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MJC Ferrari Dominates Weekend At Silverstone

Great drives from Wylie and Gamski

Race 1

In the first race of the weekend was won in convincing fashion by Ross Wylie and Witt Gamski, who despite battling illness and injury, were able to steer the MJC Ferrari 458 GTE to victory. Witt was still hobbling while nursing the recovery of a severe ankle injury, and Ross, was sporting the symptoms of Chickenpox.

A lower temperature than the preceding week, with even the slight threat of rain, made conditions more comfortable for racing, and a large grid was depleted by mechanical woes for the Morcillo/Cintrano Mosler, which was unable to take its third-place slot on the grid, and Rob Baker’s Smart, having blown the engine when a loose component jammed the throttle. Wylie had planted the MJC Furlonger 458 GTE on pole during qualifying, though Gamski would be taking the start (a Pole on pole – that pun is going to wear thin soon), with Calum Lockie alongside in the FF Corse GT3 version. The pair stuck to the script as the red lights went out, Lockie off like a robber’s dog into the yonder, and Gamski, the full-tank expert, holding steady and solid for the second-half fireworks.

It was Jonny MacGregors Taranis impressively in second as the field came round after the first, long, lap, with Bonany Grimes Ferrari 458 Challenge third, then Gamski, a fast-starting Mark Cunningham’s Porsche 997, then Graham Lucking’s 458 Challenge, though challenge would be the watchword for the day for him and pro-driver Leyton Clarke, dogged by grip and handling issues which first showed themselves when Lucking suffered an off-track excursion on lap three, dropping him back into the Class 3 runners.

First-lap contentions in the midfield saw a clash between Simon Garrad’s Golf and Rick Nevinson’s Cayman, which sidelined the pair, and former BTCC star Patrick Watts was an early pit visitor in the Cuda Drinks Ginetta G50, while Chris Headlam was a late-starter from the pitlane in the Orbital Sounds Lotus Exige.

It was mainly the gentlemen drivers that pitted once the window was opened 20 minutes in, though eschewing this was TV celebrity Paul Hollywood, on the cusp of his allowable stint time before handing the Class 3 Beechdean Aston Martin Vantage to team boss Andrew Howard. Also leaving it late was Mark Cunningham, placing the family Porsche in the hands of friend Frank Bradley; Calum Lockie, leaving David Mason with over a minute lead in the 458 GT3; and Matty George, who had put the Whitebridge Aston back where it used to be, upsetting the Team Hard party a tad.

Wylie was now in the MJC Furlonger Ferrari, and taking chunks out of Mason’s tenuous lead; the lead change came when Mason had a sideways moment in the Loop, and Bradley had a moment in the Cunningham Porsche too. From that point, Wylie stroked it home, though behind him Johnny Mowlem, now in the 458 Challenge started by Grimes, was catching Mason. The smart-alec philosophers predicted this would happen on the last lap of the race, and so it did; the two Ferraris came nose to tail into the braking area at the end of the Wellington Straight, but there was a Ginetta negotiating Brooklands dead ahead of them. The two Ferraris clashed and spun, Mowlem recovering first and bagging second place, while Mason took a little longer to get going, but with enough time in hand to secure third.

The MacG Racing Taranis had won these Sprint races last year, but competition this year has intensified, so fourth overall was a stunning performance from Jonny MacGregor and Ben Sharich, finishing ahead of the Lucking/Clarke 458, then the first of the Class 3 runners, old hand Colin Wilmott and 16 year-old son Oliver, who breezed in from Switzerland as an invitation entry to sixth overall in their Porsche 997.

Behind them in Class 3, though, normal service was restored by the three Team Hard Ginettas, with the order somewhat awry from previously, and with teenage sensations Angus Dudley and Callum Hawkins-Roe in the top points-paying seats, ahead of Darron Lewis/Tom Knight, and the usually-leading #24 car of Simon Rudd acting as tail-gunner, with Will Phiips stepping for Tom Barley, fending off Chris Murphy, who was only a little under two seconds behind in the Whitebridge Aston Martin at the flag, with the similar Hollywood/Howard machine a further quarter of a minute adrift.

Rounding-up the Class 3 field, Mark Murfitt and Michael Broadhurst had a steady race in the Fox Motorsport Cayman, Frank Bradley steered the Cunningham Porsche 997 home to 15th overall, while lone driver Robert McFarlane’s Ferrari 360 was just ahead of Canadian Fareed Ali’s Newbridge-run Cayman, shared with Britcar’s very own Chris Valentine, after a trouble-free run, though they did attract an under-timed pit-stop penalty.

The Class 4 crown went to Sam Alpass and Jamie Martin’s Geoff Steel-run BMW E46 GTR, ahead of BTCC protagonist Stewart Lines in a TCR-spec Seat Leon, and the newly-liveried “Gangsta” BMW E92 of Neil Garnham and Rob Young, and despite several wrist-slapping penalties from the officials, Simon Baker managed 17th overall in his BMW M3 E36, and the Cuda Drinks Ginetta G50 of Richard Burrows and Patrick Watts going the distance despite several pit stops to work on fuel-feed issues.

