Tag Archives: Porsche

Lucky Number 17 for Porsche

17 years on from the German marque’s last win, Porsche recorded their 17th overall Le Mans 24 hour race victory as Nico Hülkenberg, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber drove a faultless race to take the flag 1 lap clear of their more fancied team-mates.

Winners Whilst no one was surprised by the qualifying pace of Porsche,  Audi’s performances at both Silverstone and Spa cast doubt over whether they could defeat their sister brand in the race.  After-all, qualifying 1, 2 and 3 means very little over a race distance of 24 hours. PoleWinners And so it was no great shock that Neel Jani’s stunning 3:16.887 early on in qualifying 1 was enough to grab pole; teams deciding to forgo grid position in preference for race set-up over the remaining time available.  With no real contest for pole, off-track discussion centred around how fast Porsche could actually lap circuit de la sarthe with some even suggesting that a gentleman’s agreement was the only thing standing in the way of the 3:15 barrier!  Regardless, a 249kph average lap time is incredibly quick and nearly 6 seconds quicker than the fastest lap achieved in 2014!

Thankfully Saturday was warm and dry which seamed to suit the #17 Porsche as it climbed to the top of the time-sheets in the hands of Timo Bernhard; the long time factory driver managing to hold the Porsche mantle as the sister cars fell behind the fast charging Audis.  Brendon Hartley would later carry on the good work only to be charged with a 1 minute stop go penalty for speeding in a slow zone; a penalty later served by Mark Webber, hampering the Australian ex F1 star’s continued search for a maiden Le Mans victory.

As darkness engulfed the circuit des 24 heures, Romain Dumas found himself in the Mulsanne Corner tyre wall; a feat later replicated by Neel Jani as the #18 pole sitting Porsche drifted out of contention.  But just as the #17 and #18 cars were faltering, the #19 crew were finding their rhythm.  After struggling early on, Nico Hülkenberg , partially aided by a safety car, was able to bring the white Porsche right back into contention and was leading the event by the time he had handed over to Nick Tandy on lap 146.

The Englishman then, quite possibly, put together the stint of the race to pull away from the the chasing Audi’s.  Not only did the Porsche have the pace, but like Hülkenberg previously, Tandy was able to quadruple stint the tyres in the now cooler conditions.  And when New Zealand’s Earl Bamber jumped into the car some three hours later at just after 3am, the lead was hovering at around the 1 minute mark.

With Audi expected to have the upper hand as daylight broke through, we appeared to be in for a grandstand finish.  Having suffered from fading battery power previously, could Porsche maintain their reliability and manage to keep the likes of a chasing Andre Lotterer at bay? …

Ironically it was the usually bullet proof Audis which ran into trouble on Sunday with the #9 suffering Hybrid issues and the #7 losing an element of it’s rear body work.  A messy race for the Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer Audi, which had seen the pre event championship leaders drop back courtesy of an early puncture, worsened as Fassler was penalised for a safety car infringement.  With the #17 now back up to second position, Porsche just needed to keep going to claim a famous 1-2.

And that they duly did.  The #19 car had run like clock work for the entire race.  Whilst their rivals had all hit trouble, the conditions came to the rookie crew; all three drivers able to string together consistently quick lap times and claim one of the most famous and unexpected victories in recent times.  It may not have been the close finish we were anticipating, but this will be remembered as one of the great Porsche victories; especially given it was the less favoured ‘3rd’ car that took the spoils.

LMP2

P2Winners A winning margin of 48 seconds for the KCMG Oreca of Richard Bradley, Nic Lapierre and Matt Howson tells a misleading story of the race.  As it was, the fantastically liveried KCMG machine was utterly dominant throughout qualifying and the 24 hours, with Richard Bradley setting the scene for Nic Lapierre to make a classy return to the cockpit.  In fact, such was the pace of the Hong Kong based team that they remained in the class lead despite two separate ‘straight on’ incidents at Arnage and a drive through penalty in the first half of the race for a yellow flag infringement.

Things may not have been so easy for them had last year’s winners, Jota Sport, not encountered early problems which caused them to lose more than a lap to their rivals.  Oliver Turvey, Mitch Evans and Simon Dolan subsequently went on to put in a phenomenal drive; Turvey passing the #26 Ligier of Sam Bird to claim second in the final hour and miss out on the win by less than 1 minute.

GTE

Comparable to Silverstone, Aston Martin showed bucket loads of promise in qualifying but faded as the race progressed; their hopes disappearing entirely as the leading #99 Aston Martin collided with the Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Instead, as daylight appeared, the GTE-PRO battle was being fiercely fought out between the sole remaining #64 Corvette and the #51 AF Corse Ferrari.  Down to a single entry following Jan Magnussen’s heavy crash in qualifying, it was with some surprise that the Pratt and Miller ‘Works’ Chevy was dicing with the vastly experienced Ferrari crew.

At around 17 hours in, the Corvette crew gambled on changing the brakes during a safety car period, a risk which appeared to have failed when they missed their intended safety car slot by 10 seconds, losing a minute to their rivals as a result.  However, only a fool would suggest the race was over with 7 hours still to go and unexpectedly the usually reliable Ferrari hit trouble in the final stages, leaving the way clear for Oliver Gavin, Jordan Taylor and Tommy Milner to take a famous class victory for the American team; their first since 2011. GTEPRO_Winners The #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy was hot favourite in the GTE-AM class, and while it took a while for them to rise to the top, they held a clear advantage entering the final hour.  But then, disaster struck with Dalla Lana appearing to make a mistake at the Ford Chicane and suffering a big impact with the drivers left tyre wall in front of the packed grandstands.  There was no way back to the pits for the badly damaged Aston, leaving the desperately unlucky Canadian with nowhere to hide.

The SMP Racing Ferrari of Victor Shaytar, Andrea Bertolini and Aleksey Basov had kept the British team within touching distance throughout the race and whilst somewhat fortunate to inherit the win they were fast enough to cross the line in 20th position overall, the second GT car home, and just 5 laps down on the GTE-PRO winning Corvette.  Pretty impressive stuff by the Russian based squad. GTE-AMWinners

TALKING POINT – NICO HULKENBERG

In the 50’s and 60’s it was common place for F1 drivers to take part in the world’s greatest endurance race, but since then very few drivers have combined both; partly due to an increased number of Grand Prix but mainly due to restrictions imposed by the F1 teams.  It was therefore a breath of fresh air to not only hear that Nico Hülkenberg had approached Porsche about taking part, but more importantly Force India had allowed him to take up the opportunity.

With such strong factory driver line ups, Hülkenberg, Tandy and Bamber, having not much experience of racing together, would not have featured in many peoples winning predictions.  But whilst everyone loves an underdog, not all are seeing a current F1 driver standing on the top step of the podium in a positive light.

Social Media jokes along the lines of “Weekend off, won Le Mans” taken out of context could suggest that the great race is too easy as well as undermining the contribution of Tandy and Bamber.  However, the way I see it, a driver of Hülkenberg’s calibre winning Le Mans can only help promote the event and the WEC in general.  Casual F1 fans with previous vague understandings of Le Mans may delve further into the concept and the traditionally none motorsport press are more likely to report it.  The more interest, the more likely current manufacturers will stay around and the greater potential for others to be attracted.

After-all, this wasn’t just any F1 driver who claimed 24 hour glory but in the eyes of many (myself included) one of the most under-rated drivers in the F1 paddock.  Of the current crop, the tall 27 year old is the only man to boast a better junior formula record than Lewis Hamilton.  And combined with his F1 performances, his height is perhaps the only thing stopping the likeable German from obtaining the top level seat he deserves.

