Pearson prevails in Gentlemen Drivers GT opener
Gary Pearson scored honours in the opening Gentlemen Drivers Pre-1966 GT race of 2020 today at Donington Park after a dominant display in his Jaguar E-type. Pearson was never headed in the 90-minute enduro despite strong opposition.
Mike Whitaker (TVR Griffith) led away from pole position, racing the car for the first tie in three seasons, but lost out to Gary Pearson’s Jaguar E-type at the Old Hairpin on the opening lap while Richard Kent hustled his Jaguar E-type through to second place. As the Big Cats opened a margin, Whitaker dropped a little time as he looked after tyre and brake life, but the pack soon bunched up again after an early safety car period caused by Mark Martin’s Lotus Elan 26R catching fire at Redgate.
Once racing resumed, Pearson stormed away to open the lead over Kent, but Whitaker started to push on. He moved through to second place and then set off in pursuit of Gary, the gap between the two coming down. Kent hung on to third ahead of Mark Donnor in his Pearson-prepped E-type with Mike Wilds (in Ron Maydon’s Ginetta G4R) next up. Ex-BRM F1 driver Wilds enjoyed a frantic tussle with single-seater-turned-GT young gun Nicolai Kjaergaard (Shelby Daytona Cobra) who was spectacular in his efforts to combat the 1720cc Ginetta. However, Nicolai’s efforts came to nought as the Cobra cried enough before the pit window.
The 10-minute pit window was crucial to the outcome as the double-driver entries swapped over with drivers of differing paces in certain cars.
Mark Donnor (Jaguar E-type) was first to stop giving way to Andrew Smith from fourth place, with Richard Kent in a lap later to hand over to the rapid Chris Ward, with the E-type 29 seconds in third place behind leader Pearson. Smith rejoined ninth and Ward sixth. Whitaker rejoined just behind Ward after his pit stop, the TVR having spewed coolant out of its engine bay during its stop. With pit stop times affected by engine size, the TVR’s 4.7-litre engine caused a longer stop than the Jaguars leaving Mike a big challenge in the second stint and in turn that increased Pearson’s lead.
After 31 laps and with 40 minutes to go, Pearson led Ward by 29.6sec but Ward was on a mission as was Smith in fourth chasing Whitaker, starting his attack just 2.8sec adrift. Ward was lapping quicker than Pearson but not by big chunks, seemingly giving Pearson the advantage, whereas Smith set the fastest lap of the race in his pursuit of Whitaker’s TVR. Whitaker responded by retaking the fastest lap and stretching the margin over the E-type as the pair had to work through traffic. By lap 45, Smith had moved up to third with Whitaker dropping away as its lap times went up as brakes became an issue with 20 minutes to run. To add to his woe, Whitaker then picked up a five second penalty for exceeding track limits…
Suddenly, Ward’s E-type slowed but Chris waved Andrew Smith by into second spot. Ward pressed on, back up to pace, trying to claw back the lost place, but Ward had an oil pressure problem that manifested itself and caused retirement with 15 minutes to go. That released Smith to second but he was too far back to challenge Pearson who ran out an easy winner.
Whitaker hadn’t given up and used traffic to his advantage to set a late-race fastest lap as he tried to catch Smith’s E-type, but the gap ebbed and flowed as traffic affected the pair at different times.
CLP winners father-and-son Nick and Eddie Powell (Lotus Elan) took fourth ahead of the similar car of another father-and-son combo: Shaun Lynn/Maxwell Lynn. Despite a 19-second stop-go penalty for being under the regulation pit stop time, Ron Maydon and Mike Wilds (Ginetta G4R) took sixth overall.
As well as overall winner Pearson, class wins were claimed by Malcolm Paul/Rick Bourne (TVR Grantura), Mike Wrigley/Matthew Wrigley (Jaguar E-type) and Nick Powell/Eddie Powell (Lotus Elan).
The next outing for the Gentlemen Drivers Pre-1966 GT cars is Brands Hatch on August 22/23.
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