Tag Archives: Gary Pearson

Ward Stars at 7th Annual Donington Historic

The 2017 running of the Donington Historic Festival also coincided with the 40th anniversary of Donington Park’s re-opening, and fittingly over 450 classic motor racing machines, many with a rich sporting history, had been attracted to the 7th running of the event.  The Leicestershire circuit was in great shape too;  now properly re-grassed and landscaped following the F1 debacle, the infield is at last fully open to the public.  And with the infield bankings providing some of the best spectator viewing in the UK there really was no better place to take in the weekend’s 19 races.

Saturday’s schedule included 10 of the aforementioned races and Historic racing ace, Chris Ward would amazingly find himself standing on the podium’s top step on 3 occasions!  The first of which would come alongside Touring Car Legend, Steve Soper, in the Bastos livieried Rover Vitesse.  But having qualified the British built machine on pole for the 1 hour long Historic Touring Car Challenge, Ward instead jumped into the TWR Jaguar XJ8.  And whilst Soper developed an early lead, Ward set about bringing the big cat towards the front, leading to suggestions that the versatile JD Classics man could in fact appear on the podium twice!  ECU issues would unfortunately negate that prospect but once Ward was aboard the Rover there was only ever going to be one winner; the pairing going on to record a dominant 36 second victory.

A second success would soon follow, this time aboard the stunning Lister Costin in the Stirling Moss Trophy race for Pre-61 Sportscars; a race win which in many respects was his toughest of the day.  In what effectively became a two horse race,  Will Nuthall, in a Lister Knobbly, would sit in the wheel tracks of Ward’s Costin bodied machine for almost the entirety of the one hour race.  However the healthy crowd were robbed of a close finish when Nuthall was dealt a late double blow; first, a one minute time penalty for a late decision to drive solo, and second, by hitting car trouble on the very last lap.  Such was the dominance of the leading two Listers however that Nuthall was still classified in second!

Ward was then at it again in Saturday’s final race of the day; the ex-Silverstone Chief Instructor once again joining Paul Gibson in his continuation Lola T70 MK3 for the 90 minute ‘1000km’ race for pre-73 prototypes.  Whilst the entry was a little on the disappointing side it was more than made up for in terms of quality and the early running was made by the 3  T70 MK3s in the field; Paul Gibson ahead of Leo Voyazides and Chris Beighton.

By lap 29, both Gibson and Voyazides had handed over their respective machines to Chris Ward and Simon Hadfield, with a quicker pit stop for the latter allowing Hadfield to emerge in front.  Ward however was driving like a man possessed and with lap times consistently below the 1.11 marker, was quickly on the tail of Hadfield and into the lead once Beighton had pitted for Greensall on lap 38.  Hadfield is reknowned for his pace in historic machinery but even he could not match the low 1.08s Ward was achieving in clean air, leaving Gibson and Ward to claim victory for the third time in as many years.  What a day this had been for the one time Nissan man!

Once again Touring Cars from latter half of the twentieth century would feature heavily at this years festival and as a result stars such as the aforementioned Steve Soper, Colin Turkington, Adam Morgan, Patrick Watts and Andrew Jordan were all set to compete.

In fact, prior to his success in the Historic Touring Car Challenge, Soper had taken the brand new Team Dynamics built Lotus Cortina to second in the first of two races for pre-66 under 2 litre Touring Cars.  Traditionally the Cortina’s have been no match for the Andrew and Max Banks piloted Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint and even the touring car expertise of Soper could not reverse the fortunes of the popular Ford machine.  As it was the pole sitting Alfa duo were never troubled as they went on to record a 23 second victory.  Soper meanwhile had to fight his way passed the similar Lotus Cortina’s of Andy Wolfe and Oscar Rovelli after a slow pit stop to claim second, while Rovelli went on to snatch third from Wolfe on the finish line!

Sunday’s second race may well have had a similar outcome, in that Andrew and Max Banks recorded yet another victory, however the Cortinas appeared much more competitive on this occasion.  In fact Soper almost made it into the lead at Goddards on lap 2 but would fall back into the clutches of fellow Cortina man, Andy Wolfe after running wide.

