The qualifying session took place in very challenging conditions

There are two aspects to British Endurance Championship race in 2024 – the race position, and the handicap that allocates the points, and whilst Peter Erceg and Marcus Clutton, in the PB Racing / JMH Audi GT3 posted another overall win in the two-hour encounter, their best efforts to achieve the handicap win were aided by a fortunate intervention. So let’s handle that situation straight away; tricky, wet conditions in the morning’s free practice and qualifying sessions contrived to numb the Audi’s closest threat in Class A, the MJC Bentley Continental. A wheel bearing failure thwarted pre-race testing, and the machine’s race debut in the hands of former champions Witt Gamski and Ross Wylie saw woes compounded by Wylie’s late call to race, and Gamski’s conditioning himself for the first time in the car on “wet” tyres in his qualifying run, and whilst a climb-through from a low grid slot was on the cards, a challenge for the overall win was unlikely.

Richard Avery and Nick Hull were robbed of a likely top-3 finish by an apparent fuel pump failure

So the nemesis for Erceg and Clutton would be the Class B Porsche 992 of Richard Avery and Nick Hull, and the pre-race handicap calculations determined that the Audi would need to have a five-lap advantage over the Porsche at the chequered flag to secure maximum championship points. But this race proved to be one of the Porsche pair’s defining moments; a cautious qualifying was followed by a cautious race start, but Avery soon got into the swing and picked-off cars, rising to third overall. By the halfway mark, despite a blistering pace, Erceg had put just one lap on Avery, leaving Clutton to make some time over Hull in their respective stints – which would be in intermittent rainy and drying conditions. But Avery and Hull were on top form, and despite a stop/go penalty for a pit infringement, the separation with 10 minutes of the race left was still only four laps. But then disaster struck for the Porsche, Hull coming to a halt on the circuit with fuel pump issues, leaving Clutton to cruise home under the Safety Car for the overall win and maximum points haul.

First to pit was the MacG Ginetta

That’s not the only story though; contact and a subsequent rear-end brush with the barriers saw an early end to lone-driver Adam Thompson’s race in the Newbarn Racing Jaguar F-Type, and the McLaren 570s of newcomers Bridger Motorsport, in the hands of Chun Cheong “Johnny” Ip made sensational progress from a back-row start, slicing through the field to sixth place before retiring just three laps in with rear axle failure. Aaron Morgan held second place initially in the first of two Team BRIT McLarens, and Witt Gamski had quickly hauled the big Bentley up to third, ahead of Avery, Bal Sidhu in the Xentek Porsche Cayman, and Ian Astley, making an impressive Debut in the SVG-run BMW GT4. Behind them, Daytona Karting boss Charles Graham in the second Team BRIT McLaren, headed a squabbling, frustrated pack of GT4, Touring and Ginetta class cars, virtually the rest of the field in a close bunch, passing and re-passing, but going nowhere. So frustrated was Jonny MacGregor, in the MacG Racing Ginetta G55, that he made his first mandatory pit stop as the officials had barely opened the latch of the pit window, handing over to French-Texan Arthur Simondet for a middle stint. Early stops, too, were taken by Sidhu, handing the Xentek Porsche to Josh Steed, and the MJC Bentley with Witt Gamski re-joining for a second stint, while, in the Graham-led bunch, Chris Jones dropped back in the Venture Innovations Mercedes, handing over assault duties to Phil House’s JW Bird Audi LMS, which seized the opportunity and moved ahead of the McLaren.

Came the hour, came the rain, and those that had pitted around the halfway mark and bolted on a new set of slicks were caught out as the shower intensified, and for many, an extra pit stop for wet tyres would be necessary. The showers came and went in varying degrees, and positions ebbed and flowed through the second-stop cycles, so let’s take this to the finish and review the final placings.

Past championship winners Witt Gamski had swapped Ferrari for the big growling Bentley

Recovery of the stricken Avery / Hull Porsche required the intervention of the Safety Car with just six minutes of the race left to run, leaving the flag to fall under the caution, with the Erceg/Clutton Audi safe in the overall lead, and on handicap, and the Bentley as runner-up after Rowe Driver of the Day Witt Gamski hauled the monster up to second place early on, and Ross Wylie did the bulk of the tricky wet-weather running in an unfamiliar car to maintain the position. Third overall, and the Class D winner, was the Xentek Porsche of Bal Sidhu and Josh Steed, with Sidhu serving notice of intent in the opening laps, and the team making the right calls with the split-stint and capitalising on the conditions, earning them the Outstanding Achievement award, and it was a close finish for the Class D runner-up spot – Paul Fullick took over the Team BRIT McLaren started by an on-form Aaron Morgan, but his weather-blighted stint had the threat of Sean Cooper in the Track Focused KTM X-Bow catching him; Mike McCollum had started the X-Bow and diced with classmates, though thought it was down on power, and Cooper made the best of his stint to draw up under the Safety Car finish. Fourth in class Bobby Trundley trundled around on slicks in the pooring rain in the McLaren Started by Charles Graham, the Team BRIT eventually giving him appropriate rubber at the car’s second mandatory stop, his perseverance earning him the Sunoco Driver of the Day award, while Neville Jones brought the Venture Mercedes home fifth, after son Chris had been well in the mix in the opening hour, and the race debut of the SVG BMW GT4 was stymied by the car going into limp mode, Neil Wallace completing the race nine laps down after a promising performance by Ian Astley in the opening laps.

Cameron Pratt-Thompson landed the Class G win in one of SVG’s Ginetta Supercups

Cameron Pratt-Thompson, new to the Championship in an SVG Ginetta G55, sealed the Class G win, partnered by pro-driver James Taylor, with SVG stablemates Marc Elman and Harry Hickton runners-up, and the MacG Racing G55 of Jonny MacGregor and Arthur Simondet completing the Class podium, all three surviving the close-packed opening laps without tripping over each other. Chris Bialan, in the Jabbasport/Sim Dynamics Cupra, as another caught up in the early-race traffic jam, trading places with the JW Bird Audi LMS of Phil House, before House managed to break free. Simon Mason took over the Cupra and held the Class E lead until the finish, a lap ahead of lone-driver House, while a vibration from early-race contact, and a misfire, caused the JW Bird Cupra of Matt Wilson and Aaron Mason to retire 20 minutes from the finish.

Witt Gamski took home the ROWE Driver of the Day award

The Britcar Outstanding Achievement award went to Xentek Motorsport

Team BRIT’s Bobby Trundley was Sunoco’s Driver of the Day

Full results are available from TSL timing (PDF):

Words: Steve Wood, Photos: Chris Valentine & Paul Cherry.