Tordoff prevails in exciting Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race at Silverstone
Sam Tordoff’s mighty Ford Falcon Sprint claimed one more victory in Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars as his Ford Falcon Sprint came out on top in a hugely entertaining Transatlantic Trophy at the Silverstone Festival. Battling Nigel Greensall in the Spiers/Greensall Mustang early on, Tordoff pushed through in his second stint to negate his elite-driver pitstop penalty by catching and passing John Spiers. Leading the pair by three seconds at that moment, however, was young Mike Whitaker Jr who was hoping to keep Tordoff behind in the closing minutes before the diff of his Mustang exploded in spectacular fashion. The oil trail that this produced was enough for the race to finish under safety-car conditions.
“I was grateful for the safety car in the last few laps, actually”, said Tordoff. “It was tough, I didn’t have the car quite where I wanted it, and Mike did a great job to get into the lead, so I was gutted for him for the car to break with three laps to go. It was going to get tasty! Really chuffed, we came here to win, and that’s what we’ve done, so really happy.”
“This is what we live for!”, said Greensall. “The race was fantastic, I love it when conditions are mixed, me and Sam were having so much fun out there in the early stages of the race, I loved it!”
“A little briefer than I would have liked”, said Spiers. “As usual, Nigel did the heavy lifting, but such a great car to drive, so much fun.”
The Steve Soper/Henry Mann (Soper eventually driving solo) and Andy Priaulx/Alex Taylor Mustangs were also in the mix all race, and while Soper took third, Taylor was caught for fourth by the Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie Ford Falcon coming from behind.
“Yeah, it was good!” said Soper. “I wanted to be on the podium, since we’ve had a few breakdowns, so it’s great. Once I came in and saw the position, Henry said, stay in!”
Two more Mustangs with Craig Davies and Tom Sharp at the wheel took home sixth and seventh ahead of the class-winning Lotus Cortina of Mike Gardiner/Phil Keen, the pair inheriting victory after the Andy Wolfe/Ben Tinkler Cortina ran into trouble right at the end. The class was initially led by the David & Olivier Hart Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA but the Alfa retired at the stops. This allowed the Henry Neal/Gordon Shedden and Shaun Balfe/Thomas Ashton Cortinas to take the two remaining class podium spots.
In the Mini class, Phil Bullen-Brown, Ian Curley and Tom Bell in the Mini shared with Joe Ferguson battled early on before Bullen-Brown disappeared into the distance for a dominant class victory over Aaron Smith, who passed Ferguson and then profited from an off by Curley over Whitaker’s oil trail.
With on-and-off rain all day on the final Sunday of the Silverstone Festival, it was anybody’s guess what conditions would be awaiting the Masters Pre-66 Touring Car competitors for their 45-minute Transatlantic Trophy race. In the end, damp was the track’s best description. Nigel Greensall’s Mustang took the initiative at first, but Sam Tordoff soon stormed through into the lead, with Andy Priaulx also working his way up to third, followed by Alex Brundle, with James Thorpe, Mike Whitaker Jr and David Hart up next, leading Steve Soper, with Richard Dutton in the lead Lotus Cortina.
After two laps, Tordoff’s Falcon and Greensall’s Mustang had formed a lead pair, with the ‘Brustang’ in third in a big fight with Priaulx as another couple to get away from the pursuers consisting of the Mustangs of Whitaker, Soper and Thorpe, as Dutton got ahead of Hart’s Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA to take the THC class lead. Behind them, Davies’ Mustang was tenth ahead of Julian Thomas in the second Falcon, Tom Sharp’s Mustang and Henry Neal in the second Cortina just ahead of Andy Wolfe in another Cortina. Meanwhile, in the Mini class, Phil Bullen-Brown led Tom Bell and Ian Curley, the trio running nose to tail in 27th to 29th.
