DONINGTON DELIGHTS IN END OF SEASON SPECTACLE


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Ben Gillias was a very happy City Magazine Caterham Academy White Group champion! – Photo: SnappyRacers

In two days of spectactular racing, the BRSCC Midlands Centre completed its 2016 season with action on the Donington National circuit in both wet and dry conditions with championships battles going down to the very last races of the year in some cases.

Caterham Motorsport made their final stop on the calendar with Academy group titles still to be handed out. With an incredibly close affair in the Green Group, it was left to either Steven Tozer, Tom John or Peter Spencer to clinch it with one race left to run. A 4-car incident on the first start led to an early red flag that raised the anticipation even higher, but while Pete Walters was able to drive away in the lead in the first couple of laps, it was the order of the trio behind that would ultimately settle the championship. Sadly, a safety car on the 3rd lap would run all the way to the end with the race finishing under yellow flags and denying spectators of a nail-biting finish. Walters would take the win, however Tozer’s 2nd place immediately ahead of Spencer and John assured him the Green Group title.

Thankfully, the White Group race would provide the finish that those involved were hoping for. While the safety car would also appear in this encounter, it ended up playing into the hands of a charging Ben Gillias. From 6th on the grid, Gillias stormed up to 2nd by the end of the opening lap in an attempt to reel in key rival Jay McCormack. However the safety car period brought Jay’s advantage to zero, leaving the two title contenders to slug it out in the remaining minutes. Eventually, a late charge from James Beardwell (3rd in points) saw him enter the fray but ultimately Gillias would steal the lead on the final lap to clinch the Championship. McCormack would indeed have to settle for 2nd with Beardwell 3rd, as both groups once again provided a champion in their very first year of competition.

McCormack would however gain some redemption on Sunday in the special one-off Autumn Trophy race, which saw a combined grid of 40 cars made up of drivers from both Academy groups. Starting from pole, he produced a lights-to-flag victory ahead of his season-long rivals Beardwell and Gillias, leaving a White Group lock-out on the podium. The top Green Group car home was Tom John, albeit down in 8th as White Group cars filled out the first 7 places.

The only other Caterham title that was left to be handed out was in the Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport Championship. A battle between Russ Olivant and Daniel Quintero looked set to rumble on all weekend, however it ended up with the first race deciding its fate. After front row man Guy Hawkins burst into the lead throughout the first half of the race, he was caught and passed by Quintero who then went on to win the race while Olivant couldn’t do better than 6th. However, the result changed overnight after evidence confirmed that Quintero had gained time on Hawkins under yellow flag conditions. Therefore he was disqualified from the result, giving outgoing Academy Green Group champion Rui Ferreira the win with Hawkins 2nd and Rob Watts 3rd, while Olivant’s inherited 5th place would give him the title, albeit in circumstances he’d have preferred not to have secured it under. The second race left Quintero to fight through from the back of the grid to a respectable 10th place, while out in front it was left to last year’s Academy White Group champion Andrew Perry to swap the lead with Watts, David Bevan and more several times before hitting the front and staying there to take a welcome win. Watts and Hawkins would complete the final Roadsport podium of the year.

There was more stellar racing in the Avon Tyres Caterham Tracksport Championship. With Anthony Barnes having secured the title and moving into a Superlight R300-S car for the weekend, this left his season-long pursuers the chance to claim glory for themselves. Daniel Bremner hit the front from pole position with Steve McCulley slotting in behind him straight away. The pair quickly drew away from the rest of the pack in a contest of their own, however as the laps drew on McCulley’s moment to strike for the lead looked less and less evident. Eventually the Mission Motorsport backed driver settled for 2nd behind Bremner with Paul Aram completing the podium.

Their second race then turned out what was hands down one of the best races of their season, let alone of the weekend. After a dicey couple of laps at the front, Donald Henshall took the lead with McCulley once again following along in P2, whilst behind them it was a titanic scrap for the final podium place between 6 cars. Yet again McCulley decided he was comfortable following in the wheeltracks of the car in front lap after lap and resisted an attack, leaving Henshall to charge home for the first Caterham win of his career. Meanwhile behind them, the sensational scrap for 3rd ended with Richard Lambert stealing it on the final lap after battling the likes of Aram, Peter Rimer, Joe Draper, Barry Moore and Andy Ebdon for almost the entire race.

Across the paddock in the ITC Compliance Caterham Supersport Championship, it was a similar scenario with their champion too as William Smith had also chosen to enter the Superlight R300-S field, meaning two wins and 2nd place in the championship were up for grabs. Henry Heaton, one of the two drivers fighting for that 2nd in points led early on before being reeled in by the pursuing pack as Christian Szaruta and then Ben Tuck swap the lead with him on several occasions. Eventually it was Tuck that elbowed his way to the front and stayed there until the flag to clinch his second Supersport win in a row after his Croft success. Heaton had to settle for 2nd while Timothy Dickens put in one of his best drives of the year to claim 3rd.

Heaton and his adversary Jack Brown would go into the 2nd race with vice-champion status on the line, however out of the pair it appeared that Heaton was allowing the pressure to get to him. Several times the points situation changes thanks to position swapping and trading of fastest laps, but while Heaton unfortunately floundered in the mixed conditions, Brown was doing everything he needed to out in front. He would indeed take the win, despite a brief satefy car interruption, with Tuck 2nd and Szaruta 3rd, whilst Heaton couldn’t better 5th or hold on to the fastest lap. This in turn handed Brown 2nd place in points.