A mid race safety car would however allow both Cortina drivers another shot at the leading Alfa and Andy Wolfe would emerge as Banks’ closest challenger at the restart.  But, an unsuccessful attempt for the lead around the outside of the chicane would ultimately allow Banks to escape to victory and Soper to close in and re-take second at Hollywood.   Wolfe was far from finished though and the two Cortinas would swap positions on more than one occasion before Soper eventually claimed his second runner up spot in as many days.

Many of the under 2 litre machines would again take to the track for the final Touring Car race of the weekend, the HRDC ‘Coys’ Trophy; an event again catering for pre-66 machines but this time with no engine capacity restrictions.  And whilst there was no sign of the Banks’ Alfa, the Lotus Cortina pilots would this time have to contend with brutish American muscle in the form Ford’s Falcon and Mustang models.  And it was the pole sitting Ford Falcon in the hands of Jack Drury, fresh from his Donington HSCC HTC success earlier in the month, who would slip in front of Soper as the cars headed for the mandatory mid race pit stops.

Once complete there was nothing to choose between Drury and Soper and expectations were high for a great battle to the finish.  Unfortunately the duel would be short lived however as both cars found themselves on the retirement list courtesy of a collision with a back marker at McLeans.  This left another Cortina in the hands of David Tomlin to take victory from the similar machine of Graham Pattle and the Mustang of Mark Burton.

The Donington Historic Festival also played host to the opening two rounds of the 2017, HSCC organised, Super Touring Car Challenge and it was James Dodd who claimed a brace of commanding victories in his Honda Accord; beating the Alfa Romeo 150 STW of Neil Smith to top spot by 15 seconds in race 1 and the similar Accord of father Graeme by 41 seconds in race 2.

Meanwhile, Mike Jordan, paired with his 2013 BTCC champion son, Andrew, aboard the family run Austin ‘GT’40 recorded a dominant victory in the HRDC Pre-60 Touring Car race.  Despite an early safety car period, the very rapid duo claimed victory by a mammoth 52 seconds over the Butterfield/Dorlin Jaguar MK1.

Whilst it was great to see so many touring cars at the festival it is ultimately the Sports and GT Cars that draw me back year after year.  And pleasingly a jam packed field took to the track for Sunday morning’s 2 hour GT and Sports Car Cup for Pre-66 GT and Pre-63 Sportscars.

Last year Grahame and Oliver Bryant had claimed victory and it wasn’t long before Oliver Bryant had established a healthy lead over the chasing Cobra’s of Robert Bremner and Leo Voyazides and the E-type Jaguar of Carlos Monteverde.  The rules for this race dictate a maximum of 50 minute stints and whilst Oliver Bryant escaped from the pack prior to the enforced stop, Grahame was unlikely to lap at the same speed.  Hadfield and Pearson, subbing for Voyazides and Monteverde respectively meanwhile were the quicker drivers in their pairings and began to quickly close in on the leading Cobra.

A long safety car period, for oil at the chicane, would however dampen the race as a spectacle somewhat; enough time passing for the elder Bryant to be relieved of his duties under the caution period, allowing Bryant the younger to go on and take a comfortable 39 second victory.  The battle behind was far less clear cut however.  Whilst Hadfield had managed to keep Pearson behind, the positions were reversed soon after the second pitstops; the Voyazides Cobra dropping time and two positions with an excursion at McLeans.   Thus ensuring the Monteverde/Pearson and Clark/McCaig E-types would round out the podium positions.

The Pre-War Sports Cars would make a welcome return in 2017 and Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards would quickly establish themselves as the class of the field; the duo going on to record victory by more than 1 lap in their Frazer Nash.  However, the victory may well have been less dominant had fellow front row starter, Sam Stretton, not been forced into retirement in his Alta Sports after just 11 laps.

