The penultimate round of Lotus Cup/Elise Trophy took the teams and drivers to the home of the British Grand Prix, Silverstone, for a busy day of qualifying and two 30-minute races. Using the full GP circuit, it was an opportunity for the cars to stretch their legs, utilising the long straights and quick corners. However, heavy rain on the day made for a much trickier affair and resulted in some of the best and most dramatic racing of the season...
Ryan Savage led the Supersport title chase by just a mere point over Adam Mackay heading to Northants. With two points for pole and the end of the season approaching, qualifying here was made even more crucial than it was earlier in the year. Heavy rain all morning had completely soaked the track, but the precipitation had stopped as the cars headed out for 30 minutes of qualifying.
The first laps were barely over the 2m50s mark, showing how tricky the conditions were, but the times would tumble lap after lap by big chunks as the drivers adapted to the conditions and the track became ever so slightly less wet...
Laptimes were down to the 2m42s bracket within the final ten minutes, and it was very much a direct battle between Mackay and points leader Savage at this point. It was Mackay's 2m42.809s which put the www.track-club.com Exige V6 at the top of the timesheets but Savage (Perry's 2-Eleven) was just eight tenths behind. Savage had drama early in the session with a spin at The Loop and an off-track excursion at Brooklands, but was now back in the hunt for
In the final five minutes Savage then took provisional pole- coming through with a 2m41.541s, four tenths up on Mackay, who had improved from his earlier lap. Mackay still had time to improve and did indeed do so, right as the flag fell, despite a moment at Farm on one of the laps.
Mackay's 2m41.109s was over half a second quicker than Savage's best attempt, but still not enough for pole. Adam Knight secured that honour, his final lap being just 0.093s quicker than www.track-club.com team-mate Mackay with a 2m41.016s. The late surprise meant neither championship contender would pick up the two points for pole...
Savage retained third ahead of Adam Balon, who improved late on to fourth in another www.track-club.com Exige V6. The returning Marcus Jewell rounded out the top five ahead of David McInulty (AbleCareGroup/ES Motorsport Exige V6), Bob Drummond, Rob Myers and the shared Phillip Britten/Marcus Miller, Millers Bakery Exige V6.
Brands polesitter Jason Baker was down in tenth in his Rob Boston Racing/Peoplesource Elise S2, seemingly struggling in the conditions, though it was later discovered to be a technical issue with the car. Ian Fenwick, Andrew Wright and Andrew Hamilton completed the Supersport grid.
Production championship leader Stuart Ratcliff returned to action in a www.track-club.com Elise 111R instead of his usual Cup R, which suffered problems at the Brands Hatch Lotus Festival weekend. With a slender lead of over 17 points ahead of John LaMaster/Luigi Mazza, it was set to be an interesting weekend.
James Little led the early stages in dominant fashion, at one point having an advantage of well over five seconds. However, things changed at the halfway mark and the Priory Parks Holiday Homes Elise Cup R driver found himself demoted by Freddie Hetherington's EMH Motorsport S1 Elise, who crossed the line with a 3m07.105s to take provisional class pole.
Little was in the pits at the time, but returned to the track later in the session to good effect, taking pole in the final seconds ahead of John LaMaster behind the wheel of the Datum Motorsport S2 Elise. Little's best of 3m01.882s was 2.3 seconds quicker than the green #65 car, whilst earlier pacesetter Hetherington had dropped all the way to sixth at the flag, behind team-mate William Stacey's S3 Elise, Alex Ball (Applecado.co.uk S1 Elise) and the AbleCare Elise Cup R of Jason McInulty. Pole however was not where little would start with a ride height infringement putting him to the back of the grid.
Seventh was Axel van Nederveen's Matthew Bentley Racing Elise 111R ahead of Chris Perkins, who was one of many to spin in the session when he rotated the CT Classic GP S1 Elise at Village. Down in ninth was points leader Ratcliff, with Peter Mansfield rounding out the top ten.
Simon Oakley (SO Motorsport/Stratton Quickfit Elise Cup R) was next up, little over a second up on the Hangar 111 S1 Elise of Mark Richardsson. Mackenzie Walker was a few tenths behind in his www.track-club.com/FAI Automotive Elise 111R ahead of Mike Perkins (Yabe Trading Co), Mads Peterson's www.scangroup.co.uk Elise S2, Steve Summers (Datum Motorsport Exige) and the Mission Motorsport 111R of Russell Anderson. Jackie Perkins' CT Classic GP S1 Elise and Paul Baker's CakesByAppointment example completed the 32-car grid.
