Spiers/Greensall open Masters Gentlemen Drivers account with stunning win at Donington
John Spiers and Nigel Greensall converted their pole position into a hard-fought win in Friday’s 90-minute Masters Gentlemen Drivers race at Donington Park. Spiers led his entire stint from the front while keeping John Pearson’s Jaguar E-type at bay, but Greensall was forced to compensate for his elite driver time penalty enforced during the mid-race pitstops, which made their TVR Griffith rejoin in sixth place.
“That was way beyond my expectations!” said Spiers about maintaining the lead for his entire stint. “But the car kept coming to me. It was a great battle with John Pearson, and a fantastic feel to win. Driving behaviour was very good too. If just every race was like this!”
Soon after those stops, John Davison in another TVR Griffith had stolen the lead from John & Gary Pearson’s E-type which was later hit by a ten-second penalty for an infringement during their mandatory stop. In a finely poised finale, Davison made his fellow Griffith driver work hard for the win, though, as he chased Greensall over the line by 1.8 seconds.
“What a great race, I think our left rear tyres were gone in 20 minutes!” Davison enthused. “John and I are friends, but I was determined not to let Nigel get away too easy…”
The Pearsons contained the damage of their time penalty to still take third overall, with one second in hand over CLP class winner Giles Dawson.
“We didn’t turn the engine off”, Pearson explained about their time penalty, “but we would have been third anyway. The funny thing at the end was that I was chased by Sam Tordoff but I didn’t know he was a lap down. I saw +4 on the board and I thought that was him. So that gave me the incentive to push!”
In the hands of Ward, the Robin Ward/Ron Maydon Ginetta G4R was the early class leader but Maydon was forced to pull off towards the end after Dawson had already reclaimed the class lead. This handed second and third in class to the Elans of John & Sam Tordoff and Austrian-Swiss duo Stephan Joebstl/Philipp Buhofer.
“I wish I hadn’t thrown it off at Coppice, as that would have been third overall. But fighting with the big boys, toughening up the TVRs – that was just great!”, said a jubilant Dawson.
“I really enjoyed that”, said Sam Tordoff. “That was a good start of the year. I hadn’t driven it since Spa last year but I dialled into it really fast.”
Brian Caudwell and Kieran Clarke completely dominated the C2 class in their Austin Healey 3000, Caudwell having fought off an early challenge by the returning Keith Ahlers in the Morgan SLR shared with Billy Bellinger. The latter soon disappeared from the action, but only after Richard Hywel Evans and David Smithies/Chris Clarkson in two more Big Healeys had made it past into second and third place in class. The Turner 1650 of Luke Wos and Andy Yool similarly reigned in C1 while James Hanson and Paul Pochciol bagged the B2 class win in their pre-63 Jaguar E-type.
On a glorious Good Friday, with the sun shining as bright yellow as all the Easter eggs and daffodils in the paddock, John Spiers lined up in pole position, followed by three more TVR Griffiths. Soon after the start, though, there was a cat among the pigeons, as John Pearson got his E-type ahead of Mike Whitaker’s TVR for fourth, and next time around he was up into third, also having dealt with John Davison’s Griffith. In sixth overall, Giles Dawson initially led the CLP class in his Elan 26R, but he was soon passed by Andrew Haddon’s in the ex-Mark Martin Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé and Mark Donnor in another E-type, while Robin Ward got hold of the CLP class lead in the Ginetta G4R that now sported no.1 in honour of his 2022 title.
Further back, Brian Caudwell (Austin Healey) and Keith Ahlers (Morgan SLR) picked up the traditional Healey vs Morgan battle in C2, while Luke Wos led the C1 class in the neat Turner 1650, profiting from class polesitter Mark Bates not starting after Bates’ 911 broke a conrod towards the end of the qualifying session. Among the B class runners, Robert Ingram’s Elite S2 had lost a rival after Niall McFadden’s older E-type was forced to visit the pits after a single lap, but the other E-type of James Hanson and Paul Pochciol was still running.