Class 5 offered some competition for the Synchro Honda Civic this time; an early spin by Alyn James in the Swindon employees’ team car probably didn’t overly influence the result, as there was no catching lone driver Barry McMahon’s Alfa Romeo 159, with Dan Wheeler sustaining second place in the Civic, a fair distance ahead of the Marcus Vivian/Derek Holden Ginetta G40, and the Roland Hopkins/Matt Sleigh VW Golf.

The Orbital Sound Exige expired at the entrance to the pit lane with Jamie Stanley on board, and the Tockwith Ginetta G50 of Ed Moore/Marmaduke Hall atypically failed with a fuel pump problem, while Mike Moss managed only four laps in the unique BMW 1M, which sadly saw no further action in the meeting.

Race 2

To be honest, based on qualifying and Race 1 performance, and all things being equal, this one never looked in doubt. The adrenalin had obviously taken over the chickenpox-bound Ross Wylie and hobbling Witt Gamski for them to take another win in the healthy MJC Furlonger Ferrari 458 GTE in the afternoon’s two-hour race.

Again, there was no deviation from the norm at the start, with Lockie blasting through from third on the grid to have a lead of nearly six seconds after the first lap, and Gamski dropping the GTE back to fourth, with challenge-spec 458s of Bonamy Grimes and Leyton Clarke, taking the first stint in the dark blue car, in between, making a top four of Maranello machinery. Ben Sharich, starting the Taranis, was up there too originally, but fell back and mounted a recovery drive in considerable pain due to a back issue.

The field soon became spread out around the long circuit, interspersed with some close skirmishes – the three Team Hard Ginettas were at it again, though Nigel Moore, the fuel pump now fixed on the Tockwith Ginetta G50, was carving through the pack, and set-about spoiling the party for Tony Gilham’s squad, though the Class 3 front-runners – the Porsche 997s of Mark Cunningham and youngster Oliver Willmott were way ahead in a lonely fifth and sixth overall. Paul Hollywood’s Aston was also enjoying a dice with Stewart Lines’ TCR-spec Seat Leon, but Barry McMahon, the star of Class 5 in Race 1, was slowing, and soon retired the Alfa Romeo 159 with oil pressure issues. A loose rear wing on Simon Garrad’s VW Golf was easily dealt with by team-boss-for-the-day Peter Hignett with a swift whip of the wrist, and the car returned to the track without the aero device.

It wasn’t long before the Sprint competitors, racing only for the first 50 minutes, began to take their mandatory pit stops – Neil Garnham, Roland Hopkins, Stewart Lines, Rob McFarlane and Nigel Moore. So too Oli Willmott, who had attracted a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits, then lastly, Calum Lockie, handing the FF Corse Ferrari 458 to David Mason with a lead which this time would be unassailable in the Sprint category, and, when their 50 minutes were up, Mason took a victory around three-quarters of a lap ahead of Colin Wilmott’s Class 3 (Invitation) Porsche 997; the Swiss-based father and son duo had used this weekend as an indicator as to who was fastest, and it seems, now, that the child had become father to the man.

Stewart Lines was third overall, and headed the Class 4 contingent in his Seat; “The car was punching above i’s weight, but this was tough, I’m only used to 25-minute races, I think I need a friend” he said on the podium, though the points-paying

Class 4 victory went to Ed Moore and newcomer Marmaduke Hall in the Tockwith Ginetta G50 – redemption after the atypical fuel-pump failure in the first race – ahead of the Garnham/Young “gangsta” liveried BMW E92. The Fox Motorsport Porsche Cayman of Mark Murfitt and Michael Broadhurst took the top points in Class 3, sixth overall, ahead of Robert McFarlane in his FF Corse-run Ferrari 360 Challenge, while lone-driver Simon Baker (BMW M3 E36) tailed-off the Class 4 runners, and the RM Racing VW Golf of Roland Hopkins and Matthew Sleigh bagged the Class 5 victory. Sadly, damage in Race 1 meant that Rick Nevinson only completed one exploratory lap in his Cayman before calling it a day.

There was an Endurance race on the go, though, and first to pit for fuel – out of synch, really -was Patrick Watts in the Cuda Drinks Ginetta G40, signifying that all as not well fuel-wise with the car. With Lockie now gone, it was a change of fortune for the dark blue Ferrari, and Leyton Clarke held a 17-second lead over stablemate Bonamy Grimes’ similar red and white machine, who in turn was 24 seconds in front of Gamski.

