Pearsons take Masters Gentlemen Drivers glory at Donington Park
Gary & John Pearson won an exciting five-way battle for victory in the 90-minute Masters Gentlemen Drivers enduro that closed the first day of the Masters Historic Race Weekend at Donington Park. Initially running fourth to pole-sitter Mike Whitaker, the James Cottingham/Joe Twyman Cobra and the second Pearsons Engineering E-type shared by Alex Brundle and Gary Pearson, their E-type in the hands of John Pearson successfully defended an ever decreasing margin to Whitaker’s TVR Griffith.
Having led with James Cottingham at the wheel, the Cottingham/Twyman Cobra inherited third after the Mark Donnor/Andrew Smith E-type retired just minutes from the end. Meanwhile, the Brundle/Pearson Jag had already disappeared during the pit-window stage, Brundle taking the fight to Cottingham in the first part of the race. Father-and-son-duo Mike & Matt Wrigley proved best of the rest in their E-type, as they led home the Cobra pairings of Harvey Stanley/Richard Cook and Richard Hywel Evans/Olly Bryant.
Mike Wilds led the CLP class initially before contact damage ruled the out Ginetta G4R shared with Ron Maydon. This gave way to a dominant class win for Nick & Eddie Powell, whose Lotus stayed well ahead of the similar Elans of Mark Martin and Steve Jones/Chris Atkinson.
The Welch-run Austin Healey 3000s were in a class of their own in C2, the Mark Holme/Jeremy Welch entry heading home the sister car of Jeremy Welch/Doug Muirhead. Another Healey shared by Mark Pangborn and Harvey Woods took third in class.
In C1, Mark Bates pulled out a huge lead over Sebastian Perez, both in Porsche 911s shared with James Bates and George Gamble respectively, but when both cars were forced to retire, the 911s of Guy Ziser/Wil Arif and Roger Whiteside took control of the class.
The race got off to a good start with Whitaker leading a fast-starting Cottingham, with Brundle in third, Gary Pearson in fourth and Harvey Stanley’s Cobra in fifth getting ahead of Mark Donnor in the E-type. Next up was Mike Wilds in the CLP-class-leading Ginetta, leading Mike Wrigleyâ€™s E-type, Nick Powell in the Elan and Richard Hywel Evans in another Cobra. However, proper racing was soon neutralised when John Spiers was found in the gravel trap, having spun off on the oil of his expiring TVR Griffith engine.
Racing only resumed on lap 10, as Nathan Dod added to the TVR woes, his Griffith shedding a wheel while under the safety car, and getting stuck in the entrance to the pitlane – and as the SC boards continued to be held out, David Methley’s CLP-class Marcos 1800 GT returned to the pits with a steering problem.
Within a few laps after the restart, Cottingham was putting Whitaker – in a TVR still functioning well – under immense pressure, with Brundle holding a close watch, looking to pounce as well. On lap 13, the Cobra was up into the lead as the pair past the start-and-finish line.
In CLP, Wilds continued to lead his class in seventh overall but his Ginetta was wearing battle damage that looked like becoming a bigger issue every lap. Powell was second in class, well ahead of Mark Martin’s Elan in third. Starting the Healey he shared with Doug Muirhead, Jeremy Welch led C2 ahead of Mark Holme in the car that Welch would take over during the stops. A long way behind, Mark Pangborn – another Healey veteran – was third in class. In 18th overall, Mark Bates was being his customary self by running away with the C1 class, his Porsche 911 leading Sebastian Perez’s similar example by a healthy margin already.
At the front, the leading trio were at it hammer and tongs, Cobra, Griffith and E-type split by a mere second, as on lap 17, Brundle made a successful lunge for second place. Gary Pearson in the second Pearsons Jag was now joining the fun as well, having left Stanley and Donnor steadily behind. Meanwhile, another car to fall by the wayside was the Harry & Joseph Willmott Healey, with Harry at the wheel. As with the Dod TVR, a lose wheel was found to be the culprit.
On lap 21, Wilds finally gave up on his damaged Ginetta, as his car was given the black-and-orange ‘meatball’ flag, allowing Wrigley to move up into seventh while Powell gained control of the CLP class lead. In the pits, a smashed fuel tank proved to be the reason of Wilds’ demise. Behind Powell, the Cobras of David Smithies and Richard Hywel Evans completed the top-ten at this stage, with some 50 minutes of 90-minute race still to go.
