Tockwith Motorsport win Britcar round at Thruxton
Tockwith Motorsport made it three wins out of four in the Britcar Dunlop Endurance Championship on Sunday afternoon, employing a superlative strategy for Phil Hanson and Nigel Moore to win once again in the Audi R8 LMS. Craig Dolby, sharing Nigel Mustill’s Lamborghini Gallardo, was mightily impressive in the early stages of the race, but Javier Morcillo’s exciting recovery drive in the Mosler was thwarted by a late-race issue.
Eavesdropping on paddock conversations, and podium chat from the other races on the programme, the most-used words were “scary”, “frightening” and “tyres”. There’s your theme for this race, then. Despite complaining of tyre issues in the Free Practice session, Craig Dolby was the only driver to dip into the 1:12s and bag pole position in the 30-minute qualifying session, securing it at his second attempt as the session came to an end. “The new set of tyres are spinning on the rims, so we went back to an old set of Dunlops that had done 300km, and they were fine, but now I’ve ripped them to pieces getting pole. Dunlop are looking at what they can do for a new set for the race”. Given the conservative tone of the session, Calum Lockie had originally set what he perceived as provisional pole halfway through the session, slamming in 1:13.031 before immediately pitting for David Mason to take his turn in the FF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3, and indeed, front runners Hanson and Moore were a distant 2.159 seconds adrift in the Tockwith Audi, ahead of Mike Wilds, who had reeled-in the times after a cautious early-session stint by son Anthony in the DMS Motorsport with FF Corse Ferrari 458 Challenge, securing the Class 2 pole.
Jonny MacGregor endured a bumpy run to head the third row in the MacG Racing Taranis, ahead of Class 3 polemen Jacob Mathiassen/Steve Fresle in the Century Ginetta G55, who looked to be continuing their class squabble with the Whitebridge Aston Martin Vantage, as the vastly experienced Jonny Cocker, sharing with Chris Murphy, posted a time less than two-tenths adrift.
In a sandbagging project that could stem a Mississippi flood, Javier Morcillo ensured that Manuel Cintrano would take the start in the Neil Garner-run Mosler, the Spanish pro-driver duking the fast sections of the track while tip-toeing over-cautiously through the complex and chicane. The Mosler lined-up eighth, ahead of Class 4’s Sam Alpass/Lee Atkins (Geoff Steel BMW E46 GTR), lone driver Alyn James in the Class 5 Synchro Honda Civic Type R, and the atypically low-down Lotus Europa of Fabio Randaccio and Nick Randall, the ersatz Italian shaking his head as to why his qualifying time was six seconds down on the free practice times.
With the programme running early, and the teams well-prepared and anxious to get racing, the race was pulled-forward a little, and when the red lights went out at the rolling start, Dolby was quickly away into the lead, followed by Lockie, and briefly, by Mike Wilds, though by lap 4 we saw the youthful teenager Phil Hanson use the superior power of the Audi to overhaul the skilled septuagenerian’s Class 2 Ferrari. Jacob Mathiassen displayed some ragged thuggery at the chicane in an attempt to distance the Century Ginetta from Class 3 rival Jonny Cocker’s Aston, a ploy that worked, as the gap between the two grew as the laps piled on.
Dolby’s lead over Lockie ebbed and flowed – “I was just gapping him, there was little chance of me passing him” admitted the wily Scot after the race – and the pair pulled out a sizeable and ever-increasing gap over Hanson, who looked like he was rigidly running to a plan. Mike Wilds began to drop back too, and attracted the attention of Jonny MacGregor’s Taranis. An early casualty was the luckless Hoffmans of Henley Lotus Europa, Fabio Randaccio pulling off at Church after 10 laps. “I think it’s electrical, the engine just cut out” he explained once the car was recovered to the garage.
So, what of the Mosler at this point? Manuel Cintrano, taking his first “starting stint” of the season, was making cautious progress, even enduring a quick spin, but maintaining a steady eighth place overall. By the 45-minute mark, Lockie’s Ferrari was visibly losing grip, and the gap to Dolby’s Lamborghini up front began to widen, but it wasn’t this FF Corse Ferrari that would make the first pit stop of the race, it was the Wilds car, Mike slewing through the chicane and pitting with a rear puncture. Trouble with an errant wheel nut prolonged the stop, fuel was loaded, and Mike got back in to complete his planned stint. The Mosler was next, Cintrano having seemingly performed his 40% mandatory stint duration, so Javier Morcillo was now probably in to the finish. It was at this point that Jonny MacGregor’s fine run came to an end, the Taranis retiring from fourth place with a driveshaft failure.
Having now lapped everybody except second-placed Lockie, Dolby brought the Lamborghini in for a fuel stop six minutes before the first hour elapsed. Too early for him to manage what you would think would be a 60% stint length, and this was true, as he jumped back in again, but was prevented from rejoining on the advice of the observing Dunlop technician, who pointed out the ragged state of the rear tyres, which were duly changed whilst Dolby sat impatiently in the car. While this was happening, Hanson pitted the Audi too, and the Tockwith crew got Nigel Moore installed, after servicing, a little quicker, and the Audi left the pit lane before the Lambo, though still a lap down.
