During another weekend of national racing, Michael Lyons made the opening Historic Formula 1 races of the season thoroughly entertaining but ultimately twice finished third as Mike Cantillon did the double.
In the early laps of Saturday's Donington Park race, Lyons worked the Hesketh 308 into the lead in pursuit of his second win in seven days, but he had his hands completely full of Cantillon (Williams FW07C, above left) and Steve Hartley (McLaren MP4/1, above right). The three cars made a fabulous sight and sound but Lyons knew he was up against it with two ground-effect cars on the gearbox of his older Hesketh.
Sure enough, despite Lyons' best efforts, Cantillon finally wriggled ahead to go clear and not long after Hartley elbowed Lyons back to third.
Lyons gave a repeat performance on Sunday when the reversed top four grid gifted him another shot. He quickly jumped the polesitting Lotus 81 of Steve Brooks and made as much escape as he could while Cantillon and Hartley were bottled up behind the Lotus.
But, once they dropped Brooks back to fourth, Cantillon and Hartley set about closing Lyons down for the second time in 24 hours. The younger driver held on tenaciously for as long as he could before Cantillon prized open a gap and Hartley followed through. Then it was Cantillon fending off a fierce challenge from Hartley over the remaining laps.
The single HGPCA race caught the only rain of the weekend as a few spots at the start worsened to give quite a wet track, which later started to dry again. None of that fazed Will Nuthall, who started his Cooper T53 from the pitlane after a plug lead worked loose on the green flag lap despite qualifying on pole. Nuthall was dead last into Redgate but made short work of slithering up the order to take the lead from Sam Wilson (Lotus 20/22) after just four laps.
Running the car in South African F1 trim with a 1500cc twin-cam engine rather than in its previous Formula Junior incarnation, Wilson dropped away and later lost places to Andy Willis (Cooper T45/51) and Barry Cannell (Brabham BT11A).
But the day belonged to Nuthall for another assured performance. "It was difficult to judge the pace with the rain and then some oil went down as well," said the winner.
Saturday's Gentleman Drivers' race began with an early safety car when Mark Martin's Lotus Elan 26R arrived at Redgate with a significant engine fire. Once the race went green, soloist Gary Pearson resumed control in his Jaguar E-type from the TVR of Mike Whitaker and the E-type of Richard Kent.
After the stops, Pearson was still well clear while Chris Ward kept the Kent E-type ahead of the hard-chasing TVR until he slowed with oil pressure issues just as Andrew Smith, in Mark Donnor's E-type, came up to challenge for second.
Nigel Greensall was mighty in the first half of the Historic Touring Cars contest at the wheel of David Gooding's Ford Mustang. Greensall power drifted the Mustang out of Coppice quite beautifully for lap after lap as he built a 13-second margin over the similar cars of Steve Soper (above left) and Craig Davies (above right).
A safety car period started just before the pit window opened and soloist Davies stopped fractionally early. The time lost doing another lap hampered his progress but he was later able to hunt down and depose Gooding after Henry Mann parked the Soper car at the Old Hairpin.
Gooding seemed set for a fine second until a late moment at the chicane dropped him to fourth behind the race-long Cortina battle between Ollie Taylor and the Irish combo of Michael Cullen and Paddy Shovlin.
Jonathan Mitchell (above) swept ahead to win in Historic Sports Cars when early pacesetters Tom Bradshaw and Gary Pearson retired at the same moment. Pearson stopped his Lola T70 Mk3B with gearbox issues just as Bradshaw pitted his Chevron B19 with a misfire. Mitchell's B19 duly moved into the lead for its second win in seven days.
Steve Tandy was denied an Endurance Legends double by time lost to the safety car in the opener but made sure of winning the second race in his Lola B12-60. Shaun Lynn profited in the opening race in his BR01 Nissan LMP2 machine.
Finally, the Pre '66 Mini shared by Tom Bell and Joe Ferguson out-ran some pretty accomplished opposition to win both races.
Oulton Park BRSCC: Double delight for Maclennan
The opening salvoes of the National Formula Ford Championship were fired by Neil Maclennan as he won both races at a very wet Oulton Park.
From pole position, he faced intense pressure from Rory Smith on each occasion. B-M Racing driver Smith's relentlessness told in the opener when he forced a mistake from Maclennan at Hislop's chicane and he got a run on the Scot's Kevin Mills Racing Spectrum exiting the corner, but it was to no avail as a red flag meant that Maclennan won on countback. Maclennan had dropped to third after the Team Dolan Van Diemen of Chris Middlehurst passed at Old Hall, before receiving his reprieve.
Festival winner Jonathan Browne briefly led the opener when he dived inside Maclennan at Old Hall early on, only to run wide and drop back, keeping his podium in the final classification ahead of the unlucky Middlehurst.
The train of Smith, Browne and Middlehurst could not force Maclennan into a mistake in race two. "I used up all my tricks in the first race," rued Smith. His and Browne's attempts only succeeded in letting Middlehurst pass Browne for third. Champion Ross Martin could only manage a pair of fifth positions.
In the two Northern Championship races run concurrently to form a capacity grid, British Racing and Sports Car Club chairman Peter Daly took his Super Classic-class Van Diemen RF88 to a double victory.
Having each endured torrid weekends at last year's Touring Car Trophy season-opener at Oulton Park, both Henry Neal and Lewis Kent had more to smile about this time around as the pair shared the spoils. After polesitter Dan Kirby (Cupra) outbraked himself on the first tour, Neal dived inside Kent mid-race at Shell Oils to take race one. Kent jumped Neal - who was driving the only non-TCR-spec car - at the start of race two and, with no repeat of the front-end grip problems he had suffered earlier, took a comfortable win.
