BRSCC THRILLS AT HOME IN EPIC BRANDS HATCH WEEKEND
It’s always welcome to host a race weekend at our “home” circuit, and the recent two-day contest at Brands Hatch for the BRSCC was once again a thrilling occasion, with plenty of sports car and tin top racing entertaining the socially distanced spectators in attendance across the two days. With most championships now heading towards the twilight of their amended calendars, results were going to be especially key as the final rounds draw near.
Caterham Motorsport once again had the full fleet of their five-step roster of factory championships out in force, with a small bit of history being made for their fledgling Caterham Academy drivers. For the first time, both the Green and White groups would contest two points-scoring races on the same weekend as opposed to just one in a regular season, in order to ensure that all drivers received the appropriate amount of signatures to upgrade their licences for the Roadsport season next year.
The Green Group saw Tom Cockerill effectively become champion-elect as his successful results in both races have afforded him a position where he is now able to sit out the final round and thanks to the dropped score rule, he is all set to claim the crown regardless of what his rivals do. The first race saw Cockerill maintain a race-long lead including after a late safety car to take his third win from four races, ahead of his main rival Chris Skillicorn while Gwyndaf Jones managed to work his way into the final podium spot. Jones would then take the fight to the top two in Sunday’s race and a pass in the late stages helped him break the domination of Cockerill and Skillicorn and take his first Academy win.
The story in the White Group, on the other hand, isn’t quite clear cut as it turns out that there’s going to be quite a scrap for the championship title at the final round. With three drivers taking a win each before the weekend, someone had to break the deadlock and that man was Taylor O’Flanagan. He took the lead in Race 1 after the opening few laps and despite attacks from all sides behind him from Simon Shaw and Ian Brown, he couldn’t be toppled from the top spot as Shaw took 2nd place and Domenique Mannsperger recovered from an early mistake to brilliantly take 3rd. O’Flanagan then double up his top result in the second race in much the same fashion, surviving the mid-race safety car to keep Hugo Bush at bay this time with Mannsperger again in P3. Now O’Flanagan holds a seven-point lead before dropped scores with one race to go.
The rest of the Caterham paddock still has two meetings to go, meaning their title battles still have time to change significantly. In the Caterham Roadsport ranks, the entry was split into three groups once again with A & B competing first on the shared grid with the 270R. After Harry Eyre, Blair McConachie and then Alexander Conway all took turns to lead their segment of the race, the flag was eventually taken by points leader Tom Wyllys, picking up win number four of 2020 ahead of Conway and Eyre respectively. Groups A and C ran next, and while a stunning start from Nick Allbones helped him hit the front early on, he would eventually be shuffled backwards as Wyllys and McConachie once again re-enacted their 2019 battles at the front of the field, McConachie coming out on top by just over 0.3 seconds while Carl Jones took a distant 3rd. The final standalone Roadsport race for Groups B & C saw an early red flag, but on the restart Harry Eyre managed to head Conway, Daryl Cresswell and Jones to claim his first win of 2020.
Sharing the same track as the Roadsports once more, the Caterham Seven 270R Championship enjoyed two very frantic, action-packed and entertaining encounters. No less than five drivers held the lead for at least one lap in the first race with some incredible position swapping going on lap after lap, but after Angelos Alvanos, Andy Lees, Lars Hoffmann and Harry Cook all took turns, it was left to Ben Lopez-Appleton to muscle his way to the front in the closing laps to pick up his first win of the season with Lees and Hoffmann in tow. Once again, there was more of the same in Race 2 the next day and with the safety car interruption, this in turn eventually benefitted Alvanos as he picked his way past his rivals to lead the last portion of the race and finally claim his first victory after coming so close on a number of occasions. Lopez-Appleton and Hoffmann would follow him past the flag respectively.
Just as entertaining were the two races for the Caterham Seven 310R Championship, as front row starters Tom Grensinger and James Murphy took turns early on in Race 1 to trade the lead. This would continue on throughout the rest of the encounter, but the chasing pack from 3rd backwards slowly ate into the gap they’d built up early on and eventually it was Murphy who was shuffled back to 4th place at the finish, while Grensinger diced with Greg Monks and Lewis Thompson in the later stages before the three drivers cross the line to make up the podium with Grensinger capturing his second win of 2020. Murphy and Monks would then end up going head to head in the second race as they battled back and forth and traded the lead on multiple occasions with both Thompson and returnee Pete Walters chasing after them, but in the end Murphy managed to make a small breakaway and pick up his second win of the season, with Monks and Walters reaching the rostrum with him.
