Brooks/O’Connell take dominant Masters Historic Sports Car victory at Jerez
Steve Brooks and Martin O’Connell converted pole position into a convincing victory in the one-hour Masters Historic Sports Car race at the Jerez Historic Festival, their Lola T70 Mk3B leading from lights to flag to win by 29 seconds. In second place, Michael Gans vainly gave chase in his Lola T290 while Max Smith-Hilliard and Miles Griffiths wrapped up third in their Chevron B19. Griffiths came close to Gans towards the end but couldn’t quite make it.
“It was fairly straightforward race, wasn’t it?” said Brooks. “The car was just breathtaking, and it’s a hell of a track. I love the sweeping nature, it’s like making love to a beautiful girl!”
“My job was easy”, said O’Connell about being handed a nice lead by Brooks. “I just drove around, trying not to make a mess of it!”
“Close, but not close enough!” said Griffiths. “We always want one more lap, don’t we?”
In his Chevron B23, Belgian Guy Peeters finished a distant fourth, also profiting from the early demise of his countryman Marc Devis, whose Chevron B19 was the first retirement of the race, quickly followed by the Stephan Joebstl/Andy Willis Lola T212. Winning the Siffert class, John Sheldon was fifth in his Chevron B16 while John Spiers and Nigel Greensall took the pre-66 Hulme class trophy in their McLaren M1B.
“With the McLaren, you just can’t breathe all the time you’re in it!” said an exasperated Greensall. “It’s phenomenal, you have wheelspin in fourth gear…”
Despite starting from the pits, Chris Lillingston-Price quickly moved to the front of the Bonnier-class fight but was forced to retire shortly before the halfway mark. This handed the initiative to the Charles Allison/Peter Thompson Chevron B8, Thompson increasing the gap to Andrew Owen’s example during the pair’s second stint.
In this lunchtime race, Brooks in the T70 Mk3B charged away from Gans in the Lola and the Chevrons of Smith-Hilliard, Devis and Peeters, with Sheldon up next ahead of Spiers and Joebstl, while Allison led the Bonnier class due to Chris Lillingston-Price starting late from the pitlane with coil trouble. Soon, though, he was past Andrew Owen’s Chevron B8 and Chris Jolly in the Cooper Monaco T61M.
After three laps, Devis gave up the chase, his Chevron B19 reporting to the pits with transmission trouble. At the front, Brooks led Gans’ T290 by 1.8 seconds, the pair having dropped Smith-Hilliard by 12 seconds. Peeters’ B23 was fourth, ten more ticks in arrears, with Sheldon’s lone Siffert-class Chevron B16 in no man’s land between the Belgian and John Spiers’ Hulme-class-leading McLaren-Chevrolet M1B in sixth overall. In seventh, Lillingston-Price was back at the top of the Bonnier class, having just passed Allison, with Owen further back.
15 minutes into the race, Brooks had increased his advantage to four seconds while further down the road Lillingston-Price had usurped Spiers for sixth overall. Smith-Hilliard trailed the two leaders by 22 seconds but had a healthy 14 seconds in hand on Peeters. Meanwhile, Joebstl’s Lola T212 had ground to a halt, and so did Chris Jolly’s Cooper Monaco T61M, both denying Andy Willis and Steve Farthing a run in the respective cars.
As the pit window approached, Brooks inched away from Gans further and further, and the gap had grown to 14 seconds when the first were allowed to make their mandatory stops. Smith-Hilliard was 50 seconds down on the leader but still on the same lap – which could not be said of Peeters, the Belgian being the first to pit. Sheldon was holding his own in fifth, ahead of Lillingston-Price and Allison, the latter having left Spiers behind in eighth, as the latter handed over to Nigel Greensall. Soon though, Lillingston-Price was to relinquish his Bonnier-class lead, his B8 heading into the pits with a terminal issue.
As Brooks now led Gans by the whole back straight and then some, Smith-Hilliard was the next one in, Miles Griffiths taking over the B19 from its owner. He was followed by Gans and Sheldon, and at the final opportunity the leader made his stop to hand over to Martin O’Connell, with Allison joining him to be relieved by Peter Thompson.
After the dust had settled, O’Connell remained in front by a decent margin and went on to increase the gap with every tour. Griffiths was closing on Gans, though, even though the American’s margin was still extremely healthy. Peeters and Sheldon were a lonely fourth and fifth, with Greensall leading the Hulme class in sixth. Thompson had taken charge of the Bonnier class, leading Owen by 48 seconds.
The positions remained static to the end of the race, O’Connell duly converting the advantage that Brooks had given him to win the race by 29 seconds. While Gans lost ground to Griffiths, it wasn’t enough to depose the American, as they divided the remaining podium positions between themselves. The gap at the end was down to less than two seconds. Peeters finished a distant fourth ahead of Sheldon’s B16, while Nigel Greensall cornered the pre-66 Hulme-class win for John Spiers and himself. Peter Thompson held Andrew Owen to about 50 seconds to win the Bonnier class.
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