7 laps gone, Spiers still led, but Pearson (J.) continued his move to the front, having also usurped Oliver Reuben’s TVR. Davison was fourth ahead of Haddon, Whitaker and Ward, with Donnor, Dawson and Jason Minshaw in Martin Melling’s E-type completing the top ten. Behind them, the fight was on for third in CLP, John Tordoff chasing Simon Jackson’s similar Elan. Billy Nairn in another of the Elans was into the pits, however, retiring with brake issues.
Having set fastest lap of the race, Pearson had all but closed the gap to Spiers who still had three tenths in hand going into lap 10. Further back though, Haddon had lost places to Whitaker, Ward, Donnor and Dawson while running two seconds off the pace that he had shown before, but seemed to be gathering up the car into lap 12.
In C2, Caudwell had gradually dropped Ahlers to lead by seven seconds while David Smithies in the second Big Healey was now four seconds adrift of the Morgan. Wos, meanwhile, still comfortably led the C1 class from Dean DeSantis’ Porsche 911.
In the top-five, both Davison and Ward turned in their quickest lap so far, allowing Ward to demote Whitaker to sixth, the TVR driver by contrast just having completed one of his worst laps. It soon transpired why, as Whitaker was into the pits to abandon the lead battle. The TVR only returned to the game after it had been dropped to 15th overall. Soon, Whitaker’s Griffith was seen losing pace once more, having visited the gravel trap, and on lap 18 he was in for a second time to have his brakes checked. In CLP, Ward maintained his class lead, now four seconds ahead of Dawson, with Simon Jackson further back in tenth overall still occupying third in class.
Approaching one third’s distance, Spiers held strong at the front, maintaining his slender margin of three tenths over Pearson lap after lap, but five seconds behind the leading pair, Davison had made a move for third, demoting Reuben to fourth, with Ward now eager to join this battle, having just recorded the fastest lap of the race! And if that wasn’t enough, the reigning champion then set about beating that time on the next lap to be the race’s only driver in the 1.19s. And sure enough, the Ginetta was up into fourth by lap 21. Whitaker, meanwhile, rejoined the race for the second time but was now plum last, four laps down. Two laps later, the TVR was truly out, its brakes having cried enough.
In CLP, Simon Jackson was forced to relinquish his third place in class, having gone into the pits on lap 24 with overheating issues. This handed the place to Stephan Joebstl’s Elan, but the Austrian was chased hard by John Tordoff’s example, now five seconds in arrears. The C2 class was now led by three Big Healeys, as Richard Hywel Evans had passed Smithies while the two of them had each been able to overtake Ahlers for second and third places in class. The fierce tussle between Smithies and Ahlers was observed by Wos, two seconds down on the pair and still leading the C1 class in the Turner.
As the pit window approached, Spiers had managed to increased his lead to a full second but it had come at the cost of a black-and-white warning flag for exceeding track limits. The TVR driver could now afford no more mistakes. Behind Spiers and Pearson, Ward continued his impressive run by grabbing third overall at the cost of Davison while in the process further improving on his own fastest lap of the race. Behind them, Reuben was in no man’s land, with Donnor being pushed by Dawson. Haddon was eighth, now over half a minute down on the leader, but with a comfortable cushion to Minshaw. Peter Thompson in another Griffith had entered the top ten just as the pit window had truly opened.
Spiers was soon in to hand over to Nigel Greensall, with Davison also opting for the early stop but staying in the car. In the CLP battle for third in class, both Joebstl and John Tordoff were in simultaneously to hand over to Philipp Buhofer and Sam Tordoff, while C2 class leader Brian Caudwell swapped places with Kieran Clarke. On the next lap, Reuben was relieved by Harry Barton, while Minshaw made way for Melling. Dawson was in for his stop on lap 33, which by now was past the halfway mark, while John Pearson elected to hand over to brother Gary on lap 34. This elevated Ward into a momentary P1, but he was in on the next lap, handing over to Ron Maydon, along with Haddon swapping with James Hagan.
