GT CHAMPIONSHIP sponsored by REIS Insurance
Bull and Everill are winners despite dramas
Encouraged by matching his mid-65 second personal best lap while bedding-in a new braking system and pedal box on Jeremy Irwin’s 2.3-litre Vauxhall Tigra-Ford Ecoboost Silhouette in testing, Oliver Bull’s quest to erase Craig Dolby’s 1m04. 959s outright GT record - set in a 6.2-litre tube frame Volvo S60 in May 2018 - continues. The former Formula Fordster annexed pole with 1:07.247s (99.03mph) and logged 1:07.456s in winning the first of two races on Howard’s Day, once Bradley John’s ballistic Mitsubshi Evo 9 had retired.
Welshman John cut a stout 1:07.855 for P2, with Chris Everill third in his 6.3-litre Chevrolet-powered Ginetta G55. Young invitee Dominic Shepherd sat fourth in his Audi Supertourer GT (a year on from debuting the French Mitjet-built tubeframe confection, motivated by a Nissan V6 engine) on 1:09.279. Reigning champion Tony Bennett (2.4 Caterham R300) and Lucky Khera populated row three, the latter - always one for surprises - substituting a Porsche Cayman GT4 for the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo he’ll use in British GT events.
The 3.2-litre BMW M3 E46s of Martin Thomas and Khera’s team mate Jasver Sapra were seventh and ninth, sandwiching the 2.0 Ford Duratec-engined Westfield Aero of expat Ulsterman Alan Hamilton, running without wings for the first time. Tim Woodman’s 2.1 Caterham, former BMW M6 and Z3 racer Doug Watson’s glorious midnight blue Ferrari 458 Challenge and Cornishman Mark Fear’s Tigra Silhouette completed the top 12.
Reuben Taylor frustratingly hasn’t cured the overheating which afflicted his tubeframe Peugeot 206 last season, thus recorded 1m15s, well clear of Paul Arber’s AB Typhon and Alexander Baldwin’s Honda Civic, but elected to start from the back. Michael Parsons’ fine-looking VW Golf Edition 35 Cup and long-time Combe commentator John Moon’s 2.1 Vauxhall-powered MG Midget were in the 20s. Moon’s first run in the car - previously sprinted and hillclimbed by Ian Woodside in Northern Ireland - was a baptism of fire. A line of oil pitched him right, into the infield, at Westway, breaking a front kingpin. A dash home to strip replacement parts from his Lenham with help from David Mears saw him make the afternoon’s second race. Ray Ferguson (Ferrari 355) and former Radical and Spire racer Brent Hill’s troubled Road Runner SR2 - a Kit Car now with supercharged 2.1-litre Honda engine - rounded out the 19-car field.
Everill (broken driveshaft), Arber, Moon and Hill were missing as the field assembled for the rolling start, at which four-wheel-drive put John’s Mitsubishi’s prodigious power to the circuit leaving Bull eating his dust. The capricious Evo wilted after three laps though, joining the luckless Taylor in retirement. Bull raced on, now ahead and alone, but narrowly failed to match his morning lap time in the impressive Fleurtations Tigra.
Bennett invariably drives his Caterham flat out from the lights, but having shaken off Khera’s Porsche, relaxed a tad and was surprised to find renewed company in the form of class rival Hamilton’s blue Westfield “Aeroless.” The Lisburn, County Antrim-born driver was on a mission and - having lapped a second inside Bennett’s standard on the penultimate lap (his 1:08.313 within striking distance of Andy Southcott’s 1:07. 175 record in his ultra-light 2.3 MG Midget-Vauxhall) - finished 0.169s down in third.
Division winners Khera, Thomas and Woodman were close together in the minor places, chased by Sapra after Shepherd pitted with driveshaft failure. Watson was the final untapped runner, eighth overall. Sear, Ferguson and Baldwin also made it to the flag. Parsons was the other retiree.
Although Everill’s Ginetta was repaired for the second stanza, John’s Mitsubishi was en route home by the time the start lights were extinguished and Khera opted not to run. Thomas was a non-starer and Taylor was also loaded which left 13 takers for the second round.
With no black Mitsubishi to hinder, Bull made his own pace and was comfortably in charge, looking set for a double having cut a 1:06.783s lap, until he closed on Moon approaching Tower on lap 7. Both turned-in together whereupon Bull took to the grass to avoid contact with the red Midget hybrid. With the Tigra’s radiator ducts now blanked-off with freshly mown grass, but no other apparent damage, Oliver pitted for it to be raked out. He continued to finish seventh and salvage points for second in class.
Everill growled round the remaining laps to win, but 10 seconds behind him Watson - having improved by almost a second to a promising 1:09.210, from 12s in qualifying - grabbed second from Bennett on the penultimate tour. Shepherd and Sapra weren’t far behind, while Woodman also covered the full distance. The lapped Bull, Moon (who made strides, getting down into the 17s), Parsons and Baldwin completed the finishers. Hamilton coasted off after 12 laps, joining Sear and Hill on the sidelines.
MARCUS PYEPosted on Thursday 8 April 2021
at Castle Combe Circuit
30 August 2021