Nearys battle through British GT carnage to make history as HSCC's Superprix thrills

Father and son pairing Richard and Sam Neary made history after winning on British GT's visit to Donington Park last weekend, having come through the carnage for their first series win. British F3 title rivals Zak O'Sullivan and Reece Ushijima clashed on-track, and the popular Historic Sports Car Cub's Superprix meeting thrilled at Brands Hatch

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It’s a stock phrase on the list of a racing commentator’s cliches that races are never won at the first corner. But last weekend at Donington Park proved to be the exception as Richard Neary’s Team ABBA Mercedes-AMG somehow emerged from Turn 1 in second, having started tenth and last in GT3 after an exploding brake disc in free practice two had caused major damage to the front-right corner that prevented the car from qualifying.

A decisive move on Ian Loggie’s RAM Mercedes 10 laps into the two-hour contest set Neary’s son Sam up for their family team’s first-ever British GT win, and the first for a father-and-son pairing in series history.

“I didn’t expect to be able to get to the front so easily,” Neary Sr said, perhaps in the understatement of the year. “In the track time we’ve had this weekend, we have had good pace, we’ve just been a bit unlucky. But eventually our luck turned a bit and we got through [Turn 1] cleanly. The team has worked tirelessly to put that car back together. It was 50/50 last night whether we could repair the car or not, so all credit to them.”

Neary Sr made a punchy getaway at the rolling start, taking advantage of a slow launch from Adam Balon that held up both Morgan Tillbrook and Kelvin Fletcher, to take sixth into Redgate. But the path ahead opened up for him when Michael Igoe’s WPI Lamborghini was nudged into a spin by Nick Jones, forcing the Porsche driver and Andrew Howard’s Beechdean Aston Martin wide in avoidance, while Stewart Proctor (Balfe McLaren) also had to check up.

Following a safety car to clear away Igoe’s stranded car – its left-rear deranged after being hit by erstwhile points leader Leo Machitski’s Barwell Lamborghini, putting both out – Neary was caught napping by Loggie at the lap-five restart. But he made no mistake when a GT4 pileup at McLeans necessitated another caution period, and immediately seized the lead by diving up Loggie’s inside at Redgate.

Neary’s advantage stretched to almost four seconds as Loggie staved off pressure from Fletcher before being whittled back to a little under a second prior to the pitstops, but a 10-second success penalty carried over from Silverstone meant Loggie’s team-mate Yelmer Buurman was always going to face an uphill task to get back on level terms.

Michael Igoe/Phil Keen (WPI Lamborghini Huracan EVO GT3), British GT Donington Park 2021

Michael Igoe/Phil Keen (WPI Lamborghini Huracan EVO GT3), British GT Donington Park 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

In the end, it proved academic. As if to prove the point that he could have beaten his Mercedes rival even without its longer stop, 19-year-old Sam Neary extended his gap from 12s after the stops to cross the line 15.9s ahead.

“Rich won me that race, he was incredible in that first stint, especially that first corner – it was just unbelievable,” Neary Jr said. “I started pulling the gap straight away and then from there [it was] just managing the tyres and listening to every single noise from the car to make sure nothing was wrong.”

Fletcher had made good progress in the early stages of the stint to pass Jones – who later retired with gearbox issues after a spin – Balon and Proctor, but couldn’t maintain his pressure on Loggie and began to struggle. Balon’s sole surviving Barwell Lamborghini spent 20 laps stuck behind the Paddock Motorsport Bentley before finally slipping up the inside at Goddards, Howard following shortly afterwards on the exit of Redgate.

But the time lost behind Fletcher was especially costly for Balon and Sandy Mitchell because of the 20s success penalty they carried from Silverstone. When Mitchell finally left the pitlane, the 2020 champion was down in seventh with any chance of a podium seemingly gone.

Howard’s team-mate Jonny Adam was therefore promoted to third ahead of Fletcher’s co-driver Martin Plowman and Marcus Clutton – in for Tillbrook, who had fought back onto the tail of Fletcher prior to the stops after a lap-one off at McLeans required him to charge back through the GT4 pack. Clutton was immediately on the pace and soon disposed of Plowman with a cutback move exiting the Melbourne Hairpin, before cruising up to Adam.

But try as he might, Clutton couldn’t find a way past and spent the rest of the race trying to force the four-time series champion into a mistake that never came – Adam’s cause aided by the decimated GT4 field of five cars reducing opportunities for Clutton in traffic.

