Masters News

Thursday 21st September 2023

Spiers/Greensall prevail in fraught Masters Gentlemen Drivers race at Brands

The John Spiers/Nigel Greensall TVR Griffith survived a tense race interrupted – and determined – by three long safety-car periods to take their second Masters Gentlemen Drivers win of the season. Spiers had a sensational lead fight with fellow Griffith driver John Davison in their opening stint, but Davison’s challenge was blunted by an off and a resulting unscheduled stop, although he fought back to finish fifth.

“That was probably the most enjoyable stint I’ve ever had”, said a beaming John Spiers. “I had a great fight with John, as I can trust him – we’ve been racing each other for years. At the back of the circuit we were often almost side by side. What else can you ask for on a summer’s day at the Brands Hatch GP circuit?”

Giles Dawson took a sensational second overall while also cornering the CLP class win, as his Lotus Elan finished a mere two seconds adrift from the winning TVR. Mike Whitaker made it two TVRs on the overall podium, with the Robin Ellis/Nick Padmore Lotus Elan 26R Shapecraft claiming a fighting fourth and second in the CLP class. John and Sam Tordoff claimed a similarly fighting sixth overall and third in the CLP class after having been thwarted by the first safety-car period.

“And I led overall!” said a delighted Dawson about finishing a close second. “I think if it hadn’t been for that second safety car, we would have won overall… But it was still a great race.”

“He was stuck to my bumper after the third safety car”, Whitaker said about Padmore harrying him for third. “I had just opened up a small gap, and then I threw off the road, and had to start all over again!”

“I couldn’t do anything about it”, said Padmore. “Those TVRs have so much grunt… But still, happy days!”

“Yes, we got caught out by the safety car”, Sam Tordoff admitted with the knowledge of hindsight. Father John was equally philosophical about it: “One lap later, though, and it would have been perfect. But that’s what happens.”

In C2, Billy Bellinger and Keith were the leaders for almost the entirety of the race but their Morgan SLR was pipped right at the end by James Wilmoth in the Austin Healey 3000 started by Crispin Harris. In C1, the Malcolm Paul/Rick Bourne TVR Grantura led from start to finish.

All Masters Gentlemen Drivers action was packed into a single day, the 90-minute race following the 40-minute qualifying session in the morning. Closing off the Masters Historic Festival’s Saturday, the top two TVR got away but Giles Dawson made a storming start to be third after three corners and lead the CLP class in his Lotus Elan, while John Tordoff dropped back in the Elan that had started from the second row.

Davison and Spiers continued to war over the lead, with Dawson in third, while Jason Mishaw had fought his way up to fourth in Martin Melling’s Jaguar E-type. Whitaker and Harry Barton were two more Griffith drivers in fifth and sixth, with Nick Sleep in seventh in the ‘Hairy Canary’, the first of the Cobras, but soon the safety car was out, with Minshaw returning to the pits with a smoking Jag – which turned out to be a gearbox issue. The actual reason for the safety car wasn’t that, though – it was Larry Tucker’s Shelby Mustang GT350 and Paul Ingram’s Austin Healey 3000 getting stuck in a gravel trap because of oil on the circuit at Surtees.

The cars took quite a while to retrieve and the oil trail on track quite a while to cover, so the racing only resumed on lap 10, with 68 minutes remaining on the clock. When the field was released again, their brakes cooled right down, Davison, Spiers and Dawson took off once again, with Whitaker assuming fourth place after Minshaw’s early demise. Sleep and Barton were up next, ahead of Robin Ward in the Ginetta G4R, David Smithies in the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé and Robin Ellis in the Elan 26R Shapecraft, while Shaun Lynn had entered the top ten in another Elan. Further into the lap, though, Ward snatched sixth from Barton and began to hurry Sleep’s Cobra which subsequently lost the place on the following lap.

In C2, Billy Bellinger led in the Morgan SLR, with Martin Stretton giving chase in Jim Chapman’s Austin Healey 3000 and Calum Lockie in third in Simon Orebi Gann’s Morgan Plus 4 Super Sport. Malcolm Paul led in C1 in the TVR Grantura shared with Rick Bourne, with Neil Fisher in second place in class in the MGB.

Davison and Spiers now almost ran side-by-side, with Dawson having a grandstand view on the lead tussle. Whitaker trailed the leaders by six seconds, having been baulked at the restart by a lapped car, and now had Ward all over the back of him. Further back, Mark Farmer broke into the top ten at the cost of Shaun Lynn’s similar Elan.

Meanwhile, the fight for the C2 class lead between Bellinger and Stretton raged on but Simon Orebi Gann was into the pits with battle damage on his Morgan, handing third in class to Crispin Harris in another Healey. Malcolm Paul continued to imperiously lead the C1 class.

