Brooks makes it three in a row in first Masters Endurance Legends race at Brands
Steve Brooks continued his winning ways in Masters Endurance Legends by winning the first MEL race of the Masters Historic Festival at Brands Hatch. Having already won both races at Hockenheim, the Peugeot 90X driver made it three out of three while fending off a challenge of fellow Peugeot pedaller Stuart Wiltshire.
“It was a great race, great fun”, said Brooks. “A sunny day at Brands, what more do you want? Actually, I lost fifth gear towards the end, so it got a bit exciting – I was praying for the flag!”
“It’s the third time for me in the car, I don’t have his pace yet”, Wiltshire admitted. “Whatever fuel they have in the car, I want that too!”
David Brise was all over the back of Richard Meins in the third Peugeot in the opening stages before the gearbox of his Lola-Judd B12/60 seized. At the midway point, Meins himself was involved in an incident with Jason Green’s Ligier JSP3 at Paddock Hill Bend, taking them both out.
This elevated the Marcus Jewell/Ben Clucas Ligier JSP3 to third overall while the pairing also bagged the P3 class win from the similar JSP3s of Craig Davies/Ron Maydon and Stephan Joebstl/Andy Willis, as Maydon passed Willis a couple of laps from the end. James Hagan and Chris Atkinson were sixth in the ORECA FLM09 while Colin Sowter’s Ferrari 458 GT3 took GT honours while also managing to keep ahead of Mike Furness in the Courage LC75 coming second in the P2 class to the Hagan/Atkinson ORECA.
“We lost a bit with the safety car, but to get a P3 car in the overall top-three is just great”, said Jewell.
“Marcus did a brilliant job”, said Clucas. “I just brought it home!”
“Great fun! I thought it was going to be very lonely, but I managed to mix it up with the prototypes which was very exciting!” said Sowter.
On a bright Whitsunday in Kent, the Masters Endurance Legends lined up for their first of two races on the day. After the two-by-two rolling start, the Peugeots took off on full power, Brooks leading Wiltshire, Meins and David Brise all over the back of the last of the turbo diesel LMP1s. On the opening lap, Brooks opened up a 1.1-second gap over Wiltshire, with Brise continuing to pressure Meins. Marcus Jewell led the Ligier P3 train from Stephan Joebstl, Craig Davies and Jason Green, with James Hagan the interloper in the ORECA FLM09. At the back, Mike Furness in the Courage LC75 had got past Colin Sowter’s Ferrari 458 GT3.
At the front, Wiltshire had the bit between his teeth, aiming to not let Brooks get away, and indeed he closed to within a second on lap 2. His tyres now properly hotted up, Meins was the quickest around Brands for the second tour in the race. On lap 3, though, Brooks put the hammer down with a big fastest lap to increase his lead over Wiltshire to 1.5 seconds. Meins and Brise quarrelled over third four seconds further back, with Marcus Jewell in fifth well out on front of the second group of cars, as Hagan passed Joebstl to pull clear of the remaining JSP3s. Immediately after, Davies also challenged the Austrian and after going side by side for a while, he took the place. Further back, Furness gained a spot on Jason Green.
On lap 5, sadly, Brise was seen to lose speed in a smoking Lola, and he wisely parked the car in a safe spot on the Cooper Straight, the gearbox of the Judd-engined machine having seized. So now, the three Peugeots found themselves alone in front, now separated by gaps of some four seconds. In traffic, Brooks increased that to five seconds, while Meins lost a further two ticks to Wiltshire. Jewell now trailed the leader by 48 seconds.
Another fastest lap of the race helped Brooks be 7.4 seconds out in front into lap 9, while at the far end of the top ten, Sowter’s GT Ferrari managed to pass Green’s Ligier JSP3. Hagan and Davies continued to war over fifth place, as Davies got onto the grass at Clearways but with Hagan sliding wide into Paddock Hill Bend, the Ligier still jumped the ORECA.
As the pit window opened on lap 11, Joebstl was the first to come in to swap places with Andy Willis. Actually, the race leader was in next, electing to stop early, having built a 12-second lead during his opening stint. His stop, however, seemed too short. Next up, Jewell came in to hand over to Ben Clucas, but not after the 20-second elite-driver penalty for Clucas was effected. Straight after, Davies was in for Ron Maydon, and Hagan for Chris Atkinson. But at the same time as Wiltshire, Sowter and Furness came in as well, two cars were off in the gravel at Paddock Hill Bend, Green in the Ligier JSP3 and Meins in the third Peugeot 90X, the incident calling out the safety car.
With debris on the circuit, some time was needed before the caution period could be ended, but once the green flag was waved at the start of lap 18, Brooks still led Wiltshire, with Clucas now in third, a lap down, ahead of Atkinson, Willis, Maydon, Sowter and Furness. Some nine minutes of racing were left, and on the first time around, Brooks found a space of 1.6 seconds to put between himself and Wiltshire, while further back both Willis and Maydon lunged past Atkinson’s ORECA to be fourth and fifth respectively. Behind them, Sowter’s GT car continued to lead the Courage that he had managed to pass just before the stops.
On lap 21, Brooks dipped under the 1.20s to record another fastest lap of the race, his cushion over Wiltshire now at 3.9 seconds. The top three Ligiers JSP3s of Clucas, Willis and Maydon continued to circulate with Clucas having ten seconds in hand over Willis, but Maydon was just two ticks in arrears of Willis and catching him.
In the final minutes, though, Brooks dropped a few seconds in traffic at the back of the circuit, but he still kept six seconds in hand. Next time around, the same happened, though, and the gap was down tot 4.4 seconds. Behind them, Willis went off in his defense of fourth place, with Maydon nipping past. Brooks had it all under control, though, with Wiltshire now baulked by the same traffic, resulting in a winning margin of 7.8 seconds. A lap down, Clucas took third overall and the P3 class win from Maydon and Willis. Atkinson finished sixth in the ORECA FLM09, with Sowter winning the GT class while staying in front of Mike Furness in the Courage LC75.
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