May 27th - May 29th
Brands Hatch 27/28 May 2007
The first competitive outing for Group C GTP in 2007 came as part of the Masters Racing series at Brands Hatch, over the Whit weekend.An excellent entry assembled at the famous Kent circuit, with an increasing number of new entrants and cars joining the established ranks of Group C GTP devotees, with the prospect of the best season yet.The appeal of the big sportscars seems to be spreading rapidly and the weekend had been eagerly anticipated. It did not disappoint – despite the vagaries of the British climate.
Newcomer, Kent Abrahmsson of Sweden, must have been familiar with such conditions, as was Italian ex-rally man, Stefano Rosina but some, such as Australian Bob Sherrard had never raced in the wet before, let alone in a 700BHP sportscar.The drivers were not alone in being strangers to such wet conditions as the same held true for some of the cars also. The GTP races in the USA - from which many of the machines originated – were never run in the rain and this meant that cars such as the Nissans never had windscreen wipers, because they simply never needed them. Not so, this weekend – despite this, almost twenty five cars took to the track at Brands.
SUNDAY – QUALIFYING & RACE 1
Qualifying was a distinctly wet affair, although a break in the otherwise constant rain made it better than it might have been. Nevertheless, the rooster tails from the rear venturis of the Group C GTP machines were more reminiscent of powerboats than race cars.Many chose simply to complete the number of laps necessary to qualify for the race. In the extremely tricky conditions it was admirable that most cars came through unscathed –although a number of spins were reportedIan Stinton was one man who revelled in the conditions, snatching pole position in his Spice just before the end of the session with a 1.31.676. He described the session as “absolutely great fun”. Less than a tenth of a second behind came Justin Law in the Jaguar XJR 12. This was achieved despite a spin in the session, which he summed up philosophically, “I’m just glad I didn’t hit anything!”.
Gary Pearson also spun the Jaguar XJR11, “I hit some standing water and the car came on boost at the same time and I just lost it.” Nevertheless, he still managed third fastest time, just a third of a second off pole position. The top six was rounded out by David Mercer’s Spice, Mark Sumpter’s Porsche 962 and the Intrepid of American, Brian De Vries.Fastest Group C1/GTP Class 2 (1982-1987) car was Rob Sherrard in his Porsche 962 C – the Australian coping admirably with a driving a race car in anger in the wet for the first time.Just behind Rob on the grid was the first of the Group C2 Class 3 (up to 1987) cars, the Tiga of Stefano Rosina a mere tenth of a second ahead of the leading Group C2 Class 4 (1988-1993) car of Richard and Nick Chester .
RACE 1 “A superb advertisement for the series ” commented a delighted winner of the first Group C GTP race of 2007,and club chairman David Mercer.Indeed, if one visited the pits after the race there were a lot of drivers who had really enjoyed themselves, despite the weather and, given the conditions mercifully no bent bits of machinery were in evidence.The Clerk of the Course had made the decision to commence the race with two rolling laps and poleman Justin Law did an excellent job at marshalling the twenty one cars into formation for the start itself.The Spice, with which Ian Stinton took fastest time in qualifying, started at the back of the grid as it was alternate driver Neil Clarke who was behind the wheel for this first race, so it was effectively an all Jaguar front-row.A virtually clean first lap was marred only by the Argo of Richard Oddie unfortunately suffering a loss of traction to spin off backwards into the barriers on the Cooper straight, coming to rest at the side of the circuit. In the conditions, and with safety uppermost in mind, the safety car was deployed while the ill-fated Argo was moved.
The restart saw David Mercer able to dive inside Gary Pearson’s Jaguar XJR11 with him dispatching Justin Law’s XJR12 at Druids, a lap later. It was a lead he was never to lose.The two Jaguars then ran in close company, together with Gavan Kershaw in the Paul Whight’s Aston Martin AMR1, before an overly ambitious move from Kershaw on Gary Pearson removed both of them from the action - fortunately without any serious damage to man or machine.Justin Law took over second place and was quickly joined by the Porsche 962s of Mark Sumpter and Andy Purdie – making his Group C debut and thoroughly enjoying himself. This three-way battle for second was one of several enthralling tussles going on throughout the entire length of the Group C field. They were briefly joined by Chris Randall’s Nissan, which came out of the pits after some handling/misfire problems and proved to be on the pace before letting the battling trio through.Indeed, there were battles throughout the field – with Richard Eyre’s Jaguar and Brian De Vries’ Intrepid fiercely contesting fifth place and Nick Randall, Kent Abrahmsson, and Rob Sherrard all running in very close company – the latter impressing all in his first ever wet race in the older Class 2 Porsche and taking the category win.
