Masters News

Saturday 30th October 2021

Minshaw takes commanding Masters Gentlemen Drivers win at Portimãoere

John Minshaw virtually led from start to finish in a Masters Gentlemen Drivers race that was red-flagged after 78 of the 90 minutes were completed, as darkness fell over the Autodromo do Algarve. From second on the grid, Minshaw’s Jaguar E-type grabbed the initiative right at the start, and had well over a minute in hand once Lee Mowle handed over to Phil Keen in the polesitting E-type. Keen cut Minshaw’s lead to less than a minute but wouldn’t have caught his former teammate even if the race had run the full 90 minutes.

“It was alright, I’ll take that”, said Minshaw about leading from start to finish. “It was hard work, though. At one point, the track was flooded. It was very, very wet. Worried about Phil catching me? I know he’s a superstar but even he couldn’t make up a minute.”

“Jon was driving very well”, said Keen. “Lee did a good job and improved the whole weekend, and Classic Team Lotus did a good job too preparing the car. It was fun!”

“Exactly that!”, Mowle agreed.

Winning the C2 class, Mark Holme and Jeremy Welch took a stunning third overall in their Austin Healey 3000, Holme in the opening stint having fought Billy Bellinger in the rivalling Morgan Plus 4 Supersport that Simon Orebi Gann would finish sixth. Coming back to fourth overall after a delay at the stops, Andrew Haddon and Andy Wolfe still took CLP class honours in their Lotus Elan while Andrew Smith and Richard Hywel Evans took fifth in their AC Cobra, Smith having run second to Minshaw during the first half of the race before being passed by Haddon.

“That was pretty good for a Healey, wasn’t it?” said Welch, while Holme had enjoyed his fight with Bellinger during the opening stint. “Yeah, that was good. We got away well, then both got stuck behind the Jaguar [of Lee Mowle], and it was nip and tuck between us before he got away while passing the backmarkers.”

“We had a longer pitstop”, said Wolfe, “so I had to play catch-up. They wouldn’t let us out without fixing the lights so the team had to look for the broken fuse!”

Next up were Niklas & Lukas Halusa in the Ferrari 250 GT ‘Breadvan’ and the John Spiers/Nigel Greensall TVR Griffith, with the Simon Evans/James Littlejohn Elan taking second in CLP on their way to ninth overall. Maurizio Bianco was tenth in his E-type, ahead of the third-placed CLP Elan of Graham Wilson/David Pittard, while Chris Clarkson and David Smithies ended up 13th overall to take third in C2. Local duo João Carnas/Francisco da Carneiro took C1 class honours in their Porsche 911 while Louis Zurstrassen/Guillaume Peeters cornered the A class in their Lotus XI.

Meanwhile, Geoff & Alan Letts proved triumphant in the concurrent 60-minute Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars race, their Lotus Cortina keeping well clear of Rick Carlino’s Mini.

With a delay of half an hour, the field finally received the green flag for what was now going to be a race into the night. On the first lap, the order quickly reset itself, with the faster drivers on the opening stint working their way up the field. This meant that Minshaw led in the E-type, from Andrew Smith in the Cobra, Mark Martin in the Cobra Daytona Coupé and Andrew Haddon in the Elan, with the polesitting E-type of Lee Mowle dropping back to fifth. Mark Holme was sixth in the Austin Healey 3000, closely followed by C2-class rival Billy Bellinger, with John Spiers in eighth ahead of Niklas Halusa in the ‘Breadvan’ and Simon Evans in another Elan.

On the next tour, Haddon in the top CLP-class car was up into third, at the cost of former teammate Martin, as the rest of the 31-car field settled down for the 90-minute grind in the wet. In the A class, Guy Peeters in the Lotus XV grabbed the early initiative in 12th overall while in the C1 class, Karl-Günter Diederichs in the Porsche 904 GTS still led, having started from the class pole. Geoff Letts consummately led the concurrent Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race, his Cortina now 16th overall.

At the front, Minshaw had opened up a five-second gap on Smith who in turn was chased by Haddon. Martin followed three seconds later, with Mowle seven more seconds adrift. Meanwhile, Bellinger had passed Holme for sixth overall and the C2 class lead, with Spiers, Evans and Halusa (N.) still leading Maurizio Bianco’s E-type in 11th overall. Soon, though, Martin was into the pits with his Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé, handing fourth and fifth to Bellinger and Holme who both had jumped Mowle. Further back, Peter Thompson had moved his Cobra into the top-ten.

20 minutes gone, and Minshaw’s lead had increased to 14 seconds, with Haddon still harrying Smith over second place but under threat of a black flag for failing to turn his headlights on – on lap 8, though, Haddon was up into second. Half a minute away, Bellinger and Holme put their nimble C2 mounts to good use while Mowle was in no man’s land ahead of Spiers, Halusa (another one racing without lights), Thompson and Guy Peeters in the leading A-class Lotus. Mark Martin, who had briefly returned in tenth place after his unscheduled stop was soon back in for a second time to retire with a split oil cooler. Moments after, Peeters was in as well, with a flat battery, handing tenth overall to Nathan Dod in the TVR Griffith. Meanwhile, there were no changes in C1, Diederichs still leading, as was Geoff Letts in the touring car race.