Adam’s lack of pace in the final stint made for a tense finish as Mitchell – having disposed of Lewis Proctor and Plowman – stormed onto the back of the train and began to pressure Clutton, who edged Mitchell onto the grass exiting Redgate with three laps to go. At the flag, just 0.632s separated Mitchell from the podium after a fine drive, with Proctor claiming sixth from Plowman at the Old Hairpin late on.

British GT4 Donington Park: Burns and Burton survive and thrive

Will Burns/Gus Burton (BMW M4 GT4), Matt Topham/Darren Burke (Aston Martin Vantage GT4), British GT Donington Park 2021

Will Burns/Gus Burton (BMW M4 GT4), Matt Topham/Darren Burke (Aston Martin Vantage GT4), British GT Donington Park 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

The Century Motorsport team was in disconsolate mood on Saturday night at Donington. Six different cars occupied the top six places on the grid, but its BMW M4 GTs were not among them.

Championship leaders Will Burns and Gus Burton were only ninth on the grid with Chris Salkeld and Andrew Gordon-Colebrook two spots further back. But come Sunday, the mood in the camp was totally transformed as the pair repeated their Brands Hatch 1-2 after a demolition derby that only five of the 13 starters survived.

It took Burns just over 20 minutes and 10 safety car-interrupted laps to surge into a lead he’d never lose. Taking advantage of the GT3 fracas at the start, he moved up to fifth at the first corner then passed Mark Sansom (Ginetta) and poleman Matt Topham’s Newbridge Aston Martin to take third on the lap-five restart, Silverstone winner Topham losing several places on the grass at the Old Hairpin.

Moments later, both he and Sansom were then eliminated in a multi-car accident triggered by Salkeld spinning Sansom at McLeans – for which he was given a 10s stop-go penalty – that also forced Alain Valente and Ashley Marshall into retirement and brought out the race’s second safety car. When racing resumed on lap 10, Burns wasted no time in passing Will Moore (Academy Mustang) and John Ferguson (Speedworks Toyota), as chaos ensued behind.

A slide from Moore exiting Goddards cost him two places to Team Rocket RJN McLaren drivers Jordan Collard and Harry Hayek, who began piling the pressure on Pro-Am leader Ferguson. Following another brief safety car interlude for debris, Collard dived past Ferguson at the Melbourne Hairpin, but when Hayek tried to follow around the outside of Goddards, he was tagged by the Toyota and both were collected by the luckless Moore, putting all three out.

Burns continued to pull away from Collard until the mid-race driver swaps, and Burton enjoyed a trouble-free run to the flag. But Collard’s team-mate James Kell endured a torrid stint as right-rear damage took its toll and dropped him back into the clutches of Gordon-Colebrook, who had earlier passed Jamie Stanley’s Fox McLaren for third at the Melbourne Hairpin.

Kell could put up no defence and eventually slipped to fifth behind Jake Giddings’ Ciceley Mercedes, which had recovered from a three-second stop-go for a too-short pitstop, and a spin over the grass exiting Redgate.

British F3 Donington Park: O'Sullivan doubles up to extend points lead

Zak O'Sullivan (Carlin), British F3 Donington Park 2021

Zak O'Sullivan (Carlin), British F3 Donington Park 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

A brace of victories at Donington Park launched Zak O’Sullivan into a commanding points lead of the BRDC British F3 Championship, despite the Carlin driver and title rival Reece Ushijima colliding.

O’Sullivan asserted his dominance on the event from the outset by taking a double pole, but initially lost the lead of race one to Ushijima while heading into Redgate. The pair battled side-by-side down the Craner Curves with O’Sullivan braving it out to hold the inside line into the Old Hairpin and retake the lead, eventually edging out to a comfortable 4.9s victory in the 12-lap contest.

“I got a pretty bad start but then I got into the lead and was just trying to pull the gap,” said the Carlin driver. “I think I touched the grass [down the Craner Curves] but you need to risk it at this stage [of the championship]. If you’re behind you’ve got to take the risk and you’re just trying to pick up the best result you can. There was an opportunity which wasn’t too risky, he gave me enough room and I gave him enough room.”

Behind the leading pair, Elite Motorsport’s Javier Sagrera lost out on an impressive podium having been out of position on the grid ahead of the start and handed a 10-second post-race penalty, which promoted Arden Motorsport team-mates Alex Connor and Roman Bilinski into third and fourth, the latter on his British F3 debut.

Race two was an easier affair for O’Sullivan, who got a better launch from pole and headed a train of Connor, Ushijima and Bart Horsten. Ushijima, who came into the meeting six points behind O’Sullivan in the standings, dived to the inside of Connor on lap four of 12 at the Melbourne Hairpin, with the pair running side-by-side on the exit before Connor held the position on the inside line at Goddards.

