With a full Series in the works for 2017 the Bute Motorsport organised British Prototype Cup had the opportunity to show its colours in a preview race meeting at Snetterton this weekend.
With support from Onroak UK Agents United Autosports and Oak Racing nine LMP3 Ligiers were on parade, eight due to be raced with a spare car available (more of that later!).
United’s regular ELMS pair of Ligiers was entered, together with the team’s third car, and the United prepped, Gulf liveried car of Shaun Lynn, the car co-owned with Richard Meins who was unable to race at late notice leaving Lynn, supported on Sunday by GP2 racer, and WEC bound, son Alex.
United’s #2 car saw Jay Palmer joined by ELMS regular Wayne Boyd, the #3 car saw Ferrari Challenge driver joined by Charlie Hollings.
A very welcome transatlantic pairing were in the #32 car, successful historic racer Patrick Byrne and his regular Pro racing partner the always entertaining Guy Cosmo.
Tockwith Motorsport’s regular and impressive pairing of Philip Hanson and Nigel Moore were aboard the team’s #26 Ligier, just days before the car was due to be airlifted to China for the Asian Le Mans Series season opener.
Then there were two brand new teams to the class.
Douglas Motorsports, regulars in Ginetta Juniors and British F3 had a brand new JS P3, chassis 49, for owner (and regular Ginetta Super Cup racer) Mike Newbould and Aussie single seater racer Tom Randle, numbered #72
And West-Tec, long-time backroom supporters of LMP2 teams, made the leap for the weekend (more of their plans in a separate story) with an initial two car entry, though one car would fall by the wayside with a gearbox fault on Saturday.
That led to a reshuffle in the West-Tec pack, the #15 car (on loan from Oak racing) withdrawn, and 2016 ELMS LMP3 drivers champions Christian England would move over to the sister #4 car , actually Ligier JS P3 chassis 01 on loan from Onroak, where he would join successful Radical racer and 2014 Sunoco Daytona Challenge winner Bradley Smith.
The ninth car on parade was the newest of all, chassis #50 (above) and was sold on Saturday to the Smith family owned Mec-Tech team, with no opportunity to shake the car down though there was no chance of racing it over the weekend.
Throughout the weekend there was a huge amount of interest in the LMP3s in the Silverstone paddock, a regular trail of teams and drivers from the Single seater, Radical and GT Cup ranks taking a very close interest.
After free practice (20 minutes) and qualifying (20 minutes) on Saturday there was a brief 10 minute warm-up for the cars that chose to take it on Sunday morning with the feature 60 minute race on Sunday afternoon.
Phil Hanson put the Tockwith car on pole with a lap in 1:45.659 on a greasy track and from the off in Sunday’s race, as the threatening clouds failed to dampen enthusiasm, or the Snetterton track, powered away to a dominant lead with the pack behind getting involved in a touch of first lap argy bargy, Jay Palmer having a moment and slipping to the back of the field in the #2 United car.
The only damage though was to the lead battle – Hanson away and clear with 10 seconds in hand, an that lead would extend up to around 20 seconds before England started to reel in the Tockwith car.
Behind the battling pair the remaining five cars were tussling – Shaun Lynn getting onto terms with the #32 car of Patrick Byrne as the pair mounted a stint long battle that saw their times improve lap after lap.
Jacques Duyver had held fourth after the start but stumbled, the #3 car back to 6th after a moment on Lap 6 but there was encouragement for the whole gentleman driver field as the times for all continued to show steady improvement.
By now England had got his eye in and was reeling in the leading car, bringing down the fastest lap of the race lap after lap until just after the halfway mark when Hanson, after an excellent stint, pitted to hand over the #26 to Nigel Moore.
The #72, 3 and 2 cars all pitted on that same lap with the then leading #4 handed over to Bradley Smith from the lead after Lap 15
That left the still to pit duo of Patrick Byrne and Shaun Lynn staying out for a dice a little longer, Byrne going through to lead just half a second ahead of Lynn with the lap times still coming down, into the 1:49s for the American, the 48s for the Gulf backed Lynn.
Byrne pitted next time around leaving solo driver Lynn in the #23 to enjoy another lap in the lead before his compulsory stop.
All of that left Nigel Moore with a 17 second lead from Bradley Smith with Wayne Boyd now aboard the #2 car and beginning to get fired up about closing a 47 second gap to second place.
“With a gap like that you know that in a short race there’s no way you can close it on pace so the only thing to do is concentrate on lap times.”
That he did, improving the fastest lap of the race on no fewer than seven of the next eight laps! A 1:43.887 his eventual best.
Behind there was trouble for the #72 with a 10 second stop and hold for a pitstop infringement, Tom Randle though would get out again before Nigel Moore could come around to lap the Douglas Motorsport car and would pull away a little as Moore went into ‘bring her home’ mode.
Bradley Smith would come home in second place, 22 seconds back from Moore, in a car he will surely learn more about in the coming months, the team very happy to take home their brand new Ligier ahead of a planned full season of action in 2017.
“All in all that wasn’t too bad, the last minute driver line up change and my first dry weather laps in the car, plus I was maybe a little too cautious, all played a part in a list of things that will be better next time. I love the car though, a great piece of kit.”
Wayne Boyd’s fast lapping efforts more than halved the deficit to the second placed car, the gap down to 21.7 seconds at the flag.
Charlie Hollings had passed and fended off Guy Cosmo post pit stops with the American just pipping the recovering Randle on the line for sixth with a moment out on track towards the end of the race finally seeing Shaun Lynn the only car lapped, but he too responded with “Mission Accomplished” in response to whether he’s enjoyed the race.
Christian England got the Fastest Lap of the Day trophy for the Am ranked drivers, Wayne Boyd for the Pros and Tockwith Motorsport’s Phil Hanson and Nigel Moore brought home a perfect result for the team, a first Pole position in LMP3 for Hanson, and a first LMP3 win for the team.
All in all it was a good day from a Series that looks set to prove a success in 2017, car numbers will grow, there’s a sensible outlook from the Series organisers to input from the teams and drivers, and the LMP3 marketplace is booming. Next up is the confirmation of the 2017 calendar!
Pics courtesy of and copyright to Jakob Ebrey Photography