Tandy and Bamber may well not achieve the same column inches as their illustrious team mate, but then they haven’t had the same level of prolonged success.  What really matters is that those in the know, especially those in the Sportscar press appreciate the fact that Sportscar Racing is most definitely a team sport, more so than any other motorsport formula.  Rightly so, Tandy was many people’s star of the race for his demon Saturday night and Sunday morning stints, whilst it was Bamber who set the car’s fastest lap and none of it would have been possible without the slick work of their pit crew.

Overall I was most impressed by how well the trio gelled together in such a short space of time; creating a setup which clearly worked for all 3 drivers during the race and going on to achieve one of the greatest feats in recent endurance racing history.  The winning driver line up formed from 3 Le Mans LMP rookies with just 4 starts between them.  I just hope they get the chance to defend their crown!

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Lotterer Leads Audi to Silverstone Glory

Andre Lotterer’s immense triple stint in the middle of the race was the difference in a close battle between all 3 LMP1 manufacturers.  The German driver’s average lap times were a cut above the rest and ensured that even a late ‘stop-go’ penalty could not prevent the #7 Audi, co-piloted by Marcel Fassler and Beniot Treluyer, from taking victory.

Winners

There is a lot to like about the current LMP1 regulations, the hybrid technology is road relevant, they look and sound good and most importantly of all, they are fast; the power trains generating up to, and in some cases in excess of, 1000bhp!  And with pre season testing suggesting that Audi and Porsche had made large improvements for 2015, it was with great anticipation that we headed to Silverstone for the opening round of the World Endurance Championship.

From the outset it was clear that Porsche had the one lap pace and so it was no surprise that the 2 Stuttgart machines locked out the front row in qualifying with the #17 of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley ultimately ending up on pole.  Toyota and Audi however were stronger over longer stints which left expectations high for a close fight on race-day.

PolePosition

While the two Porsches in the hands of Mark Webber and Romain Dumas were able to make a good start and focus on building a lead, the Audi’s had a mixed start to the race.  In fact the #7 Audi had a poor opening lap with an apparent misfire causing the car to drop back.  However such was Audi’s pace that Treluyer had fought back to third position overall as the first hour drew to a close.

A full course yellow as a result of the Signatech Alpine going off at Copse was a good opportunity for the teams to bring in their cars for fuel.  Both Audi’s however were still in the pit lane when the track returned to green following their decision to pit on the second lap of the caution period.  This in effect cost the German team roughly thirty seconds to Toyota and Porsche who had pitted their cars at the first available opportunity, promoting the #1 Toyota to third position overall.

Porsche looked strong up front, but just as onlookers were contemplating a dominant win, Webber was back in the pits and out of the race with a drive train failure; an unfortunate end to the race for leading car.  The #8 Audi meanwhile was soon to be the second major LMP1 player to hit trouble; losing a lap after a collision with the #88 GTE-AM Porsche.  And so it appeared victory would be fought out between the #18 Porsche, both Toyotas and the #7 Audi.

The #7 Audi was setting the track alight and by the time the lead cars pitted for the second time Treluyer had reeled in the 919.  However it was the #2 Toyota who emerged from pit lane with a 40 second lead courtesy of electing to double stint tyres and to leave Wurz behind the wheel; The top 3 teams changing drivers with Fassler jumping in the Audi, Jani climbing aboard the Porsche and Davidson taking over the #1 TS040.

The pace just wasn’t there for the #2 Toyota though and Wurz was rapidly caught by the chasing trio.  Fassler and Jani were now putting on a real show for the fans as the two cars swapped positions lap after lap; the Porsche being much quicker in a straight line but the Audi having a significant advantage through the twisty sections.  This squabbling was also helping Davidson in the #1 Toyota as he closed on the two Swiss drivers.

After some twenty laps of lead changes between the two the duel was finally ended by the next round of pit stops.  Again Toyota jumped their opposition courtesy of Davidson staying aboard the #1 machine, with Conway second but dropping back partially as a result of picking up a track bollard.  Lotterer meanwhile had stepped into the #7 Audi and it wasn’t long before he had despatched both Japanese cars.

Consistently the fastest man on the track and losing very little time in traffic, Lotterer went about building a lead which was over half a minute by the time he handed the car over to Fassler with the race entering the final stages.  The German had blown the opposition away and was clearly the difference in what was essentially a close battle between the 3 manufacturers.

Fassler was then able to increase the lead to 40 seconds before the lead Audi was given a ‘stop-go’ penalty for an overtaking infringement.  This would make for a close finish as the Porsche had been able to eek out enough fuel to save it from requiring a final ‘splash and dash’; something which both the #7 Audi and the #1 Toyota could not avoid.

Indeed, Nakajima’s late stop caused the Toyota to drop back to third, however Fassler had enough of an advantage to make his splash and dash, take his penalty one lap later and still emerge in the lead of the race.  Both the Porsche and Toyota were gaining on the Audi but in reality Fassler was able to control the gap and take victory by 4.6 seconds as the 6 hours elapsed.  The #1 Toyota would take third just 10 seconds further back while the sister car would end the race in 4th, a full lap down by the chequered flag.  The second Audi of Lucas Di Grassi, Oliver Jarvis and Loic Duval rounding out the top five, 3 laps adrift, after a troubled day in the office.

LMP2

Nick Tandy managed to get the jump on both G-Drive racing Ligiers at the start of the race in the KCMG Oreca however the race pace of the Russian team was much stronger; both Ligiers managing to pass Tandy by the close of the first hour.

LMP2

And that was pretty much the story of the race as the #26 and #28 machines drove off into the distance while the rest battled it out for the remaining podium position.  Roman Rusinov, Julien Canal and Sam Bird finished the event in 6th position overall to claim LMP2 vistory with the sister car of Gustavo Yacaman, Pipo Derani and Ricardo Gonzalez, 1 lap further back in 7th.

KCMG had a difficult race, losing 18 laps to the class winners by the chequered flag.  However a solid performance for the #30 ESM HPD, on it’s WEC swansong, looked to have landed them the final step of the podium, only to be disqualified after the event for running too low.  Instead it was the  Strakka Dome which took third position; just reward for not giving up after a diversion into the Abbey gravel trap on the very first lap of the race.

GTE PRO

After dominating qualifying, Aston Martin held a 1-2-3 in the early stages however the team were unfortunate casualties of the full course yellows in the first hour of the race.  All three cars came in under green conditions between the two yellow periods while the other contenders managed to get in and out under caution.  In effect this cost them 1 minute and combined with the fact that the British marque’s race pace was not as strong as their one lap times meant they were now completely out of the running for the podium positions.

Instead it was the #92 Porsche of Patrick Pilet and Fred Makowiecki who now lead the race from the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander, the #71 sister car of Davide Rigon and James Calado and the #91 Porsche of Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz.

As the race reached it closing stages, the #92 Porsche had dropped away courtesy of losing 4 minutes in pit road with problems and the experienced #51 Ferrari crew had gotten the better of their younger team-mates.  In fact the #91 Porsche had also managed to overhaul the #71 Ferrari, but Michael Christensen could do little about the pace of Bruni over the final stint.

GTEV2

And so yet again Bruni and Vilander stood on the top step of the podium, taking class victory by 10.6 seconds with 10th place overall.

GTE AM

GTE-AM

Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda were able to uphold Aston Martin honours in the GTE AM class however, with Lamy having built enough of a lead to make a late ‘splash and dash’ in the #98 Aston and still take victory by 13 seconds from the AF Corse Ferrari of Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas.  While the SMP Racing 458 of Victor Shaytar, Andrea Bertolini and Aleksey Basov were only 16 seconds further back in third.

