Brands Hatch GP – 9/10th May 2021 Race Report, Images and ResultsPosted on: May 14th 2021 • Posted in: Race Results
Not quite “wet wet wet” but definitely “wet wet dry”
Round 3 & 4 – Brands Hatch GP
After winning both races at Donington Park in a resurgence for the Gunn drivers, Tom Stoten came to Brands Hatch with high hopes, especially after his main rival for the last few years – Michael Gibbins – had taken zero points away from the first weekend. Thankfully, Michael and Chris Snowdon were both okay after the shunt which took them out of contention in Race 1 a few weeks ago, and both were fighting fit to see what they could salvage from the second race weekend of the year.
It was anybody’s guess with the Pintos too – only a couple of tenths separated the overall and individual class winners each time, with attrition quite high for the first few races. Despite the Pinto grid looking small for Brands Hatch, the championship was incredibly tight with nobody looking like a clear runaway at this early stage.
With conditions looking very tricky on Saturday, Qualifying could’ve been a lottery, but Tom Stoten made sure that the success of Donington Park wasn’t a one-off, grabbing pole position from Dominic Lesniewski, who unfortunately went straight on at Paddock Hill bend after going fastest in that moment. Josh Law would line up third with Michael Gibbins and Neil Burroughs rounding out the top 5.
Chris Snowdon showed his class in a great bounce back from Donington by qualifying top in all of the Pintos, but 13th overall out of 29 cars, beating at least 10 of the Duratecs. Of course, this wouldn’t mean he started ahead of them on the grid in the race, but even still it was a phenomenal effort. Ross Hyett wasn’t far behind and Paul Streat was third best in his Lola.
Plenty of wheelspin and a very poor start greeted polesitter Stoten as the lights went out – he dropped way down the order and was just inside the Top 10 going into Paddock Hill Bend! Lesniewski would lead with Law, Williams – who’d had a great start – Gibbins and Burroughs hot on his heels, but coming down into Graham Hill Bend, Gibbins decided to back out of a move on the number 88 machine, heading back on to the racing line, which meant that Burroughs clipped the grass and went straight on with a slight spin.
This wouldn’t have been too much of a blow to his race or his weekend, but the number 77 Duratec (ironically Michael Gibbins’ old car) of Tony Barwell had been involved in a similar situation and went straight on as well, colliding heavily with the left rear of the stationary Gunn TS11 – something that commentator Chris Dawes jokingly described as tag team wrestling. Thankfully, both drivers were perfectly fine and able to drive back, but both cars would require extensive repairs to be back out on Sunday.
Stoten would recover to 6th place by the end of Lap 1, gaining 5th back after the conditions caught out John Owen and Paul Trayhurn on the following lap – Owen hitting the wall and damaging his rear wing while Trayhurn’s Gunn, despite not hitting anything, got beached on the side of the circuit, with the rear wheels spinning on the wet grass. Just before this though, a spin out of the final corner for Sebastien Bamsey would leave the car in a dangerous position, especially considering how slippery the track was. The Safety Car came out and proceedings were neutralised. Ross Hyett had taken the lead in the Pintos from Chris Snowdon, with Paul Streat, Mike Fry and Clive Steeper right behind, all ready to potentially pounce off the restart.
Josh Law took the lead not long after the restart, with a wonderful move around the outside of Lesniewski at Druids. Stoten got ahead of Williams to move up to 4th, with Gibbins holding station in third. Snowdon had moved past Hyett for the Pinto lead with Streat and Fry doing the same not long after, as the number 69 Lola had issues with temperatures following the time spent behind the safety car.
Gibbins soon moved past Lesniewski for 2nd place as the circuit started to dry out – Dominic’s steering apparently slightly off-center after his Qualifying accident. He said afterwards that the car was still driveable, but he wasn’t able to push as much as the others once conditions improved slightly, in the interests of keeping the car on the black stuff.
The cars were still certainly difficult to keep on said black stuff though – drivers reporting a massive difference in grip between the Indy circuit and the GP loop. Some would gain huge amounts of time in the middle sectors of the lap, but lose out again when it came to the treacherous first and last corners.
Gibbins was back on form, closing in very quickly on Josh Law in the closing stages, taking at least one second a lap out of the number 91 machine’s lead before the end. He had Tom Stoten hot on his heels as well, fired up after his poor start, but a spin coming on to the GP loop would drop him back to 4th behind Lesniewski!
The top two had their fair share of traffic to deal with but Josh Law was able to hang on to take his first victory in the championship – well deserved after so many strong finishes last year. Michael Gibbins would take a good haul of points in second, still disappointed that he couldn’t take the win, with Lesniewski grabbing an excellent podium after his Qualifying incident, and championship leader Stoten finishing 4th.
Paul Streat had got ahead of Chris Snowdon around the outside of Sheene Curve on the final lap, but the Tiga driver took it back at the very final corner – each still winning their respective classes – Pinto Historic and Pinto – but only half a second separated them. Mike Fry would take third overall in Pintos another 7 seconds back at the flag.
Peter Williams got a top 5 overall and won the Duratec Derek Bell Trophy for Round 3, with David Houghton 6th, followed by Nik Johnson, Giles Billingsley, Andy Chittenden and Mike Turner rounding out the Top 10. Roger Donnan had a spin early on and managed to recover to 13th overall, finishing 11th in Duratec.
