Brooks & O’Connell storm through to win first Masters Endurance Legends race at Brands
The Lola-Mazda B12/60 of Steve Brooks and Martin O’Connell came through to win the Masters Historic Festival’s first Masters Endurance Legends race at Brands Hatch, as after the stops O’Connell surged past Duncan Wiltshire’s Ligier JSP2 to never look back. Wiltshire had been battling Steve Tandy’s Peugeot 90X during the first half of the race before Tandy went into the gravel trap at Paddock Hill Bend going into lap 7.
Despite an engine that sounded rough, Mike Newton in the MG-Lola EX257 salvaged third overall and second in the P2 class, even though he ran home fourth on the road. Newton was handed the final podium spot after the Stephan Joebstl/Andy Willis Ligier JSP3 was penalised for missing the pit window for their mandatory stop and driver change. Despite their penalty, the pair did win the intra-JSP3 fight with Marcus Jewell and Jason Green/Neil Glover.
In seventh overall, Jason Wright cornered the GT class win in his Ferrari 458 GT3, having inherited the lead once the Dodge Viper GT3 of Wayne Marrs retired into the pits. Colin Sowter’s similar 458 GT3 took second in class, with Christopher Compton Goddard in third in a Ferrari 430.
On a clouded spring morning in Kent, as a chilly breeze filled the air, Steve Tandy’s Peugeot led away from Wiltshire’s P2 Ligier, with Steve Brooks in third, ahead of Newton, Davies and Brise. One lap later, though, Wiltshire zapped past the Peugeot to claim the lead, while further back, Marcus Jewell moved ahead of the Stephan Joebstl’s similar P3 Ligier, who in turn had Jason Green chasing him in another Ligier. Marrs led the GTs in his Dodge, followed by a Ferrari gang headed by Wright.
After four laps, Wiltshire was two seconds ahead of Tandy, with Brooks’ AER-powered Lola B12/60 six seconds further adrift. The interval to Newton was 11 seconds, but the equally AER-powered MG-Lola EX257 held a slender three-second advantage over Craig Davies in the first of the Ligier JSP3s. Behind Jewell, now 45 seconds down, Marrs was dusting up the Ligiers to take a remarkable seventh overall in his Dodge Viper GT3, while David Brise was forced to pit the Lola B09/80 with a misfiring Judd engine, taking the P2 car out of the equation.
Ten minutes into the race, however, the safety car was deployed, just as Tandy had whittled down the gap to Wiltshire to almost nothing – but all or nothing became nothing at all when the Peugeot hit the gravel bed at Paddock Hill Bend going into lap 7, after a move that some would have deemed overoptimistic. Meanwhile, Marrs’ promising run looked to have come to an end as the Dodge came into the pits with the driver hearing a worrying noise coming from the left rear. It proved to be a gearbox oil leak.
The race was still under yellows when the pit window opened, and Joebstl was the first to take the opportunity, handing over to Andy Willis. That looked like a smart move, as the others waited for another lap but now the field was given green again, allowing Willis to jump the entire field bar Newton and Jewell who had elected to stay out.
Newton came in on lap 13, his AER engine sounding rough, to rejoin in fifth, but Jewell was staying out for not one but two more laps, leaving it very late with just ten seconds left on the pit window. This duly elevated Willis into the lead but in his much faster machine, Wiltshire was closing at a rate of knots – as the clouds grew darker and darker, with the first spots of rain noted by the crowd, the teams in the pitlane and the drivers on their visors. Would it be a wet finale? It seemed to hold back for the moment, with just a few scattered drops here and there.
On lap 17, Wiltshire reclaimed the lead, but the man who was really flying was Martin O’Connell in Steve Brooks’ Lola-Mazda B12/60 – not only did the OC Racing boss pass Willis on the same lap, but his pace was such that he was into the lead on lap 18. Newton was holding on in fourth, ahead of Jewell who after his pitstop had resumed in fifth, while Jason Wright had taken over the GT mantle from Marrs by running a strong sixth overall. Neil Glover in the Ligier JSP3 started by Jason Green still separated Wright from class nemesis Colin Sowter in the other Ferrari 458 GT3.
At the front, with five minutes still to go, O’Connell had broken clear of Wiltshire by some seven seconds, as Willis continued to push above his weight in third, with nine seconds in hand over Newton in fourth – the P2 car approaching the P3 car with two seconds per lap, though. Moreover, it now turned out that Joebstl had actually come in for his driver change with Willis just ahead of the pit window, so what looked like a smart move proved to have been not so clever, with all the others having got it right after all.
So, after 40 minutes of racing, O’Connell took the chequered flag 20 seconds ahead of Wiltshire in the P2-class-leading Ligier, with Newton moving up into third on the penultimate lap but dropping back to finish fourth on the road. However, the penalty applied to Joebstl/Willis still handed him third. Despite the penalty, Stephan Joebstl and Andy Willis still won the battle of the Ligiers with Jewell and Green/Glover, with Wright securing the GT class win from Sowter and Christopher Compton Goddard’s Ferrari 430 in ninth overall.
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