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FULL RESULTS
In Summary …

Overall it had been another great weekend of endurance racing and while it was disappointing that Nissan and Rebellion were not ready to take part in round 1, the closeness of the racing between the other top LMP1 teams suggests that this could be one of the best sportscar racing seasons on record.  Audi clearly had an advantage at Silverstone with their car working well in the high speed corners of Copse, Becketts and Stowe but it will be interesting to see the relative advantages of the other cars come into play at the remaining circuits on the calendar; Toyota seem to have a more all round car whereas the straight line speed of Porsche is bound to be a massive benefit on the Mulsanne!

In LMP2 it was pleasing to see more cars on the grid and nice to have a bit more variety of machinery.  It is a real shame about the ESM HPD project however we eagerly await the forthcoming arrival of the SMP Racing BR01.  It is great to see so many different brands across the WEC and ELMS grids and with this in mind I genuinely cannot see any positives from the potential limitation of this formula to 4 chassis manufacturers and 1 engine supplier for 2017.  I strongly believe in the saying that if it isn’t broke don’t fix it!

I would absolutely love to be at Spa for round 2 but unfortunately my holiday allocation has already been used up.  Surely Porsche will be a strong candidate for victory at the classic Belgium track, but the best thing about 2015 is that no-one genuinely knows who will have the strongest package by then!  Exciting, it most definitely is.

For JPEGS or any other enquiries please get in touch via paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Greaves head Gibson 1-2 at Silverstone

Greaves Motorsport claimed victory in the opening round of the European Le Mans Series at Silverstone following a close battle with the similar Jota Sport machine and the Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca.

LMP2

For the third season in a row, the teams headed to Silverstone for the opening round of the European Le Mans Series; dovetailing with the World Endurance Championship to create a nicely dubbed ‘super endurance racing weekend’.  And although the numbers are slightly down on 2014, we could be in for one of the best seasons yet courtesy of a gentle tweak to the driver time regulations which allow the Platinum and Gold LMP2 drivers to have more of an impact on the overall result.

Qualifying did nothing to disprove this idea as Jon Lancaster’s early lap proved just too good for pole favourite, Harry Tincknell, to topple.  It didn’t help that the Nissan factory driver had flat spotted his tyres with a spin early in the session however a last gasp effort from the 2014 Le Mans class winner was good enough for second on the grid.

And while Gary Hirsch was able to lead the crews away from start in the #41 Greaves Motorsport machine, it was Audi loanee, Filipe Albuquerque, who eventually worked his way to the front of the field in the #38 Jota Sport car; gradually increasing his lead to 16 seconds by the time he handed over to Simon Dolan at the end of his second stint.  Hirsch however brought his driving duties to a close with a stellar lap (fastest of the race) to allow Platinum rated co-driver Bjorn Wirdheim to leap-frog Dolan and build a strong lead over the English businessman, with the Thiriet by TRDS Racing Oreca 05 not too far behind in third.

A safety car, required for a collision between the Massive Motorsport Aston and the #63 Ferrari with 1.5 hours to go then closed up the entire field.  A good pit call by Greaves however, with Wirdheim pitting just before the safety car appeared, allowed the Swede to maintain the lead after re-fuelling.  TDS racing on the other hand had a different approach and used the safety car period to put Platinum man Tristan Gommendy in the car;  A tactic which looked to be paying off as the Frenchman soon caught and passed Dolan once the track returned to green.

With Wirdheim’s tyres passed their best, Gommendy was also able to close on the lead Greaves car and it wasn’t long before the TDS Oreca was leading the race.  However the boot was soon on the other foot as he now had the super quick and freshly shod Jon Lancaster and Harry Tincknell to contend with as the event headed towards the final stages; and crucially the team had elected to change the left sided tyres only at their driver change.

Lancaster and Tincknell were now significantly faster than Gommendy at this stage of the race and had they worked together they would have caught the lead Oreca much more quickly.  However you can’t stop true racing drivers fighting for position and what lay ahead was an almighty battle between the two Gibson pilots.

With the TDS machine beginning to fall into the clutches of the two Gibson cars the battle for second really started to heat up.  Tincknell clearly had the bit between his teeth, and after several attempts Tincknell managed to squeeze into second and now looked favourite for victory.  However, as is often the case in endurance racing, traffic played a part; slowing Tincknell through Copse and allowing Lancaster to gain on the Nissan man heading into the Becketts complex.  In what was deemed a fair move, Lancaster went the around the outside at Maggots, with Tincknell left spinning as a result.

Lancaster was now free to chase down Gommendy as the race neared its conclusion; and with traffic slowing the Frenchman, Lancaster saw his chance and attempted a pass down the inside of the Loop.  Gommendy however had not seen him coming and contact caused the Oreca to spin, losing second as a result to the recovering Tincknell.

Whilst debate commenced over whether Lancaster’s attempted pass was legal, Tincknell rapidly approached the partially damaged Greaves machine; getting close to the #41 Gibson but ultimately crossing the line at the end of the 4 hours in second position.  The press conference was interesting to say the least but ultimately this adds additional flavour to what is already building up to be a great championship fight.

GTE

The mid race safety car ruined what was turning into a great battle for GTE honours as the Gulf Racing Porsche was allowed to pass the safety car and almost gain an entire lap over the chasing JMW Ferrari and the similar #55 AF Corse machine.  This left Michael Wainwright with a much easier task of finishing the good work started by Adam Carroll and Phil Keen to claim GTE top spot for the Gulf Racing 911 RSR

GTE

Behind, Sam Tordoff and George Richardson both put in solid drives to elevate the JMW Ferrari to a well deserved 2nd while Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott will have been content with third.  Rui Aguas had been leading in the #81 Ferrari early on before ending the day in the turn one barriers following a collision with the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Peter Mann.

LMP3

LMP3V2

Sir Chris Hoy and Charlie Robertson made an excellent start to their debut European Le Mans Series campaign in the brand new Ginetta Juno.  Robertson started the car from the back of the grid having been penalised for a pit lane speed limit violation but was soon leading the class before handing over to Hoy.  The multi Olympic Cycling champion put in a great drive which ultimately saw the the Scottish pair take class victory by the best part of a lap from team LNT team-mates Michael Simpson and Gaetan Paletou.

GTC

In a race of attrition where only 3 cars finished in class, the TDS Racing BMW Z4 of Franck Perera, Dino Lunardi and Eric Dermont took victory by 2 laps from the #64 AF Corse Ferrari of Mads Rasmussen, Felipe Barreiros and Francisco Guedes.  To round of a good day for Gulf Racing UK, Roald Goethe, Dan Brown and Archie Hamilton came home third in the GT3 Lamborghini Gallardo, albeit 16 laps down on the class leader following earlier problems.

GTC

GALLERY
TALKING POINT

Whilst the mid race safety car closed up the field and helped provide an exciting finish it did however ruin a lot of the carefully thought out strategies being employed by the teams.  I can’t help but feel that the full course yellow system employed by the WEC is a much better way of allowing the track marshals to clear up a wreckage, with the gaps being maintained and there being no chance of incorrect ‘wave bys’.  We can only hope that the European Le Mans Series takes a serious look at this issue before round 2 at Imola.

Once again the European Le Mans Series provided some of the best racing of the weekend.  In my eyes it has a lot to do with the extra strategy of when to play the silver/bronze driver card and together with the 4 hour format we have a brilliant series on our hands.  It would be nice to have a few more entries in the GT classes but that would just be picky.  I am more than tempted to try and find some extra days holiday to fir the season ending Estoril round into my schedule!

FULL RESULTS

For JPEGS or any other enquiries please get in touch via paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Edwards exclusion lands Robinson the RAC

After a fantastic three day battle, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis claimed the season ending RAC rally victory following the exclusion of Matt Edwards and Paul Morris.

Robinson / Collis

With great anticipation we made the long trip up to the northeast of England for the 11th running of the Roger Albert Clark Rally; for me, hands down, the best rally of the year as not only is it performed on maps and is a true test of endurance, but still contains that element of adventure with stages spread across the north of the country.