As we approached the half-hour mark, Minshaw’s lead had grown into a comfortable 27 seconds, while Haddon still had Smith chasing him. Still punching well above their weight, Bellinger in fourth and Holme in fifth were separated by five seconds as they trailed the leader by 45 and 50 seconds respectively. Mowle in sixth was now over a minute down while Spiers and Halusa trailed by nearly two minutes. In ninth, Thompson was the first man lapped. Further back, Geoff Letts came in with the Cortina – the Masters Pre-66 Touring Car pit window now open – and rejoined without relinquishing the touring-car lead to Rick Carlino’s Mini. At the same time, Ron Maydon’s Ginetta G4R came in for an unplanned stop to rejoin in 16th overall.

As the pit window approached, the solo-driving Minshaw led Haddon (who was going to be relieved by Andy Wolfe) by 26 seconds, the former having lost a bit of ground, while Smith would soon be handing over to Richard Hywel Evans. In C2, the pendulum could well swing with Bellinger making way for Simon Orebi Gann while Jeremy Welch would take over Holme’s seat. Lee Mowle was about to hand over to his trump card Phil Keen while in eighth, Nigel Greensall was waiting to take over from Spiers. Further back, Bianco’s E-type had entered the top-ten at the cost of Nathan Dod’s Griffith.

Simon Evans was the first to pit from 14th overall to hand over to James Littlejohn, and was soon followed by the C1-class-leading Porsche of Diederichs who gave the wheel to Thomas Henkel. Halusa (N.) and Spiers followed suit, changing places with Halusa (L.) and Greensall respectively, while next up were Haddon, Bellinger, Nathan Dod (handing over to Peter Dod) and Peter Thompson (handing over to Charles Allison). Then Mowle and Bianco came in, but Minshaw, Smith and Holme waited until the last opportunity – which was lap 18. Meanwhile, Tom Harris retired his E-type from 21st, being quoted as having had a lovely time but having had enough.

After all the stops had panned out, Minshaw was still leading the race, now a minute and ten seconds ahead of Hywel Evans, and 1.19 away from Welch. In fourth already, however, Phil Keen was setting miracle lap times and poised to clear both Hywel Evans and Welch. Orebi Gann was fifth ahead of Wolfe who was setting faster times, with Lukas Halusa seventh and chased by Greensall. The Haddon/Wolfe Elan had lost time at the stops, as its lack of lights was due to a broken fuse, which the team had to find and replace before the car would be allowed back on the track.

Bianco was ninth, but Littlejohn was another man flying, his Elan having just passed Allison for tenth overall. In 12th, the Chris Clarkson/David Smithies Austin Healey 3000 was third in C2, while behind Haddon and Littlejohn, the Chris Atkinson/Steve Jones Elan had moved into third in the CLP class, Jones now driving. The leading touring car was in 14th and still pedalled by a Letts – now it was Alan at the wheel. At the back, the leading C1 car had broken its ignition, Henkel offering the class lead to the local duo of João Carnas/Francisco Sa Carneiro in the Porsche 911.

With half an hour still to run, it was now a question whether Minshaw would be able to stop the arrival of his former teammate, who was now in second place and catching the leader by four seconds a lap, but still a minute and 16 seconds behind. Welch was occupying a stunning third overall in the leading C2 car, while Hywel Evans in fourth was caught by Wolfe, now back up to fifth at Orebi Gann’s detriment. Such was the leaders’ pace that all cars had been lapped up to the Morgan. In seventh, Halusa (L.) was flying too, the ‘Breadvan’ closing rapidly on Orebi Gann while moving away from Greensall in eighth. In the meantime, Littlejohn had jumped Bianco for ninth.

The one-hour mark was also the moment that the Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race was flagged off, the Letts’ Cortina prevailing over Rick Carlino’s Mini. At the same time, Henkel was back out, the 904’s ignition apparently fixed but a lap down on the Portuguese 911. Soon it was back in, though, now with a gearbox issue. In the midfield, David Pittard – having taken over Graham Wilson’s Elan – had passed Steve Jones for third in CLP.

On lap 26, with 18 minutes remaining on the clock, Keen broke the one-minute barrier in his disadvantage to Minshaw, while Welch – himself 45 seconds down the road on Keen – held a safe minute in hand in Wolfe who had now passed Hywel Evans for fourth. Orebi Gann was about to be usurped by Halusa while Greensall had found some more pace to close on the both of them, eight more ticks in arrears. Littlejohn and Bianco continued to round out the top-ten but Pittard in 11th was looking to wipe away the 18-second gap between himself and the Italian.

With twelve minutes remaining on the clock, the red flag came out to finish the race, visibility having become too much of an issue. This meant that Minshaw won the race from lights to flag, ahead of Mowle/Keen, the C2-class-winning pair of Holme/Welch and the CLP class-winning duo of Haddon/Wolfe. Smith/Hywel Evans took fifth ahead of Halusa/Halusa and Spiers/Greensall, the Breadvan and the Griffith having cleared the Bellinger/Orebi Gann Morgan at the last moment. Evans/Littlejohn and Bianco completed the top-ten.


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