A day later, Wakeman and Blakeney-Edwards would claim a second victory in the RAC Woodcote Trophy race for Pre-56 Sportscars.  Although Gary Pearson, in a Jaguar D-Typre, lead the opening stages of the race, Fred Wakeman in the Cooper T38 was able to get by at Hollywood on lap 7.  And, with Pearson never re-emerging from his mandatory pitstop, Patrick Blakeney-Edwards was able to go on and record a comfortable victory of more than 1 lap.  The battle for second was fascinating however.  Lying 8th after the mid race pit stops, Simon Hadfield stormed through the field in the Wolfgang Friedrichs Aston Martin DB3S to grab second with just 4 laps remaining!

E-types of various body styles filled the majority of the grid positions in the Jaguar Classic Challenge race and it was Gary Pearson and Ben Short who would battle it out for the lead over the opening stages of the race.  It would have taken some drive to beat Pearson in equal machinery however and as it was the Jaguar expert was able to break away in traffic; eventually taking race victory by 14 seconds.

There was also a nice blend of single seater action across the weekend and a whopping 25 cars made the start of the opening FIA sanctioned Historic Formula 2 race.  Richard Evans had previously claimed pole position by a huge 1.5 seconds in his March 742 and expectation was that he would dominate proceedings in the race.  And whilst a poor start left him fourth behind Mark Dwyer, Daniel Gibson and Frazer Gibney, Evans would find himself at the head of the field by lap 10.  But this appeared to be a race that no-one wanted to win as first Evans and then Dwyer were forced into retirement; the latter pulling off at Redgate with just three laps remaining to leave the way clear for Frazer Gibney to take the most unlikely of victories.

The opening laps of race 2 proved highly entertaining as the rapidly driven cars of Richard Evans, Mark Dwyer and Daniel Gibson all cruised through the field; the grid having been set from the results of race 1.  In fact, such was their pace that by lap 4, Evans, Dwyer and Gibson held the top 3 positions.  But whilst Gibson would again find his Chevron B42 condemned to the retirements list, Evans and Dwyer would, on this occasion, go on to claim the top two steps of the podium, despite the latter suffering from a broken exhaust.  Behind, after a brilliant second in race 1, Robert Simac in his Class A March 712M would put in another superb drive to round out the podium positions.

Elsewhere, John Sykes claimed a double victory in the races for pre-61 Front Engined Formula Junior cars.  The Merlyn MK2 pilot twice getting the better of the Justin Fleming and Robin Longdon piloted Lola MK2’s to record the narrowest of victory margins.

Meanwhile James Murray in his Lola MK5A claimed the first Pre-64 Rear Engined Formula Junior race and John Fyda in his Brabham BT6 claimed the second in what was the final event of an excellent weekend of racing.

What is there not to love about the Donington Historic Festival?  The Coppice tunnel closure and the lack of transmission on 87.7FM for much of Saturday morning were small negatives but these were far outweighted by great racing, fantastic displays (including the ’88 Le mans winning XJR9), and a knowledgeable and enthusiastic commentary pairing.  I am already looking forward to 2018!

RESULTS
GALLERY

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Donington Delivers one Helluva Historic Festival

In what has become tradition, May Day bank holiday weekend saw the historic racing community welcomed by Donington Park for the 6th running of the utterly brilliant Donington Historic Festival; this year able to benefit from substantial investment which has brought the famous Leicestershire circuit back to it’s very best.

As is also tradition, the early May bank holiday weekend weather was, shall we say, mixed!  Whilst Saturday was blessed with a sunny start and end to the day, hail and rain showers were a feature of the early afternoon; conditions made more tricky by just how cold it was.  It is not normal to see one’s breath in late April, even in England!

The first race of the weekend, the opening round of the HSCC Historic F2 championship, slotted nicely between showers however.  Where, on a drying track, Andrew Smith in his Formula Atlantic specification March 79B was one of a minority to gamble on slicks; a decision which paid dividends as he recorded a dominant 53 second victory over series newcomer Dean Forward.