Sunderland’s Seaburn Centre was the new base for the 2014 rendition of the RAC rally, where 61 crews faced 158 competitive stage miles; predominantly in the Kielder Forest complex, but also including asphalt tests at Herrington Park and Croft as well as 4 additional gravel stages within Hamsterley Forest.

Day 1

There was no better place to hold the scruitineering for this great event; the fantastic lighting in the Seaburn Centre a near perfect way to show off some of the stunning machinery taking part in the rally.

Audi_Scruit

Escort_Scruit

Porsche_Scruit

With signing on and hotel checking in complete it was off to Hamsterley Forest for two stages in the dark which would truly sort the men from the boys; local knowledge, bravery and good lighting being essential for the thick foggy conditions.

Visibility was an issue for us in finding our way to junction 4 let alone the crews who were about to embark on 12 miles of the most testing conditions County Durham could throw at them.  Following no real surprises in terms of times from the opening two 0.81 mile Herrington Park stages, it was Welshman Matt Edwards who set a time 42 seconds quicker than anyone else through stage 3; and fastest again by 24 seconds on the second running of the stage to eventually end the day with a 58 second lead over the similar car of Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis.

While some crews struggled, Nick Elliott and Julian Reynolds both losing three minutes in the dismal conditions, others thrived.  Notably Guy Woodcock and Graham Dance were third overall in the Pinto powered MK2, while Nigel Barber and Stuart Popplewell appeared visibly quicker than most in their front wheel drive Astra to end the day in an incredible 4th overall.

Photography wise the conditions were an issue, alternating between no flash and ‘off-camera’ flash to combat the fog.  Having never previously tried the latter I was relatively pleased with the results …

Standen / Cook

Several crews didn’t manage to complete both Hamsterley tests; most spectacularly the Escort of David Hemingway and the Audi of Tom Axelsson both leaving the road at the same point.  While Hemingway was able to re-join under SuperRally rules on Saturday morning, the event was unfortunately over for the Swedish Audi crew.   SS3 also claimed the Saab 96 of Stephen Higgins and Mark Casey with their usually reliable car suffering differential failure.

Day 2

A monster of a second day lay in store for the crews; with over 80 competitive stage miles ahead of them; starting with tests in Herrington Park and Croft before moving onto Hamsterley and then 8 tough stages in ‘Killer Kielder’.

After deciding to ‘Posh it up’ in a Premier Inn for this event, we headed back to Hamsterley Forest after a good old English breakfast, this time the route taking the crews along largely different tracks to the layout used the previous evening.  And it was great to see crowds of people lining the last mile of the stage to take in the action.

By the time the cars arrived we had already lost the struggling Ford Falcon of Per Goransson and Conny Abrahamsson and the immaculate MK2 Escort of Alan Walker and Jez Rogers, both as a result of engine problems.  Nigel Barber and Stuart Popplewell on the other hand were proving their Friday night performance was no fluke, setting fastest time on both Croft tests and moving themselves up to third place overall in the process.

While Edwards was fastest through both Hamsterley tests, Robinson was much closer to the pace, losing just 4 seconds in SS11 and 1 second in SS12.  Nick Elliott and Dave Price were also going better in daylight; third fastest in both stages was enough to move them up to fifth overall, but still some 3 minutes and 42 seconds adrift of Edwards.

Elliot / Price

As the cars headed north to Kielder we were down to 54 remaining crews; the German Porsche of Thomas Kleinwachter and Andreas Schwalie retiring due to electrical problems, the Saab 900 of Magic McCrombie and Chris King suffering a blown engine, Gearbox the cause of Darren Moon and Phil Clarke’s retirement and a broken crankshaft ending Robin Shuttleworth and Ronnie Roughead’s event.

The open section in Ash Park was a great spot to take in the action as darkness descended over English Border Country.  Standing at Junction 7 allowed us to see the cars wind their way across a good mile of the Kielder landscape.  One of the standout moments of the rally for me was the sight and sound of Steve Perez’s Stratos attacking SS16.  The roar of the Ferrari Engine, audible for the entire 4.5 mile stage as he and John Millington went on to set 6th fastest time.

By the second service halt of the day at Longtown, Matt Edwards had steadily built up a lead of 1 minute and 15 seconds only to lose all of this and a little more with a slight off in Kershope 2 which caused a puncture.  Edwards really put the hammer down over the final 3 stages of the day however to turn a 16 second deficit into a 44 second lead by the time the cars reached the overnight halt; in part due to Robinson suffering from a host of niggling car issues.

Further back, Elliott had had a much better day which had seen himself and co-driver Dave Price climb from 7th to 3rd by the time the cars arrived back in Sunderland.  Belgian legend Gregoire De Mevius was another to jump up the standings, climbing from 23rd to 8th, while the Fiat 131 of Julian Reynolds and Patrick Walsh and the Ford of Paul Griffiths and Iwan Jones had moved up to 6th and 4th respectively; Nigel Barber and Stuart Popplewell splitting the aforementioned crews to lead the Open Rally.

Even further back, Rudi Lancaster with Brynmor Pierce on the maps had found his form.  The Woolacombe resident was never outside the top three over the final four stages and ended the day in 25th position after what must be a 20 year sabbatical from the sport.

With such a gruelling day there were bound to be casualties; an off in Kershope ending the event for the front the running Escort of Seamus O’Connell and Andy Richardson, Steve Magson having to retire his MK1 Escort after Ash Park due to co-driver Darren Smith becoming ill, Martin Shaw’s rally ending after becoming stuck in a ditch on the first corner of Kershope 2 and Paul Mankin’s retirement due to breaking both half shafts on his Ford Cortina in the very same stage.

Day 3

The event still had a significant distance to run on the Sunday with some 60 competitive miles over 7 special stages, and the open hairpin above Junction 4 of the little used Ogre Hill was our location for Stage 22.  Before here the crews had visited the 12 miles of Harwood for the longest stage of the day; a stage which would claim the 4th place Escort of Paul Griffiths and Iwan Jones; retiring as a result of engine problems.  A similar fate also faced the struggling TR7 of Philip Young and Hans Sylvan.

Matt Edwards started the day as he finished the previous, by setting fastest time in SS21.  The Welshman looking just that little bit too quick for Robinson to catch.  Even though the first running of Ogre Hill saw Robinson take 10 seconds out of leaders, yet again Edwards bounced back to exactly reverse the deficit on the very next stage, reinstating the gap at 47 seconds with just 3 stages remaining following the cancellation of the Falstone 1.

It seemed the crews were now well into their rhythm as remarkably the same cars appeared in the top five on all three of the morning tests; the trio of Elliott, Lancaster and De Mevius joining the front two.

A good time for Julian Reynolds on the second running of Ogre Hill saw him continue to close the gap on Nigel Barber’s Astra; the two crews split by just 20 seconds with 2 stages to go.  And while the RSD prepared Fiat 131 was able to go a full 13 seconds quicker in Redesdale, Reynolds could only match the time of Barber in the Falstone finale, leaving the Lincolnshire man to score a phenomenal result in the un-fancied front wheel drive machine.

Barber

Back upfront, Robinson and Collis were quickest on all of the final 3 stages, but it looked like Edwards had done just enough to take victory by 34 seconds …

Soon after crossing the finishing ramp however it emerged that Edwards and Morris had been excluded due to a breach of the supplementary regulations, promoting Elliott to second, Barber to third and Reynolds to fourth, giving RSD a 1,2,3 in the Historic section of the event!  As much as no one wants to see the event finish in this manner it cannot be argued that Robinson and Collis were not worthy winners.  Had it not been for several issues with the car they may well have won the rally on the road.

