It was Danny Harrison and Jem Hepworth who put in a hugely strong performance over the weekend which drove them to the 2020 Britcar title. Meanwhile, in the trophy class, Oliver Smith overcame Race 1 dramas to win Race 2 and the title along with it.
Race 1: Harrisons comeback
Paul Bailey in his Ferrari 488 got the early lead from the RAW Motorsport Radical RXC of Ben Dimmack. It was only a lap before Dimmack pounced down at the Wilson hairpin before scampering off into the distance.
Bailey had his work cut out trying to keep his Ferrari ahead of Jem Hepworth but they both would lose out to the flying Taranis of MacG Racing’s Jonny MacGregor. Despatching Hepworth over the start/finish line, he then courageously dove up the inside of Bailey into Riches to claim second place.
Whilst this was occurring, Dimmack had pulled well clear of the squabbling behind and was consistently pulling away. Unfortunately for him, it would be short-lived. MacGregor now free from traffic started lapping under 2 minutes and within a lap was all over the Radical’s gearbox. Using the 7 Litre V8 to perfection, MacGregor powered past on the main straight and stormed off to a 30-second advantage before the pit window opened.
Garry Townsend was driving a cautious race just keeping the car on track before he handed over to upcoming star, Jack Fabby. Fabby was on top form, Driving as if his life depended on it, he lapped significantly quicker from experienced challenge driver, Ross Wylie (now in the Ferrari) and set about catching MacGregor.
A dominant drive from Harrison saw him thrust right back into championship contention with MacGregor holding onto 2nd position. A fine drive from Fabby saw his car round out the top 3 and also remain in the title hunt.
Race 2: Crazy weather
At the start, MacGregor made use of the Taranis’ huge straight-line speed to take and early advantage. However, he threw it all away at Murray’s when he went off and spun. He rejoined in the lead however lost out to Hepworth and Steve Burgess in the Radical whilst he readjusted.
By this point, the rain was starting to fall and caused the track to become every more slippery as the minutes passed by. The Taranis was soon back up to 2nd place after Hepworth started to struggle with the rapidly worsening conditions.
Not only Jem but the sister Praga of Townsend also started to struggle. An unfortunate spin at Oggies put them way back in the field. With the conditions worsening still, the organizers put out a message just before the pit window ‘pit-lane open’ which many took as the pit window opening early for safety reasons.
With all the stops out of the way, Burgess resumed with a half lap lead over MacGregor. Things were about to get a lot worse for the Taranis after blue smoke started appearing from the back of the car. He was ultimately called in and the officials found an oil leak and would then not let him rejoin, ending his season early.
Back on track, the two stars of Race 1 were at it again. With the track now drying, both turbo Praga’s had come alive with Fabby rapidly closing down on Dimmack with Harrison not far behind him. It was 6 laps from home when Fabby pounced and took the lead away from the Radical. Harrison followed suit just two laps later and the duo would finish the season with a Praga 1-2.
Meanwhile, Ross Wylie had made an extra pitstop to switch back to slicks. At the time it looked risky but it turned out to be a masterstroke. Wylie closing the gap by several seconds per lap on the struggling Radical and by the penultimate lap, the gap was just 8 seconds. With a huge pace advantage, Wylie had no trouble passing Dimmack as they crossed the line nose to tail to start the final lap and come home in third place.
Race 1: Pre-race chaos
Moments before the red lights extinguished, a sudden downpour completely changed the complexion of the race. With several drivers opting to pit on the formation lap to switch to wet tyres including frontrunners: Charlotte Birch, Rob Smith and Richard Higgins, it would turn out to be a masterstroke as the standard Bridgestone Durezza control tyre struggled with the standing water.
At the start, it was Nigel Ainge who led away in his Honda Integra, albeit briefly as a spin at Wilson dropped him to the back. Shortly afterwards, championship leader Oliver Smith grazed the barriers and brought out an early safety car.
Smith meanwhile had absolutely stormed through the field and was in 8th position by the end of the first lap. Higgins wasn’t far behind in his 996 Porsche 911 with the superior traction coming from his rear-engined machine.
Three laps later and the field was unleashed once again. This time Smith managed to take the lead by the end of the lap and quickly pulled out a 21-second advantage over Higgins Porsche who had now climbed into second place.
Further back, guest entry Stewart Lines was having an eventful race. Front end damage to his VW Scirocco caused the bonnet to fly off coming down the start straight, prompting the officials to call him in to retire the car.
Most were able to avoid the debris on track however, Peter Spano in his low slung Ginetta smashed through it. Amazingly the Ginetta sustained little damage and he was able to continue, also moving the bonnet off track in the process negating the need for a safety car.
Unfortunately, the safety car was brought out just moments later after Robert Pugsley clattered into the barriers in his Porsche Cayman.
With the pit window open, the final runners made their mandatory pitstop with Smith handing over to Charlie Campbell whilst Higgins remained at the wheel of his Porsche.
At the restart, it was clear that Higgins was much faster than Campbell and quickly dispatched of him charging off into the distance. Adriano Madeiros had now taken control from Birch in their Ginetta and set about catching Campbell and Rob Baker in his Smart Fourfour.
Campbell was really struggling for pace at this point so it was an easy move for the Ginetta after having made an aggressive move to pass the Smart earlier on. Baker who was now 5th couldn’t quite use his enormous straight-line speed advantage to pass the Peugeot in front and would stay there until the flag.
It was Higgins who took victory from, Birch / Madeiros with Matt Evans coming home 3rd in his VW Scirocco, only to gain a 52-second post-race penalty after having failed to serve it during the race. This, therefore, elevated Campbell into 3rd with Baker in 4th.
All of the top 4 started from the pitlane after switching to wets, a choice that was well rewarded.
Race 2: A champion’s drive
Race 2 of the day saw much better conditions with a now fully dry track and beaming sunshine.
Higgins once again made a lightning start to jump into the lead but was quickly passed by Smith who was on top form over the weekend. Jon Packer also made it past Higgins early on in his Smart and set about chasing down the leading Peugeot.
Title contender, Anthony Hutchins chances were ended early after his car suffered engine problems leading to retirement from the race, therefore, ending his title hopes.
Further drama struck Mederios (another title contender) as terminal gearbox issues would grind the car to a halt during the mandatory pitstop window.
Packer was then left in the lead whilst the pit-stops took place and pitted at the last possible moment to hand over to teammate Baker. Higgins also left it as late as possible before his stop and managed to rejoin in second, but ahead of the Smart and more crucially, the Peugeot.
Title contender, Oliver Smith, had been carving his way through the field after his Race 1 disappointment and his calm driving saw him in the lead once all stops had been made. From here on in it was an uneventful affair for him as he managed the gap to Higgins to take the victory and with that, the 2020 Britcar Trophy Class championship.
Higgins tried his hardest to catch Smith but after rejoining in amongst a pack of backmarkers, it was always going to be a tall order to scythe through them and catch Smith, he would ultimately come home in second, a strong weekend for the Porsche driver.
Third place was hotly fought over in the closing stages. Baker just managed to hang on from a charging Tony Prendergast in his Scirocco Cup who closed lap by lap but ran out of time, coming home within a second of Baker at the flag.
It was a disappointing finish for the Peugeot. Campbell not having the ultimate pace over the weekend and they finished in seventh place in the final race, a lap down to the winner.
The 2021 Dunlop Endurance Championship commences on the 27th March at Silverstone circuit, subject to any announcements from Motorsport UK.