Masters News

Saturday 27th May 2023

Sleep/Montgomery steal the win in Brands’ first Masters Sports Car Legends race

In a bitter race of attrition, Nick Sleep and Alex Montgomery came through to claim a surprise win in the first of two Masters Sports Car Legends bouts at Brands Hatch’s Masters Historic Festival. Their Lola T70 Mk3 inherited the lead when Chris Beighton’s T70 Mk3B seemed on course for victory, only to falter with three minutes still to go.

“We just heard that he had a flat rear tyre”, said Montgomery. “Hard luck for Chris, but it’s good to be here!”

Jason Wright moved up into second place with another T70 Mk3B, 7.5 seconds down on the winners, while Robert Shaw salvaged third place in his Chevron B19 despite coming under intense pressure from the Stephan Joebstl/Andy Willis Lola T212, which then expired on the final lap. Nick Pink took fourth in the Lola T210 after a race-long fight with Paul Allen’s T212 that also failed to make it to the end. Meanwhile, the pole-sitting James Claridge/Gonçalo Gomes Lola T296 proved to be an early retirement.

“My HANS device was very uncomfortable in the race, especially in the second part of the race”, said Wright. “I would have liked to have been closer to Alex towards the end. But they had a big accident in practice, so I’m happy to see them here.”

“It was looking like a bit of a tussle with Andy at the end”, said Shaw, “but then it looked like an engine issue, and the pressure was off…”

In the Bonnier class, Georg Kjallgren gave the Daren marque a win over the Chevron B8 shared by Peter Thompson and Charles Allison while the Hulme class failed to see a winner: around the midway point, both the John Spiers/Nigel Greensall McLaren M1B and the Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger Cooper Monaco King Cobra succumbed to mechanical issues.

The Masters Sports Car Legends cars lined up for the late-afternoon start of their first race of the weekend, the series uniquely having two 40-minute races instead of one 60-minute race. In brilliant spring weather, with the sunshine glinting off the cars, James Claridge stormed off into the lead but Beighton was on it into the opening lap and soon found himself in the lead. Before the end of the lap, Nick Sleep in the T70 Mk3 also found a way past Claridge before John Spiers got the T296 going into lap 2.

So now, Beighton in the T70 Mk3B led Sleep in the earlier car, 2.2 seconds ahead, with Spiers and Claridge giving chase and Jason Wright up next in the other T70 Mk3B. Stephan Joebstl was sixth in the Lola T212, leading Robert Shaw’s Chevron B19, Nick Pink’s Lola T210 and Paul Allen in another T212. Georg Kjallgren led the Bonnier class in the Daren Mk2, ahead of Peter Thompson and Paul Ingram in the Chevron B8s. Splitting the Daren and the Chevrons, Keith Ahlers ran 11th overall in the Cooper Monaco King Cobra that was second to John Spiers’ McLaren M1B in the Hulme class.

Four laps into the race, Beighton had increased his lead over Sleep to 3.9 seconds who was coming under pressure from Spiers, while Claridge and Wright fought over fourth place, the American handed the position when Claridge’s Lola T296 was seen grinding to a halt into the next lap. Thanks to quick work from the marshals, the issue was resolved without requiring a safety car. Meanwhile, on lap 7, Paul Ingram returned his Chevron B8 to the pits and into the paddock, hit by brake issues.

As the clock ticked down to the pit window, Beighton led Sleep by five seconds, with Spiers continuing to harry Sleep for second place. Wright was three seconds in arrears of the Sleep/Spiers battle but finding more speed with every lap, while Shaw trailed Wright by 19 seconds. Joebstl looked at a 7-second gap to Shaw but had eight seconds in hand over the fight between Pink and Allen. Half a minute further down the road, Kjallgren, Ahlers and Thompson were nose-to-tail.

On lap 10, Spiers was the first one in to hand over to Nigel Greensall, and he was soon joined by Joebstl, with Andy Willis taking the Austrian’s place. With his elite driver penalty effected at the stops, Greensall rejoined in tenth overall, with Willis a further 30 seconds adrift. Next in were Kjallgren, Allen and Thompson, the latter handing over to Charles Allison, but the big news was Greensall returning to the pits after a single lap around Brands Hatch. Now two laps down, he rejoined the race plumb last. But it was worthwhile as also in the pits, but seeming staying there, was the Ahlers/Bellinger Cooper Monaco King Cobra with an engine that had mysteriously cut out, meaning that Greensall had reassumed the lead in class.

While Beighton, Shaw and Pink continued to circulate, Nick Sleep was now in as well, swapping places with Alex Montgomery. On lap 13, Beighton put in the fastest lap of the race before coming in for his mandatory stop, and Shaw and Pink duly followed him in. As he exited the pits, Beighton still held his ten-second lead over Montgomery, but now Wright was third, profiting from Greensall’s mishap, the McLaren having been in for a third stop. Shaw was fourth but now chased by Willis, while Paul Allen and Nick Pink were again duelling over the same stretches of tarmac. The same applied to the Bonnier class fight between Kjallgren and Allison, now just two seconds apart.

With ten minutes still to go, Beighton had slowly but surely enlarged the gap to Montgomery to 13.9 seconds, with Wright now 25 seconds behind the leader. In fourth, Shaw was rapidly losing ground to an Andy Willis on fire in the Lola T212. Meanwhile, the Allen/Pink and Kjallgren/Allison fights continued to entertain.

But then drama unfolded, as Beighton hobbled into the pits with a puncture, with Greensall returning for the fourth time to now retire with a loose front-left wheel nut. So now, Montgomery was the new leader, with nine seconds in hand over Wright while Willis continued to approach on Shaw, now just a second adrift. Meanwhile, Allen had also stopped out on track, releasing Pink from his war over fifth place, while Kjallgren had managed to drop Allison by ten seconds.

As the final seconds ticked away, Montgomery took the Lola T70 Mk3 home for a surprise win ahead of Wright, but instead of claiming third Willis agonisingly stopped out on track too, helping Shaw to keep his spot on the podium. Pink was fourth ahead of Bonnier class winner Kjallgren and his rival Allison, with just six cars making it to the chequered flag…


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