Category 1 Results

Following the friday night stages it was Ian Beveridge and Peter Joy in the huge Volvo PV544 who were leading the way, but a stage maximum on the second Croft stage dropped them back to 6th with the evergreen Bob Bean taking up the mantle.  Bob Bean, co-driven by Malcolm Smithson, had then started to pull away and was as high as 27th overall before having to cut short the day with a very rough sounding Cortina.

Combined with Paul Mankin’s retirement, this left Beveridge back in the category lead with a near 10 minute margin over the Saab of Jim Valentine and Jonathan Lodge by the time the cars reached the end of leg 2.  Beveridge therefore just needed to get through the final day unscathed, and that he duly did, finishing in 27th position to take the class B4 victory.

Beveridge

Valentine continued to plug away in the 2 stroke Saab and managed a very credible 30th overall, taking class B1 victory following the early retirement of the similar machine in the hands of Stephen Higgins.

Valentine

While third in category went to the very powerful Dutch Austin Healey MK1 of Mark Han Schmidt and Midas Nelissen, claiming class B5 in the process with 32nd overall.  It is always a pleasure to see these cars being man handled around the stages.

Schmidt

Class B3 victory went the way of Richard Holdsworth and John Stanger-Leathes in their Ford Cortina GT.  The pair finishing the rally in 39th place under SuperRally rules following problems on Saturday.

Holdsworth

Category 2 Results

The fog of Friday night had really mixed things up, but it was historic stalwarts Jeremy Easson and Mike Reynolds in the C4 Datsun 240Z who were top of the category at the overnight halt, holding onto a solid 8th overall.  This was a class expected to be dominated by Porsche, with Belgians De Mevius and Munster up against the very rapid German, Thomas Kleinwachter.

In fact Munster and Kleinwachter were both out of the rally on day 2 leaving De Mevius to take the fight to Easson’s Datsun single handedly.  And that he did, clawing back the more than 2 minute overnight deficit and taking the class lead on SS15.

DeMevius

Once passed, the Belgian never looked back, going on to take the category win with 5th place overall.  Had it not been for the fog of Friday evening he could have been a genuine podium contender.  Easson should not be disappointed however, making a mockery of his seeding by taking 7th overall and second in category.

Further back Chris Browne, with Ali Cornwell-Browne on the maps and the Lancia Fulvia of Steve and Tony Graham only had to finish the event to claim class victory, being the only crews entered in their respective C5 and C1 classes.  But finish they did, the Mk1 Escort of Browne coming home in 12th position and the Graham’s taking 35th.

Browne

Graham

Class C3 turned into a battle of attrition with Phil Jobson and Arwel Jenkins coming out on top in 26th position overall.  All other crews in the class either retired or finished the event under SuperRally regulations, however Jobson will be delighted with the result following his accident on last years event.

Jobson

Category 3 Results

Behind the leading cars, Charlie Taylor and John Richardson would be awarded the Class D5 honours with third in class (first crew outside the podium).  8th overall representing Taylor’s 10th top ten finish in a row on the event.

Taylor

After a fantastic start to the event Guy Woodcock and Graham Dance gradually slipped back as the quicker machines picked up their pace but still finished the rally in an excellent 6th position overall to claim D3 victory by nearly 5 minutes.

Woodcock

Grahame Standen and Bill Cook came out on top of the 1600 class after a rally long battle with the similar Escorts of Kim Baker and David Goose.  Goose had been leading before hitting trouble in Kielder on Saturday afternoon, leaving Baker and Standen to fight it out.  The gap between them was just 39 seconds heading into the final day, however the yellow Escort was able to pull away in the daylight Sunday stages to take D2 victory by more than a minute with 20th overall.

European FIA Category Results

Class F2 was lead by Paul Griffiths and Iwan Jones after leg 1, and they were able to build a lead of nearly 1 minute over nearest rivals Julian Reynolds and Patrick Walsh by the end of leg 2.  As a result of Griffiths’ retirement on Sunday morning however the path was left clear for Reynolds to take category victory with 4th position overall and third in the historic class.

Perez in the crowd pleasing Stratos had been languishing down in 6th position in class following the fog of Friday night but was able to claw back the 2 and a half minute deficit to Andrew Siddall and Paul Wakely to leave them in 3rd position by the end of Saturday’s stages; Griffiths’ retirement then promoting them to second which is where they remained for the rest of the event.

Perez

Open Rally

Barber and Popplewell’s open rally victory was never in doubt, finishing nearly 6 minutes ahead of the Escort of Barry Stevenson-Wheeler and John Pickavance who themselves had had a great couple of days on their way to 9th place overall.

Malcolm Davey and Paul Slingsby ended up as class G3 victors following early problems for the Toyota Corolla of Andy Madge and Mike Smith.  The blue MK1 ending the event in 24th position.

Davey

The Final Word

Although disappointing to see the winners excluded, it should not detract from what was yet again a top notch event.  As mentioned previously, Robinson and Collis are worthy winners and I look forward to seeing them carry the number 1 on next years event.  I also hope that Edwards and Morris return too, as a re-match between two of the top Escort crews in the country would be just what the doctor ordered.

From a fans point of the view the route was spot on, and whilst I do like the Yorkshire stages, the trade off for the centralised base at Sunderland’s Seaburn Centre was a good one.  There really was no better way to end my season of Motorsport.  Roll on 2015 ….

For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Petch Marches to Malton Forest Glory

Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson emerged as victors of the 2014 MEM Malton Forest Rally after a day long battle with the similar machine of Charles Payne and Andrew Roughead.

Petch

The 2014 Malton Forest Rally was not even on my radar until I stumbled across the entry list just one week ago.  It may not have been the largest field of cars ever to start an event but this was more than made up for in terms of quality.  A historic entry boasting the likes of Julian Reynolds in a 131, Ben Mellors in the Celica RA45 and Matt Edwards in the Geoff Jones Motorsport prepared MK2 Escort was something that could not be missed.  Not to mention the 4WD Fords of Stephen Petch and Charles Payne together with the new turbo engined Proton Satria of Ollie Mellors!

Having visited Gale Rigg on this years Trackrod, I headed instead to Cropton, staying long enough for the historics to complete the reverse run followed by a quick dash to Langdale to see the whole field attempt the final stage.  It was nice to be back in the Spiers House part of Cropton having not watched there since the 2007 North Humberside Stages whilst it had also been several years since I stood at Langdale’s double junction; a section of stage which has been completely transformed following a spate of tree felling.

OVERALL / CLASS 5

Ollie Mellors defence of his 2013 crown did not last long.  The Proton Satria, with the new turbo development engine under the bonnet suffered from mechanical issues on stage1.  Whilst not finishing the morning loop of stages, the MEM machine, co-driven by the vastly experienced Rob Fagg, did however manage to complete some much needed mileage by rejoining the field in the afternoon.

Instead the battle for rally victory lay with the Fiesta R5+ of Stephen Petch and the similar looking Focus engined machine of Charles Payne.  Number 2 seed and BTRDA regular, Petch, managed to open up an early lead in Gale Rigg, but it was Payne who returned to the halfway service with a 1 second lead courtesy of a very quick time in the first Langdale test.

The SGP Motorsport man had the bit between his teeth after lunch however, taking a mammoth 7 seconds out of Payne in Cropton and a further 2 in Gale Rigg.  And although Payne’s Focus engined Fiesta probably had the power advantage down the long straights of Langdale, it was Petch who appeared the neat and tidier around the tight double junctions.  The tied Langdale stage time enough for Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson to take an 8 second victory.

HISTORIC

Fresh from a great result on the Cambrian Rally a couple of weeks ago, Matt Edwards, with Paul Morris on the maps, was back behind the wheel of his GJM prepared MK2 Escort for the Malton Forest Rally, an ideal warm up for the season ending RAC rally at the end of the month.

