The second Lotus Cup event of the year saw the teams and drivers head up to Donington Park for a 60-minute Cup mini-enduro with drivers seeking points towards the MSA Lotus Cup Supersport Championship and MSA Lotus Cup Production Championship.
The competitors kick started the busy weekend with qualifying first thing on Saturday morning at a cold but dry Donington. Using the National configuration this weekend, the extended back section of the circuit is cut off and the tricky Roberts chicane is used as the final corner, which played an important part in the weekend’s proceedings.
It was Steve Train who took pole in his Leistung Auto Lotus 2-Eleven, but only two tenths of a second up from the similar Perry’s backed car of Ryan Savage.
Savage was up front for the majority of the session but admitted traffic got in the way of the perfect lap, leaving Train to grab pole in the final five minutes with a best of 1m13.200s.
Behind Open-class competitors Train and Savage, Adam Balon was just 0.007s off second in his www.track-club.com Exige V6 and was the first of the Exige class runners on a circuit that was expected to suit the lighter cars.
Jason Baker’s Peoplesource.co.uk Honda powered Elise S2 was due to line up fourth ahead of double Snetterton race winner and points leader Adam Mackay but a clutch issue took him out of the race and he elected to start from the back in a spare car that he had brought for Sundays Elise Trophy meeting in order to make sure he took at least some points away from the weekend.
Mackay was only five tenths off pole but this deficit was enough to see him down in fifth in his Exige also run by track-club – this was the first race meeting at Donington for Mackay who’s first track time was a few hours on Fridays trackday. The talented Scottish youngster studying in London is hoping this year’s experience of the main UK circuits in Lotus Cup will help him prepare for a future GT career hopefully starting next season the British GT4 Championship.
Adam Knight was right behind in his black Exige V6 ahead of two Open class cars, Andrew Wright (SpeedLogic Motorsport Exige S1) and Stephen Gugleilmi in his FG Mileham Builders Elise S1 which after a bit of damage at Snetterton was sporting a new Exige Motorsport rear clamshell.
Ian Fenwick and David McNulty rounded out the top ten- in the Open and Exige categories respectively- with two further Exige V6’s behind them of Bob Drummond and the shared car of Marcus Miller and Ryan Hooker. Missing from the fray was the entered Lotus Motorsport Exige of Andrew Hamilton which had to be withdrawn after engine woes testing the day before the race meeting.
Stuart Ratcliff & Anthony Dunn came out on top in a typically closely-fought Production class battle with Stuarts best just two tenths clear of Alex Ball on a 1m19.333s in their factory spec Elise Cup R. That was despite a quick spin onto the grass at Redgate late in the session.
Alex Ball came out on top in a battle for second in class with Freddie Hetherington in his Elise S1, with a best time just 0.077s quicker than Hetherington’s best effort in his EMH Motorsport Elise S1.
Luigi Mazza/John LaMaster lined up fourth in their Datum Motorsport Elise S2 ahead of Seth Walpole’s www.plant-tech.co.uk 111R.
The first hour-long race of the year got underway just after lunch and, despite light drizzle, took place on a completely dry track.
An extra green flag lap was required to recover the stranded Matthew Bentley Racing Elise 111R of the luckless Axel van Nederveen / Adriano Medeiros, before front row starters Savage and Train led the pack to the rolling start. Both made decent getaways and held onto their positions into Redgate for the first time.
It was a clean getaway for all concerned, with Train coming through ahead of Savage at the end of lap one. Mackay was making up ground early, passing Baker’s Elise on the first lap and then closing in rapidly on Balon. The Exige’s swapped positions on lap four and Mackay was into third, albeit some way behind the lead duo. Balon certainly had the pace to race Mackay and he wrestled the fastest Exige V6 lap of the race by some margin from his striking green machine but ultimately ended up around 5 seconds adrift at the flag.
Train was just building a comfortable gap over Savage out front, but the same couldn’t be said for the Production class. Ratliff was just holding off Hetherington before he spun at Roberts on lap ten and tumbled down the order.
Just six laps later, coinciding with the pit window opening, Train spun from the overall lead exiting Redgate. The 2-Eleven caught a Production car mid-corner and spun to the infield, sending the closely-following Savage off onto the grass in avoidance.