Over with the Caterham Seven UK Championship, the early stages of Race 1 made it seem as though John Byrne’s domination of the season thus far could be coming to a halt, as he was put under threat for the lead by Gordon Sawyer, who even managed to pass him on a couple of occasions. However, once traffic became a factor, Byrne showed his class and managed to once again create a gap to his rivals, winning by just over five seconds while Stephen Nuttall moved up into 2nd place with Jake Swann-Dixon picking up a strong 3rd. The second race effectively reverted back to business as usual, as Byrne managed to shake off an early threat from Nuttall to sail off into the distance and complete another clean sweep of both races by doubling his winning margin from the day before. Nuttall again took an easy 2nd, and Swann-Dixon ensured the podium remained identical from Saturday with another 3rd place.
Some incredible racing action took place in the Avon Tyres National & Northern Formula Ford Championships races, as points leader Neil MacLennan looked to build on his double success from the July opening rounds at Oulton Park. In race one, he had to work his way from 4th on the grid to the lead, pressuring early leader Chris Middlehurst and picking up the lead after a few laps before resisting the Team Dolan driver’s retaliations to take his third win in as many races with 2019 champion Ross Martin picking up 3rd. Middlehurst got his revenge in Race 2 as the roles reversed with Chris passing MacLennan early and then defending for the remainder of the encounter to collect his first National Formula Ford win, with Neil in 2nd and 2019 Formula Ford Festival winner Jonathan Browne completing the podium. With the grid partially reversed for Race 3 and Ross Martin inheriting pole, MacLennan again drove superbly to work his way back to the head of the field but this time had Rory Smith for company, eventually winning for the second time in the weekend with Smith in 2nd and Martin taking another podium with 3rd again. Samuel Harrison was top Northern Formula Ford driver all weekend as he was best placed overall from that contingtent in all three races, with additional class wins also coming from Peter Daly and Paul Tucker.
Brands Hatch was a key weekend for the title contenders in the Nankang Tyre BMW Compact Cup, as three time defending champion Steven Dailly had the task of wrestling the slender points lead away from Tom Griffiths. He managed this in fine style, as Dailly led away in Race 1 from pole and was never headed, putting in a typically dominant performance to complete a lights-to-flag win by almost 7 seconds. Former British GT star Jordan Stilp put on another impressive showing with 2nd place with defending Masters champ Wayne Flint once again showing his prowess with 3rd. The next day’s race provided a sense of deja vu as Dailly again was untouchable and led from start to finish to complete a perfect weekend in his bid for a fourth consecutive title, while Stilp again picked up 2nd and Wayne Flint enjoyed a battle with Paul Maguire for the final podium place, again going in Flint’s favour.
The first races of the delayed start to the season for the Teekay Couplings Production GTi Championship took place on this weekend with a healthy grid of Mk5 model VW Golf GTis taking to the track for their first three encounters of 2020. Defending champion Simon Hill picked up a superb start from the second row of the grid to reclaim his place at the front of a PGTi race, quickly getting into the lead and staying there with former champ James Colbourne in 2nd place and Simon Vercoe taking 3rd. Hill then once again showed his title-winning form by mimicking many of his 2019 drives as he started from pole, led every lap and again took an easy win, this time followed by Martyn Walsh and Paul Blackburn, but for race three he was forced to withdraw leaving Walsh on his own on the front row. Showing his superb pace he’d displayed all weekend, Walsh put on his own dominant display and won the third race with ease, heading Adam Hance and Simon Vercoe at the flag.
There was also support from the Classic & Modern Motorsport club too with three races across both days. The TinTops pitstop race was won by Bradley Lane in his Honda Civic, while the combined grid for the Super Saloons and Intermarque Silhouettes saw overall wins split by the BMW M3 of Adrian Bradley and the Ginetta G40 silhouette racer of Ray Harris.