Edwards

While the man from North Wales was a clear favourite, many were drawn to the stages by the return of the RSD Fiat 131 Arbarth in the hands of Julian Reynolds and the Ben Mellors piloted Toyota Celica RA45; both cars having made their competitive debuts on the recent Trackrod Forest Stages.

No-one was going to make the Italian machine go quicker than the very rapid Julian Reynolds and it was great to see, and hear, the stunning machine being put through it’s paces along some of Yorkshire’s finest stages, seemingly over the teething problems suffered on the Trackrod.

Edwards however was yet again in a class of his own, fastest historic on every stage bar one to claim the class victory by over a minute from the Swift Caravans sponsored 131 of Reynolds and Patrick Walsh.  RSD must have been over the moon with the runner up spot however, proving that the Fiat is more than capable of competing with the dominant blue oval machines.  I have my fingers crossed that Reynolds and Walsh appear on the RAC entry list over the next couple of weeks.

Tim Mason and Graham Wild were the only entered class H5 crew in their Prepfab prepared Porsche 911.  They didn’t rest on their laurels however, taking the fight to the large H4 class entry and missing out on the overall historic runner up spot by a mere 3 seconds.

Porsche

Ben Mellors and Alex Lee had been going well in the huge Celica, lying 14th overall and 6th historic before the second Langdale test.  However a snapped gear lever in the final stage prematurely ended a great run for the Mellors Elliot Motorsport crew.   Disappointment aside, like Reynolds, the Bakewell driver did manage to show the potential of the Japanese machine; both cars providing hope that we might see a little more variety in the class over the coming years. Class H3 proved very close indeed.

Andrew Siddall had initially set the pace in Gale Rigg but failed to emerge from the first Cropton test, leaving Phil Jobson and Ian Watson to battle it out.  The pair traded times throughout the day but it was Jobson, with Arwel Jenkins on the maps, who managed to overturn a 5 second deficit in the final stage to take the class victory by 4 seconds from Ian Watson and Mike Dickson.

Snowy

While class H2 may have been a little less competitive, Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith still put in a strong performance to claim 25th overall in their Hilman Avenger, finishing exactly 1 minute ahead of the MK1 Escort crew of Robert Rook and Miles Cartright; the latter not shy in throwing their Ford around the classic Yorkshire forests either.

Jordan

CLASSES

Ian Jemison and Dean Kellett followed up a great run on the Trackrod with a well deserved 21st overall (10th in the open class) in their very unique Porsche Boxster.  Whilst their only class opposition retired on stage 1, 21st overall, against some very strong crews, meant they would have taken some beating and were one of the most committed crews through this section of Cropton …

Jemison

Class 3 was a mainly Ford Escort affair; Dave Lewis and Steve Southall ending up on top of the pile, with the similar machines of Paul Hudson and Robert Carr just under a minute further back.  Lewis and Southall finishing just one place behind the Boxster of Jemison in 22nd position.

Class3

In class 2, Michael and Josh Davison managed to get the better of the Peugeot’s of Andy Stretton and Steve Megson. The bright orange Proton Satria, overturning an 8 second deficit on the final stage to claim class victory by 17 seconds from Stretton and, co-driver, Ian Harden’s 205.

Class2

In class 1, 2014 BTRDA 1400 champ, Mat Smith, proved that it is not just a Ford Ka that he can throw around the forests as he and co-driver, Chris Row, went on to take a convincing class victory with 23rd place overall.  This after suffering gear linkage problems in stage 1 which left them down in 50th position! A happy household was guaranteed as second car home in class was Amanda Cornforth-Smith in the White Ka, with her father, Derek, alongside.

Smith

The 400 mile trip had most defintiely been worthwhile; the Malton Forest Rally proving once again to be a great little event which turned out to be one of best days viewing this year.  Queues on the A64 were more than made up for by a much needed stop off at dad’s for refreshments before the final leg of the journey home. Next up is RALLY GB, still one of the highlights of the motorsport year …

 RESULTS

1. Stephen Petch / Michael Wilkinson – Fiesta R5+ (5) – 0:38:27
2. Charles Payne / Andrew Roughead – Fiesta (5) – +00:08
3. Peter Stephenson / Ian Windress – Focus WRC (5) – +00:57
4. Ian Joel / Graeme Wood – Escort WRC (5) – +01:42
5. Paul Benn / Richard Cooke – Focus WRC (5) – +01:50
6. Steve Petch / John Richardson – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (5) – +03:00
7. Matt Edwards / Paul Morris – Escort MK2 (H4) – +03:02
8. Tony Jardine / Peta Todd – Mitsubishi Evo 9 (5) – +04:10
9. Julian Reynolds / Patrick Walsh – Fiat 131 Arbarth (H4) – +04:18
10. Tim Mason / Graham Wild – Porsche 911 (H5) – +04:21

Full Results

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Trackspeed’s Day, Attard’s Season

The Spotty Trackspeed Porsche made a triumphant return to British GT at Brands Hatch, with ‘retired’ team principal, David Ashburn, and ‘Works’ Porsche driver Nick Tandy standing on the top step of the podium after 2 hours of racing.

Trackspeed

The penultimate round of the British GT season saw the drivers head to Brands Hatch in Kent for a 2 hour blast around the infamous Grand Prix circuit.  Personally I was grateful for the 10am race-day start for my annual visit after a busy Saturday covering the Woodpecker Stages Rally.

BeechdeanGT3

Andrew Howard’s phenomenal lap in qualifying put the Beechdean Aston on Pole Position and it was he who lead the 30+ car formation lap; a sight to behold for the more than adequate crowd.  Braking issues, unable to be rectified from the warm up, would however cause the Ice Cream guru to rapidly drop down the order, undoing much of the hard work from the previous day.

DemonTweek Oman

In fact it was another Aston Martin in the hands of Ahmad Al Harthy and the Demon Tweeks sponsored Trackspeed Porsche of Jon Minshaw that managed to pull away from the pack and build a healthy lead prior to the inevitable first safety car period.  Meanwhile Colin White had quickly got to grips with the MP Motorsport Aston and was running as high as third overall before a collision with the GT4 BMW M3 caused them to lose a significant amount of time.

As is often the case, a second safety car period followed in quick succession but fortunately the track returned to green flag conditions prior to the opening of the pit window.  Phil Keen, now in the #33 Porsche, managed to jump Michael Caine in the Oman Racing Team Vantage largely as a result of the latters success penalty.  While Nick Tandy, taking over from David Ashburn in the spotted Trackspeed Porsche, came out fourth behind the second Motorbase (Oman Racing Team) Aston of Rory Butcher.  Further back, Irish Ferrari specialist, Matt Griffin was now in the #29 AF Corse 458 and ‘Works’ BMW ace, Alexander Sims, had taken over from Marco Attard in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4.

AFCorse

Akin to Richard Westbrook in previous seasons, Tandy is just at one with the rear engined German machine, seemingly able to go quicker than his competitors on any given circuit.  And it wasn’t long before he had caught and passed the Aston’s of both Butcher and Caine before lining up behind team mate Keen in what looked like becoming a Trackspeed formation finish.

With just 10 minutes of the race remaining however Tandy was in the lead after the Demon Tweeks car cruelly suffered a left rear puncture.  This is not an uncommon occurrence around the testing Grand Prix circuit and Keen would unfortunately drop to the lower end of the top ten after replacing the shredded tyre; their championship challenge effectively over as a result.

Tandy may now have been able to cruise to victory, but the battles behind were far from over with Butcher able to catch the weight penalised sister car of Michael Caine, and Sims right on the back of Griffin’s Ferrari.  In the end Sims was able to get the move done on the way into Paddock Hill bend, taking fourth with only a few minutes remaining .  The two Motorbase prepared cars on the other hand held position to complete the final steps of the podium behind the untouchable Tandy.

