Erceg Utilises Bentley and Audi For Another Win

Peter Erceg, partnered for this round in the PB Racing Audi R8 GT3 by pro-driver Andrew Bentley, took another convincing win in the three-hour race, relinquishing the lead for just 19 of the race’s nice, round, 100 laps, during two of the car’s four pit stop sequences.  Erceg, leading away from pole after setting a qualifying time nearly two seconds better than the rest of the field, did as much of the 60% maximum stint time as the strategy allowed, double-stinting after pitting during the second of  two early Safety Car periods. It was a faultless race for both the car and the drivers, and also the team for superb preparation and strategy. The laps that the Audi didn’t lead were claimed by the Venture Innovations Aston Martin Vulcan, resplendent in a new funky, Chameleon-like livery , more in deference to an internal team joke rather than major sponsorship, and Gleb Stepanovs’ blast from the second row at the rolling start consolidated second place, though losing around three seconds a lap to the Audi in the opening laps, and attracting a late stop/go penalty for a pit stop transgression.

Gleb Stepanovs’ Aston Martin Vulcan sported a unique new livery

Pro-driver Steve Tomkins did what he is good at, but the Aston was two laps adrift at the flag, though the ever-smiling Gleb was clearly delighted with the result, particularly after the first-lap demise at Brands Hatch a month previously. And it was the other Venture Innovations car that completed the overall podium. With Neville Jones sidelined, Chris Jones and Matt George ran the GT4-spec Mercedes as a two-hander, and adopted a canny strategy; pitting shortly after the pit window opened, pro-driver George completed just seven laps before capitalising on the second Safety Car caution, handing back to Jones for a mammoth middle stint. Will it work? “We’ll see at the end” said Matty with a wry smile. Clearly it did, bagging the Class D victory thanks to George’s final blast, and the Sunoco Driver of the Day award for Jones’ solid performance, though possibly assisted in the overall result by a late stop/go for the Team Hard Porsche.

So, yes, the Team Hard Porsche 991 – proving to be the front-runner in Class C. With the RNR Performance Ferrari 458 missing due to a free-practice incident, Daryl DeLeon achieved a front row starting position, and behind the leading Class A cars, this was the “best of the rest” for most of the race, with academy-winner DeLeon handing over to guesting pro-driver Alex Sedgewick for longish second stint, before Brad Thurston relieved DeLeon’s further stint to take the car to the flag , though this was blighted by a 12-second stop/go penalty towards the end, when the officials did a reckoning-up of the slapped-wrist offences, which potentially robbed them of the overall podium. Nevertheless, the team gave another impressive performance and were worthy winners. Sadly, the squad’s other car, the Honda Civic Type R, fared less well, Jamie Callender retiring early in the race with sticking and overheating brakes, denying Oliver Cottam a turn behind the wheel.

The Class D positions ebbed and flowed through the three hours. Though the Jones/George Mercedes triumphed, it was through strategy that it came good at the end, and a glance at the interim hourly positions show that it was the Breakell Racing Mercedes of relative newcomer Ameerh Naran and reigning champion Tom Jackson that held sway for a good part of the race; they finished second in class, fifth overall, ahead of the MKH Racing Aston Martin of Peter Montague, with Dan Brown assisting as pro-driver in place of the usual Stuart Hall. Returnee Bobby Trundley had annexed class pole in the Team BRIT McLaren 570S, and led the class in the opening laps, but an early pit stop to sort what the team described  as “minor issues that cost time” put them down the order, with Trundley, the UK’s award-winning poster boy for autism, and wheelchair tennis expert Chris Overend finishing fourth in class.

The #87 Sheard Autosport Audi TCR landed a decisive win in the TCR class

George Heler did an amazing qualifying job in the Sheard Autosport Audi TCR, claiming third place on the grid, and ran fifth in the opening laps, even up to second place through economy before pitting to hand over to a fired-up Jonathan Beeson. Stymied by penalties and issues in previous races, this was redemption, and they drove a consistent and solid race to be clear winners in Class E with Heler’s storming first stint earning him the Driver of the Day award, though it was a slightly different story, and hard work, for previous class winners EDF; a late tyre change for the Ash Woodman/ Martin Byford Cupra  caused a pit-lane start, and Woodman was pitbound after the very first lap with a suspension issue that the team fixed in 20 minutes, so second in class was the best result possible for the erstwhile championship leaders, while team mates Nick Hull and Richard Avery had it worse – a return of their fuel starvation issues in the Cupra caused an early pit visit for Avery, then a brief stop out on the circuit saw the Safety Car somewhat prematurely deployed. They did it for real a little later, and this time a caution was needed for a full recovery job, and they would go no further, depleting the TCR contingent, as fellow Cupra runners Steve Gales/Brad Hutchison had retired a few laps earlier, in a machine that was purchased on Friday morning, tested on Friday afternoon and raced on Saturday.

The Newbarn Racing Jaguar F-Type may be the only Class F runner, but this time it wasn’t a lonely race, today they were on terms with other cars, and Callum Thompson had the measure of Chris Jones’ Aston Martin in the early stages, and ran as high as fifth place, on merit, before issues set in – a fuel leak that was difficult to stem, and brake failure that sent Adam Thompson nudging the barrier  – and they retired around two-thirds distance.

The SVG-run Ginetta G55 Supercup with the Jones/George Mercedes through the Britten’s chicane

Class G leaders Owen Hizzey and Scott Symons had new competition for their SVG-run Ginetta G55 Supercup, with BEC stalwarts MacG Racing joining the fray in a similar, untried and untested machine for Jonny MacGregor and Josh Tomlinson. Symons and MacGregor ran line astern and well-placed in the opening laps, before Symons was un-nerved by MacGregor’s close attention coming out of Old Hall corner, spinning in the path of his opponent – there was mild, unavoidable contact, and Symons was on his way more quickly, and despite a stop/go later in the race, the youthful Hizzey/Symons partnership claimed another class win, while the MacG machine suffered two sheared wheel studs during a planned pit-stop midway through the race and was retired.

Words: Steve Wood, photos: Chris Valentine and Paul Cherry.


Overall podium

The BEC Outstanding Achievement award went to driver George Heler