These two, though, pitted simultaneously at minimum-stint distance, leaving Clarke to head a distant Mark Cunningham, who was nevertheless well ahead of the squabbling Team Hard Ginettas. By this time, the Orbital Sound Lotus Exige had come to a halt at Luffield with repeat of the severe wheel stud issues that spoilt qualifying, and would play no further part in the race.

Once the pit stops had all been taken, and the race settled once more, it was close at the front, an all-Ferrari top three; Graham Lucking, capitalising on Leyton Clarke’s great first stint, and with handling improving as the track temperature dipped, held a tenuous lead over FF Corse colleague Johnny Mowlem (now in the 458 started by Bonamy Grimes), with Ross Wylie, who had made short work of reclaiming the deficit, on their tail in the MJC Furlonger 458 GTE.

Lucking, though, had no answer to the seasoned professional and the talented young hotshoe on his tail, and within two laps the trio swapped places around – first Mowlem and Wylie passed Lucking, then Wylie took the lead in the more powerful GTE-spec machine. Peter Cunningham had taken over the SG Racing Porsche from son Mark, and was fourth overall, but pressure was looming in the shape of the three Team Hard Ginettas, line astern in formation, and more significantly, from Jonny MacGregor in the Taranis, who was making great progress; Ben Sharich had done well to keep in contention in his opening stint despite suffering a mystery back condition which earned him a visit to the medical centre once he was out of the car, and now McGregor was showing what his self-engineered creation could do.

A slower-than-usual lap from Cunningham allowed the whole quartet through, with McGregor capitalising on the opportunity to get ahead and pull away from the Team Hard party. Further drama ensued when Johnny Mowlem’s Ferrari slowed from second place and crawled smokily into the pit lane, lubrication issues putting an end to the race for the #5 machine.

TV personality Paul Hollywood, in his first race meeting after a lay-off, had done a solid job in the Beechdean Aston Martin, climbing as high as sixth place before handing over to team boss Andrew Howard, and now Howard was displaying his considerable BGT Champion and Le Mans provenance, working through to the tail end of the Team Hard trinity, and splitting them up by getting ahead of the Rudd/Phillips Ginetta.

It could have been a cruise to the flag at the front, but the two leading cars, reasonably safe from each other, and the following Taranis, chose to pit late-on. Wylie brought the leading MJC Furlonger car in in the final 20 minutes of the race, no fuel was put into the seemingly economical 458 GTE, but Witt Gamski was strapped in to take the car to the flag, not something he usually sees, while Graham Lucking pitted even later in the FF Corse Chlllenge-spec 458, perhaps in the hope that Pro-driver Clarke may be able to get on terms with Gamski as the race came to as close. A single dump-churn of Sunoco was added for good measure, but it wasn’t to be, and Gamski took another win, just over a minute and a quarter ahead of Clarke, with the superb MacGregor, the Sunoco Driver of the Day, having a trouble-free run in the Taranis to claim third overall, a lap down. Class 3 was the most populated class, and where the action was intense.

The Team Hard order was upset this time, and the day belonged to the teenage duo of Angus Dudley and Callum Hawkins-Row, who had made a clean sweep of the class win in both races, Dudley’s storming stint in Race 2 earning him the Britcar Driver of the Day award. Team Hard’s diverse driver roster was apparent with second-placed Tom Knight and former banger, short-circuit and everything-else racer Darron Lewis, while usual front-runner Simon Rudd, partnered for this event with Will Phillips, finished atypically off the class podium, having given best to Andrew Howard’s Beechdean Aston Martin, after a solid stint by race-returnee Paul Hollywood.

The Cunningham’s Porsche was next up, unable to convert the pace that earned them pole position into race success, followed by the Chris Murphy/Matty George Aston Martin, with Murphy now moving forwards with a pro-driver to share with, while after some non-starts earlier in the year, the Fareed Ali/Chris Valentine combo made it to the flag without issue in the Newbridge Porsche Cayman, their clean performance whilst in close competition earning them acclaim from Barry McMahon and Alyn James.

Class 4 was taken by the Geoff Steel-run BMW M3 GTR of Sam Alpass and Jamie Martin, which had been as high as fifth overall midway through the race, due to Alpass maximising his stint length during the pit-stop window. The Cuda Drinks team adopted a two-stop strategy, though, to compensate for fuel feed concerns, and Richard Burrows/Patrick Watts finished as class runners-up.

An early spin, and a late pit stop for tyres didn’t stop the Synchro Honda Civic of Alyn James and Dan Wheeler from bagging the Class 5 honours, and some sterling work by the Track Focused team to get their VW Golf onto the grid was rewarded by a class podium finish for Danny Russell and regular historic racer Simon Garrad, undeterred by the swift removal of the Golf’s errant rear spoiler.

With no Safety Car deployed all day, this was an event where driving standards were roundly applauded by the competitors, and where talented youth, gentleman racers, professional drivers and hobbyists shared the track on an equal basis, and with due respect. And lest we forget, our race winners weren’t in the best of health.