Tordoff completes fine day with Masters Pre-66 Touring Car win at Donington
Sam Tordoff closed the curtains on a wonderful Masters Race Weekend at Donington Park by leading the entire Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race from the front, only allowing the Nigel Greensall/John Spiers Ford Mustang briefly in front right after the stops. When that dropped out, the Ford Falcon driver brought it home safely from Mike Whitaker Jr who drove a strong race in what turned out to be the afternoon’s strongest Mustang.
“It was really good, I enjoyed that!” said Tordoff. “Jumping straight from the Porsche [997 Cup] into the Falcon, they’re totally different cars, with a quite difference in speed and handling. To be honest, initially the Falcon felt absolutely appalling – but that was because I’d just been in the Porsche! Then I saw the other guys slide around too, and I knew that I was fine. It also helped to change tyres during my stop – due to the elite-driver penalty I’m sat stationary for so long, I might as well do that!”
“I found myself in no man’s land, really”, said Whitaker Jr about his storming race to lead the Mustangs home. “So I said to myself, just stay here and see what happens. After the stops, I tried to follow Sam but he was nudging away. So I just carried it home.”
Third in another Mustang, Craig Davies made up many places to hit the podium and deny the Henry Mann/Steve Soper Mustang despite Soper trying his hardest all the way to the line. Alex Brundle and Abbie Eaton took fifth in another Mustang.
“Yes, I managed to get through, which was well handy”, said Davies, “but I just didn’t have the pace to stay with the guys in front. Towards the end, all the dials were in the red!”
In a race of attrition that would particularly hit the Cortinas, Marcus Jewell and Ben Clucas dominated to bring their Cortina home in sixth overall to be the dominant Cortina class winners. They were followed by the Jon Wood/James Pickford and Peter & Guy Smith pairings.
“We did OK, I guess”, said a happy Jewell about an immensely fruitful day for himself and Clucas. “Three class wins from three races is not too bad!”
“Yes, I’m very happy, I really enjoyed that”, Clucas agreed.
Closing off a brilliantly sunny Masters Race Weekend at Donington Park, the Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars made their way out for the finale. With Greensall starting in John Spiers’ Mustang, polesitter Sam Tordoff had his work cut out from the get-go, as Greensall harried the Falcon through the corners. More ‘stangs followed, led by Mike Whitaker Jr who was followed by Alex Brundle, Craig Davies and Henry Mann, with Marcus Jewell occupying the lead Cortina in seventh, just ahead of Mike Gardiner’s example. Dan Williamson’s Falcon and Dave Coyne’s Mustang completed the top ten in these opening stages. Gone already were Mark Shaw’s Cortina and James Davison’s Mustang.
Gardiner soon dropped down the order to hand second place among the Cortinas to Richard Dutton, with Justin Law now third in class. In 17th overall, Harry Barton led the 2-litre class in his BMW 1800 tiSA while Carl Nairn brought up the rear in the only Mini Cooper S present on this occasion.
On lap 5, Craig Davies – always more of a racer than a qualifier – surged past Brundle for fourth, and was now looking at a five-second disadvantage to Whitaker Jr. Meanwhile at the front, Tordoff had inched away to a lead of three seconds over Greensall. Further back, both Luke Davenport and Kiwi Warren Briggs made it into top ten with their Mustangs. On the Cortina front, however, Dutton also joined the retirees with engine maladies, promoting Law to second in class, with Jon Wood now in third. Wood was chased by the Peter & Guy Smith Cortina, now pedalled by father Peter, and Mark Drain who had taken over Mark Martin’s Cortina, but soon James Hanson demoted Drain to sixth in class.
At quarter distance, Tordoff’s lead had grown to 5.8 seconds while Whitaker Jr trailed the leading Falcon by 16.7 seconds. Davies and Brundle still warred over fourth, as Mann in sixth was hounded by Jewell in the lead Cortina. In a long train of cars, Williamson, Briggs, Davenport (L.), Doyne and Law were next, before an eight-second gap opened up to Wood, Hanson, Smith (P.) and Drain. Behind them, Stephen Mawhinney in another Cortina had come charging from the back to leap past Barton and the David Smithies/Chris Clarkson Falcon that had already seen a pitstop. The Nairns’ Mini, however, was in the pits, full stop.
