Masters Historic headlines weekend of national action as BRC returns

The Masters Historic Festival at Brands Hatch was the big draw last weekend, but events at Croft, Donington Park and elsewhere attracted strong entries - and crowds. The British Rally Championship also made a long overdue return at Oulton Park, more than a year since its last round

Masters Historic headlines weekend of national action as BRC returns

Spectators were back at Brands Hatch for the second time this year for last weekend’s Masters Historic Festival and were treated to some eventful racing.

The Pre-66 Touring Cars race was a perfect close to Saturday’s timetable, its hour-long contest full of action and unpredictability. Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie eventually finished clear winners in Thomas’s Ford Falcon, but were made to work hard for it. Polesitter Henry Mann – sharing Steve Soper’s rebuilt Ford Mustang, which had a spectacular off at the same meeting last year – looked to be in control from the start, but he was forced to retire before handing over to Soper. A combination of brake problems and swerving to avoid a backmarker at Surtees were the culprits.

Rob Fenn and Jake Hill in the former’s Mustang were the next obstacle to a Thomas/Lockie victory. Thomas had started just behind Fenn and managed to pass him, but a slide on dropped oil gave the position back to Fenn and also allowed David Coyne through in his Mustang.

As Fenn handed over to Hill, problems with the Mustang’s fuel line and gearbox intensified and Lockie took advantage, claiming the win as the race finished behind the safety car. Alex Taylor’s Mustang had become beached, having started at the back due to a noise issue and had battled into the top 10 before his off.

Coyne, who had qualified eighth, took the runner-up spot, while Roy Alderslade was third in a Lotus Cortina, having kept on the back of the lead battle and handled the pitstops a little better than Tom Ingram and Marco Attard. British Touring Car Championship frontrunner Ingram had run as high as second mid-race with some flamboyant driving, but he and Attard had to settle for fifth, behind Shaun Balfe and Tom Ashton in a similar Cortina.

Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie (Ford Mustang) Brands Hatch Masters Historic

Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie (Ford Mustang) Brands Hatch Masters Historic

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

The Gentlemen Drivers contest provided another unpredictable outcome. James Cottingham played a clever waiting game in his Shelby Cobra, making steady and stealthy progress from 13th on the grid into a strong position from which to strike when the leaders repeatedly succumbed to problems. He passed the AC Cobra Daytona Coupe of Alderslade for second, then inherited the win when Oliver Bryant’s Cobra developed gearbox troubles.

Bryant had started the weekend as second reserve before qualifying on pole, but he was overhauled at the start by Alex Brundle (Jaguar E-type) and Andrew Jordan, who was sharing Alderslade’s Cobra. The early laps were dominated by Brundle and then Jordan, but solo driver Bryant took the same steadier approach as Cottingham and looked to be a convincing winner until the last 10 minutes. John Pearson, sharing with Brundle, finished second, with John Spiers and Tiff Needell third in a TVR Griffith. Mike Whitaker’s Griffith inherited fourth from Jake Hill who, sharing Fenn’s Lotus Elan, was penalised five seconds after tangling with Andrew Haddon’s similar car on the last lap. Haddon was awarded fifth, ahead of Hill and Fenn.

Brundle secured a dominant win in the Historic Sports Cars, driving Gary Pearson’s Lola T70 Mk3B. He had been expecting a fight with Tom Bradshaw’s lighter, nimbler Chevron B19 but he was already ahead when Bradshaw retired with a snapped throttle cable.

The race was affected by a lengthy mid-point safety car period after Jonathan Mitchell’s B19 breached the barriers at Hawthorns. Confusion in the pits ensued as a string of cars were waved through for stopping too early, but Brundle, Bradshaw and others managed to make a stop and were subsequently given time penalties post-race.

On-track, Martin Stretton pushed through to second place in Nick Sleep’s T70. He benefited from Henry Fletcher’s B19 serving a drivethrough penalty but was impressive nonetheless. Fletcher finished third ahead of the T70 of Robert Beebee and Steve Brooks.

Alex Brundle (Lola T70 Mk3B) Brands Hatch Masters Historic

Alex Brundle (Lola T70 Mk3B) Brands Hatch Masters Historic

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Steve Hartley was the winner of the first Historic F1 race, driving a McLaren MP4/1. He had built up a big lead over Warren Briggs’s McLaren M29 and held on to it in the last-lap dash that followed a late safety car period. Briggs was demoted to third by Lukas Halusa’s M23, making it an all-McLaren podium. Hartley repeated the win in race two, although a partially reversed grid meant he had to work harder, disposing of Halusa and polesitter Mark Hazell’s Williams FW08C.