Five laps later it was Ushijima’s turn to be attacked, by Hitech GP team-mate Horsten, who lunged up the inside at Goddards, but contact was made as Horsten’s right front tyre collided with Ushjima’s left rear on the exit of the corner which broke the latter’s suspension and sent him into retirement.

Reece Ushijima (Hitech GP) British F3 Donington Park 2021

Reece Ushijima (Hitech GP) British F3 Donington Park 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Fortec’s Roberto Faria benefited most from the fracas, moving up to third, having started sixth ahead of Sagrera and the recovering Horsten, but the Australian was disqualified from the result for his involvement in the collision, handed a five-place grid penalty for race three and four points on his racing licence.

It proved not to be the only collision Ushijima was involved in. In the full-reverse grid race three he moved across on O’Sullivan on the run down towards the Melbourne Hairpin. The contact pitched Ushijima backwards into the barrier, while O’Sullivan was out on the spot with broken left front suspension.

“Going out of Turn 1, a bit of kerb came up and hit the right-hand wing mirror, so I couldn’t see on my right,” said Ushijima. “I didn’t think he was there but it was my fault. I have a lot of respect for Zak and I want to be competing for this championship fair and square. I’ve already apologised.”

With the title protagonists out it offered pre-season favourite Ayrton Simmons the chance to take some much-needed points after another lacklustre weekend. After recording a best result of eighth from the opening two races, Simmons was battling over second in race three when he was forced wide at McLeans by Chris Dittmann Racing team-mate Max Marzorati, eventually finishing eighth.

Marzorati meanwhile recorded his maiden British F3 podium in second, having been passed for the win by Fortec’s Mikkel Grundtvig, while Tom Lebbon took third.

Brands Hatch HSCC: Thundersports and Aurora Trophy headline Superprix meeting

Mark Richardson (Lola T290), James Claridge (Chevron B23), Thundersports, Brands Hatch 2021

Mark Richardson (Lola T290), James Claridge (Chevron B23), Thundersports, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Audacious passes in Thundersports and the Aurora Trophy finale wowed spectators as the Historic Sports Car Club’s annual Legends of Brands Hatch Superprix spanned both circuits over three days.

Lola T290 stalwart Mark Richardson’s committed dive inside James Claridge’s Chevron B23 into Clearways didn’t stick in the former, but Martin Stretton’s jaw-dropper on fellow Formula 2 March driver Matt Wrigley at Paddock Hill Bend deservedly left honours even.

Saturday’s sportscar mini-enduro was a thriller. After a short caution, Richardson ambushed Claridge and staved him off until the pitstops, which is where Claridge got the upper hand as Richardson rejoined four seconds adrift. He hounded his rival down and was 0.401 seconds shy when the chequered flag flew 20s early…

Wrigley (March 782) and Stretton(March 712) blitzed the Aurora opener, clear of Mark Charteris’s 742 and Geoff Lees Trophy contenders Rory Smith (Ralt RT4) and Sam Harrison (Dallara 389). Stretton redoubled his efforts later, cunningly boxing Wrigley behind Judy Lyons on the last lap.

“It’s great racing wheel-to-wheel with Matt, but I saw the situation unfold, dropped it down another gear and floored it,” said Stretton, whose smaller chassis, designed for 1600cc F2, lacks downforce in comparison with the wide-nosed 782 but was fractionally quicker in each speed trap. Teenager Harrison finished third.

Historic Formula Ford 2000 kicked-off on Friday as 31 combatants provided half the six Indy circuit races. Royale racer Ian Pearson won the first qualifier from poleman Adrian Reynard and father and daughter Graham and Jennifer Ridgway, all in Reynards.

Graham Fennymore (Reynard SF81), Historic Formula Ford 2000, Brands Hatch 2021

Graham Fennymore (Reynard SF81), Historic Formula Ford 2000, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Points leader Graham Fennymore led the second heat until his oil pressure “went to zero” and he nursed his steed home in fourth only to discover a faulty gauge. Molly Dodd (Royale RP27) won brilliantly on the road, only for a transponder glitch to earn her a 30s post-race penalty which dropped her to fifth as Jon Finch won.
Pearson’s four-second lead in the final was expunged by a safety car interlude, after which Fennymore snatched the advantage decisively as the track went green.