On lap 14, Whitaker succumbed to Ward’s pressure to give up fourth while Sleep and Barton were still not far away. Meanwhile, on the edge of the top ten, Farmer lost ground to Peter Thompson’s Cobra and Robin Ellis in the Elan Shapecraft and eight more cars after a spin at the top of the hill. Harry Barton, meanwhile, halted his TVR Griffith at the pit wall, the front right corner having collapsed.

35 minutes into the race, the pit window opened to allow the first cars in for their mandatory stops. John Tordoff set the example to hand over to son Sam, duly followed by John Spiers who would now have Nigel Greensall attempt to recover his elite-driver pitstop penalty. But with Barton’s TVR still stuck in a dangerous place, it was decided to dispatch the safety car after all, resulting in an avalanche of pitstops…

This played into the hands of Spiers and Greensall since the latter’s penalty was now all but undone, Greensall only separated from Davison and Dawson by the cars in between them in the safety-car queue, but John & Sam Tordoff were rather more unlucky, as their elite-driver penalty cost them a lap, with Sam getting stuck behind the safety car. In contrast, Max Lynn, now in the Elan started by Shaun Lynn, had profited the most, as he found himself in fourth ahead Whitaker, Alex Montgomery (in the ‘Hairy Canary’ started by Sleep), with Nick Padmore looking very dangerous in seventh as well as second in the CLP class in the Shapecraft started by Robin Ellis. Charles Allison’s Cobra, Ron Maydon in the Ginetta started by Ward, and Keith Ahlers in the SLR initially raced by Bellinger completed the top ten, with Ahlers still leading the C2 class.

After the restart, Davison continued to lead from Dawson, but Greensall was already flying, lapping a whopping five seconds quicker than Dawson. Whitaker, meanwhile, made short work of Max Lynn to make it three TVRs in the top three, with Padmore also moving up a place, but then Davison was seen going into the gravel, relinquishing the lead to Dawson and seeing Greensall slow right up – and if that wasn’t all, the safety car was out yet again, as Mark Farmer’s Elan went off in a massive way at a Paddock Hill Bend that will still very slippery.

After his off-road excursion, Davison seemed to be dragging an object from behind his Griffith while Sam Tordoff couldn’t believe his luck after he was waved through by the safety car. With less than half an hour remaining, the safety car kept controlling the pace for lap after lap when Davison came into the pits after all to have that object (a cooling duct, as it transpired) removed, allowing Greensall up into second, as the marshals worked to further clear the oil at Paddock Hill Bend. Davison rejoined in 15th, at the back of the queue.

A mere 13 minutes remained when the green flag was finally waved, and right on the line Greensall was already side by side with Dawson who cleverly forced Greensall to choose the cement-dusted line through Paddock Hill Bend or tuck back behind. But it didn’t take long, though, since three corners later Greensall was through anyway. Behind them, Padmore was right behind Whitaker in the fight for third. Lynn (M.) was fifth ahead of Montgomery, Allison and Clarkson (in the Daytona Cobra started by Smithies) while a flying Sam Tordoff was already up into ninth ahead of Philipp Buhofer in another Elan started by Stephan Joebstl. Davison was making up places as well, having just passed the C2-class-leading Morgan SLR of Keith Ahlers for 11th overall. Ahlers, meanwhile, was pushed for the class lead by James Wilmoth in the Healey shared with Crispin Harris.

Out in front, Greensall was drawing away from Dawson who held his own four seconds ahead of the fight between Whitaker and Padmore. Davison, meanwhile, was up to eighth, causing Tordoff to remain stuck in ninth for now, with eight minutes left on the clock. With Greensall stringing together fastest laps of the race, his lead was soon up to 4.7 seconds but Padmore stopped making inroads on Whitaker, but a small mistake by Whitaker allowed Padmore to catch him again while he lost the ground that he had won on Dawson. Behind Lynn and Montgomery, Davison was up into seventh, with Tordoff following him through in eighth. Meanwhile, in 13th and 14th, Wilmoth had made his way past Ahlers for the C2 class lead, while Rick Bourne continued to lead in C1 in the Grantura started by Malcolm Paul.

As they raced to the chequered flag, Greensall slowed his pace to conserve the Griffith on his way to another win, with Dawson taking a spectacular second place overall in the class-winning Lotus Elan. Whitaker was third as Padmore was unable to stay with the second Griffith, with Davison coming through to take fifth ahead of Sam Tordoff who just pipped Max Lynn to sixth overall and third in the CLP class. The top ten was completed by the Cobras of Sleep/Montgomery, Thompson/Allison and Smithies/Clarkson. In C2, Crispin Harris and James Wilmoth (Austin Healey 3000) nicked the class win from the Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger Morgan SLR.



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