The drama ahead allowed Mackay through and into the lead, but it only took a lap for the recovering Savage to close in again. Train, meanwhile, had a slower recovery as he regained momentum after the spin.
Savage was the first to dive into the pits for his mandatory stop. Train followed shortly afterwards while Mackay continued to circulate, which turned out to be crucial.
Jason McNulty had a big off and parked his AbleCare Elise S2 in the safety barrier at Roberts just as Mackay was coming in. The timing of the subsequent safety car was perfect for Mackay, who completed his stop and managed to rejoin directly behind the safety car helped by an excellent bit of safety car management and observation by the race control crew led by Clerk of the Course Nick Turner. Mackay thus remained in the lead ahead of Savage and Balon.
Mackay made a good restart as the other beneficiary, Train, managed to regain third from Balon pretty quickly, although nearly lost the position again through the Craner Curves.
When Train was able to pull away, he set his sights on the leaders, and it created a tense final 10 minutes. Mackay was busy defending from Savage, which was losing them both time and enabled Train to catch up even quicker than you’d expect.
It was three for the lead before long, a fantastic sight as they ran line astern in the final few laps. Ultimately, Train ruled himself out with a few off-track excursions exiting Redgate losing him time, but the leaders were still tied together approaching the chequered flag.
Mackay was just able to hang on and make it three wins from three, crossing the line four tenths ahead of Open class winner Savage after 42 grueling laps. Train rounded out the podium ahead of Balon less than another four tenths behind and took two valuable points for the fastest lap with a 1:13.18 – a new lap record for the series at Donington Park.
Adam Knight was fifth in the end, some ten seconds up the road from Andrew Wright, Stephen Guglielmi, Marcus Miller/Ryan Hooker and Bob Drummond.
Jason Baker took 10th in the Supersport Class albeit he had competed in a production car after his Supersport car failed in qualifying and the officials gave him special dispensation and arranged for him to complete three qualifying laps over the lunch break.
An undoubted success this year thanks to the understanding and willingness to innovate by MSVR has been the separation of the Supersport and Production grids with a 5 row and 10 second release gap. This has been well managed by race control and has definitely improved the quality of the racing in the early stages of the race for the Production Class racers with an almost unanimous vote of approval.
The Production race was another thriller right until the flag, and also featured three cars battling it out for top spot. Stuart Ratcliff recovered from a massive spin after leaning on the car a bit too much exiting Roberts and rejoined last before starting to fight his way back up the order.
As the pit stops started to occur we saw 2015 Elise Trophy champion Luigi Mazza - in for LaMaster- into the lead before the safety car was deployed for what looked like a huge accident for Jason McNulty in the Ablecare Group sponsored Lotus Elise 111R – miraculously a bit of purple tape and some suspension repairs saw Jason make it back onto the grid the following morning for the Elise Trophy races!!
Once the McNulty Elise was recovered from the safety barriers it was Mazza leading Hetherington and the recovering Anthony Dunn - in for Ratcliff- at the restart. The lead changed almost on a lap-by-lap basis but experienced pro driver Dunn found his way into the lead and it was Dunn fending off Mazza and Hetherington heading onto the final tour.
Mazza was able to regain the lead round the back of the circuit, but it was short-lived as he spun at Roberts right at the end. Avoiding the gravel, he managed to rejoin and finish third behind Dunn and winner Freddie Hetherington
It was a costly moment for Mazza, who admitted it was just a mistake and possibly as a result of changing down to second instead of the usual third gear. Dunn later admitted both Mazza and Hetherington had got past him because he thought the chequered flag had come out at the end of the previous lap and he lifted before realizing his error – a useful points haul for Hetherington and costly mistakes for Dunn and Mazza.
Behind Mazza on the road was Seth Walpole, Simon Oakley and the shared car of Matt Noakes and Russ Anderson completed the finishers.
After a fairly attritional race, retirements included Barbara Kubicka’s gravel bound Datum Motorsport Exige which was an unlucky end to a promising first race and also the Livsey/Bradshaw Elise S2 retired after 20 laps but was another one to deal with the issue and return the following day for the Elise Trophy meeting.
Another one-hour race awaits the drivers at Brands Hatch in three weeks’ time around the short and challenging Indy circuit. Mackay leads the Supersport standings heading into round three while Stuart Ratcliff leads the Production Championship.