Equipe Libre provided two lively races, both won in strong sideways style by Tom Smith’s MGB. The biggest story in the second encounter was the progress of the ‘Cobra Shelby American’ driven by Charlie Allison and Peter Thompson. The 4700cc beast started from pole but had to retire from the opening race. Starting from the back in race two, the duo managed to slice through to second by the flag. The fortunes of race one runner-up Robert Binfield (Jaguar E-type) were the reverse. Binfield got an excellent start from fifth in the opener and finished in a strong second, but his race two launch was slower and he dropped down the order. He fought back to take fifth.

Ian Curley was the winner of both Pre-66 Mini races, but he was pushed to varying degrees by newcomer Nathan Heathcote. Former rallycross ace Heathcote was second in race one by just 0.162s, but had to retire from a tense lead battle with Curley in the second outing, having noticed that a wheel was about to detach itself from his car.

Jeff Smith was caught on the back foot by both Curley and Heathcote, finishing third in race one and hit the wall at Hawthorns during the opening lap of race two. The leaders had to stop abruptly on their last tour in the opener after marshals mistakenly tried to flag them in at Surtees.

Steve Tandy won both Endurance Legends races in his Lola-Judd B12/60. Second-placed Shaun Lynn briefly led both times in his BR01 but could not hold off Tandy for long.

Donington Park CSCC: Baby Bertha thwarted in Special Saloons thriller

Joe Ward (Vauxhall Firenza 'Baby Bertha') Donington Park CSCC

Joe Ward (Vauxhall Firenza 'Baby Bertha') Donington Park CSCC

Photo by: Mick Walker

Driving the fabled Vauxhall Firenza V8 ‘Baby Bertha’ in which Gerry Marshall was rarely defeated in 1975, Joe Ward came within 0.166 seconds of winning the Special Saloons & Modsports finale, among the highlights of the Classic Sports Car Club’s 475-entry Donington Derby extravaganza.

Malcolm Harding needed all his short oval experience to land his maiden victory, wrestling his wayward Ford Escort Mk2 for the last three laps, its tracking askew following a clonk from odds-on favourite Andy Southcott’s MG Midget-Vauxhall at the chicane, which sidelined the latter.

Wayne Crabtree had earlier extended his undefeated run to three bouts in the spectacular Subaru turbo-powered Abespeed Ford RS200, but retired from race three. After Southcott revolved at Roberts, Crabtree was chased home by Clive Anderson’s splendid BMW E30 turbo and Laki Christoforou’s pristine Millington-engined Escort Mk2 in the opening salvo.

The second was stopped with Anderson’s ochre monster ahead, but he was erroneously banished to the pitlane for the restart having been misidentified as the red flag’s catalyst. Crabtree blitzed the four-lap sprint, finishing clear of Ward – in pain from a broken rib – who just kept Harding’s Escort in Bertha’s mirrors. Best of the Bernie’s V8s pack, which added colour and depth, was Matt Holben in his ex-Ian Flux TVR Tuscan.

Penalties applied post-race, mainly for short pitstops, abounded across the mini-enduro races, changing the results of four, which will confuse spectators at the circuit and those watching livestreaming of the event. Among them was the weekend’s best, the Swinging Sixties Group 2 set, in which Simeon Chodosh in his thuggish Chevrolet Corvette appeared to masterfully repel Steve Hodges’ zippy Lotus 7.

Following an almighty dust-up that embroiled Malcolm Johnson’s Lotus Europa, the Sunbeam Tigers of Stephen Pickering and Simon James, Ben Cater’s Elan and Dean Halsey’s Datsun 240Z at its height, Johnson – despite excursions at the Esses and Coppice – finished third on the road but was declared the winner from Halsey. Chodosh and Hodges were classified sixth and seventh.

Group 1 was equally enthralling with Mini men Ralph Budd, Tom Bell, Phil Bullen-Brown, Clive Tonge and Chris Watkinson screaming round as one. Bell floated his Cooper S to extraordinary angles as he and Budd traded places, but post-stops his partner Joe Ferguson was clear of Charlie Budd. Only Tom Pead’s BMW 1600Ti was on the same lap at the chequer.

Simeon Chodosh (Chevrolet Corvette) and Steve Hodges (Lotus 7), Donington Park CSCC 2021

Simeon Chodosh (Chevrolet Corvette) and Steve Hodges (Lotus 7), Donington Park CSCC 2021

Photo by: Mick Walker

Bellowing bewinged BMWs blitzed Saturday’s New Millennium and Open races. Darren Fielding’s E46 M3 GTR took the former after the Russell Humphrey/Mark Wyatt E92 faded. Rear axle location mods improved Matty Evans’ previously unruly V8-engined 1M Coupe sufficiently to see off Michael Pensavalle’s E46 M3 in the Open. David Harvey’s bizarre supercharged Rover K-engined Lotus 340R finished third.

