Tordoff charges to Masters Pre-66 Touring Car victory at the Masters Historic Festival
Sam Tordoff overcame his elite-driver pitstop penalty to win the Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race at Brands Hatch, his Ford Falcon coming back from behind to vanquish Mike Whitaker’s Ford Mustang by 3.6 seconds. 19 seconds in arrears, John Spiers and Nigel Greensall battled their way up to third in their Mustang.
“A great race, really enjoyed that”, said Tordoff. “I knew Mike was going keep me honest, with the penalty. He was close to me at Donington and even closer here. It was a case of creating a gap without destroying the tyres too much. In the end it was just managing and not doing anything stupid.”
“I gave myself a penalty by putting it in the gravel once”, said Whitaker. “I thought I maybe try and stay with him, but in the end I decided to stick with second place.”
“It was busy with BTCC drivers past and present, and I have had no time in the car, but loved it!” said Spiers.
“It was fantastic, the driving standards on track were fantastic, and everyone was very respectful”, said Greensall.
A topsy-turvy fight for Cortina class was won by John Cook, closely followed by David Dickenson, Michael Cullen, Ambrogio Perfetti and Paddy Shovlin, while Jeff Smith dominated the Mini class to finish 12th overall. Phil Bullen-Brown led the Ian Curley/Aaron Smith Mini for second in class almost the entire race, but Aaron Smith pipped his rival on the final lap.
“I knew I had to get away well but the guys who have done more racing in this did well”, said Cook. “These guys were really close at the end. But really pleased, it was really hot in there, but the car held together.”
“When I came out of the pits I saw the number 57 in my mirrors and that gave me a boost!” said Dickenson. “But then he got passed me in traffic after all…”
“We had a great battle, three, four, five cars at times – it was all very close. Happy days!” said Cullen.
Right after the lunch break, the 40-strong Masters Pre-66 Touring Car field assumed its positions on the grid, with Sam Tordoff’s Ford Falcon on pole, joined by John Spiers/Nigel Greensall Mustang, with Spiers starting. On the second row, Josh Cook would race Mike Gardiner’s Cortina solo, with an additional elite-driver penalty as a result. In fourth, Steve Soper would start the Alan Mann Racing Mustang.
After a fraught opening lap, Tordoff led from Cook, Soper, Michael Whitaker Jr’s Mustang, Spiers, Michael Cullen in the second Cortina leading two more Cortinas pedalled by David Dickenson and Ambrogio Perfetti, with Alex Thistlethwayte and Dave Coyne with two more Mustangs completing the top ten for now. In the Mini class, Jeff Smith had some five cars in between himself and Tom Bell who was fighting Phil Bullen-Brown and Ian Curley.
Whitaker Jr was the man on the move, passing Soper for third, while Perfetti nicked seventh from Dickenson. Moments later, Soper went off, allowing Spiers, Cullen and Perfetti through, with Craig Davies now also slowing in his Mustang. Thanks to a storming few opening laps Tom Sharp was up to seventh in his Mustang, chasing and then passing Perfetti for sixth, with Dan Williamson’s Mustang now also into the top ten, but as soon as he was there, he was seen coming into the pits, handing the spot to Paddy Shovlin’s Cortina.
At the front, Tordoff led by four seconds over Cook and Whitaker Jr, with Spiers 11 more seconds further back, leading a train of rivals consisting of the seemingly unstoppable Tom Sharp, Cullen, Dickenson, Thistlethwayte, Perfetti and Shovlin. Among the Minis, Tom Bell proved to be another casualty along with Mark Burnett, the Mini engine suffering from overheating. This meant that Ian Curley took up the chase to Jeff Smith in 14th overall, still with three bigger cars acting as a cushion.
Whitaker Jr having made a mistake on lap 5, Cook now was in a safe second place, six seconds ahead of the Mustang but trailing Tordoff by some eight ticks of the clock. Next time around, though, it was 11 seconds, as Tordoff put in a storming fastest lap of the race. In the lower half of the top ten, Thistlethwayte nicked seventh from Dickenson. Soon after, they both moved up a spot, as Sharp was seen trundling into the pits. After both passed Cullen, Thistlethwayte and Dickenson found themselves in fifth and sixth, while further down the order Matt Neal who had started from the back saw his progress stalled by retiring to the pits with overheating brakes.