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And it was the Warwickshire man who was again first to the chequered flag in Sunday’s second encounter.  After quickly passing the fast starting Forward, Smith was able to build a winning margin of 35 seconds over the ‘3rd gear-less’ March 782, making it a weekend to remember for the Team Gunston March pilot.

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The Pre 91 Touring car field were not quite so lucky with the weather.  Whilst a dry start allowed the BMW of Mark Smith to take the lead from pole, rain began to fall during the mandatory pit stop window.  And it was during the driver changes that Chris Ward, taking over the Broadspeed Capri from BTCC hero Steve Soper, was able to get the jump on the Mark Smith/David Cuff E30.  And the heavier the rain fell the more comfortable the lead became; Ward putting in a sublime drive in testing conditions to claim the Tony Dron Trophy by over 1 minute.

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In fact Ward would carry his strong form into the 2.75 hour, somewhat disappointingly supported, ‘1000km’ Sportscar race.  Again paired with Paul Gibson, the 2015 winners faced a very different challenge if they were to repeat their success.  The cold and damp conditions would not favour their powerful Lola T70 where instead it was the nimble Chevron B8 of Martin O’Connell who was able to take an early lead.

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Ward, installed on lap 32, would find himself 3 laps down to the little 2 litre prototype but a succession of fastest lap times on an ever drying track brought the #9 Lola back into contention.  Meanwhile James Littlejohn had been in the sister Gibson car since lap 20 and on lap 77 it was he who finally hunted down and passed the O’Connell piloted B8.

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Oliver Bryant had looked best placed to tackle the rogue Chevron having kept his T70 in touching distance throughout the first half of the race.  A very slow pitstop on lap 60 however dropped the #14 machine 5 laps and it would be an uphill struggle from then on in.

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And so with the Chevron now struggling to keep pace in the early evening sunshine, the fight for top spot would turn out to be an all family affair with Paul Gibson emerging from the car’s final pit-stop just in front of son Daniel in the #10.  However it was Gibson Senior who managed to maintain the lead over the last 20 or so laps, claiming race victory for a second successive year.  But for a mis-read pit board Gibson Jnr may well have put up a stronger fight.

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Bryant meanwhile would fight back to claim a strong third position, ending the race just over 1 minute behind the winners; a story of what might have been given the #14 T70 spent 1.5 minutes longer in pit lane!  P3 honours and fourth overall was just reward for a great drive by Martin O’Connell and Andrew Kirkaldy in the Chevron B8.  Had the rain continued who knows what the outcome would have been!

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Sunday’s schedule would feature a further 7 races, in many respects headlined by the 90 minute GT & Sports Car Cup for Pre-66 GT and Pre-63 Sportscars.  Traditionally a battle between Cobra and E-Type it was the Oliver Bryant piloted Cobra who was able to take an early lead from the Julian Thomas and Gary Pearson Jags and the pole sitting similar machine of Leo Voyazides.

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Both E-types had soon fallen by the wayside however leaving an all Shelby battle up front; Hadfield, installed in the #75 Cobra during an oil enforced safety car period, now finding himself at the head of the field following a quicker turn around during the stops.  However, opting for a short Grahame Bryant stint proved to be key strategically as Bryant junior had almost 30 laps to hunt down the leader.

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And sure enough with Voyazides back in the driving seat on lap 45 the deficit was reduced to just 5 seconds with Bryant, clearly on a mission, able to haul his mis-firing Cobra into the lead with a little over 10 minutes remaining.  The retirement of Voyazides shortly after allowing for a comfortable drive to the flag with the now second and third placed Clark/Smith E-Type and Friedrichs/Mallock Aston Martin DP214 over 1 lap in arrears.

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New to the schedule for 2016, the pre-50 Grand Prix cars battling for the Nuvolari Trophy put on a great Display.  Sunday’s dry second race saw Callum Lockie in his Maserati 6CM able to get the better of race 1 winner, Michael Gans, after an almighty scrap between the two.  Gans, in ERA R1B, had fallen to third at the start but was able to take the lead on lap 11 before the vastly experienced Lockie made the decisive overtake just 1 lap later.

