Once again, Peter Erceg and Marcus Clutton, in the PB Racing Audi R8, took a convincing win in a hot and sweaty two-hour race. There were encouraging signs of competition in the 10-minute qualifying am-driver shoot-out though; Gleb Stepanovs, in the stunning Venture Innovations Aston Martin Vulcan, set the bar early in the session, while Erceg struggled to find the right balance in the Audi, and it wasn’t until the closing minutes that the Audi bagged pole with the best part of a second advantage.
Erceg streaked away as the red lights went out, but behind him the Porsches of Brad Thurston and Mark Cunningham were swamping Stepanovs’ Vulcan, with Domonic Malone’s M-Tech Lamborghini Huracan involved too, while John Seale was eager to get a slice of the action as well, in the RNR Performance Ferrari. Thurston, possibly deciding that discretion was the better part of valour in a two-hour race, dropped out of the skirmish, and by the second lap, the front runners were well spread out, and Erceg’s lead was eight seconds. That would soon be brought back down by a Safety Car period though – Ameerh Naran’s Mercedes had an incident of it’s own which the luckless Ash Woodman, in the EDF Cupra TCR, was unable to avoid, compounded by pit-lane starter Sam Alpass nudging the Cupra in his BMW-shaped Solution FC12 – minimal apparent damage to the Solution, which carried on, but leaving the Cupra with further bodywork damage.
Once the caution was lifted, the front of the field spread out again, and Thurston in the Team Hard-entered / Dave Tyson-crewed Porsche 991, set about reclaiming ground, but found Jonathan Beeson’s Audi TCR a tough customer to deal with, and now had Keith Frieser in the Scott Sport Lamborghini Super Trofeo to worry about too. Cutting through the field was pit-lane starter Mike McCollum’s KTM X-Bow, followed, and the passed by, Sam Alpass, who was really on the move in the Solution. John Seale dropped down the order and crawled round to the pits just before quarter-distance, and the Ferrari was retired with power steering issues. Frieser was the first of the front-runners to take a mandatory pit stop, the Canadian historic racer handing the Scott Sport Lamborghini to Danish multiple title-winning Ferrari expert Mikkel Mac, and Alpass was living up to his name, taking Beeson, Thurston (who tagged along for the ride), then challenging Malone, but it was now well into the pit window, and Malone came in to hand the M-Tech Lamborghini to Johnny Heynes. Mac proved to be a revelation, bringing the car into contention, and at the halfway point, Erceg, still yet to vacate the Audi for Marcus Clutton, led by two laps over lone-driver Alpass, with Steve Tomkins now in the Vulcan, then Mac, and Johnny Heynes. In the Porsche battle, Daryl DeLeon, now in the Team HARD 991, led Peter Cunningham’s 997, while Track Focused team boss Sean Cooper was capitalising on Mike McCollum’s early stint in the KTM, leading the GT4 machines. A misfire was plaguing the erstwhile class-leading Audi TCR, now in George Heler’s hands, relinquishing the class lead to the EDF-run Cupra of Nick Hull/Richard Avery.
The pit stops and driver changes cycled through – and there was bad news for the Vulcan, as Steve Tomkins retired the Chameleon-liveried machine with smouldering under the bonnet at around three-quarter distance, and after taking a drive through penalty, Sam Alpass retired the BMW-Solution FC12, with overheating and braking issues, the lone-driver’s blistering pace taking it’s toll on both man and machine. As the race drew to a close, Clutton’s Audi took the flag after 53 laps, but there was a last-lap battle for fourth place overall. Nothing prize-wise to be gained by Mark Cunningham, now back in the SG Racing Porsche 997, but he had been closing on Matt George’s Mercedes, now the Class D leader, and on the very last tour, an overtake looked entirely feasible, and as the pair approached Brooklands, Cunningham dived down the inside, but left his braking a little late, sliding off in front of the Mercedes and spinning onto the tarmac run-off, before recovering. Nothing gained, nothing lost. Both Cunningham and George smilingly admitted that it was the racer in them that caused them to attack/defend an irrelevant place-change, with Mark Cunningham saying “I had to go for it, but he knew exactly where to put it to make it awkward for me”.
Two laps behind the winning Audi, Keith Frieser and Mikkel Mac proved a useful pairing, first time in the car for both of them, taking the Class B win in the Scott Sport Lamborghini Super Trofeo, two laps ahead of the Huracan of Johnny Heynes and Dominic Malone, who finished ninth overall. Third on the overall podium, and the Class C winner, was the Thurston / DeLeon Porsche 991. Young Radical superstar DeLeon had capitalised on Brad Thurston’s early stint, and the team under Dave Tyson’s stewardship are proving to be a formidable force. Despite the last-lap spin, the Porsche 997 of Mark and Peter Cunningham was safe in second place in Class C, while there was some sterling work by the Team Hard crew to get an engine change done on the VW BTCC of Paul Curran and Maurice Henry, they were hampered by a laborious in-garage refuelling process, but nevertheless graced the bottom step of the Class C podium. The Venture Innovations GT4 Mercedes, started by Chris Jones, had been third in class at the halfway mark, but by the end of two hours, Matt George was in the class lead, and, dismissing the attempt for overall placings by Mark Cunningham, finished three-quarters of a minute ahead of a last lap battle for the runner-up spot; Peter Montague started the MKH Racing Aston Martin, but as is often the case, it all came down to Stuart Hall’s closing stint, and Hall’s late chase of the Mike McCollum / Sean Cooper KTM X-Bow bagged second place by just 1.762 seconds at the flag. Depleted by Ash Woodman’s early demise in the EDF Cupra, the TCR class was down to the Audi of Beeson / Heler and the second EDF Cupra of Nick Hull and Richard Avery. The Audi’s fuel pump issues meant that the lead was traded several times but at last, the Hull / Avery duo came good, redemption for a dismal start to the season, and rewarded by the pair jointly being nominated Sunoco Drivers of the Day. The Newbarn Racing team battle on gamely – a broken gearbox input shaft was caused by a seized clutch, and with some midnight oil being burnt, the V8-engined Jaguar F-Type raced creditably in the midfield in the hands of brothers Adam and Callum Thompson to claim the Class F win, and while Adam stated that “we run our own race”, the unique machine is no longer Jaggy NoMates out on track. MacG Racing took the Class G win after a tenuous debut at Oulton Park; Jonny MacGregor and Josh Tomlinson got their Ginetta G55 Supercup sorted, and led the class from lights to flag, earning the Outstanding Achievement award, while Owen Hizzey had new recruit Marc Elman on board the SVG-run G55, second place, a lap down on the class win being a creditable performance for the pro-driver and his new co-driver, who had never competed outside of a Ginetta-administered championship before.
Words: Steve Wood, photos: Chris Valentine