Sims

It has been great to see much more variety on the GT4 grid this year with a Porsche, BMW and Lotus regularly joining the Aston’s and Ginetta’s.  More often than not it has been an Aston Martin that has come out on top though and the Brands Hatch round was no different.  The Beachdean Junior Team of Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie dominated the weekend, following up their pole position with a lights to flag victory.

GT4

Conversely, last year’s champion, Ginetta pilot Rick Parfitt Junior has had zero luck in 2014, again showing that the car had the pace but unfortunately suffering from an early puncture.

Parfitt

All this leaves Marco Attard heading into the Donington finale next weekend with a comfortable championship lead of 28.5 points over the Oman Racing Team duo of Michael Caine and Ahmad Al Harthy.  The 2012 champions still in with a slim chance of taking the crown with 37.5 points on the table for the victors, but facing the further challenge of a 10 second success penalty as ‘reward’ for taking second place at Brands.

Outgoing champion Andrew Howard compounded a torrid weekend by taking 9 penalty points as a result of contact with the BMW Z4 of Derek Johnston.  Prior to Brands Hatch he and Jonny Adam were right in the mix for the title and it is a real shame that the Wycombe Wanderers chairman will not be able to take his title defence to the Leicestershire circuit.

Sadly other commitments mean I cannot make the championship finale, however I will be making my first trip to the Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit for the final round of the Blancpain Endurance Series the weekend after; where, ‘Bentley boys’, Andy Meyrick and Guy Smith have a genuine chance of taking the crown, one of the top prizes in GT racing.

More Race Pics

Prism Century Bentley 888

RESULTS

For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Harry Flatters Hat Trick for King Cole of Epynt

Damian Cole, co-driven by Jack Morton, claimed a hard fought victory on the 2014 Harry Flatters Rally; a perfect warm-up for next weekends Tyneside Stages.  Meanwhile top spot in the Historic Rally, round 4 of the BHRC, went the way of fellow Ford crew, Tomas Davies and Mark Crisp in their formidable MK2 Escort.

Winners

Just two weeks after the Nicky Grist Stages we were back on Epynt for the Harry Flatters Rally, this time on the tricky tarmac military roads which wind their way across the undulating Mid Wales landscape.  Historically one for the specialist, a dry Epynt provides the opportunity for a committed 2WD driver to take it to the best of the WRC crews.

Following the cancellation of Rally North Wales, the Harry Flatters Rally represented the halfway point in the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship and heading into the event David Stokes and Dessie Nutt were tied at the top of the points table with Stanley Orr close behind in third.  It was therefore all to play for; with the chance for other drivers to throw their names into the mix with this being the first sealed surface round of the year.

From a photographer’s point of view, the stage layout made it quite tricky to find the desired locations, with Centre road, Piccadilly and the “Hut Jump” all off the schedule.  Understandably, given the tragic events which occurred on the Jim Clark, “Barton’s” was one of the few aggressive jumps used and it was here that we headed for the morning stages; followed, after lunch, by a trip to “The Steps”, the 2011 Harry Flatters being the last time I actually saw this section of stage ran downhill.

MODERN RALLY

I am not sure whether the stage layouts contributed to the top two crews beating the bogey time on 7 out of the 13 stages but it did make for a close battle; if not slightly frustrating given that only 6 of the stages turned out to be truly competitive.  Damian Cole and Jack Morton were quickest out of the blocks, duly leaping into a 4 second lead over the very short stage 1.  Unbeknown at the time to 2013 winners Mark Straker and Neil Harrison, this would in fact be a costly margin of time to lose.

RunnersUp

Cole and Morton would only take one other stage victory throughout the day and although Straker was able to match this tally of wins it wasn’t enough to claw back the total deficit, leaving Cole to take his third Harry Flatters victory following his successes in 2010 and 2012.  This was in fact his second victory on Epynt this year after taking top spot on the Tour in March and the Hereford driver will be looking to carry this form into round 5 of the MSA National Asphalt Rally Championship on Otterburn next weekend.

Few other crews had trouble with the bogey times which allowed Melvyn Evans and David Gamblin in Mark Worley’s very smart Fiesta R5+ to come home third with top class 6 runners Bob Fowden and Ashley Trimble (pictured) taking 4th.  The top five being rounded out by the WRC Impreza of Tim Wilson and Elgan Davies.  Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss had been going very well and matching the pace of Melvyn Evans in their Citroen DS3 before unfortunately retiring after the first loop of stages.

Car_106

With 7th overall Richard Merryman and Kath Curzon claimed class 3 honours in their Darrian T90 which, along with Straker’s class 5 victory, meant that the the small Welsh manufacturer had taken top spot in both of the major Ford Escort MK2 categories; a feat which does not occur all that often!

Car_111

With 11th overall, the Mitsubishi Evo 9 crew of Rob Tout and Dan Holley put in a solid performance to take victory in class 8 while Darren and Sue Underwood took class 2 honours with 20th overall in their Vauxhall Nova.

Class1Winners

Another Darrian in the hands of David Morgan and Richard Suter (pictured) was first home in class 1 while Ford restored some pride with top spots in class 7 and 4.  Andrew Davies and Ian Taylor and David Comley and Allin James being the respective crews in each category.

HISTORIC RALLY

HistoricWinnersIt was the longer stages where, non BHRC championship registered crew, Tomas Davies and Mark Crisp were able to take the most time out of their opposition; eventually establishing a winning margin of 1 minute 18 seconds over David Stokes and Guy Weaver in the Class C5 MK1.  The competitive C5 class was responsible for 3 of the top 5 positions with Stanley Orr and Brian Cairns finishing 4th and rally legend Jimmy McRae, co-driven by Pauline Gullick, claiming 5th spot in the Vauxhall Firenza.

Ian Jones and Iestyn Williams would be the first registered Category D car home in 6th place overall; some three minutes clear of Shawn Rayner and Declan Dear in their similar MK2.  Kevin Davies and Dale Bowen had looked like potential winners of class D and were challenging Tomas Davies and Mark Crisp for top spot before retiring after stage 8.  Top seeds, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke meanwhile were surprisingly off the pace all day before eventually retiring after stage 12.

Category B proved to be very close early on as Bob Gibbons, Dessie Nutt and Rikki Proffitt all shared fastest category times over the first 6 stages.  It was therefore a massive disappointment that the Cortina of Bob and Dale Gibbons and Porsche of Rikki proffitt and Phil Harrison would not make it past the halfway point of the event.  This allowed Dessie Nutt, co-driven by Geraldine McBride to take it a little easier over the second half of the rally but still take category honours by nearly 4 minutes.

Car_16

With both Dessie Nutt and David Stokes taking maximum Category points they remain tied at the top of the championship table as the crews head to Ulster for round 5 of what is now a 7 round championship following the cancellation of Rallye Dorset.  This battle may well be settled on the final round in Scotland as neither Nutt or Stokes look like dropping points any time in the near future!

For full results please see the Rally Roots website.

Standard prints available HERE.

For digital images, professional prints or any other requirements please email me at paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

 

 

Easter Weekend Sportscar Egg-Stravaganza!

A jam packed Easter weekend schedule saw Toyota take a convincing WEC victory at Silverstone with Thiriet by TDS Racing coming out on top in the rejuvenated European Le Mans series event.  Spoils were shared at Oulton Park as the Oman Racing Team Aston Martin and Ecurie Ecosse BMW took the race victories in round 1 of the British GT championship.

Initial disappointment upon seeing the respective race calendars soon ebbed away on realising that, although the British GT championship, WEC and European Le Mans series all had their opening rounds on the same weekend, it was still possible to see all three races.