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The very sideways Pre-66 under 2 litre touring cars never fail to entertain with onlookers eagerly awaiting a good battle between the leading Ford, BMW and Alfa crews.  But whilst BMW were able to take the fight to the Lotus Cortinas in qualifying, all 3 leading 1800s were in trouble with electrical problems before the race had really begun.  This left the the Andrew/Max Banks Alfa to successfully chase down the Fords of Andy Wolfe and Dion Kremer and build a healthy lead over the opening stint of the race.

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Whilst Wolfe would soon retire, another MK1 Cortina in the hands of Neil Brown had starting making progress.  And once taking over the reigns, Fortec boss, Richard Dutton, carried on Brown’s hard work to close in on Max Banks during the second half of the race; a gutsy charge that left the Ford man just 10 seconds shy of the untouchable Giulia Sprint GTA at the flag.  Meanwhile David Tomlin made it two Fords on the podium, passing Kremer in the pit-stops and managing to hold off the Swiss pilot during the closing stages of the race.

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The RAC Woodcote Trophy for pre-56 Sportscars was yet another highlight of the weekend, proof if ever it were needed that historic racing is much more than just a demonstration.  Throughout the entire 1 hour duration of the race, Fred Wakeman and later Patrick Blakeney-Edwards tried all they could to get past the D-Type Jaguar of Gary Pearson.  The Cooper Jaguar Type 38 was more than a match for the D-Type but Pearson was immaculate through the traffic and, as Blakeney-Edwards put it, there is no getting past the Northamptonshire man when in that kind of form!

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Colin Turkington made a one off appearance in the HSCC Super Touring Car Trophy race, and the Northern Irishman showed his class by taking third place in the Mark Smith BMW E30.  The older BMW was no match for the Gordon Noble Jnr Vauxhall Vectra or the Stewart Whyte Honda Accord however; with the former able to get the better of regular front runner Whyte on this occasion.

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Following an article in Motor Sport magazine I was very much looking forward to the final event of the day, the Pre 80 endurance race for Sports racing GT and Touring Cars.  You just cannot beat the sound of a 3 litre DFV formula 1 engine and on this occasion we were blessed with not only the magazine featured Lola T282 of Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield but also the T292 of Michele Liguori.

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Hadfield had earlier put the Gitanes sponsored T282 on pole with a fantastic 1.05.872 but it was Liguori who beat Voyazides into Redgate, immediately gapping the Greek pilot and leaving him to fight with the Chevron B19 of Martin O’Connell.  Unfortunately, the expected DFV battle never materialised as a coming together between O’Connell and Voyazides at Goddards put the Chevron out of the race and left Voyazides with a broken wheel; the former calling it a racing incident whilst the latter was less diplomatic!

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Whilst Liguori was now able to cruise to victory, Voyazides with broken wheel replaced, and later Simon Hadfield were able to drag themselves back up through the field to a phenomenal second place; missing out on victory by just 26 seconds after at one stage being 2 laps down!  The sight and sound of Hadfield taking on the Craner Curves in this glorious machine is one of those memories that will stick around for years to come!  Ever wondered what is missing from modern day racing?  This car sums it up completely!

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My time at the festival may have been over but the racing continued throughout Monday, where …

David Tomlin piloted his Lotus Cortina to victory in the HRDC ‘Coys Trophy’ whilst Stewart Whyte charged to glory in the second Super Touring Car race.  Callum Lockie, sharing an E-Type with Julian Thomas, continued his excellent weekend by taking the Jaguar Classic Challenge honours.  Chris Ward made it a hat-trick of weekend race victories by taking the Stirling Moss Trophy for Pre-61 Sport Cars.  Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards claimed the Mad Jack for Pre-War Sports Cars victory and last but not least, Andrew and Mike Jordan raced their Austin A40 to top spot in the HRDC Pre-60 Touring Car race.