“Without the caution I wouldn’t have caught Ian,” said Fennymore. Reynard, Andy Storer, Finch and Dodd led the chase. Moving to the GP layout on Saturday, Pearson qualified on pole from Fennymore, Storer and Dodd in wet conditions. Fennymore and Pearson scrapped race-long, ahead of Storer with Dodd fourth.

Saturday’s excellent Historic Formula Ford race was red-flagged for a second time when Over 50s division leader Ross Drybrough’s Merlyn Mk20 rolled nastily after clipping Simon Toyne’s Lola T200 at Druids. No result was declared. Sunday’s race finished prematurely too, with Alan Schmidt’s Merlyn in the barrier on the GP loop. Donington Park victor Tom McArthur (Titan Mk3) rounded Cam Jackson at Paddock to lead mid-race but the Winkelmann driver was ahead as they took the chequered flag with Horatio Fitz-Simon (Merlyn) in tow.

Jackson also won the Classic FF1600 rounds, neither over the full distance. On a treacherously slippery track, Saturday’s was stopped when the spinning James Fettiplace collected Simon Clews at Paddock. Henry Chart (Van Diemen RF81) led on Sunday until a red flag, which reprieved Jackson. He’d traversed the gravel at Paddock under yellows, behind Simon Armer’s beached March 703, and thus could restart towards the front. Jackson duly jumped Chart at the lights. Jeremey Timms (ex-Reine Wisell Chevron B15) dominated the concurrent 1000cc Historic F3 contests.

Andy Newall completed his Guards Trophy hat-trick in 2021, distancing Simon and Cam Jackson (Lenham P70) and 2020 winners Westie and Ben Mitchell (Chevron B8), who served a drivethrough for stopping 1.3s before the window opened. John Spiers and Peter Thompson (TVR Griffiths) traded places as their Pre-’66 GT battle raged throughout. Spiers, seventh overall, prevailed by just 0.348s. Chris Goodwin – whose father Tony raced Newall’s Chevron contemporarily – aced Formula Junior in a Lotus 22 from Richard Wilson (Brabham BT6). It finished under yellows when Trevor Griffiths (Emeryson) tagged Crispian Besley (Cooper T56) while disputing class C2.

An engine problem stopped runaway Classic F3 leader Andy Smith on the Indy circuit, promoting Benn Tilley (March 743) and Keith White (Ralt RT1). Smith made amends on Sunday, chased by Classic FF2000 standout Murray Shepherd – on new Avon radial wets – and Tilley, experiencing wets for the first time.

Sam Wilson (Lotus 18), HGPCA, Brands Hatch 2021

Sam Wilson (Lotus 18), HGPCA, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

The HGPCA trifecta’s climax reflected the Silver City Trophy F1 feature which opened the Grand Prix circuit in August 1960 – except Jim Clark’s Lotus 18 didn’t retire while leading in Sam Wilson’s skilled hands, but Jack Brabham’s Cooper T53, with Rudi Fredrichs up, did. Peter Horsman (18/21) outlasted the German for second in race three, ahead of Miles Griffiths who bellowed Julian Bronson’s Scarab from 25th to third. John Spiers defeated Rod Jolley (Lister-Jaguar Monza) in Saturday’s front-engined counter.

Cobra charmer Kevin Kivlochan couldn’t shake off Historic Road Sports points leader John Davison (Elan S1) who set fastest lap. Behind Rupert Ashdown, Jonathan Rose and Frazer Gibney – all Elans – Mark Godfrey wriggled his 1500cc Ginetta G4 through a Morgan +8 trio for sixth. The Malvern marque’s reps retaliated in the ’70s set, but Jim Dean (Europa) split winner Will Plant and father Richard each side of a caution.

Dan Williamson (Ford Falcon) did well to lead Historic Touring Car poleman Steve Soper for two laps but after a safety car he clouted the barrier at Druids, having ceded second to Rob Fenn. Mark Martin repelled Paddy Shovlin among the Cortinas for third.

Spencer McCarthy screamed from the back of Friday’s Classic Clubmans grid, ousting Mike Lane for third behind John Harrison on the Indy circuit. All lapped within 0.71s of winner Mark Charteris’s best. Tom Muirhead outran Stephen Littler among the larger FF1600-engined entry.

Reports by James Newbold, Stefan Mackley and Marcus Pye. Photography by Jakob Ebrey Photography and Gary Hawkins. Want more reports from the world of national motorsport? Subscribe today and never miss your weekly fix of motorsport with Autosport magazine

Andy Newall (Chevron-BMW B6), Guards Trophy, Brands Hatch 2021

Andy Newall (Chevron-BMW B6), Guards Trophy, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

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