWSON/WILDS BMW 320i E46 2:02:17.424 85 1:18.643
16 97 2 STEPHENS/HOPE-FROST BMW M3 E36 2:01:15.487 84 1:19.120
17 70 GT WILMOTT/TYMAN Porsche 996 GT3 2:02:13.085 84 1:13.799
18 33 3 FERRARI/HOWARTH BMW M3 Compact 2:01:41.065 83 1:21.788
19 72 3 BALLENTYNE/GIBSON Porsche 944 2:00:21.657 79 1:21.970
20 5 RS CHAMBERLAIN/ALLEN Porsche 935 Replica 1:46:32.845 78 1:08.836
21 37 1 DUKE/PADMORE BMW M3 E36 2:02:05.474 77 1:17.219
22 30 3 DEPPER/DRURY Mini Cooper S Works 2:01:13.439 70 1:24.496
Not Classified
2 RS COLE/COLE Mosler MT900R 2:02:15.887 64 1:11.018
73 3 SKELTON/FORSTER Mini Cooper S Works 1:21:12.151 46 1:21.587
3 RS Keith BUTCHER V8 Star 1:02:46.723 44 1:16.597
42 GT3 FOSTER/RUHAN Ferarri 360 51:41.077 35 1:15.306
69 2 Mark SMITH BMW M3 E30 17:49.642 13 1:18.740

Fastest Laps
79 RS RILEY/FLUX Mosler MT900R 1:07.944 29
88 GT3 DRAYSON/STRETTON Aston Martin DBRS9 GT3 1:10.589 92
70 GT WILMOTT/TYMAN Porsche 996 GT3 1:13.799 32
13 1 BROWN/WHITE BMW GTR 1:14.635 47
54 3 NORCHI/JOHNSON Volvo S60T 1:18.506 68
55 2 LAWSON/WILDS BMW 320i E46 1:18.643 31

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