Sports 2000 – Brands Hatch Festival reportPosted on: November 9th 2017 • Posted in: Race Results
Saturday’s weather did what weather does in Kent in late October – it was cold, windy and wet. With the championships already decided, this weekend was 2017’s last dance and a chance to give the cars a final airing before winter work. Qualifying was a mixed bag; the weather made conditions very tough for the Duratecs but a slight improvement meant the top Pintos set times that would’ve troubled a few of the top class runners.
Duratec and Pinto ran as aggregate in both races on Sunday. Around the 1.2 miles of Brands Hatch Indy where laptimes in the dry are under 50 seconds for Duratecs, the 25 and 30 minute races were guaranteed to include more traffic management than usual.
It was Paul Trayhurn who mastered the wet conditions on Saturday to set a pole time of 57.392 in his Gunn TS11, beating the similar car of Tom Stoten by seven tenths. Michael Gibbins led the MCR brigade a further half second back in third. Lewis Kent earns an honourable mention for getting his Ray into fifth and splitting the horde of MCRs with a 59.328.
In Pinto, it was battle royal between Damien Griffin and Chris Snowdon. The two kept pipping each other to provisional pole as they got a handle on the track conditions. Anyone who reckoned they would lock out the front row of the Pinto grid hadn’t reckoned on Mike Dodd, however – he banged in a 53.421 late in the session, putting his Tiga SC79 between eventual pole man Griffin’s Lola and Snowdon’s Tiga SC80. Impressively, Dodd and Snowdon’s efforts put two Historic cars in the top three for Race 1’s grid on Sunday.
Sunday was cold and breezy but importantly remained dry. Car prep, tea, watching drivers trying to make the Formula Ford Festival final (try saying that with a biscuit in your mouth), more hot tea, lunch and tea filled the morning before Race 1 began at 13:30.
A full grid of Sports 2000 machines at full blast charging into Paddock Hill is a sight to behold. Trayhurn managed to resist the combined attack of Gibbins and Stoton as the field streaked out behind them and went two, three and four abreast up the hill towards Druids. Unfortunately, front row starter Tom Stoton and Paul Streat’s Lola T87/90 would be classified as DNF, lap 0. It was a busy first lap for the Duratecs as Lewis Kent and Roger Donnan slipped right back, letting Nick Bates capitalise, moving up to sixth after lap one from tenth on the grid.
That left the front three as Trayhurn and Gibbins now easing a gap out over the bright yellow MCR of Tim Tudor. With such a short lap and a fairly large spread of laptimes, the leaders hit traffic early on. Trayhurn managed to thread his Gunn through the backmarkers and keep Gibbins behind, but the gap was best measured in car lengths rather than time. Tudor was losing around half a second a lap but could rest easy – fourth and fifth were being fought over hard by David Houghton and Giles Billingsley.
Further back, the top Pintos were dealing with Mike Turner and Steve Head who’d dropped places at the start. It wasn’t a good day to be on the front row in Pintos; Griffin was overtaken by Mike Dodd on lap 1, and Chris Snowdon managed to have them both. As if that wasn’t enough to excite the commentary box, the usually rapid Josh Law had started fourth but led the class in his Shrike P15 at the end of lap 1, chased by sixth place starter Peter Needham.
By lap 5, Trayhurn led Gibbins by under a second, Tudor was over three seconds in arrears and losing ground but safe from the Houghton-Billingsley fight behind. Josh Law lost out to a determined Peter Needham for the Pinto lead, Snowdon still held third from Dodd and poleman Griffin.
A lap later, the Duratecs remained fairly calm but Dodd took third from Snowdon. Snowdon found the Paddock Hill gravel on lap 7, bringing out the safety car and bunching up the small gaps that had formed. Clearly unhappy with his car’s handling, Griffin hit the pits to make adjustments and find a better setup for the second race.
There was more drama at the restart. Trayhurn kept the lead from Gibbins but 41 got right up onto the back of Tudor. Josh Law pulled off, seemingly with a mechanical problem slowing his Shrike. The front group in Pinto was now Needham just holding onto the lead, Mike Dodd with third filled by Mike Fry in his Lola T86/90.
The early Houghton-Billingsley battle of the MCRs was still going strong; Houghton had been lining moves up since the restart and made it stick on lap 20 as Bates pinched sixth from Lewis Kent. The Duratec podium seemed settled by now – Gibbins had been keeping Trayhurn honest, but the Gunn was definitely performing better this late in the race and Gibbins was losing about a second a lap. Tudor was running in a lonely third, not catching the top two in traffic but with a comfortable gap to fourth place.
The flag fell at the end of lap 25 – Paul Trayhurn eventually taking his Gunn to a comfortable win over Michael Gibbins and Tim Tudor in MCRs. Giles Billingsley retired five laps short, giving David Houghton fourth and allowing Lewis Kent to take fifth. Peter Needham drove an excellent race to seal a win in Pinto, leading Mikes Dodd and Fry to second and third respectively.