This left Lockie in the lead, fighting the tyre wear, and it wouldn’t be long before he was pitbound, a puncture determining his decision, with 56 minutes of the race left to run. The Whitebridge Aston had pitted on the hour, Jonny Cocker handing over to quad bike champion Chris Murphy, and Lee Atkins handed the Geoff Steel BMW GTR to Sam Alpass, who was back in the pits again pretty soon; “It felt like the seat was loose, so I came back in – the team could find nothing wrong and I was told to get on with it” he said after the race. Jacob Mathiassen pitted the Century Ginetta from the Class 3 lead, and was relieved by Steve Fresle, but not before a small brake fire had to be dealt with.
Once the laps had settled, Dolby was once again in the lead, with a lap over Mason’s Ferrari, which had Moore’s Audi, pushing the envelope of adhesion, about to haul it in. Mike Wilds pitted the yellow Ferrari for a second time, his stint duration now reaching expiry, and handed over to son Anthony. Dolby, too, had come to the end of his stint limit, and pitted the Lambo for owner Nigel Mustill to take to the end.
Now it was time for the Morcillo Masterclass – Javier had taken over the Mosler two laps down on the leader, and now the Spanish pro-driver was on a charge, having hauled the car up from sixth to fourth in the standings. That became third when David Mason pitted the #1 Ferrari unexpectedly, and five minutes were lost while a minor issue was diagnosed and rectified. Also making it’s one and only pit stop at this point was the Synchro Honda, Alyn James getting back in after servicing for a final 40-minute stint.
Morcillo’s phenomenal progress had brought him onto the tail of second-placed Mustill, who was now driving the world’s widest Lamborghini, as Morcillo desperately tried to unlap himself and continue his pursuit of the very real prospect of second place. After several laps of feigning, Morcillo find made a courageous move at the chicane, and made it stick. Moore’s Audi still led with a lap in hand, but as the final thirty minutes ticked in, Morcillo was less than a minute behind Mustill, and closing.
Moore pitted the Audi; no fuel, just tyres – they’d read the script perfectly – and with 20 minutes left to run, the Tockwith Audi rejoined, with no heroics this time, to maintain a pace that would keep it a around a quarter of a minute ahead of the Lambo. Or maybe the Mosler, as, with 75 laps on the board, Morcillo was just 22 seconds adrift of Mustill, but disaster struck, and the Mosler crawled into the pit lane with just 10 minutes of the race left, Morcillo complaining of losing drive, and the team diagnosing a failed drive shaft. “Minutes from the end we broke up a bearing fighting for second position, we survived a top 230 km / hr on a terrifying circuit, we did the second fastest lap to a tenth, and we won the short race on Saturday; a good weekend of racing and a very intense experience” he later reported on social media.
So for the front runners it was now conservation to the flag, but no so down the order – Steve Fresle was safely in the Class 3 lead, but struggling, and enduring several spins in the Ginetta, which he self-effacingly put down to driver error, but the team claimed was down to wear and tear on the rubber. Also giving us a bit of excitement in the final two laps were – and you won’t hear this often – David Mason and Sam Allpass. Mason’s Ferrari was beating off the attention of Allpass’s BMW GTR, for fifth place overall. It all kicked-off at the chicane, where Mason outbraked himself and took an escape route through the UPCV barriers, letting the BMW through. There was thrusting and parrying through two laps, Allpass eventually coming home just a quarter of a second to the good. “Wow! I braked for the chicane at about 80 metres, then saw the grass coming towards me! He pipped me and he thoroughly deserved it” said the decorated art dealer.
That’s three wins out of four rounds for the Tockwith team now, and they’re doing it by being not just a rapid and skilled driving force, but an analytical, strategizing and well-drilled total team, with Nigel Moore not afraid to get his hands dirty in practical and emergency situations. Craig Dolby excelled in the Britcar debut of Wessex Vehicles Lamborghini Gallardo, and earned himself fastest lap and the Sunoco Driver of the Day award – “Like a kid in a candy shop, Nigel Mustill is like a second father to me” said the former Superleague Formula pilot. Calum Lockie and David Mason climbed the third step of the Class 1 podium after that minor glitch delayed the Ferrari 458 GT3.
Mike and Anthony Wilds bagged third place overall, and the Class 2 victory in the DMS Motorsport with FF Corse Ferrari 458 Challenge, Anthony posting a solid final stint after Mike’s scary moment with the puncture.
"We were denied the Class 3 early-race Ginetta vs Aston battle this time", said Ginetta pilot Jacob Mathiassen, destroying rubber to gain an early advantage and put some distance between himself and the opposition in this race. Despite Steve Fresle’s late-race issues, the class-winning Century Ginetta came home fourth overall, with the Whitebridge Aston, Jonny Cocker assisting Chris Murphy, four laps adrift. The Allpass/Atkins Geoff Steel-run BMW GTR took the Class 4 win, and the Synchro team did their usual solid job to get the Class 5 victory with Alyn James in the ultra-reliable Honda Civic Type R.
So, Thruxton went as expected - the speed, bravery and tyre situations all as predicted. Croft, Tockwith’s “home circuit”, is next.
Meeting report by Steve Wood