15 minutes gone, Tordoff’s lead had accumulated to a massive 17 seconds, as Cook saw Whitaker Jr make up for lost terrain, the Mustang now just four seconds down on the fastest Cortina. Spiers held his own in fourth, with Thistlethwayte, Dickenson, Perfetti all following four seconds further down the road. Former car-sharing team mates Michael Cullen and Paddy Shovlin ran in eighth and ninth, their order changing on lap 10, as Martin Melling now ran tenth in the second Falcon in the race. In 11th, Roy Alderslade’s Cortina was chased by Mini class leader Jeff Smith, who himself had Marcus Jewell and Neil Brown in a pair of Cortinas snapping at his heels. Behind Pete Chambers’ Cortina, Curley, Bullen-Brown and Jonathon Page debated second place in the Mini class.
The pit window now open, Sam Tordoff was among the first ones in, along with Jewell who would hand over to Ben Clucas. Spiers was in next, his Mustang now taken over by Nigel Greensall, as Whitaker Jr took his stop at the following opportunity on lap 13. With Tordoff having served his elite-driver penalty, Whitaker Jr vaulted him at the stops, the Mustang now leading the Falcon by seven seconds. On lap 14, Cook came in along with Mini class leader Jeff Smith. The BTCC star was obliged to serve a time penalty similar to Tordoff’s, and as a result he rejoined behind Whitaker Jr and Tordoff.
The front six cars of Dickenson, Shovlin (hit by a time penalty for exceeding track limits), Cullen, Thistlethwayte, Melling and Bullen-Brown then all pitted, with only Perfetti staying out one more lap. Once the Norwegian Italian was out of the way, Whitaker Jr assumed the actual lead, four seconds in front of Tordoff, but next time around the gap was already down to 1.6 seconds. Meanwhile, on lap 18, Cook moved past Dickenson and Perfetti, as the Cortinas were chased by the Mustangs of Cullen and Shovlin, with Nigel Greensall approaching fast in eighth, having already dealt with Thistlethwayte and Alderslade. Mini class leader Smith was now 11th overall, 13 seconds ahead of Bullen-Brown, with Aaron Smith in the Mini started by Curley a further three seconds back.
On lap 19, Whitaker Jr found Tordoff right on his tail, but for the moment he hung on. Next time around, though, the Falcon was through to find itself back into the lead. Cook now trailed by 25 seconds, with Dickenson, Cullen and Perfetti still at close quarters, but Greensall in seventh looked poised to pick them all off one by one. Two laps later, it was job done, with Greensall now showing himself in Cook’s mirrors. On lap 23, the Mustang was through into third.
Going into the final quarter of the race, Tordoff’s lead over Whitaker Jr had grown to 5.4 seconds, with Greensall trailing by 25 seconds. Cook now headed a royal train of Cortinas, with Dickenson, Perfetti, Shovlin and Cullen all enjoying a wonderful tussle. Thistlethwayte followed that group by eight seconds, with Alderslade four more seconds adrift. Still in 11th overall, Jeff Smith continued to dominate the Mini class, as his nearest rivals Bullen-Brown and Aaron Smith warred over 14th and 15th overall.
With ten minutes still to run, Whitaker Jr who had dropped behind by ten seconds clawed back some of his deficit as Tordoff had a bad tour around Brands on lap 27, as the multiple BTCC winner went into save mode. Greensall was slightly quicker than the both of them, but was looking at an unassailable 19-second gap to close. Cook, Dickenson, Shovlin, Cullen and Perfetti continued to have their Cortina ding-dong in fourth to eighth.
As the clock wound down to zero, Tordoff continued to give away time to Whitaker Jr while Greensall now failed to make any further progress. Behind them, Perfetti had moved back up into seventh by passing Shovlin who would be hit by a time penalty anyway. Among the Minis, Smith (J.) was down to 12th overall as Ben Clucas had got ahead of him, but he was in still control, leaving Bullen-Brown and Smith (A.) to pick up the Mini crumbs.
Tordoff had it all under control, though, and the Falcon took the win by 3.6 seconds over Michael Whitaker Jr. Greensall was third, 19 seconds down, while the Cortina top-three consisted of Cook, Dickenson and Cullen, with Perfetti and Shovlin up next. Thistlethwayte and Alderslade made up the rest of the top-ten, with Clucas up next ahead of Mini class winner Jeff Smith. Right at the end, Bullen-Brown failed to keep Aaron Smith behind for second place in class.
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