Overnight there had been some mammoth efforts to get cars back out on track, and it was a testament to the friendly, helpful paddock that we have in Sports 2000. Neil Burroughs and Gary Gunn travelled to the Gunn workshop and new suspension components were hand made to a level of accuracy that meant they didn’t even need fine-tuning once they went on the car, and a member of Ian Law’s team had David Gorst and John Owen’s rear wing supports mended to a point where they looked almost brand new, as opposed to fitting completely new ones.
The main talking point was the difference in the conditions – the sun was out, and the track was dry in comparison to yesterday. It was still windy and the weather certainly still carried the threat of rain, so nobody really knew what to expect. Josh Law would of course line up on pole position with Michael Gibbins beside him, followed by a fired up Dominic Lesniewski and Tom Stoten, with the aforementioned Burroughs and Owen being ones to watch, coming back through the field after their race 1 DNFs.
Reigning champion Gibbins would get a very convincing start, with Law trying to challenge him into Turn 1, but the Race 1 winner would end up 4th after the first circulation. Giles Billingsley had made a great start getting up to 5th place from 8th, but unfortunately The Earl of Medway was overshadowed by Neil Burroughs’ scarcely believable progress from 19th up to 7th!
Paul Streat had made a good start with Duratec traffic around him, taking the Pinto lead and managing to keep some breathing room between himself and Race 1 rival Chris Snowdon. Behind them, Trevor Welsh and Clive Steeper were locked in combat with Ross Hyett in hot pursuit – great racing as ever from the Pintos despite a reduced grid size!
The gap stayed rather stable at the front of the field, with Gibbins, Stoten and Law trading lap times, closing in on one another, then spreading out again a lap later – traffic being a key factor in helping and hindering all three of them – 5.7 seconds being the biggest recorded gap all race as they crossed the line.
Neil Burroughs would continue his charge forward and overtake Houghton on Lap 2, Billingsley on Lap 3, then Lesniewski on Lap 6. While grabbing himself a strong handful of points, he wouldn’t progress any further up the order, as the top 3 had got too far out in front. It had still been an incredible drive that was a fine reward for the hard work the team had put in overnight, and a real testament to the pace of not just Neil, but the Gunn TS11.
Streat and Snowdon resumed their epic battle from the first race, staying within a second of each other throughout 90% of the race, with Mike Fry filling their mirrors. Before the race, Chris had mentioned that he expected one of the Lolas to win, especially with the pace that Streat and Hyett had shown the day before – unfortunately though, the latter ended his race in the gravel trap at Paddock Hill Bend after overcooking it – not a great weekend for Ross.
In the middle of the Duratec field, a fantastic train of cars had come together – Peter Williams, Andy Chittenden, Mike Turner and Roger Donnan involved. Positions changed lap after lap over the course of the race, Turner being the unfortunate one to lose out, before Donnan mysteriously dropped way off the train on Lap 9.
A little further back in the Pintos, they had Duratec traffic to deal with. Richard Cooke, Andrew Butler and John Iley were in the mix for a lot of the race until the number 16 Carbir CS2 of Cooke had an unidentified failure and pulled over on Lap 10. It had been a pretty attritional season so far, and Brands Hatch was no different.
At the very front of the pack it was a very tidy performance like the many we saw in 2020 from Michael Gibbins. He took the lead at the very start, controlled the pace and took his first win of the season in the new car, bouncing back in fantastic style from Donington Park. It was a very strong weekend that put him back into the title race, but Stoten kept him honest, finishing 2nd with Josh Law in 3rd.
Burroughs would come home an impressive 4th with Lesniewski 5th – another great weekend for him. Giles Billingsley would take the Duratec Derek Bell Class win in 6th with David Houghton 7th. Peter Williams then crossed the line just ahead of Chittenden and Turner who bagged his second Top 10 result of the weekend.
Grant Gibson’s Van Diemen was 11th just ahead of Roger Donnan while Ashley Law put in some strong driving to progress up to 13th.
Paul Streat took vengeance in the Pintos, beating Chris Snowdon on this occasion, with only half a second covering them again – an incredibly exciting pair of races in their class. Mike Fry took another 3rd place ahead of reigning champion Peter Needham who rounded out a very under-the-radar weekend in 4th. Clive Steeper was then 5th ahead of Trevor Welsh’s beautiful red Lola T492 (can you tell Chaz wrote this?) in 6th.
It was a very exciting weekend’s racing that all of the drivers seemed to enjoy – Brands Hatch’s beautiful and historic Grand Prix circuit always being a pleasure to visit, especially for those that get to drive it! Conditions had been mixed but it really highlighted the patience and skill of certain drivers in the field that made the most of it!
We now move on to another gem on the UK motorsport calendar – the narrow, twisty Oulton Park in Cheshire. Unfortunately we won’t have our resident commentator Chaz Draycott with us after seeing him in the paddock for the first time this year at Brands. Due to other commitments with Clio Cup Europe he’ll be returning at the very end of the season for (hopefully) the decider at Snetterton.
Many thanks to Chaz Draycott for this report.
Below are some images credit to KJG Photograpy. To view the full set or purchase copies visit https://www.kjgphotography.co.uk