VW Golf runner Richard Gilbert hadn't scored a single podium in the VW Cup before last weekend. He now has two wins to his name after prevailing in both contests, which ran alongside the TCT. A switch to the new JMR team of Josh Coggan and Mark Wakefield, and coaching from Coggan, has paid dividends. Gilbert was never headed as he led Coggan for a team 1-2 in the opener, then passed Andy Wilmot early on to take race two ahead of debutant Ollie Brown.
"I enjoyed that!" beamed Ian Jones after holding off champion Steven Dailly to win the first BMW Compact Cup exchange of the season. The pair were well clear of the chasing pack headed by Tom Griffiths, who went on take race two after Jones and Dailly both outbraked themselves on the drying track at Island on the opening lap. Having dropped to the middle of the 35-car field, Dailly produced a typical charge to fight back to fifth at the flag, just failing to dislodge Jordan Stilp as Ben Huntley and Wayne Flint completed the podium.
Star of the Civic Cup field was Bruce Winfield, who dominated the opener from pole position. Winfield had to start race two from 15th after a five-place grid penalty was added to the top-10 reversal for first-corner contact which led to a heavy accident for Andy Gaugler (above), who emerged unscathed. It was little hindrance for Winfield, who charged to second - after Max Lewis was penalised for an out-of-position start - behind first-time winner Morgan Bailey. Paul Taylor, Alistair Camp and Ben Mills secured a podium apiece.
Mark Robinson and William Heslop shared success in the ST-XR Challenge. On his first outing in a Ford Fiesta ST, replacing his venerable XR2, Robinson took the first race after the similarly mounted Heslop ran wide at Cascades. Reigning champion Heslop hit back to win the second.
On their debut race weekend, without even the Sprint outing that Caterham Academy novices usually have to kick off their season, Domenique Mannsperger and Tom Cockerill took the wins. Mannsperger recovered from a slow start to demote leader Hugo Bush on the penultimate lap. Cockerill and Chris Skillicorn dominated the Green group, and both survived moments at Druids after Cockerill made the decisive move at Island earlier on the final lap.
Snetterton 750MC: Peek comes out on top in thrilling Locost battle
Geoff Peek (above right) had to work hard for a 0.02-second win in a frenetic first Locost encounter around Snetterton's 200 circuit, as he traded the lead throughout with Martin West and Craig Land.
Six cars were in contention on the penultimate lap, but Land spun off at Wilson, which gave Paul Clark the advantage, before Clark put himself into the gravel at Nelson. That left four cars approaching Brundle on the final lap for the lead - David Mason and 2019 champion Thomas Gadd joining Peek and West. But Peek was the last of the late-brakers to hold off the pack, denying a late surge down the main straight from West to hold on for victory.
The second safety car-shortened race belonged to Murray Shepherd, who diced with Peek and West for honours. West and Peek were the early leaders, but a decisive sweep around the outside of Riches for Shepherd allowed him to take both on lap five of eight.
Peek used the inside line at Riches and Shepherd the outside line at Brundle on two consecutive laps to trade the lead, with the latter's move on lap seven proving to be the final one when the safety car was called out until the finish to cover off five cars retiring down the Bentley Straight.
Shepherd and Land were the key contenders again in race three, which was settled in favour of Shepherd after he grabbed the place on the run down the Bentley Straight on the last lap.
James Harridge in his Maverick made the most of a strong start to defeat the GAC Daghorn of Ian Buxton and 2008 Formula Vee champion Daniel Hands. Hands bogged down at the start and dropped to seventh, but dispatched Maurice Gloster, Steve Ough, Peter Studer and Tim Probert to recover up to third.
Harridge followed his victory up with another but only after a storming drive from 17th on the grid as a skilful first lap moved him up to sixth, and on lap three he utilised the wide line at Riches to snatch the lead from Buxton.
He'd been comfortably ahead before smoke caused by an oil leak threatened his hopes of a double victory- marshals were poised with a meatball flag - but he was handed a lifeline when a stoppage on track for Richard Rainbow caused a red flag and curtailed the 15-minute sprint before he could be called in by race control.
The first Toyota MR2 encounter looked like it could have gone either way between Paul Cook and Aaron Cooke. The former started on pole but lost the lead when an out-of-shape approach at Wilson allowed Cooke through and, despite attempts to get back past, Cook finished 0.69s behind his namesake.
Nick Williamson had his foot glued to the throttle to vault himself from third into first at the start of race two, fending off the advances of four-time champion Shaun Traynor to win.
Bikesports and Sports 1000 shared a mammoth 32-car grid but, despite claiming pole, Josh Smith was unable to capitalise on the pace of his Radical PR6. An air box problem on lap two forced him to pit, allowing racing returnee Martin Brooks into a lead he wouldn't relinquish. However, Smith made up for his disappointment by cruising to victory in race two untroubled.
Pip Hammond (below) lost out from pole in Classic Stock Hatch as Lee Scott's better start in his Ford Fiesta allowed him into grab the initial advantage, but a three-wide approach into the Wilson hairpin on the first lap with Hammond (Vauxhall Nova) and Martin Rodgers (Peugeot 205) put a premium on bravery and Hammond somehow emerged unscathed and leading.
He would go on to win the race, which was shortened when Terry Roughton put his Citroen AX on its roof at Murrays. Oval specialist Ryan Morgan claimed a last-lap thriller in race two, as the kerbs looked to play a key role in the outcome.
The Ford Fiesta driver went side-by-side with Scott through Brundle and Nelson, but Scott rattled over the kerbs at the exit of the corner to allow Morgan a look. They remained side-by-side through Coram and Murrays and, despite a grassy excursion at the final turn, Morgan had enough speed to hold Scott at bay.
Pictures by Mick Walker and Richard Styles.
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