FULL RESULTS

GALLERY

This had been another fabulous Donington Historic Festival.  The festival and circuit organising team just seem to get it, be it the friendly and welcoming circuit staff, the excellent commentary team, the ability to get touch close to millions of pounds worth of famous racing cars, a fantastic selection of races across the weekend and now the freedom to roam over the entire infield.  And having fond memories of the venue as a child in the late eighties and early nineties it is great to see the circuit in such good shape!  If only the Dunlop Bridge and Spitfire were to make a return …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

The Old and The New

Having decided against the long trip up north for the Pirelli International rally, a visit to both the Donington Historic Festival and Rockingham’s round of the British GT championship was in order for the May Day bank holiday weekend.

The Donington Historic Festival runs over three days, however it was the Sunday schedule that caught my eye, in part due to the last race of the day being the FIA Masters Historic Sportscar race.  A grid full of classic 60’s and 70’s Le Mans racers made it worth the trip alone.

Arriving at the circuit early gave us plenty of time to look around the multi million pound paddock before heading out around the track.  With the sun starting to appear from behind the clouds It looked like being a great day to show off these stunning machines.

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There were some very well turned out cars on display in the HTCC Touring car race …..

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….. however the first event that particularly caught my attention was the RAC Woodcote Trophy for the pre-56 Sportscars.  The iconic fin of the D type Jaguar makes it one of my favourite Le Mans winners from the past and this 60 minute event contained a couple of well driven examples.

Regular historic pilot Gary Pearson was actually entered in 2 of them which paid dividends when the #7 went out early on.  Fortunately he was able to get back to the pits, take over from Carlos Monteverde in the white #5 and claim second spot on the podium!

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However this formidable pairing could not keep up with the very fast Cooper T38 of Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards who claimed the victory by more than 12 seconds.

Some of the best sounding cars of the day were the 2 litre Sportscars in the HSCC Martini Trophy where ex BTCC racer Ian Flux put in a stonking drive from the back of the grid to take a magnificent victory.  Driving the Osella PA3 he didn’t have it all his own way as once getting to the front he was re-passed by the similarly rapid Lola T210 of David Gathercole.  It was looking difficult to pick the eventual winner but unfortunately Gathercole pushed slightly too hard through McLean’s on lap 19, losing the back end and becoming beached in the unforgiving Donington gravel.

The Pre-66 Under 2 litre Touring Car race was yet another highlight with a field full of MK1 Cortina’s, BMW T1800’s, Minis and even the odd Alfa.

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It was in fact the Alfa Sprint GTA of Andrew and Max Banks who would eventually get the better of Jackie Oliver and Richard Shaw’s T1800.  The ex Le Mans winner did take an early lead but could not keep the rapid Alfa crew behind for long.  It was a pleasure to watch these machines being man handled around the track; the way they are thrown into the corners with masses of opposite lock is a sight not often seen in modern-day racing.

With the light starting to fade, it was time for the FIA Masters Historic Sportscar race.  I absolutely love the fact that the main event was held at this time of day as there is just something about watching racing in the late evening sunshine.

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The throaty roar as the green flag was dropped was phenomenal, bettered only by the sound of a full field of endurance legends, headed up by no less than 7 Lola T70’s, disappearing down the infamous Craner Curves;  Oh to have witnessed these at Le Mans in period.

In actual fact the race didn’t turn out to be that close as ex British GT racer Oliver Bryant showed his class by taking victory by more than a lap in the #14 T70.

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But who cares!  The sight of these 5 Litre Chevy engined powerhouses lapping traffic around the undulating tarmac of Leicestershire’s famous circuit was just fantastic.  My ears were still ringing by the time I was back at base with a beer in hand.  This had been one of the best days racing in a long time.

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A day of modern racing was in order on Bank Holiday Monday with my first ever trip to Rockingham Motor Speedway.  And with the circuit little over an hour away I can’t believe I had never visited before.