As the pit window opened, the gaps between the leading quartet had slightly opened up, Cottingham now leading Brundle by three seconds, with Whitaker a further 1.5 seconds adrift. Pearson in fourth had lost touch with Whitaker, having dropped five seconds on the TVR, and was the first of leaders to pit for a driver change. Soon after, Mark Donnor was in to hand over to Andrew Smith, and on lap 29 almost everyone was seen scrambling into the pits, with only Cottingham staying out for another two laps.
A fresh picture was about to emerge as right during the closure of the pit window, the safety car was sent out as the engine of Perez/Gamble Porsche 911 had let go, spreading oil all over the track. Now, John Pearson in the E-type started by Gary Pearson found himself leading Joe Twyman in the Cottingham Cobra, with Smith now in third ahead of Whitaker. Richard Cook in the Cobra started by Harvey Stanley was fifth while Matt Wrigley was sixth having taken over the E-type from father Mike. So why had the Brundle/Pearson Jag suddenly disappeared? That proved to be another non-survivor of the pit window, its radiator pump gone. Meanwhile, the Smithies/Clarkson Cobra Daytona Coupe was forced to retire with contact damage.
As the field was given the green flag on lap 37, both CLP and C2 class leaders had worked their way into the overall top-ten, Eddie Powell in a strong seventh place, and Jeremy Welch in ninth in the Healey started by Mark Holme. They were sandwiching Richard Hywel Evans’ Cobra that was now piloted by Olly Bryant. Jamie Boot’s TVR Griffith had made into the top-ten as well, Boot leading the other Denis Welch Motorsport Healey, Doug Muirhead now in the 3000 started by Jeremy Welch. Mark Martin, second in the CLP class, was 12th, while third in class was now occupied by the Rory & Patrick Jack Elan.
There was a turn-up for the books in C1, though, as James Bates in the 911 started by brother Mark had gone. As the Perez/Gamble 911 had also retired, now the Guy Ziser/Wil Arif 911 was leading the class, Arif having taken over from Ziser and leading Roger Whiteside by half a minute.
On lap 43, with 20 minutes still to run, Whitaker had closed the gap to Twyman to surge past into second place. Lapping roughly a second faster than John Pearson in first place, the TVR would have enough time to shed the 16 seconds that still separated it from the lead. Behind him, though, Andrew Smith was going even quicker. Indeed, one lap later, Twyman lost another spot as Smith moved his E-type into third and set about chasing Whitaker who in turn was chasing J Pearson. A few laps before Matt Wrigley in the E-type had demoted Cook’s Cobra to sixth.
All this meant that the final ten minutes were setting up for a stunning finale between two E-types and a TVR. With seven minutes to go, Whitaker had cut Pearson’s lead to ten seconds while his 2-second margin to Smith was up and down depending on the traffic. Twyman, Wrigley and Cook looked set for fourth, fifth and sixth, while Eddie Powell was still dominantly leading the CLP class, even though he had to succumb to Bryant in the Cobra that was now the fastest car on track. Boot was ninth, while Charles Allison had moved the Thompson/Allison Cobra up into tenth.
The bit between his teeth, Whitaker slashed Pearson’s advantage to six seconds with three minutes still on the clock, but would his efforts bare fruit? Whitaker had one less thing to worry about anyway, as Smith pulled the E-type into the pits, its head gasket blown. But as the final ticked away, John Pearson had it all under control to maintain his six-second lead towards the chequered flag. Behind Whitaker, Twyman crossed the line in third, 35 seconds down, followed by Wrigley, Cook and Bryant.
In seventh overall, the Powells took a dominant win in the CLP class, heading home Mark Martin, while Chris Atkinson in the Elan shared with Steve Jones pinched third in class from the Jacks. The C2 class saw a Healey 1-2-3, Mark Holme/Jeremy Welch winning ahead of the Jeremy Welch/Doug Muirhead car, with Mark Pangborn/Harvey Woods in third. The Guy Ziser/Wil Arif Porsche 911 won C1 ahead of Roger Whiteside’s similar car.
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