Saturday saw us head to Silverstone for WEC qualifying and the 4 hour ELMS race.  Against my personal expectations it was in fact the #7 Toyota of Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima that took pole position with a 4 lap average just 0.005 seconds quicker than the #1 Audi of Lucas Di Grassi, Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval.  Whilst difficult to read too much into the relative race pace of the cars from the Paul Ricard prologue, it did seem that Porsche and Audi would be quicker over 1 lap.

IMG_5766_PRO2_LR-2 IMG_6369A_LR IMG_5892_PRO_LRB_B&W_LR3

Not that this was a disappointment as I am a big fan of the Toyota; not only does it look great but the 3.7 litre V8 petrol engine sounds fantastic too.  Whilst what Audi do with the Diesel engine is an engineering masterpiece it was a worry that the lack of sound would become the norm in sportscar racing.  It will be interesting to see whether Audi’s 4 litre Diesel V6 or Porsche’s 2 litre petrol V4 will be able topple Toyota at the next round in Spa or the 24 hour centrepiece in June.

IMG_6406A_LR IMG_6333_PRO3_LR-3A IMG_6251A_LR2

The four hour ELMS race turned out to be the highlight of the weekend.  While the WEC is struggling for entries, with just 27 at the opening round, the ELMS boasted a grid of 39 evenly spread across all 3 categories.

IMG_6184_LR-6184 IMG_6616A_LR

Having qualified on pole the opening hour of the race was dominated by the JOTA Sport Zytek in the hands of works Audi driver Filipe Albuquerque.  The Portuguese was driver able to build a big lead while those behind battled it out.

The sun had broken through the clouds towards the end of the first stints which coincided with James Littlejohn’s rise to 2nd overall in the #28 Greaves Zytek.  The ex radical racer had put in a stellar debut drive to get the better of some big name drivers including Jan Charouz and Christian Klien.  Meanwhile Michael Lyons had put in a great shift in the #54 AF Corse Ferrari to lead the LMGTE class.

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With such a strong driver line up Simon Dolan, as the silver driver in the JOTA Sport car, had to do the majority of the driving.  And although Frank Mailleux was closing the gap, he wasn’t making significant in-roads into Dolan’s lead.  For all intents and purposes it looked like the #38 car had this in the bag with pole man Harry Tincknell set to take over for the final stint.  But disaster struck on the Dolan’s in-lap as a mistake in traffic lead to a large off and a high speed collision with the Hangar Straight concrete wall.  Fortunately, although taken to the medical centre, Dolan had only suffered bruising which is testament to the strength of the LMP2 machinery.

Following a lengthy safety car period, a sprint to the finish ensued; with three cars seemingly in with a shout of taking the overall victory.  With only a handful of laps remaining Tristan Gommendy passed the #34 Race performance Oreca of Michel Frey to ensure the Thiriet by TDS Racing team would stand on the top step of the podium.  Gary Hirsch, in the Newblood Morgan Judd almost snatched second from Frey soon after with a move down the inside at village.  The Race Performance driver however was able to keep his head, stay wide and take the inside line for the Loop to keep the position.

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The increase in race distance from 3 to 4 hours combined with the linkage of driver grading to the required time in the car have really added to the overall spectacle.  I for one would definitely like to go and see another round of this championship.  It is great to see the entries so high and hard to believe that it was only 2 years ago that only 13 cars were attracted to the Donington round.

The day was rounded of in style by combining Stirchley’s best fish and chips with a couple of glasses of Belgium’s finest beer.  With photos downloaded, batteries re-charged, filters cleaned and cobs made it was time to look forward to Day 2 at Silverstone.

The WEC pit walk had attracted most of the 43,000 people who were in attendance for Sunday’s race, which while great for the sport did make it difficult to see anything.  While It works so well at Le Mans, with pit access available all day on the friday, the experience at Silverstone has always been a little underwhelming.  After 5 minutes of seeing very little we called it a day and headed to Luffield for the race start and a coffee break.

Although rain threatened the race commenced in dry conditions leading to an exciting opening half hour of the race.  The Audi’s seemed to have the early pace with the #2 in the hands of Andre Lotterer eventually getting past the #7 Toyota of Alex Wurz to take the lead of the race.

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But then the rain came down and carnage followed.  Toyota wisely brought both cars in for wets / intermediates relatively early while Audi stayed out in the hope of a shorter shower.  With the rain getting heavier, traction was becoming a massive issue.  Lucas Di Grassi in the #1 Audi was first to get caught out; losing control of the car through Woodcote and causing enough damage to put the car out of the race.  Meanwhile the #14 Porsche had lost a wheel and suffered suspension damage which would ultimately lead to it’s retirement as well.

It wasn’t long after this that the seemingly invincible Andre Lotterer would lose control of the #2 Audi at Stowe and fall a couple of laps back whilst being recovered from the gravel.  Effectively out of the running for overall victory Benoit Treluyer would later go off at Copse causing race ending damage to the car.  This rounded off a terrible weekend for the Audi team and left them with a big job on their hands to get both cars re-built in time for the next round at Spa.

By the time the the track had dried out, the battle at the front was effectively over with the #8 Toyota holding a 1 lap lead over the #7 courtesy of choosing wets instead of intermediates.  The #20 Porsche was holding onto third but was gradually losing touch with the powerful Japanese machines.  This remained the order until the race was red flagged following an afternoon rain shower of epic proportions!

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Personally I expected Porsche to be faster this weekend but third represented a good result on their return to top level sportscar racing.  Debate surrounded whether they were running “skinny” aero to be used at Le Mans as opposed to a more Silverstone friendly higher downforce set up.  I just hope they are on the pace at the 24 hour main event later this year.

They did however have things more their own way in the GTE Pro class with #92 of Marco Holzer, Fred Makowiecki and Richard Lietz leading home a 911 1-2 finish.  The #51 AF Corse Ferrari did however keep them on their toes earlier on in the race but would ultimately end up fourth behind the #97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke.

Having eventually dried out, Easter Monday saw us head up to Cheshire for the annual trip to Oulton Park.  Summer appeared to have arrived and this time I had come prepared with suncream!

A fantastic grid of cars had been assembled for the opening 2 races of the British GT championship and fans had flocked to the circuit in anticipation of a great days racing.  I personally have never seen so many people at a British GT event and I am pretty sure that a grid containing two Bentleys had something to do with it.

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Unfortunately, as is often the case at Oulton, both races were ruined by safety cars with the safety car in race 1 effectively putting half the field a lap behind.  When the racing got back underway Michael Caine was able to build on the good work of Ahmad Al Harthy to take the victory by just over 3 seconds from the AF Corse Ferrari of Pasin Lathouras and Richard Lyons and 2013 champions Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam in Beechdean Aston.

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Having qualified on Pole on his British GT debut, race 2 saw the super fast Alexander Sims able to maintain the lead before the intervention of yet another safety car.  They were however caught out by the timing of the pit window opening.  With cars further back able to pit a lap earlier, Marco Attard (having taken over from Sims) would re-enter the race in third.

The safety car would soon be out again though following the coming together of Mark Patterson’s Audi and Gary Eastwood’s Ferrari as they battled for the lead.  This left Marco Attard to take the victory from John Minshaw and Phil Keen in the Trackspeed Porsche with Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam rounding off an excellent opening weekend with their second podium.

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Looking back I do wonder whether a single two hour race format would be better suited to Oulton Park especially with growing grids.  It would be even better if all races were three hours in length like the Blancpain series but maybe that isn’t want the competitors want and I certainly wouldn’t want to ‘fix’ something that isn’t broken.

On reflection it was a top weekend even if a little tiring.  Next up it is Donington and Rockingham on May day bank holiday weekend for the Historic Festival and the next round of the British GT championship.  Stay tuned for coverage ….