Brundle charges to Masters Historic Sports Car win at Brands Hatch
In a solo effort in Gary Pearson’s Lola T70 Mk3B, Alex Brundle saw off the challenge of multiple open-top 2-litre prototypes to record victory in a highly attritional and confusing Masters Historic Sports Car race, as the WEC and ELMS star leading from start to finish proved to be the only constant factor in the 60 minutes of the race.
Donington Park winner Tom Bradshaw was Brundle’s closest rival but his challenge evaporated when the throttle cable of his Chevron B19 broke as the field was given the green flag after a sizeable crash by Jonathan Mitchell’s similar B19 caused a lengthy safety-car period midway into the race. Along with the Gonçalo Gomes/James Claridge Chevron B23, Mitchell had been one of three 2-litre cars snapping at Brundle’s heels.
The field bunched up by the safety car, Martin Stretton in the Lola T70 Mk3 shared with Nick Sleep was perfectly placed to pick off his rivals in the second part of the race and got up to third before being handed second place when Henry Fletcher’s B19 was forced to take a drive-through penalty that dropped him down to third. Eventually, the Robert Beebee/Steve Brooks T70 Mk3B and the Gomes/Claridge B23 took fourth and fifth respectively.
In seventh overall, and despite making three stops, John Spiers and Tiff Needell (McLaren M1B) beat Hulme-class rivals Chris Jolly and Steve Farthing (Cooper Monaco T61M), while in eighth overall Christian Pittard and Darren Burke (Chevron) proved victorious in the Bonnier class. John Sheldon (Chevron B16) took Siffert-class honours while James & Mark Bates (Porsche 911 RSR) lifted the Pescarolo class.
Pearsons Engineering having decided on a solo drive for young Alex Brundle, the WEC and ELMS star stormed into the lead from pole from Bradshaw, Mitchell and Gomes. Brundle wasn’t getting away, though, the three open-top prototypes staying within less than a second. Nick Sleep in fifth dropped four seconds on the opening laps before both Robert Beebee and Henry Fletcher swooped past. Up ahead, Gomes got the better of Mitchell to move up to third.
In the Hulme class, John Spiers ran a creditable ninth overall in the McLaren M1B, with Chris Jolly back in 12th in the Cooper Monaco T61M. Five laps down, Christian Pittard led the Chevron B8 Bonnier class from Charles Allison and Mark owen while James Bates was up to 18th in the Pescarolo-class-leading Porsche 911 RSR. Despite a spin, John Sheldon narrowly kept ahead of Ted Tuppen in the Chevron B16 Siffert class.
Ten minutes into the race, Brundle had successfully fended off Bradshaw’s attentions to open up a modest 1.5-second lead, with Gomes and Mitchell each separated by another one second from the car in front. In the Bonnier class, however, Julian Thomas was the race’s first casualty, as Mark Owen – having passed Allison – took over second place in class.
As Brundle consolidated his 1.5-second advantage, Gomes was closing up on Bradshaw, but while the Portuguese driver began to worry his rival in the older Chevron, Bradshaw hung on. Mitchell in fourth was unable to keep pace and was dropped by four seconds. 15 seconds further back, Beebee in the second Sid Taylor Racing-liveried T70 Mk3B in the field was giving his best to keep Fletcher behind, while Sleep in the ‘non-B’ T70 Mk3 remained in seventh ahead of Robert Shaw in another Chevron B19. Spiers still led Jolly in the Hulme class, while the order in the Bonnier, Siffert and Pescarolo classes remained unchanged as well.
On lap 12, however, the safety car was out for a sizeable off by Jonathan Mitchell on the exit of Sheene’s, as on impact the Chevron vaulted the Armco. Fortunately, the driver was OK but the car had destroyed the barrier. The pit window now open, cars were pouring in for their mandatory stop – many of them too early! A few minutes later, this forced them to make a second stop. Seconds ahead of the crash, Spiers had come in to relinquish the Hulme-class lead to the Jolly/Farthing Cooper Monaco, and was now on his third stop, handing over to Needell.
Those that timed their stop to perfection included leaders Brundle and Bradshaw, now chased by Fletcher, Steve Brooks (in the T70 Mk3B started by Beebee), James Claridge (in the B23 started by Gomes), Martin Stretton (having taken over from Sleep) and Shaw. The one-stopping Cooper Monaco, now in the hands of Steve Farthing was up to ninth, ahead of new Bonnier-class leader Peter Thompson in the B8 started by Charles Allison. Through the pitstop mayhem, Paul Pochciol invitational De Tomaso Pantera was up into 11th ahead of Philip Nelson in the second Chevron B8. 13th and leading the Siffert class was John Sheldon’s B16.
The race remained under yellows while the barriers at Sheene’s were repaired, but with 19 minutes on the clock the green flag finally flew. Immediately, Brundle sped off into the distance but Bradshaw’s Chevron broke on the moment that its driver put his foot on the throttle – indeed, the throttle cable had snapped, as a disappointed Bradshaw found himself unable to repeat his Donington Park glory. Now, Fletcher took over second, but behind him Stretton had already flown past Claridge and Brooks with his eyes now firmly set on Fletcher’s B19. Shaw was sixth and last of the unlapped cars, with Marc Devis in another B19 now up into seventh.
In front, Brundle popped in fastest lap of the race to increase his lead on Fletcher to a massive 18 seconds. Five ticks were separating Fletcher and Stretton but their lap times were fairly similar. Further back, Needell had retaken the Hulme-class lead from Farthing, while Darren Burke in the Chevron B8 started by Christian Pittard was back in front in the Bonnier class.
The race for second place was decided prematurely when Fletcher was handed a drive-through penalty, the tall Chevron B19 dropping down to third. At the same time, Shaw’s B19 disappeared from the top-ten, allowing Devis to move up to sixth, now followed by Roderick Jack in another T70 Mk3, but only seconds later, Jack was out too! This promoted Needell up to seventh ahead of Burke, Roberto Giordanelli in the Chevron B26 shared with Simon Watts, with Farthing now in tenth.
After an attritional hour of racing, and with a lead of 33 seconds, Brundle crossed the line in first ahead of Stretton, Fletcher, Brooks and Claridge. A lap down, Devis took sixth ahead of the Hulme-class-winning McLaren M1B of John Spiers and Tiff Needell that in turn led the Bonnier-class winner, the Chevron B8 of Christian Pittard and Darren Burke. In ninth, Jolly/Farthing took second in the Hulme class while in tenth, Charles Allison and Peter Thompson claimed second in the Bonnier class. John Sheldon won the Siffert class in 11th overall while in 18th overall James & Mark Bates claimed Pescarolo honours.
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