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GT Championship - Summer Spectacular

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Bull grabs Tigra by the tail in resounding double - The outright GT lap record, now vividly in his sights with uncle Jeremy Irwin’s uprated Fleurtations Vauxhall Tigra Silhouette, may have eluded him, but Oliver Bull put in virtuoso performances to win both of August 1’s Summer Spectacular/Howard’s Day races, the second gathering of the COVID-19 truncated season. Lack of class rivals may yet cost Oliver a shot at the title, but that record remains a personal goal for the family team.

Following Saturday morning’s dry qualifying session, the front row of the grid sounded like a traditional country pub with Bull and Butcher starting with a clear view ahead of the track, kinking right through Folly and up Avon Rise towards Quarry corner. Oliver’s 1m05.709s (101.35mph) pole time was mighty close to his best in testing with the tubeframe turbocar, weighing in at 850kg all-up, with its 2.3-litre four-cylinder Ford Mustang sourced EcoBoost engine snorting out north of 400bhp. 

Bristol haulier Keith Butcher’s 5.2-litre Audi R8 LMS Ultra looked the part in its factory livery, but the Class C leader was more than two seconds adrift on 1:07.921 (98.05mph) in the Ingolstadt monster. A similar class mix populated row two where Bradley John’s black Mitsubishi Evo 9 was joined by championship debutant Sacha Kakad whose newly-acquired Audi RS3 TCR was the 2017 Creventec Dubai 24 Hours winner.

Returnee Steve Putt’s iridescent blue wrapped seven-litre Mazda-Chevrolet RX-7 lined up fifth, barely four-tenths slower than John. Class B ace Tony Bennett (2.4 Caterham R300) sat alongside, his stout 1:09.095s (96.38mph) encouragement for rivals Alan Hamilton (2.0 Westfield Race Aero) and Tim Woodman (2.1 Caterham 7) directly behind.

Dominic Shepherd and dad Martin has refettled their Nissan V6-engined tubeframe Audi ‘Supertourer GT’ clone since its bonnet’s aerobatics in July, the young Mono Moto champ’s 1:10.945 reflecting greater confidence in the French Mit-Jet concern’s intriguing hybrid. Neil Greenland’s Pro Alloys Mitsubishi Colt towered over the ‘stealth bomber’ as the quickest Class D qualifier on 1:12.995s (91.23mph).

Jeremy Cooke’s factory BMW E92 M3, with its burbling four-litre V8 engine, shared the sixth row with Michael Parsons’ VW Golf Cup car, followed by Toronto-born Bristol hotelier Del Brett (Porsche Boxster) and Paul Arber’s Honda-powered AB Typhon from Andy Bates’ Suffolk stable. Barry Squibb couldn’t get his highly-strung Mitsubishi Evo 9 to complete a flying lap, but would try again from the back in the opening race.

Recounting the races is a convoluted tale, for the event-opener was red-flagged within seconds of the rolling start, at which Butcher was very slowly away. Putt’s rampantly accelerative machine, from row 3, appeared to clip the grass at Folly and spun. Contact with the Audi sent it clattering into the Recticel-cushioned barriers on the left with a force sufficient to damage several retaining posts. Keith climbed out of the sadly savaged left-hand-drive R8 bruised but relieved that the Ingolstadt factory-built car was so strong. Putt’s Mazda, which came to rest facing the way it arrived, sustained a broken rear suspension link, but would be back out later in the afternoon.

An hour was lost repairing the circuit furniture and Race 1 was postponed, pending the availability of time at the end of the programme. When the 13 survivors (all bar Butcher and Putt) returned to the track it was for Race 5. Oliver Bull rocketed into the middle distance, winning by almost half a minute from John, clocking a best lap of 1:06.744s (97.45mph) once his tyres reached optimum temperature.

The battle behind them was tremendous in the opening laps with Bennett, Kakad, Hamilton, fast-rising Squibb and Woodman chasing third. Squibb reached fourth before his temperamental Mitsubishi Evo 9 wilted and retired after nine laps. Kakad subsequently got the bit between his teeth and hounded down Bennett, seizing third boldly on the inside of Camp on the penultimate lap. Bennett, Hamilton and Woodward’s zippy cycle-winged cars claimed fourth, fifth and sixth, with Shepherd watching as he acclimatised to his caricature Audi. Greenland, Parsons, Cooke, Arber and Brett completed the finishers.

Race 1 did happen, as Race 9 (the curtain closer) which engaged 11 starters. Neither Mitsubishi finished this time, Squibb’s falling after two laps and John’s with a rear diff problem after eight. The latter’s absence enabled Bull to rack-up an even more dominant victory, his best lap of 1:06.240 half a second quicker than before. “I just love driving this car quickly,” said Ollie as the Fleurtations equipe celebrated a hat-trick of round wins. Bennett leads the championship though, for his perfect score of four victories in the better-supported Class B leaves him on 27 points, three clear of Bull and six ahead of Class D leader Greenland at the season’s half-way stage.

Ambushed by Bennett into Quarry after the start, Kakad shadowed Tony throughout, probing for a way back past but finding no opportunity to repass the inch-perfect Caterham driver. “My racecraft is not the best,” smiled Sacha who was surprised to be named Driver Of The Day after his first event in a pukka race car. While he aspires to endurance racing hopefully we will see more of the Chepstow driver at Combe.

Shepherd was lapped by Bull at the end, but improved his personal best lap time to 1:10.579 as he finished fourth, a couple of lengths ahead of the hard-trying Hamilton. Woodman finished sixth with Greenland’s vivid green Colt filling his mirrors. Parsons and Arber also made it to the end.

Posted on Monday 17 August 2020
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CCRC GT Championship

AUTUMN CLASSIC RACE WEEKEND

at Castle Combe Circuit

3 October 2020 to 4 October 2020

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