The Group C2 categories were keenly contested, all-Tiga affairs at the front. Alvin Powell managed to overtake Stefano Rosina about halfway through the race and hold station to the end, to take class 3 and finish just outside the top ten overall, while class four honours went the way of Richard Chester ahead of Richard Bateman. They were followed home by Duncan McKay's Bardon and Jim Loftis’ Mazda 757, the American’s machine still sounding as potent as it did en-route to category victory at Le Mans in 1988.
RACE 2 MONDAY
Almost all were hoping for dry weather for the second race of the weekend. The format set for this was a forty minute, compulsory pit-stop encounter – with those who were single driver entries having to get out of their cars and then get back in again, in order to make things equitable with the two driver entries.All of the cars that started the Sunday race were due out on the grid, as was Henry Pearman’s Nissan, but the continuing damp conditions unfortunately made the very pretty R90CK a non-starter. Henry had discovered, during qualifying, that the waterproofing on the car left much to be desired, meaning that he needed his visor down to combat the internal spray.
The rain ultimately left much of the car’s internal electrics too damp to work.In the event, Nick Rini’s Jaguar was also a non-starter. Kent Abrahmsson had to return home for the Monday - the Swede expressing his disappointment at not being able to be there for race two, having tremendously enjoyed his Sunday outing.As the safety car peeled off at the end of its two flying laps, for the start, the rain returned, but Ian Stinton, in Neil Clarke’s Spice seemed to be revelling in the conditions and he established an early lead over the two Jaguars of Gary Pearson and Justin Law.Behind them, in rapid succession, came David Mercer, followed by Mark Sumpter and Andy Purdie. Half a dozen laps in, David Mercer moved up a place to become the Spice meat in a Jaguar sandwich and the first three then established some clear space between them and their pursuers.At the same time, Wayne Park was forced to bring Rob Sherrard’s Porsche into the pits with gear problems – a great shame, as the two Australians had looked full of promise for a good performance in the race. In midfield, the home contenders were locked in battle with some of the American contingent, with Richard Eyre’s Jaguar and Brian De Vries’ Intrepid-Chevrolet dicing with each other as, next-up, were Paul Whight’s Aston Martin AMR1 and American sports car legend, Jim Mullen. Jim looks every bit at home in his latest mount - the last of the US-built Spice-Chevrolets - as he has done in the long line of sports racers that he has driven over a career stretching back over more than thirty years.
After having looked very competitive in the early stages of the race, Chris Randall’s Momo-liveried 1990 GTP Nissan was forced into the pits with a recurrence of its Sunday misfire at the two-thirds distance. As Chris freely admits, they are still very much in the process of sorting the car, but it has demonstrated that it is very much a potential front runner. In the meanwhile, Nick, his father, had been persuaded to bring the Nissan-factory liveried car out for the race and he was running in the top ten.On lap ten the rain intensified and both Paul Whight’s Aston and Stefano Rosina’s Tiga came off at Clearways, bringing out the safety car and sending much of the field into the pits, for their mandatory stops.This proved a slightly fraught and confusing process, as space was so tight on the pitlane. It was only the skill of the drivers and crew in the pits that avoided some potentially lurid collisions, but there were several very close shaves.In the shake-up during the pit stops it was Andy Purdie’s Porsche 962 that emerged as the leader, with an advantage he was to hold to the end.
This came ten minutes prematurely as Ian Stinton’s extremely rapid drive in the Spice ended when he came off the track and brought out the red flag.So it was local man, Andy Purdie who mounted the victory rostrum, together with Gary Pearson and Mark Sumpter – all three truly delighted with their races, as was very-much apparent when the presentation took place.Group C2 honours again went the way of Richard and Nick Chester’s Tiga, ahead this time, of Duncan MacKay’s Bardon and the Mazda of Jim Loftis. Fastest C2 lap went to Alvin Powell, only two seconds shy of Mark Sumpter’s fastest race lap, which was some consolation for a non-finish.All in all, it proved to be a first rate season opener for the Group C GTP racers – despite the weather with some excellent racing showcasing a truly global entry (of both cars and entrants).
With the next race following on, only three weeks later, the promise is there of a truly spectacular summer of Group C GTP competition in prospect.