A fastest lap of 51.285 in Pinto B was slight consolation for Josh Law, whose strong run was cut short at the restart. As if taking his Historic Tiga SC79 to second in Pinto wasn’t enough, Mike Dodd also bagged fastest Historic lap with a 51.353. An honourable mention goes to Peter Brouwer – a difficult race saw him classified three laps down but his 49.656 was the quickest Duratec B lap.
Race 1’s finishing order was Race 2’s grid. Simple enough. It’d be a fun one – Tom Stoten on a comeback from the tail end of Duratec; Josh Law and Paul Streat doing the same in Pinto; Peter Needham and Paul Trayhurn looking to double up on wins. It had stayed dry and the field now had their eye in, having driven the track in the dry that morning. There had been some brave moves in the Formula Ford races around the outside at Paddock or Clearways and late on the brakes at Graham Hill. Had that inspired anyone?
In short, yes. Michael Gibbins beat Trayhurn away at the start and immediately pushed hard, trying to build a gap. David Houghton managed to squeeze his way past Tim Tudor for third and Nick Bates ducked inside Lewis Kent in the lap 1 melee. In Pinto, Peter Needham got a clean break and held the class lead as the field completed their first laps. Tom Stoten was much less ballistic than usual, and trucked around at the back of the Duratecs without making his usual progress.
Gibbins’ lead wouldn’t last long – Trayhurn threw the Gunn into the lead at Paddock Hill with incredible commitment before immediately putting a half second gap between himself and the pack. It could’ve been more, but in a repeat of Race 1 it was Chris Snowdon who found himself once again building sandcastles in the Paddock Hill gravel. No safety car this time, but waved yellows stopped any banzai moves at the first corner.
Back to green and you couldn’t get a Rizla in edgeways between Trayhurn and Gibbins. A 49.003 lap from the leader in his Gunn was followed immediately by Gibbins’ 49.006. The late stages of Race 1 saw the Gunn outperform the MCR but it was absolutely neck and neck between them here.
Behind the leaders, a recovering Damien Griffin set about the pack. A ferocious first lap saw him pick up four places and latch onto Josh Law. This clearly wouldn’t hold – Law nipped past Richard Cooke to make a Lola-shaped barrier. Simon Aldworth was next to be passed and by lap 6, Josh Law was third in Pintos with Mike Fry and Aldworth between himself and Griffin.
There was a wild moment on lap nine for the overall leaders, as Trayhurn and Gibbins went three wide into the entry of Paddock Hill as they started cutting swathes through the traffic. Nearer the back, Josh wasn’t the only Law having fun – brother Ash was in a proper battle with Mira Feyerabend’s Tiga SC79, split by a few hundredths.
Giles Billingsley had been having a fairly quiet race compared to his earlier fights with David Houghton. A few laps shadowing Lewis Kent paid off on lap 16 as he made the move for sixth stick. Comeback kid Josh Law was almost done now too, sticking the Shrike’s shapely nose past Mike Dodd at Surtees for second in Pinto and chasing after the weekend’s star man Needham.
Passing Kent was like fresh blood for Giles Billingsley – he’d taken four laps to get onto the back of Nick Bates and with half the race remaining there was potential to go higher. Fourth place beckoned, and Bates couldn’t hold his place as Billingsley put a clinical move on him inside Graham Hill.
At two thirds time, the race settled into a rhythm. Trayhurn was holding a two second gap over Gibbins, who in turn could lap around two tenths quicker than Houghton. Tudor’s times weren’t bad but he wasn’t close enough to challenge for the podium. Griffin’s persistence saw him closing up on the podium, trying to recover something of a result after failing to convert from pole.
Crushingly, Josh Law’s charge was ended on lap 20, as was a disappointing weekend for Tom Stoten. Five laps later, overall leader Paul Trayhurn suffered a front hub failure but managed to hold onto the Gunn, retiring rather than smashing out of control into the tyres. This gave Gibbins a ten second lead from Houghton, who was driving brilliantly, and Tudor. Bates and Kent were shadow boxing through the traffic, close enough to keep each other busy but not to fight.
With six minutes to go, Kent went straight on at Druids in his Ray. A very racy looking Roger Donnan tried a late move on Mike Turner after the yellows but was running out of time and couldn’t find a way past. Griffin had hauled his Lola up to third in Pinto but was over 15 seconds behind second.
At the flag, it was Gibbins who won by seven seconds from Houghton and Tudor, giving MCR a podium whitewash at the final race of the season. Bates took fourth, Billingsley a fine fifth and Mike Turner held onto sixth from Roger Donnan. Peter Needham managed to win again in Pinto with thirteen seconds in hand over Mike Dodd. Griffin’s fine efforts gave him third.
Josh Law would again have to settle for fastest lap rather than a podium – Trayhurn too, his 47.969 the fastest lap of the race overall. Mike Dodd took fastest Historic Pinto lap again, and a dream weekend for Peter Needham was capped with fastest Pinto A lap, a 51.230.