Wonderful Whitaker wins action-packed Brands Hatch Gentlemen Drivers race
Mike Whitaker wrapped-up an excellent, and largely dominant, victory in the 90-minute Gentlemen Drivers race at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit with an almost faultless performance in his TVR Griffith.
After almost an hour and a half of tremendous Masters Historic action, there was a somewhat subdued Safety Car finish due to a car becoming stranded in the gravel with just four minutes to go.
Whitaker won from the Shelby Daytona Cobra of Calum Lockie and Julian Thomas, while third position went the way of the Griffith of John Spiers and TV star Tiff Needell. Frustratingly, a luckless penalty for the Jaguar E-Type of Gary Pearson and Alex Brundle cost them an all-but guaranteed podium.
Dark clouds gathered above Brands Hatch ahead of the start, but thankfully the weather remained dry. Thomas led away well at the rolling start from pole, but after running wide at Sheene Curve he slipped behind James Hanson’s AC Cobra.
At the start of lap two, Thomas was edged back further to third place by Whitaker and then a moment for Hanson on the third tour enabled Whitaker to grab the lead. All the while the lead was changing hands, Brundle was gradually moving up the order and he climbed into second on lap three.
Whitaker pumped in a series of fastest laps to lead Brundle’s E-Type by five seconds at the start of lap seven but, shortly after, his advantage was negated when the Safety Car appeared due to the No.71 Morgan becoming stranded.
At the re-start on lap 12, Brundle read it perfectly and took the lead from Whitaker at Druids. The power of the TVR Griffith, though, proved too much on the GP loop and on lap 13 Whitaker blasted past to re-take first place.
Getting his head down and trying to build his lead, even with backmarker traffic becoming a factor, Whitaker edged away from an intensifying battle for second between Brundle and Thomas.
Late on the brakes into Graham Hill Bend on lap 19, Thomas took second in the Cobra and held onto the position into Surtees. But on lap 23, a moment for Thomas enabled Brundle to move back ahead once again.
When the mid-race mandatory pit-stop window opened Thomas was the first of the lead contenders to pit with 45 minutes to run, handing over the Shelby Daytona Cobra to pole qualifier Lockie.
Whitaker – contesting the race as a sole driver – pitted at the end of lap 24 and so Brundle assumed the lead on track before he pitted at the end of lap 25. When the race order had settled, Whitaker’s TVR had a lead of just over 11 seconds from Lockie with Brundle’s team-mate Pearson just behind in third.
Fourth placed Mark Martin, having taken over the Hanson Cobra, was just under two seconds clear of Needell’s TVR but in the space of a lap Needell had moved into fourth spot.
At the front, Whitaker was able to continue extending his lead over Lockie and on lap 28 the leader set the fastest lap of 1m43.281 seconds. The order then remained settled until the end of lap 39 when Pearson had to pit from third for the luckless penalty which meant Needell moved into the podium placings.
Pearson rejoined in fourth position, some 35 seconds adrift of the TVR, and then there was drama for Martin when his Cobra slowed from fifth and he turned sharp right at Surtees into the pits.
With little more than four minutes to run, the Safety Car was deployed due to an MGB in the gravel and that was the way it ended. Behind the top four, Mark Donner took fifth in his Jaguar E-Type with Marco Attard and Phil Keen’s Chevrolet Corvette Stingray sixth.
Robert Barrie and Steve Jones’ Lotus Elan won the CLP class in eighth overall, Crispin Harris and James Wilmoth’s Austin Healey 3000 won C2 and Malcolm Paul and Rick Bourne’s TVR Grantura took the spoils in C1. Mark Gordon’s Jaguar E-Type was the sole campaigner in B2.
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