Jewell/Clucas beat the Mustangs to win Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars at Donington
Marcus Jewell and Ben Clucas very much held their own against a five-strong Ford Mustang challenge, as their Ford Lotus Cortina beat all that the American V8s could muster against them to win the one-hour Masters Pre-66 Touring Car touring race at Donington Park.
The first half of the race was dominated by Steve Soper in the Mustang shared with Henry Mann, with Alex Taylor and Craig Davies squabbling in his wake. Jewell had kept in touch while fighting the other Cortina of Richard Dutton â€“ and then the race turned when right after the pit window closed the safety car was out to recover Mark Martin’s stranded Cortina.
Now in the car, Clucas was within striking distance of Taylor, as slightly slower stops had put Mann and Davies back with the Mustang shared by Dave Coyne and Jon Miles. Within two laps, Clucas found his way past Taylor, who then was forced to retire with a fuel issue. This handed second place to Davies who had meanwhile put space between himself and the Soper/Mann and Coyne/Miles cars. Dutton finished fifth as the second Cortina.
Endaf Owens became an unchallenged Mini class winner, as Phil Bullen-Brown’s example was the only other Mini runner left after one hour of racing. William Dyrdal led early on while fighting with class polesitter Dan Wheeler before the latter dropped out. Owens then passed Dyrdal for the class lead and faced no more opposition after Dyrdal spun off into the gravel.
On cold tyres, Soper held his own in the rolling start but from the third row Craig Davies powered his way into second place even before turning into Redgate. Dutton also beat fellow front-row man Marcus Jewell away from the line, followed by the yellow Mustang of Alex Taylor, with British GT driver Mark Farmer in the Studebaker dropping down to sixth. Among the Minis, William Dyrdal was quick away, leaving poleman Dan Wheeler to fend off Endaf Owens.
Soon, it was three Mustangs out in front, as Taylor caught and passed Dutton, leaving the Fortec Motorsport boss to deal with Cortina rival Jewell. Further back, Dave Coyne in the Mustang and Patrick Shovlin in the Cortina also got passed the big Studebaker, while Justin Law had risen to ninth in his first race in a Lotus Cortina.
By lap 6, Soper had created a 4-second gap to Davies as Taylor inched closer to within seven tenths of the second red-and-gold Mustang, while Coyne had split the Cortinas of Dutton and Jewell to move up into fifth. Jason Minshaw in Martin Melling’s Ford Falcon, meanwhile, had got up to eighth place ahead of the unsorted Studebaker that now had Law’s Cortina breathing down its neck. In the Mini squabble, Dyrdal was keeping his own, with three bigger cars between himself and his pursuers. Shovlin was out, though, with a suspected puncture.
On lap 8, Taylor snatched second place from Davies, while Tom Sharp in the lone BMW 1800 tiSA was forced to pull off from his position on the edge of the top-ten. Further down the road, Coyne made it a Mustang 1-2-3-4 by demoting Dutton to fifth, allowing the intra-Cortina fight with Jewell for the class lead to resume. Minshaw and Law were up next, while biggest car was fighting smallest, as Dyrdal harried Farmer for ninth, with Mark Burton in the Mustang on the look-out. Further back, Ashley Davies in the Mini shared with Leon Window had to retire his Mini with failed brakes. A few laps later, Wheeler was forced to say goodbye to the lead Mini fight.
16 laps gone, Soper’s gap to the warring pair of Taylor and Davies was up to eight seconds, as Dutton fought back to re-pass Coyne, only to be usurped by American V8 brawn yet again. Just as Taylor looked set to succumb to Davies, a backmarker cost the latter five car lengths, but then Taylor ran wide to gift Davies the place after all. On the next lap, the pit window was about to open, Soper leading Davies, Taylor, Coyne, Dutton, Jewell, Minshaw and Law, as the Studebaker went off to hand Burton ninth. Behind Burton, Alex Thistlethwayte (Ford Mustang) and Shaun Balfe (Lotus Cortina) had also moved in front of the leading Minis, Owens now ahead of Dyrdal.
As one car after the other entered the pits for their mandatory stop, Taylor had recovered enough to reclaim second from Davies, before, on lap 21, the yellow Mustang became the first of the leading cars to pit. At the half hour, Dyrdal’s race was over, as his Mini got stuck in the gravel at Coppice – but fortunately, there was no need to neutralise the race to recover his car. Soper, Davies and Coyne were in on the final opportunity before the pit window closed, Soper handing over to Henry Mann while Coyne made way for Jon Miles.
When all was done, Taylor found himself leading the race ahead of Ben Clucas who after an early stop had been pounding in the quick laps, with Mann now in third after a longer stop for the Alan Mann Racing car. Miles had swapped places with Davies, with Dutton in sixth (but still with 15 seconds worth of penalties to collect), followed by Thistlethwayte, Tom Ashton in the Cortina started by Balfe, Burton and the leading Mini of Endaf Owens. Phil Bullen-Brown was the next Mini up, but in 16th overall.
On lap 26, though, the safety car came out to bunch up the field, as Mark Martin’s Lotus Cortina was buried deep into the gravel at the exit of the Roberts chicane. A quarter of an hour of racing was left when the field was let loose. Taylor and Clucas were quick away, but Martin Melling was holding up the three Mustangs of Mann, Miles and Davies. As Mann was bogged down, Miles and Davies pipped past into Redgate, with Davies then pouncing on Miles for third. Mann’s race was then further compounded by a penalty for speeding in the pitlane…
At the front, Clucas was all over Taylor in the curvy bits before making his way past into Coppice. Within two laps, the Cortina had opened up a 2-second gap to Taylor, as Davies homed in on the yellow Mustang – but then it was all over for Taylor, as he parked his car with a fuel issue to leave Davies in pursuit of Clucas.
With less than five minutes to go, Clucas led Davies by five seconds, as a still to be penalised Mann passed Miles to be third on the road. Dutton was fifth, another with penalties still to be added, ahead of Thistlethwayte, the recovered Studebaker now driven by Adrian Willmott, and then Mark Burton, Roy Alderslade in the Jordan Cortina and Tom Ashton in another Cortina. Owens was still consummately leading the Mini class, as three other cars separated him from Bullen-Brown, his closest pursuer in class. Remarkably, all other Minis had meanwhile dropped out of the race!
So Clucas crossed the line in first, ahead of Davies, the Coyne/Miles Mustang, the Soper/Mann Mustang, Dutton, Thistlethwayte, the Studebaker of Farmer/Willmott and Burton, with the Balfe/Ashton and Alderslade Cortinas rounding out the top-ten. Owens in 11th overall won the Mini class.
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