After all the pitstops had panned out, Gary Pearson led Maydon by three seconds, with Davison and Donner ten and 13 seconds adrift respectively. Dawson was fifth ahead of Greensall, who as usual had to come from behind due his elite-driver penalty keeping him stationary for longer at the stops. Barton now ran seventh, with a big gap to Charles Allison in the Griffith taken over from Thompson. Hagan and Buhofer completed the first ten, but the Swiss driver had BTCC race winner Sam Tordoff breathing down his neck soon.
Clarke had kept Caudwell’s Austin Healey 3000 in the C2 class lead, now leading Hywel Evans by six seconds. Chris Clarkson in the third Big Healey was now fighting Michael Russell for third in class, with the Allan & Daniel Ross-Jones Triumph TR4 now up into fifth, as the Ahlers/Bellinger Morgan SLR had departed the scene, as by the way had Martin Melling’s E-type. Now in 21st overall, Andy Yool in the Turner started by Wos led the C1 class by two full laps over the DeSantis Porsche 911 now taken over by David Hinton. In the B class, George Pochciol had grabbed the older E-type by the neck to run in a stunning 13th place overall.
After an hour of racing, Pearson still led but his next pursuer was Davison, the TVR having demoted Maydon to third. Donnor continued to be fourth but not for long, as Greensall had beaten Ward’s previous fastest lap of the race to take Dawson for fifth and close the gap to the red Jaguar. On lap 43, he was passed and up into fourth place, trailing Maydon by 11 seconds and the leading Pearson by 18. This was going to be close.
Pearson was by no means under pressure from Greensall alone, however, as Davison also hunted down the E-type, and to add insult to injury, the Jaguar was hit by a ten-second time penalty for a pitstop infringement. Davison – on a real charge and now into the 1.19s along with Greensall – soon swooped into the lead, as Greensall had narrowed the gap to Maydon by dipping into the 1.18s! Further back, Tordoff (S.) was now in the top ten, having dealt with Buhofer, but perhaps the gap to class rivals Maydon and Dawson would prove too large.
On lap 49, the endurance aspect of the 90-minute race came into play as Mark Donnor was forced to abandon his fifth spot to come into the pits with a Jaguar leaking fluids. Moments later, Greensall passed Maydon for third and now set after Pearson who was six seconds further up the road.
With 15 minutes remaining on the clock, everything was still to play for, as this finely poised lead battle began to reach its apotheosis. On lap 54, Greensall finally powered past Pearson to snatch second place and could now see the lead with his own eyes, as Davison led his rival Griffith competitor by 1.5 seconds. Behind them, Dawson was equally on a charge to move past Maydon for fourth overall and the CLP class lead. In fact, the Ginetta was slowly losing pace, and on lap 56, Barton went by as well. It was all over for Maydon later in the lap when he pulled off at Starkey’s Bridge just as Greensall hit the front with less than ten minutes to go.
Maydon’s demise elevated Sam Tordoff into second place in class and sixth overall ahead of Allison, Hagan and class rival Buhofer in ninth, while C2 class leader Clarke had entered into the top ten, having dropped Hywel Evans by a lap and Clarkson by two. Pochciol remained the B class leader in 15th overall while Yool led C1 serenely in 20th overall.
As the final seconds on the clock ticked away, Greensall bagged the win for himself and car owner John Spiers, leading Davison over the line by a mere 1.8 seconds, the latter having kept the leader honest in those dying laps. Gary Pearson salvaged third by maintaining an 11-second lead over Dawson, who took the CLP class spoils in fourth. Barton took fifth ahead of Tordoff, who took second place in CLP, with Buhofer in third, as the Swiss driver trailed home Allison in eighth overall.
Hagan was ninth while Clarke completed a dominating race to finish tenth overall and come away with the C2 class win. Hywel Evans and Clarkson took second and third in class. In 18th overall, Yool brought home the C1 class win while Pochciol still bagged the B2 class victory despite the E-type not quite making it to the end.
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