Peter Erceg and Hugo Cook laid down a marker in the inaugural two-hour counter for the British Endurance Championship, taking the JMH-run Audi GT3 to a convincing win, a lap ahead of JMH stablemates John Seale and Jamie Stanley in a GT3-spec Lamborghini. The overall lead was always going to be about these two, and they maintained their first and second positions throughout the race, Erceg easing away from fellow front-row starter Seale to establish a gap of more than 50 seconds by the time Seale pitted the #55 Lamborghini at, fittingly, the 55-minute mark. Stanley was keen to minimise the gap before peripatetic pro-driver Hugo Cook relieved Erceg in the Audi ten minutes later, but was visibly frustrated, and eventually stymied, by a series of stop/go penalties for pit-stop and track limits infringements.

Behind the leading pair, Richard Avery’s Porsche 992 ran third, and Ray Harris in the brightly-hued self-run Ginetta G55 made a fast start from the third row, but Bon Grimes, in the FF Corse Ferrari 458 eventually laid some manners on them, to ease away in third, which was maintained up to the first pit stop, 50 minutes in; pro-driver Johnny Mowlem reclaimed the position in his stint, but front-left hub failure caused retirement 20 minutes from the flag in essentially what was a spare car, re-fettled in an overnight session by the team.

John Seale and Jamie Stanley shared the JMH Lamborghini Huracan

A short, squally shower just a few minutes into the race slowed the pace a little, but wasn’t enough to warrant a change of rubber, though clearly relishing the conditions was Jonny MacGregor in the MacG Racing Ginetta G55, slingshotting past Avery’s nervous-looking Porsche, and chasing the Class G lead held by Harris, who surprisingly took an unannounced drive though penalty, which the race officials declared as an “agreed equalisation”. Aaron Morgan took the Team BRIT McLaren into fourth place of s spread-out field as track conditions improved, with Harris, now recovering after his drive-through, unable to get past Avery, who was now more comfortable in the Porsche, taking MacGregor’s Ginetta during a moment of lappery by Stanley’s second-placed Lamborghini. By this point, Josh Tomlinson has retired the MacG/Race Car Experience SEAT with an electrical glitch, and Chris Bialan had brought the Jabbasport Cupra in to fix a ball joint issue sustained in free practice while being “bullied” by a faster car. MacGregor lost places to Harris, then Mike McCollum in the Track Focused KTM X-Bow, and then pitted to hand over to French-Texan newcomer Arthur Simondet. A spin at Goddards for Avery in the ”shark’s mouth” liveried Porsche dropped him behind Chris Murphy’s BMW GTR, and once Nick Hull took over the Porsche, there were another couple of spins as he became accustomed to the conditions. There was rain again, just five minutes before the end of the race, so not worth even thinking about a change to wet tyres, and the field toughed it out to the flag.

The Xanatek Porsche Cayman

With the retirement of the third-placed FF Corse Ferrari 20 minutes from the end, the Xentex Porsche Cayman had inherited the final overall podium position; Bal Sidhu had maintained pace with the Class D frontrunners throughout his opening stint, while pro-driver Josh Steed had made the brakes red-hot in a storming middle stint that brought the car well into class contention, but as the race drew to a close, Paul Fullick, now in the Team BRIT McLaren, was pushing hard to snatch the class victory, but it was brakes, showing signs of flame in the front right, that snatched, throwing the car off into the Coppice gravel, with no time left for recovery and returning. So a delighted Sidhu took third overall and the class win, though just nine-and-a-bit seconds ahead of Sean Cooper in the KTM X-Bow, who had been reducing the class leader’s gap by around four seconds per lap for the final tours. For his efforts, Bal Sidhu was awarded the Rowe Driver of the Day trophy, while third in Class D, the Breakell Racing Mercedes of Carl Garnett and Harley Haughton, had always been in the GT4 mix, and a faultless drive by the partnership saw amateur driver Garnett awarded the Sunoco Driver of the Day Trophy. A faultless drive too, as usual, from Chris Murphy in the superbly-presented, Woodrow-engineered BMW GTR, clinched the Class F win, ahead of the Newbarn Jaguar F Type, which after snapping a transmission input shaft in testing, ran trouble-free throughout the race, allowing brothers Adam and Callum Thompson to enjoy some close racing, and finish eighth overall. After a very creditable mid-race performance by former C1 racer Arthur Simondet, Jonny MacGregor reclaimed the MacG Racing Ginetta G55 to bag the Class G victory, ahead of Ray Harris, who had excelled in the opening part of the race, but was thwarted by a longish pit stop in the second hour. Nevertheless, a stunning performance earned the former short oval and Pick-up exponent the Britcar Outstanding Achievement award. Richard Avery and Nick Hull slipped down the overall order due to a succession of spins as they acclimatised to their new, more powerful Porsche, but claimed the Class B win, while in the re-jigged Class E, for Touring cars, the MacG / Race Car Experience Mercedes of Paul Curran and Jamie Callender took the honours, despite a smokey mid-race interlude, a good result after the turmoil of last season, and once the suspension was repaired on the Jabbasport Cupra, Simon Mason took it to the flag, though 18 laps adrift of the class leader, but posting lap times they would have potentially placed it in contention for a class win.

The BEC Driver of the Day went to Ray Harris

Carl Garnett landed the Sunoco Driver of the Day award

Bal Sidhu took home the new ROWE Driver of the Day award

Words: Steve Wood, photos: Paul Cherry