On lap 13, Briggs moved ahead of Williamson as Davenport dropped from the group to visit the pits and stay there, while two laps later, Williamson lost another place to Coyne. With two minutes remaining before the pit window would open, Tordoff had accumulated a lead of 12 seconds over Greensall who in turn had extended his advantage to Whitaker Jr to 16 seconds. Davies had left Brundle behind by another eight seconds, as Mann inched closer to the Mustang in front. Behind Mann, Briggs was the man on the move and, along with Coyne, the Kiwi surged past Jewell in the top Cortina. Law in the second Cortina was now just three seconds off the class lead, with Wood harrassing him – although the latter was handed a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits one time too many.
Mann (being relieved by Steve Soper) was the first to come in, along with Law (making way for Rob Huff), Jewell (replaced by Ben Clucas) and Jon Wood (handing over to James Pickford). Brundle, meanwhile, handed Abbie Eaton the reins, while Dave Coyne switched places with Mark Wright, with Guy Smith taking over from dad Peter. So with all the star drivers now into their racing seats, it was time for the leaders to come in. Tordoff and Davies would stay in the car, but Greensall made way for owner John Spiers, who had been on it all weekend. But was he up for the job of taking on all the second-stint pros?
With all the pitstops and various penalties having panned out, Spiers found himself going into lap 25 with a seven-second lead over Tordoff, and one more of over Whitaker Jr, with Davies not too far away either. From further away would come Soper, Williamson, Wright, Huff and Easton. Clucas in the lead Cortina was 11th overall, with a 13-second lead over Guy Smith, and 20 seconds over Paul Pochciol in the Cortina that was started by Hanson. In the gaggle of cars from seventh to 12th though, Huff soon made his way to the front.
At the front, meanwhile, Tordoff had been nibbling away at Spiers’ lead and was just three tenths behind when suddenly the leader slowed and was seen heading into the pits. The Spiers/Greensall challenge was over, the Mustang hit by a Cortina and retiring with contact damage. So now Tordoff led Whitaker Jr by 8.2 seconds and Davies by 18.4 seconds. Soper moved up to fourth, 35 seconds behind the leader. Fifth was Williamson, who had seven seconds in hand over Eaton, while Clucas had fought back to reclaim the Cortina class lead from Huff. Guy Smith was third in class and chasing Wright who had been slammed by a track-limits penalty. Further back, Barton had moved his BMW up into 14th overall at the expense of James Hagan in the Cortina started by Mawhinney. A couple of laps later, however, the BMW would be seen stopping out on track.
15 more minutes remained, and out in front Tordoff was still the fastest man out there. Whitaker Jr now faced a 14-second deficit, as the top five were now neatly spread out with 15-second gaps in between them. On lap 31, we were down another Cortina after Huff was forced to retire with a clutch issue, so now Guy Smith was firmly in second place in class, having picked off Pickford who was still facing that track-limits penalty. But then disaster struck for the Smiths as well, as they were hit by a two-second stop-and-go penalty for stopping too short for their mandatory pitstop…
Going into lap 35, with ten minutes to go, Tordoff’s lead now seemed secure, the Falcon leading Whitaker’s Mustang by 19 seconds, but Davies was coming under threat from Soper. In seventh overall, Clucas looked a safe bet for the Cortina class win, sufficiently holding Pickford and Smith (G.) at bay.
As the clock ticked down, two more casualties were noted down – Williamson’s Falcon as well as Wright’s Mustang failed to make it to the finish in a true race of attrition. Tordoff, however, sailed on unperturbed to claim victory with 28 seconds in hand to Whitaker Jr, with Davies holding Soper at bay by four ticks to take third. Eaton moved up into fifth after Williamson’s demise while Ben Clucas completed a great day for him and Marcus Jewell by winning the Cortina class in sixth overall. Jon Wood and James Pickford took second in class ahead of Peter & Guy Smith.
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