Despite being sideswiped by a lapped BMW at Redgate, as he and Nigel Jenkins battled for supremacy, Evans looked to have earned Slicks Series gold, too. But a short stop penalty advantaged Jenkins, whose Ferrari lost its rear valance in a first corner shemozzle that ended top qualifier Kevin Jones’ Noble challenge.

Rallyman Tom Delaney, 21, was robbed of a debut race victory in Turbo Tin Tops, when a heat sensor put his Mini Cooper S R56’s engine into limp mode, cutting 50bhp. Third behind Carl Chambers (Peugeot 208) and John Hammersley (VW Scirocco) – reprimanded for cannoning the lapped Charlie Newton-Darby’s Mini off at Old Hairpin while leading – was poor reward.

Despite his Nissan’s engine block cracking, Mark Chilton won Future Classics, beating the TVR Tuscans of Stuart Daburn (ex-Steve Guglielmi, subsequently bumped to fourth) and Aston and Tony Blake.

Spireman John Cutmore topped both Magnificent Sevens races against the Caterhams. Tim Davis outbraked himself and took out BOSS team-mate Colin Watson trying to wrest the opener’s lead at the chicane, then a short-stop penalty undid Jonny Pittard’s glory in his supercharged CSR. Race two finished behind a safety car as Pittard was reeling Cutmore in.

The extra 30s imposition for winning Thruxton’s Tin Tops event was a bridge too far for Andrew Windmill’s Honda Civic – until Nigel Tongue (Peugeot 306) took out leader Martin Addison (106), having already attracted a short-stop penalty.

Croft 750MC: Pollard bears down on Vee leader Harridge

Craig Pollard and James Harridge, Formula Vee, Croft

Craig Pollard and James Harridge, Formula Vee, Croft

Photo by: Steve Jones

Craig Pollard closed the gap on James Harridge at the top of the Formula Vee table with wins in both races at a hot and sunny Croft, but was only handed victory after the flag in their second clash.

Pollard’s Bears GAC had romped to a pair of pole positions ahead of Harridge’s Maverick in qualifying, before leading race one from start to finish. Harridge kept close throughout, but a succession of fastest laps mid-race – including a new lap record – ensured Pollard was never truly threatened.

By contrast, race two was a nail-biter. The lead changed hands six times in the opening two laps alone – Harridge getting ever more inventive with moves around the outside into Clervaux off the start, then down the inside into Sunny In and the Complex.

Pollard was in front as racing resumed after a short safety car period, only for Harridge to pull a demon move round the outside into Tower. Pollard struck back at Tower on the next tour but a slow exit enabled Harridge to move past again into the Jim Clark Esses. Entering the final knockings, the red flag flew and, on countback, officials declared Pollard the winner.

“It’s not how I want to win – I’d rather be leading at the chequered flag, but what a race that was,” said Pollard. Harridge reflected: “I’m not sure why they counted it back so far but I’m not going to protest – I’m still leading in the points.”

Tim Probert’s Storm took third in Saturday’s opener after surviving an opening corner skirmish that accounted for Andrew Cooper’s GAC and Peter Belsey’s Spyder. Peter Studer’s TCR Challenger secured the final podium position in race two, while there was a pair of epic recovery drives from Daniel Hands – up to seventh and ninth in his AHS Dominator after a rear suspension breakage in qualifying had left him 31st and last on both grids.

Type R Trophy, Croft, 2021

Type R Trophy, Croft, 2021

Photo by: Steve Jones

Adam Shepherd won both Type R Trophy races, but neither triumph was straightforward. In the first race, he had to drive around second-gear selection issues to keep clear of the chasing Mark Balmer and Lee Deegan.

At the start of the second race, Balmer was ahead of them both entering Clervaux but the lightest of contact sent him spinning left into the barrier before Hawthorn. Shepherd and Deegan survived the drama to take the top two spots ahead of Luke Rosewell, who added a third to his fourth in race one.

Joe Stables (Radical) and Scott Mittell (Mittell) were out on their own in both Bikesports races. Stables led all the way in race one as Mittell gradually fell back with overheating rear tyres. However, Mittell took his revenge in race two, winning after making his move for the lead exiting Sunny Out.

The Spires of Ryan Yarrow and Rich Miles similarly dominated the opening Sports 1000 race, although they had the Mittell machines of Victor Neumann and Daniel Larner for company early on. Yarrow lost the win after technical checks but was reinstated on appeal. Miles was unchallenged in race two, grabbing the lead at the start and then benefiting when Yarrow was tipped into a spin by Neumann at Hawthorn. Michael Roots (Mittell) snuck through to take second ahead of the following Neumann.

