Opportunity knocks for Davies in Masters Pre-66 Touring Car win at Donington
Craig Davies had the last laugh as the Ford Mustang driver trumped the two fastest Ford Falcons in the field, the Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie example and Sam Tordoff’s machine at one time dominating the race well ahead of the rest of the field. However, a late safety car put Davies back into contention, after which he didn’t let the opportunity go to waste, as he passed Lockie on lap 31 of 41 to win by 1.3 seconds. Soon after the stops, Tordoff was forced to retire with a broken manifold.
“I never thought the car was good enough to win today”, said Davies, surprised by his own win. “I was lucky with the safety car, as the car was only really good just after the start. After that, it was anywhere but straight. But it was a very enjoyable race. I loved those opening laps fighting all the guys.”
“We just really struggled with oversteer”, said Lockie about his inability to fight back after the safety car. “Just massive oversteer! I thought, let’s take P2, it’s better than falling off… But Julian drove a fantastic first stint.”
In a massive fight that included some six Lotus Cortinas, the John Spiers/Nigel Greensall example prevailed at the end, the pair among the only ones not to be hit by track-limits penalties – some of them multiple. The Paddy Shovlin/Michael Cullen Cortina ended up in fourth and second in class, having profited from the time penalties suffered by Peter & Guy Smith and Justin Law. In ninth overall, the Jonathan Evans/Tom Bradshaw Mustang followed home six Cortinas to take third in the over-2-litre class.
“It was all about track limits!” said Cortina class winner Greensall about keeping his penalty nose clean. “It was a fantastic race with all the Cortinas, it really was. We may have taken some scratches here and there but it was worth it!”
On a lovely spring afternoon, the 22-car field stormed off into Redgate, with polesitter Soper leading, but from fourth Julian Thomas in the Falcon stormed into second place to lead Davies’ Mustang, Tordoff’s Falcon and Shovlin’s Cortina, but on lap 2, Tordoff was up into third, with Tom Bradshaw making up lots of places in Jonathan Evans’ Mustang to be fifth. At the back, sadly, Harry Barton’s BMW 1800 tiSA was out before the start.
The top-four settling into a rhythm, 1.1 seconds separating all of them, Bradshaw was on no man’s land between Davies in front and Alex Taylor’s Mustang behind him, who in turn led Shovlin, Justin Law’s Cortina, Dan Williamson’s Falcon and Dan Dickenson’s Cortina. In 17th, Marcus Holland led the Mini class while in 19th Robin Ellis was now the sole BMW runner.
On lap 4, Thomas used the superfluous grunt of the Falcon to surge into the lead, as it looked like Soper’s car was faltering, Tordoff and Davies moving ahead on the next tour, with Bradshaw catching Soper fast. Ten minutes had now gone, and Thomas wasn’t having it alone at the front. In fact, both Tordoff and Davies were chipping away the tenths, while Bradshaw had moved up into fourth, Soper taking to the pits, joined there on the same lap by another Mustang – Alex Taylor’s example. Both proved to have been hampered by gearbox issues.
On lap 8, Thomas led the other Falcon by just half a second, with Davies 1.7 seconds adrift. Bradshaw’s lonely race continued in fourth, seven seconds down, but leading Shovlin by nine seconds, the Irishman in turn having four seconds in hand over Law, Williamson, Dickenson and the Cortina of Peter Smith. John Spiers’ Cortina now completed the top-ten.
Fifteen minutes into the race, and with 10 laps done, Tordoff had closed the gap and proceeded to snatch the lead from Thomas, with Davies hanging back some two seconds. Bradshaw’s deficit on the leader had increased to nine seconds, while his own lead to Shovlin was up to 11 seconds. Further back, Peter Smith was gaining places, the Cortina now up into eighth to be third of the Cortinas. Meanwhile, Holland and Ellis continued to lead their classes.