Into the third lap, however, Dutton lost his THC class lead in a big way to hand the initiative back to the Dutch Alfa, as Hart was chased by Soper who into the lap was overtaken by an unleashed Thomas. At the front, Tordoff set another fastest lap of the race, but Greensall wasn’t letting the Falcon Sprint out of sight, keeping the gap within one second. The pair led Brundle by seven seconds, as the driver/commentator had dropped Priaulx by three seconds. In fact, the former multiple touring car world champion saw Whitaker Jr approach ever nearer while David Hart in the THC class-leading Alfa now had to worry about Thomas’ big Falcon even bigger in his mirrors.
By lap 6, the pit window was open, and Tordoff was the first one in to serve his elite-driver penalty along with his mandatory stop, while young Whitaker had hounded and passed Priaulx for fourth and subsequently also dealt with Brundle to be third. David Hart was another one to come in early, handing over to son Olivier – but without the young Dutchman reappearing. This handed the class lead to Andy Wolfe who had Henry Neal still following closely in his tracks. In the Mini class, Bullen-Brown had opened up a gap to Curley who in turn had left Bell behind.
While the stops were in full progress, Thomas continued his storming drive by passing Soper and Priaulx, but the two former WTCC stars hit back on the next lap, while Whitaker Jr came in for his stop, along with Henry Neal handing over to Gordon Shedden. Now in the lead, Greensall continued to hammer the fast laps in, to lead Brundle by 24 seconds, but the ‘Brustang’ was soon swamped by the fast approaching train of Soper, Priaulx and Thomas, who along with Brundle came in for his stop, Thomas to be relieved by Calum Lockie.
With 18 minutes left, Greensall came in to give the bright blue Mustang to John Spiers, but Priaulx and Soper continued for one more lap, as they finally handed their ‘stangs to Alex Taylor and Henry Mann respectively – but eventually Mann decided to leave Soper in. After all the stops had panned out, Spiers led on lap 12, but Whitaker Jr was four seconds away and closing, as was Tordoff in third, four ticks further adrift. Soper and Taylor were fourth and fifth but Lockie was on a charge, and the Falcon soon passed Taylor for fifth to set after Mann. Seventh after a quiet but solid run was Craig Davies, with Tom Sharp up next. Ben Tinkler in the Cortina started by Wolfe led the THC class – that with the demise of the Harts was back to being the Cortina class – as Chris Hoy in the ‘Brustang’ rounded out the top ten. Among the Minis, Bullen-Brown was now well up the road from Curley, with Aaron Smith having demoted Joe Ferguson in the Mini shared with Tom Bell to fourth in class.
Next time around, the lead change was there, as Whitaker hit the front while Spiers also saw Tordoff blast past on Hangar Straight – and the Falcon Sprint was running a couple of tenths quicker than the leader. Then, on lap 14, Whitaker’s diff let go in a big way, making Tordoff’s work much easier. So now Spiers was back into second place, with Soper in third ahead of Lockie, Taylor, Davies and Sharp, as the safety car came out because of the oil trail that Whitaker had left behind – especially after it led Ian Curley to slide off in his Mini. Fortunately, the lightweight car made it back out of the gravel trap safely, but it had missed Whitaker’s Mustang by mere inches.
With three minutes remaining, that would prove to be it. Tordoff took another Masters Pre-66 Touring Car win, with Greensall/Spiers in second and Soper in third. The top three were followed home by the Thomas/Lockie Falcon, the Priaulx/Taylor Mustang, and two more Mustangs with Davies and Sharpe at the wheel. Andy Wolfe and Ben Tinkler looked to have won the Cortina class but their car failed right at the end to hand victory to the Mike Gardiner/Phil Keen Cortina in eighth overall. In 13th, Henry Neal and Gordon Shedden took second in class while Shaun Balfe and Thomas Ashton were third in class and 15th overall. Phil Bullen-Brown completed a dominant drive in the Mini class with a strong win from Aaron Smith while Curley salvaged third place in class.
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