The sheer size of the 52,000 seater American Style oval becomes apparent as you arrive; more like a football stadium than a race track.  But what I like most about the place is that it was obviously put together with the fan in mind as the access is second to none.  Silverstone could definitely do with a Rockingham style underground tunnel and being able to watch a race from the top of the pit garages is just great; an experience I had only previously witnessed at Spa.

In fact the only negative of the day was the lack of interest in the support races with the once formidable British F3 championship attracting just 7 entries and disappointingly only 6 cars making the start of the 1 hour Aston Martin GT4 event!

However, the British GT race was the main reason for being there and with 29 cars on the grid it promised to be 2 hours to remember.  The spacious pit walk prior to the race allowed a closer look at both the cars and drivers as the pre-race excitement started to build.

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Marco Attard and Works BMW driver Alexander Sims had carried on their Oulton form by taking a comfortable pole position in the Ecurie Ecosse Z4.  They would start the race as clear favourites for victory and Marco Attard was able to get away in the lead from the off.  Derek Johnston in a similar Z4 would soon get by Mark Patterson’s United Autosports Audi R8 to take second with 2013 champion Andrew Howard following suit in the Aston.

Sir Chris Hoy had made a wild start to the race by ‘out-braking’ himself heading into Deene on the first lap and being lucky to get away with a brush with the wall.  His pace is there for all to see however, and I am pretty sure it won’t be long before he is running much closer to the front.

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Inevitably it wasn’t long before a safety car was required to recover Tania Mann’s Ginetta.  Much of Attard’s early effort to build a lead had therefore been negated as the race returned to green flag conditions.  Soon after the pit window opened and the majority of the contenders for victory pitted with the Ecurie Ecosse BMW’s lead not being of the necessary margin to cope with the Oulton Park success penalty.  Sims would therefore rejoin in fifth behind, the yet to pit, Gary Eastwood’s Ferrari, the similar machine of Richard Lyons and the two Triple 8 Z4’s of Luke Hines and Joe Osborne.

Eastwood staying out in the FF Corse Ferrari turned out to be either a master stroke or, more likely, a lucky break as a second safety car was required to remove John Gaw’s Aston and Morten Don’s Ginetta.  This allowed the Ferrari crew to get Rob Barff strapped in and leave pit road with a 40 second lead over the rest of the field.  Even a drive through for exiting the pit lane while the red light was showing could not stop them taking an 18 second victory.

Behind, Alexander Sims was showing everyone why he was not only the 2008 McLaren Autosport BRDC award winner but also why he is now a factory BMW driver.  He was soon up to second with the pass to take this position being absolutely breathtaking; taking advantage of a backmarker and coming from way back to slip down the inside of Lyons on the entry to Deene.  A pleasure to watch from my now grandstand vantage point.

Other than a close battle between the triple 888 Z4’s, which saw Joe Osborne take a trip across the gravel, not a lot else happened throughout the remaining 40 minutes of the race.  This left Richard Lyons to take third place on the road only to be later handed a ten second penalty for driving standards when Pasin Lathouras was at the wheel.  This would drop them to 7th but promote Luke Hines and Derek Johnston to the final step of the podium.  Behind them Tom Onslow-Cole put in a stellar performance to take 4th in the Strata 21 Aston ahead of the similar machine of Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam.  Adam doing a great job in a damaged car.

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Having started on the back row, and being given an early drive through for overtaking under yellow flags, John Dhillon and Aaron Scott put in a great a drive to claim 8th overall in the second AF Corse Ferrari 458.

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The all new Generation Racing Bentley of  Steve Tandy and James Appleby struggled at Rockingham and ended up a lap down in 14th place.  It is however great to see this huge car in British GT and hopefully it will be nearer the sharper end of the grid as the season progresses.

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All this leaves Alexander Sims and Marco Attard sitting pretty at the top of the championship points table.  And with Marco Attard being one of the quicker “Am” drivers this surely now makes them the clear favourites for the 2014 crown …

Full British GT results: Here

Next up it is back to Silverstone for the Blancpain Endurance Series.  I will be cheering on the very British Works Bentleys who will be looking to build on a strong performance at the Monza season opener.