Graham Davidson made it an impressive four wins from four in the GT Cup Championship at Brands Hatch on Saturday afternoon. He was made to work for the victory however with the impressive Richard Chamberlain leading from pole and fending off the attentions of the championship leader for much of the race.
There was an early safety car period which bunched the field up, and led to an impressive four car battle for the lead of Group GTC between Bonamy Grimes’ Ferrari, Jake Rattenbury’s Lamborghini, James Little’s Ferrari, and Chris Papageorgoui’s Porsche. Contact at Surtees with 13 minutes of the 25 remaining caused the retirement of Grimes and dropped Rattenbury down the order, handing James Little Group GTC victory in his GT Cup debut.
“I’d rather have passed the guys at pace than have them knock each other off in front of me,” he said. “You don’t want to see that, although you say thank you as you drive by. I hope the guys and the cars are ok and they’ll be back in the next race. FF Corse have been brilliant so far, and Danny my engineer has looked after me and nurse-maided me through this: it’s my first run out in the car. I’ve spent the whole day with a big smile on my face!”
Tom Webb made the most of his unexpected appearance in the race by battling with GTO machines and taking the class win as Warren Gilbert tried to reel the BMW in towards the end.
“We didn’t think we were going to qualify or make the race, after practice we had a problem with the wheel bearing,” he said. “GTS did a fantastic job to put it back together – you wouldn’t know the whole hub had been apart. To come away with a win when we didn’t think we were going to make it is doubly fantastic. I was manging the car and tyres for the next race. It’s a long weekend, there was no point battling with the GTC and GTO cars for no reason.”
Dominic Paul took the honours from pole in Group GTA for his first class win. “It was fantastic to get pole and my first win in this series,” he said. “I’ve never been here before, I drove it the first time this morning. I like a challenging circuit and this is challenging. I love driving in the wet and that helped. I was battling with cars in the class above, but that makes it fun!”
With fading rear tyres, Chamberlain ran wide at Hawthorns and Davidson shot up the inside, holding on to the lead and pulling away for the victory, despite an earlier mishap.
“I dummied him into one of the right handers at the back, he ran wide and I had the inside line,” he said. “Practice was great, then first lap out in qualifying I started to accelerate out of Druids and without rear tyre heat it was locked up and I spun into the wall. I probably need to be a little bit more careful! Four wins from four is pretty good!”
James Little followed up a debut group victory in the GT Cup Championship with victory again a few hours later in Group GTC, though he had to hold off the fellow Ferrari of Bonamy Grimes.
“It was great fun,”said Little. “I had Bon behind me the whole race, I was watching my mirrors, and watching ahead. The cars in front were at my pace, so when the restart came I had to sit back a bit so I had some space to go in to. It was brilliant fun!”
Likewise in Group GTA, Dominic Paul secured his first group victory earlier in the day and followed up with another victory in his Ginetta G55 run by the Spy Motorsport team.
“I was fastest in free practice, pole by four seconds in the wet, two race wins – what a fantastic day!” he enthused. “I was catching the Marcos in front and had a Lamborghini behind me who was getting close, but he drove fairly and cleanly and I wanted to keep ahead of him.”
Up front Graham Davidson once again took victory in Group GTO and overall to make it a stunning five from five in the McLaren which Jim Geddie drove to the GTO title in 2014.
“It’s my first proper race car. It’s consistent, and I feel like I’m getting a lot out of it. It’s an older car, but it’s proven to be successful,” he said. “I did a couple of laps where I pushed, built the gap, then drove relaxed, which I think was the right tactic. We’ve got the pace to make up a good portion of the success seconds tomorrow – it’ll be a good finish when we come together.”
Pole-sitter Richard Chamberlain was sadly absent in his Porsche 935 with clutch issues, so Davidson sat alone on the front row and built up a quick advantage over Nigel Hudson. The field was bunched up behind the safety car as a couple of Ginetta’s needed recovery which meant there was a close battle from second to sixth place, including the GTC lead battle between Little and Grimes. Just ahead of them Gary Eastwood eventually found his way past Gareth Downing for third overall, while Tom Webb fended off the attentions of Warren Gilbert to bring his BMW M3 to victory in Group GTB.
“It’s good to come away with two wins and the extra point for qualifying,” said Tom. “The team must be over the moon with the hard work they’ve put in. It’s a shame John Saunders had two breakdowns, it would have been nice to have a scrap with him. It was a lonely race but there was a bit of pressure from behind with the Marcos.”
Dominic Paul capped a perfect weekend in the GT Cup at Brands Hatch with three wins from three races in his Group GTA Ginetta G55, at one stage running fourth overall.
“It’s beautiful on this circuit, I love it, it suits my driving,” he said. “The Ginetta is great out the back, I can throw it into the corners and balance it. It suits ‘on the limit’ driving, and I enjoy endurance stuff so I was able to bang in consistent laps. I was treating every lap like qualifying, I didn’t back off!”
Graham Davidson also carried on his incredible form, with his sixth win in the six races to open the 2017 season, but was troubled by late-race issues. “I’m exhausted,” he said. “That was the most difficult race yet, I can’t believe we’ve won.”
Davidson lead from pole and built an early advantage behind a close battle which had second to sixth covered by 2.1s on the track, including FF Corse team-mates James Little and Bonamy Grimes fighting for second place, before the pair made contact at Druids, causing both to retire.
A safety car was called to recover Little’s Ferrari from the barriers, and the race re-started with 32 minutes of the 50 remaining, as Gareth Downing passed Nigel Hudson for third place, setting after Gary Eastwood.
“Once I saw the safety car board come out I thought ‘that’s it,’” said Davidson. “I’d put my effort into building that lead and thought I couldn’t do it again before the pit stops. I got back to steady laps, the tyres started to get hot, I was feeling it and struggling but the guys said ‘keep going, you’re doing fine.’
“The pit stop felt like an eternity, but after the stop I realised I could do it – I asked the pit wall a few times what was happening and they told me to keep going. I felt a rumble as a wheel bearing had gone about five laps to go; it gave me a headache with the noise. Then the ABS sensor flashed it was failing on the last lap, so I stayed off the kerbs and made sure I got it back. I need to lie down!”
Hudson and Downing would stay out longest when the pit window opened, while Eastwood was given a one second stop-go penalty for a short stop and the Mick Mercer / Gary Smith Ginetta, second in GTA, was given a drive through for stopping outside the pit window.
In Group GTB James Webb had to recover from an early pit stop with a puncture, and John Saunders retired from the lead with 14 minutes remaining, handing the advantage to Neil Huggins who would be untroubled to the flag. “The opposition all fell by the wayside,” he said. “The team told me what was what and I had to keep my head and reel in the laps. It was controlled, not the fastest race I’d done but I brought it home.”
Jake Rattenbury, who’d made a second pit stop with a rear vibration, swiftly caught Andy Demetriou for Group GTC honours. “I had lots to concentrate on, including a suspected rear puncture. To catch and pass for the lead and win the race: I was really happy. It’s close in GTC but I’m happy with the way it has gone.”
There would also be last-lap heartbreak for Gareth Downing in the Lotus, as the car slowed and he was passed for second overall by Nigel Hudson at the flag.