Locost and the MX-5 Cup each had triple-headers that all produced breathtaking action. Geoff Peek led all three Locost races, but it was only the first that he won, ahead of Mark Burton and Andrew Tait. Burton emerged the winner in race two after braving it out with Tait through the Jim Clark Esses on the final lap. Peek then lunged past Tait to grab second at the hairpin. But it was Martin West who left it latest of all to snatch a win, hanging on around the outside into the Complex to just pip Burton and Tait in the finale.

Ben Short won races one and three in the MX-5s, each time ahead of Tom Roche, who was victorious in the intervening encounter. Michael Comber, Bens Hancy and Abbitt, and Courtney Milnes were all in the mix at various stages.

Carl Swift and Robert Baker (SEAT Leon) were the dominant force in Club Enduro, winning by over a lap from Steve Cheetham (Porsche Boxster).

Oulton Park BRC: Moffett grabs late lead in season opener

Sam Moffett/Keith Moriarty (Ford Fiesta Rally2), BRC Oulton Park 2021

Sam Moffett/Keith Moriarty (Ford Fiesta Rally2), BRC Oulton Park 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Sam Moffett was left basking in the sun – literally and metaphorically – at Oulton Park Circuit on Bank Holiday Monday when he won the opening round of the 2021 British Rally Championship.

Moffett made his move on the penultimate stage of the Neil Howard Stages in Cheshire, nabbing top spot from series returnee Rhys Yates before hanging on to secure his maiden BRC victory by just a second. Moffett was the third different leader of a pulsating curtain-raiser that was played out in front of fans – and surely silenced those who questioned if a gated-venue was a shrewd addition to the calendar.

“I cannot believe it, I cannot believe it,” said Moffett who, like many of his fellow countrymen, decided to enter the BRC due to there being no Irish Tarmac Championship this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been a phenomenal day. I think stage five and six really helped us – we had a really good push on those two and it put us back at the front. Credit must also go to Dom Buckley [RSC, which runs his hired Ford Fiesta Rally2 car] and to Keith [Moriarty, co-driver] who agreed to sit alongside me for the day.

“Everything went so well, so credit to the organisers, my team, the spectators and the marshals – it was a fantastic day. And this result means that we have more of an interest in the title than before.”

Rhys Yates/James Morgan (Fiesta Rally2), BRC Oulton Park 2021

Rhys Yates/James Morgan (Fiesta Rally2), BRC Oulton Park 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Yates – who is only three points adrift of Moffett going to next month’s Nicky Grist Stages by virtue of the fact he used his points-boosting joker – played himself into victory contention right from the word go. The Chesterfield man was perfectly placed to capitalise on an uncharacteristic error by self-professed track specialist – and BRC debutant – Frank Bird who spun on stage six and lost the lead. Up until that point, the 21-year-old son of ex-MotoGP team owner and rally driver Paul was in complete control.

He recovered to end the day third and top of the Motorsport News Circuit Championship contenders, only for his new Fiesta Rally2 car to be deemed underweight following routine post-event checks. Osian Pryce – at the wheel of a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, and with Noel O’Sullivan co-driving – was the beneficiary. “It’s a good start to our BRC campaign, and it’s nice to be out in the car again,” he said.

Positive though it was, Pryce’s BRC title bid begins proper on home soil next month – a sentiment no doubt shared by defending champion Matt Edwards. Fourth was the best he could muster, although with the top four covered by 13 seconds, he knows he is already in the ball park with his Polo GTI R5.

The Junior BRC fight was a more straightforward affair as William Creighton and Liam Regan cantered to an 11s triumph in their Fiesta Rally4 over the older-specification Peugeot 208 of Kyle White.

White was left feeling somewhat aggrieved at the finish and hinted that he could have been closer to the Ulsterman had his charge not been halted on stages two and four by slower cars. Eamonn Kelly – the son of Irish Tarmac title victor Donagh – rounded out the top three places on his Rally4 debut. With Bird removed from the MN Championship equation in surprise fashion, Mark Kelly (Fiesta R5) capitalised to move into the title mix with two counters remaining.

Reports by Rachel Harris-Gardiner, Marcus Pye, Carl McKellar and Jason Craig. Photos by Gary Hawkins, Mick Walker, Steve Jones and Jakob Ebrey Photography. Want more reports from the world of national motorsport? Subscribe today and never miss your weekly fix of motorsport with Autosport magazine

BRC Oulton Park 2021

BRC Oulton Park 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

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