Approaching the pit window, Tordoff and Thomas remained tied to a string, the Falcon pair having dropped Davies to the tune of ten seconds, with Bradshaw eight seconds further back. The rest of the top-ten remained unchanged as well, Shovlin, Law, Williamson, Smith, Dickenson and Spiers separated by gaps of one to four seconds. In 16th overall, though, Carl Nairn had hunted down Marcus Holland to snatch the lead in the Mini class. Meanwhile, Ellis was out of the race, leaving it without any BMW competitors.
25 minutes into the race, the pit window now open, the Falcons had decidedly broken free of Davies who was now looking at a 22-second deficit, as the Mustang was losing two seconds every lap, the same applying to Bradshaw’s similar ‘stang. John Spiers and Dan Dickenson were the first to come in for their mandatory stop, their Cortinas soon followed on the next lap by Davies and Michael Whitaker Jr (handing over their Mustang to father Mike).
On lap 20, Bradshaw pitted to hand over to Evans, with Peter Smith changing places with former Le Mans winner Guy Smith. Shovlin came in on the next lap to swap with Michael Cullen, while Tordoff, Law and Williamson made their stop on lap 23, Tordoff handing the lead back to Thomas, who was setting purple sectors in an effort to have teammate Calum Lockie get back out in the lead. Thomas stopping on his final opportunity on lap 24, it failed to prove nip-and-tuck after all, as Tordoff had dropped behind Davies after a long stop, and soon returned to the pits. The manifold had come off the engine…
The result was that on lap 25 Lockie led Davies by 15 seconds, with Michael Cullen now up into third but a long way behind – 45 seconds to be precise. Law was fourth, Evans fifth, the two separated by two seconds. Williamson and Dickenson fought over sixth, over a minute down, while Mark Martin’s eighth place proved shortlived, as his short stop was penalised by a stop-and-go penalty. This moved Nigel Greensall one place up, the man who had taken over from Spiers now the fastest man on the circuit. Guy Smith was ninth, with Martin now tenth.
Soon, though, all gaps would evaporate, as the safety car was out for a brief period of time to clear debris off the track. After the field was released, Davies smelled blood and set about chasing after Lockie, the pair leaving Cullen and Law’s leading pair of Cortinas well in their wake. Evans was fifth, chased by Dickenson who had now passed Williamson. Greensall, Guy Smith and Mark Hales completed the top-ten places, while Dominic Holland had snatched back the Mini lead from Billy Nairn.
On lap 31, Davies was through, setting lap times that could only be approached by Guy Smith in ninth, who was at the back of a long train of cars led by Cullen. Dickenson was soon fifth, having usurped Evans, while Smith swapped places with Greensall in their battle of the pros.
Ten minutes still remained on the clock, and Dickenson was the man on the move, Law also falling victim of his charge. Next target: Cullen in the Cortina class lead. At the front, Davies was inching away from Lockie, and further back Dan Williamson retired his Falcon to allow Mark Martin back into the top-ten. But suddenly, on lap 35, Dickenson was gone, having fallen to the end of the queue formed by Mark Hales’ Cortina. So now Cullen was again chased by Law, who as the prime chaser was quickly replaced by Guy Smith, with Greensall following on the next lap.
On lap 37, the old switcheroo was performed, as Law now found himself in third, followed by Smith (who now faced a 5-second time penalty for exceeding track limits one time too many), Cullen and Greensall, the four Cortinas going at it hammer and tongs. Trailing them were Evans and Hales, but Dickenson was on the way back up and soon passed Hales for eighth. On lap 38, Smith duly took third but with that time penalty hanging over his head, Law, Greensall and Cullen could all still be ahead of him after the chequered flag, that would drop after just two more laps. Having said that, not Justin Law though, as he was awarded a 30-second time penalty for track limits.
At the front, however, Davies was safe, leading home Lockie by 1.3 seconds. The Spiers/Greensall Cortina kept its nose clean to snatch third and the Cortina class win, ahead of Shovlin/Cullen, Peter & Guy Smith, Dickenson, Ross-Jones/Hales and Martin. That massive Cortina phalanx was followed by the Bradshaw/Evans Mustang that took third in the big V8 class, with Law rounding out the top-ten. In 12th overall, Marcus & Dominic Holland won a hard-fought battle with Carl & Billy Nairn to take Mini class honours.