Fletcher and Brooks star in Masters Sports Car Legends thriller at Zandvoort
Henry Fletcher and Steve Brooks turned the second Masters Sports Car Legends into a thriller that went right down to the wire, as the Chevron B26 and Lola T70 Mk3B were locked into battle until the final lap when Brooks slipped up to allow Fletcher to regain the lead he had lost after the stops.
“It was quite fun coming from the back, as I basically had nothing to lose”, said Fletcher. “The team told me to be fourth after two laps but I only made fifth… and then it was a case of hunting them all down. Steve got back past as his braking was better – this car has been in storage all that time. So I thought I put him under maximum pressure, I’ll hassle him everywhere! And he just went wide in one corner and I got past…”
“I had caught and passed Henry, with flat-spotted tyres from the start, so the wheel was shaking all over, and then on the final lap I tried to get hot in Turn 9, in the hope to shake him off, and I just got too hot”, said Brooks. “I just had to do the same thing, didn’t need to do that, as it’s so hard to pass here…”
The opening half of the race was led by David Hart’s Ferrari 512M before the Dutch-run car faltered with a puncture that could not be fixed, as the wheel remained stuck to its hub. Following the Ferrari’s demise, Fletcher took command, having stormed up from the back of the grid to be fifth by lap 2 before passing Brooks for second place on lap 6.
Jason Wright in the other Lola T70 Mk3B ran a safe third throughout but a time penalty for speeding in the pitlane dropped him down behind pre-65 Hulme class winners John Spiers/Nigel Greensall (McLaren M1B) and Bonnier class winners Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie (Chevron B8). In tenth overall, Mark Bates proved victorious in the Pescarolo class for GT cars.
“Chasing Calum and passing him, and got to do the fastest lap ever in the McLaren here”, said a delighted Greensall. “It was just magic on this fabulous track, helped by John making our race with that opening stint. As a team we keep on improving!”
As the clock approach four in the afternoon, the Masters Sports Car Legends were ready to go for their second 40-minute race of a glorious Historic Grand Prix weekend. Saturday’s winning Ferrari 512M was on pole, started by David Hart, with the Lola T70 Mk3Bs of Steve Brooks and Jason Wright along with the Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie Chevron B8 completing the first two rows on the starting grid. Next up were the John Spiers/Nigel Greensall McLaren M1B, Spiers starting as usual, and Stephan Joebstl/Andy Willis Lola T212 with the Austrian at the wheel. At the back, in the hope to recover from their Saturday mishap, were Henry Fletcher’s Chevron B26 and the Alexander van der Lof/Yelmer Buurman Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’, with former European and British GT star taking the start instead of his father-in-law. The other Daytona would be a non-starter, however, Marco Werner unable to compete in a car that already proved troublesome the day before.
With Buurman immediately under investigation for a jump start – which soon resulted in a stop-and-go penalty – Hart powered off into a 2.5-second lead over Brooks in two laps. Wright was third, four seconds down on Brooks, but Fletcher was absoluty flying, the Chevron already up to fourth, having set fastest lap of the race on lap 2.
Another fastest lap followed on lap 3, as Fletcher got to within 1.5 seconds of Wright. At the front, Hart wasn’t pulling away from Brooks, as the first of the Lola T70s proved particularly quick in the back part of the circuit. On lap 4, Fletcher took third and now sought to undo his eight-second deficit to Brooks. Simultaneously, Buurman took his penalty, and as a result Richard McAlpine’s McLaren M1B, Billy Bellinger in the Cooper Monaco ‘King Cobra’ and Thomas Matzelberger in the Lola T210 all moved up a spot, while they still chased Thomas, Spiers, John Sheldon’s Chevron B16 and Buurman’s class rival Mark Bates in the Porsche 911 RSR.
As Hart got into his stride, his lead over Brooks now indeed began to increase, and on lap 6 the Dutchman was given an additional present when an error by Brooks allowed Fletcher up into second place, now 8.7 seconds behind. The Chevron B26 was still flying though, lapping well over a second quicker than the Ferrari 512M, with two minutes remaining before the pit window would open. Meanwhile, further back, Bellinger and McAlpine swapped places in their battle for second place in the pre-65 class.
Then, on lap 8, Hart was seen entering the pits, the Ferrari following a wayward route to its garage – and indeed, the 512M proved to have been hit by a puncture, allowing Fletcher into a four-second lead over Brooks. Simultaneously, the pit window had opened, and Joebstl, Bellinger and Matzelberger all came in to hand over to Willis, Ahlers and Ingo Stolz respectively. Bates was in next, followed on the next tour by Spiers, with Greensall waiting to take over. It was the leader’s turn on lap 11, with McAlpine and Buurman following him in, the latter handing over Alexander van der Lof. On the next lap, Brooks, Wright, Sheldon, Allison and Thomas were the last to make their stops while the Hart Ferrari was still in as the Dutch crew tried to fix the issue for some six minutes before finally giving up hope, as the wheel remained stuck on the hub.
After all the stops had unfolded, Fletcher was back to being the leader, but thanks to a better out lap, Brooks was within striking distance – and this time, the closed-top Lola was faster! By now, Wright trailed by 27 seconds, Lockie was in the B8 was 18 seconds behind the second Lola, and Greensall looked at bridging a 13-second gap to Lockie. Willis was sixth but 43 seconds in arrears of Greensall, while Ahlers, Sheldon and Bates ran in close company as Stolz was catching up with them, the Austrian lapping a second faster than the three cars further up the road. McAlpine was still third in the pre-65 class while Allison in the second B8 was 12th ahead of Van der Lof in the Ferrari Daytona.
On lap 16, the battle for the lead was truly hotting up, as a mere three tenths now covered Fletcher and Brooks, and true enough, the big Lola was through on the following tour to immediately open up an advantage of 1.6 seconds to the Chevron. Still, Fletcher wasn’t giving up, as on the next lap, the gap was back down to eight tenths. Behind Wright, meanwhile, Greensall was definitely reeling in Thomas, as the big McLaren was about to gobble up the minnow Chevron.
With less than five minutes remaining on the race clock, Fletcher now firmly had his sights set on regaining the lead that he had lost three laps before, with now just three tenths between the leaders. Jason Wright, though, was in trouble as he was slammed by a mighty 40-second time penalty for pitlane speeding to be applied at the end of the race. This meant that his third place was on the line, as Thomas and Greensall were following by 28 and 29 seconds respectively – on lap 19, that was, as on lap 20 their order had switched around.
A nailbiting finish was on the cards – and indeed, the decision came on the final lap when Brooks succumbed under Fletcher’s immense pressure, handing the Chevron B26 a hard-fought win. A despondent Brooks finished the lap 12 seconds down. Wright crossed the line in third but his time penalty meant that he lost two places to Greensall and Lockie. Willis came home sixth, with Bellinger, Strolz and Sheldon up next. In tenth overall, Mark Bates bagged the Pescarolo class win from the Buurman/Van der Lof Ferrari in 12th. Richard McAlpine was 11th and third in the Hulme class behind Spiers/Greensall, while Charles Allison took second in the Bonnier class as his Chevron B8 came home in 13th overall.
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