Willis grabs Masters Sports Car Legends spoils at Donington as Bradshaw stumbles
Andy Willis’ Lola T212 was there to pick up the spoils in the one-hour Masters Sports Car Legends race at Donington Park when runaway leader Tom Bradshaw failed to get his pole-sitting Chevron B19 going again during his mandatory pitstop. Having built a lead of over half a minute, Bradshaw found himself two laps down when he finally rejoined.
“I’ll take it!” said Willis about inheriting the lead after Bradshaw’s misfortune. “I was struggling with the brakes a bit, but it was good. Towards the end I tried to manage the gap.”
Initially, Willis had to keep Marc Devis in the Chevron B19 at bay but when the Belgian’s car faltered, the Jamie Thwaites/Dean Forward B19 took over on their Masters debut. Forward got to within seven seconds but Willis remained in control. In another B19, Mark Hazell and Martin O’Connell took a distant third ahead of Bonnier class winners Stephen Nuttall and Darren Burke in their Chevron B8.
“It was a good race!” said Forward. “This was our first time we did the Masters together, with Jamie as the owner of the car, and it was brilliant!”
“I’ve only been racing two years”, said Thwaites, “so I’m really pleased with the result.”
“I was getting fifth instead of third going into Macleans”, said Hazell about getting his time penalty. “I must still learn to drive it properly. Because I wasn’t driving it properly, I’m exceeding those track limits!”
Despite Greensall incurring a stop-and-go penalty for a jumped start, he and John Spiers still took fifth overall in their Hulme-class-winning McLaren M1B, leading home two more Chevron B8s shared by Philip Nelson/Andy Newall and Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie. The latter example was delayed by an ignition issue, but still plugged on to take third in class.
On a glorious spring morning as sunny as the one the day before, the Masters Sports Car Legends field was sent on its way, Bradshaw immediately opened up a gap from Nigel Greensall starting in John Spiers’ McLaren M1B. Jamie Thwaites remained third in the second Chevron B19, followed by Andy Willis driving solo in Stephan Joebstl’s Lola T212, Stephen Nuttall in the first of the B8s, chased by Julian Thomas’ similar example, who in the first three laps continued to exchange positions with Marc Devis in his B19. Mark Hazell in another B19, David Forsbrey in the third B8 and John Sheldon’s Chevron B16 were up next. At the back, Steve Seaman’s Lola T70 Spyder was an early retirement.
After five laps, Bradshaw led by 11 seconds but Greensall was slammed with a stop-and-go penalty for jumping the start. Thwaites and Willis fought over third, 13 seconds down, Nuttall following them three seconds further down the road. Further back, Charles Allison’s B8 made it into the top-ten at the cost of Sheldon. Behind the B16, Philip Nelson’s B8, Robert Shaw in another B8 and Canadian Peter Hallford’s Corvette disputed 12th place.
On lap 6, Greensall took his penalty, promoting the warring Thwaites and Willis up into second and third, while Devis – who had just passed Nuttall – made up three places in one go, as Thomas also pitted for an ignition issue in his B8. Eventually, Greensall emerged in eighth, sandwiched by Forsbrey and Allison. Thomas rejoined in 14th, a lap down on Bradshaw.
Fifteen minutes gone, and Bradshaw’s lead had increased to 22 seconds, but now Willis was his main rival, having threatened to pass Thwaites for several laps. Behind them, Devis was gaining on both of them, with Nuttall in fifth, five seconds behind, and Hazell in sixth. Making up for his error, Greensall was back up into seventh, having passed Forsbrey. Sheldon and Allison kept going at it, the former having pinched back his spot to be ninth overall.
On lap 14, Devis had cut down the gap to Thwaites while Greensall had relieved Hazell from sixth. For two more laps, though, Devis couldn’t find a way past his rival B19, but by way of a 5-second time penalty for Thwaites for exceeding track limits, the Belgian was now virtually up into third place. Further back, Allison and Sheldon had yet again swapped places.
Approaching the pit window, Bradshaw’s lead over Willis now amounted to half a minute, as Thwaites and Devis continued to battle for third, nine seconds down on the Lola T212. Nuttall was a lonely fifth in the class-leading B8, with Greensall in sixth only making a minor impression on him. Hazell (also hit by a 5-second time penalty for track limits), Forsbrey, Allison and Sheldon continued in their positions inside the top-ten, while Thomas had moved into 13th at the cost of Hallford’s big Corvette.
On lap 21, Hallford along with Hazell were the first ones to pit, handing over to Josh Cook and Martin O’Connell respectively, with Andy Newall taking over from Nelson in the B8 that ran in 11th overall. On the next lap, Thwaites stopped to hand the Gunston-liveried B19 over Dean Forward. On consecutive laps, Nuttall swapped with Darren Burke and Allison handed over to Peter Thompson, while Willis, Devis and Forsbrey also came in for their stops. The leader waited until lap 27 to come in, joined by Greensall who would change places with John Spiers.
Something was not quite alright with the runaway leader, though. As Spiers rejoined, Bradshaw was seen still standing in the pits, the complexion of the race now completely changed, as his B19 simply refused to restart. Willis now led Devis by 8 seconds, with Forward 12 seconds further adrift. Spiers was fourth, but Burke and O’Connell were closing on him fast, while Forsbrey was seventh, ahead of Bradshaw, who had re-emerged but was now two laps down. Newall and Sheldon completed the top ten runners.
Bradshaw’s first full lap in anger was the consummately fastest lap of the race, and he duly took seventh from Forsbrey but the leaders were a long way up ahead. Willis’ margin to Devis had decreased slightly because of backmarkers but he still had some six seconds in hand with 15 minutes remaining on the clock. Forward held station in third while Spiers had been passed on the road by a flying O’Connell who had already usurped Burke for fifth. Burke was still easily the Bonnier class leader, though, now chased by Newall in eighth who had just got in front of Forsbrey, while Lockie (now in the B8 started by Thomas) was chasing down the pair of them, Forsbrey falling victim of Lockie’s pace on laps 38.
With ten minutes remaining, Willis was in control, his lead over Devis back up to eight seconds, but Forward had been gathering pace and despite his time penalty was beginning to threaten the Belgian for second place. Close to a lap behind, O’Connell had now done enough to undo the time penalty handed to his teammate Hazell and was fourth ahead of Spiers, Burke and Bradshaw, the latter still two laps down. Newall was eighth, ten seconds up on Lockie, but the latter was hauling him in at a rate of two seconds per lap.
On laps 40 and 41, disaster struck for David Forsbrey and Marc Devis, both retiring to the pits. The Belgian had been rewarded for his trouble by a fuel pressure issue and was out, but Forsbrey rejoined well down, having suffered from a slipping clutch.
As the final minutes ticked away, Willis maintained a 7-second advantage to Forward to the chequered flag. O’Connell took a distant third ahead of the Bonnier-class-winning Chevron B8 of Nuttall and Burke, the latter passing Hulme class winner Spiers’ McLaren M1B in the dying stages. Bradshaw was a sorely disappointed sixth, ahead of the Nelson/Newall, Thomas/Lockie and Robert Shaw B8s. Sheldon’s B16 rounded out the top-ten.
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