A stacked entry full of top drivers took on the final races of the Bookatrack.com Caterham Superlight R300-S Championship. Incredibly, champion Aaron Head wouldn’t see the top step in either race as his Race 1 fortunes took a nosedive after light contact with Danny Winstanley left him stuck in the gravel at McLeans. After a frantic 30 minute encounter, Winstanley held on to win from Lee Wiggins while a last-gasp scramble for 3rd place left Christopher Wright on the rostrum while a number of notable drivers had to settle for less. This means that going into their final race, the likes of Aaron & Dale Head, Jack Sales and Paul Wilson would all have to carve their way through the pack to score a top result. Aaron did just that from 22nd on the grid and amazingly was able to close down Lee Wiggins right until the flag, where he missed out on overhauling him by just 0.3 seconds. Wiggins took his second win of the year, while 3rd went the way of Stephen Nuttall.

Elsewhere on track with BRSCC championships in attendance, there were scores to settle in the Teekay Couplings Production GTi Mk2 Championship in both classes. Chris Webb was bidding for 16v Class glory as he scrapped with rival Nick Porter and Adam Hance over the race win. Porter would indeed take it in Race 1 as Webb just pipped Hance to P2, leaving a 21 point gap at the top of the standings with 22 on offer in the last race. As it was, Adam Hance would end 2016 on a high with a win from Porter in 2nd, however 3rd place for Webb was enough to grant him champion status. Over in the 8V class, it looked to be all but over for leader Matthew Petts after rolling his car in the Old Hairpin gravel in Race 1, leading to a red flag. With his car out of action, Wesley Chatterton had to win his class with the fastest lap to snatch the title away but ultimately it was not to be. Instead Martyn Brown would finish off a superb weekend for himself with a pair of class wins, with Paul Cowland and David Aldridge joining him on the podium. This left Petts as 8v Class champion despite not scoring a point all weekend!

The Mk5 series also ended in style for the Production GTis as young Charlie Cudlipp put in a fine display all day on Sunday. His first race victory saw him drive away from the squabble for 2nd at a canter, leaving the returning Simon Hill to tussle on track with his old sparring partner Martyn Walsh in a brilliant display of racecraft and camaraderie. Both would end up on the podium with Hill 2nd and Walsh 3rd. Cudlipp then did it again in Race 2 despite a poor launch off the line, taking the lead and staying there to command the race from the front. He finished the year with his 4th win of the season, while Hill and Walsh once again came home in the same order albeit a little further away than in their first duel.

It was the last hurrah of the year for the Toyo Tires Honda VTEC Challenge and Smart 4Two Cup with a list of impressive entries making the trip to Derby. A very wet qualifying session mixed the grid ever so slightly for Race 1, but come the race the conditions had dried substantially. Richard Hockley would go on to take his Tuner Class EK9 Civic to overall and class honours at the flag ahead of debut runner Steve Sawley’s Super Tuner EK9 Civic, with another example completing the podium in the hands of Matthew Walker, while Vaughan Fletcher would steal a Production class in on his very first outing in the TDI North Civic. Their second race was said by many as their best of the year as a frantic battle for the lead in the opening laps entertained the spectators. In the end, Jeff Cooper overcame breaking his oil sump in Race 1 to charge through from the back and win from Richard Hockley and Steve Sawley. Vaughan Fletcher would complete a brace of Production class wins.

The 4Two Cup were also joining the Hondas for the last time this season, with Alan Palmer winning their first encounter ahead of James Palmer and David Nash. Alan would do the double in the second race with the podium unchanged as James Palmer and Nash came home in the same positions once more.

Over with HRDC, their pair of excellent historic races provided two exciting 45 minutes spectacles. In the Touring Greats & TC63 race, it began with a battle between Le Mans winner Andy Wallace and Nigel Webb’s Jaguar Mk2 and the Austin A40 of Mike & Andrew Jordan. Only when the pitstops shook out did Jordan take the lead and obtain a substantial margin before retiring with about a third’s distance still to go. It was left to Neil Brown’s rapid Austin A35 Speedwell to clinch the win over 5 seconds ahead of Mark Daniell’s Austin A40 and the Gordon/Meaden Alfa Romeo Giulietta Ti. Jordan would get redemption in his Allstars/ Academy/ A-Series Challenge race aboard his growling TVR Griffith, as he lead from the front while the other TVR of Mike Whitaker attempted to close him down. It wasn’t to be as Jordan did enough to allow just half a second gap to Whitaker at the flag with Mark Halstead’s Lotus Elan coming home 3rd.

Finally, single seaters were catered for with the final races of the Monoposto Tiedeman Trophy. Jason Timms, a regular frontrunner in the main Monoposto championship, was a late entrant but quickly showed his authority with pole position for Race 1 that was dutifully followed by a win aboard his Dallara F311 Formula 3 chassis. Neil Harrison’s Dallara F302 and James Drew-Williams’s Lola F3 chassis completed the podium behind him, however Timms couldn’t make it a double in the second race. Mechanical problems forced him out of the race after 8 laps, leaving Harrison to inherit the lead and take the flag in effortless fashion. The duel for 2nd was settled by Hayden Edmonds with a stunning outside pass on Drew-Williams’ Lola, allowing the F3 Class Formula Renault to finish in 2nd. Overall, it was the 1600 Class car of Geoff Fern that did all he needed to do to take the Tiedeman Trophy title back home.

So, another season is just about completed and our thanks go to all of our competitors, teams, spectators, BRSCC Club officials and personnel and of course our magnificent marshals, all of whom are a key part of making sure our meetings run smoothly and efficiently. We’ll see you all again for another packed season of motorsport in 2017!

The full set of timing results can be found via TSL Timing here – DONINGTON FINALS RESULTS.

Scott Woodwiss