Despite a number of spins and off-track excursions, most were harmless and the session ran uninterrupted throughout its entirety.
The Silverstone weather had failed to improve when the opening race begun shortly after midday...
Using the National pits this weekend, the Supersport grid fired away into the quick-right hander of Copse where Ryan Savage jumped into the lead, having started third, before straightlining the Maggotts/Becketts complex and handing the lead to main rival Adam Mackay. Polesitter Adam Knight was down to third at this point but it was a very close run thing as they completed the first half of the 3.6 mile lap...
As the pack approached the tricky left-right chicane of Vale, Savage's 2-Eleven fired off backwards at high speed, clipping the raised kerb on the inside before ending up in the gravel and miracoulsy continuing, albeit with a few positions lost.
At the end of a hectic opening lap Mackay still led Knight and Balon, making it a top three for the www.track-club.com V6 Exiges. Savage was already back up to fourth, and quickly began to apply pressure to third-place Balon.
Savage got the move done at The Loop on the third tour, and didn't have to worry about a potential fightback from Balon as he spun exiting the next corner, Aintree.
It took until lap four before things began to slightly settle down. As he has done many times this season, Mackay looked in control now, with a reasonable gap separating him and Knight, who in turn had a few seconds over Savage.
The sixth lap- and now approaching the race's half-distance point- was all change however. Mackay's ABS failed and he ended up beached in the Stowe gravel trap, having gone straight on as a result of the problem. This handed Knight the lead and Savage, who had been backwards earlier, was now up to second and closing in on the leader.
There was half a second in it next time round, and that gap stayed relatively constant until the final stages of the race. On the tenth lap Savage finally took the lead, an impossible thought given his circumstances of the first lap.
The drama was yet to really kick off, though, as a massive downpour in the final five minutes meant the last two laps were the trickiest it had been all day. Knight was now right back behind Savage, eager to retake the lead, with contact between the pair through The Loop and then a big moment for Savage at Brooklands setting up a frantic final lap...
They were virtually side-by-side across the line to start that final lap, Knight having got a better run through Woodcoote, passing on the straight and reclaiming the lead into Copse. They stayed stuck together for the first half of the lap before the battle came to a head in the closing stages of the lap. Contact at Aintree, the tight left-hander which completes The Loop section, saw Savage retake the lead in a now lightly damaged 2-Eleven. Knight carried on in his V6 Exige, but his chance of a win was severely hurt by that impact and Savage later incurred a penalty for driving standards something the series organisers are very strict about.
They still remained very close and both slid their way out of the final corner at Luffield, but Savage just hung on as they crossed the line virtually side-by-side, a mere 0.292s splitting the pair in what was the closest finish- and possibly the closest race- of the season.
Amazingly, despite multiple collisions, the pair were still 17 seconds up on what was now Jason Baker. Having started tenth, Baker had a fantastic recovery drive to make up seven places and secure the final spot on the podium. He finished ahead of Adam Balon by an even bigger 21s, whilst Rob Myers secured a strong top-five finish.
David McInulty, Bob Drummond and Marcus Jewell were sixth, seventh and eight respectively. Rounding out the top ten were Phillip Britten, who had two spins at Vale, and Ian Fenwick. Andrew Wright's 2-Eleven was poorly throughout but he still finished 11th ahead of Andrew Hamilton's Motorsport Elise, which was caught up in an incident at Brooklands.
It was also a fantastic lead scrap in the Production class, which starts five seconds behind the Superport grid. It ended with William Stacey taking his first win, but it was a frantic battle to get there.
It was Luigi Mazza who made the best start, and by the end of the first lap Mazza led Jason McInulty and Stacey, with the trio tied together already.
Stacey passed McInulty at Village next time round and now had Mazza to deal with, which he did so to take the lead. Meanwhile McInulty had dropped even further down the order with an off through Becketts and a wide moment at the Vale chicane, but Little was working his way back into contention and was quickly running second behind Stacey.
That didn't last long as Little dropped back again, with Mazza and also the recovering McInulty passing him. The latter two then scrapped for second before McInulty got ahead on lap nine and began closing in on Stacey.
A last-lap moment at Aintree for Stacey wasn't quite enough for McInulty to pass and the pair crossed the line seperated by just 1.3 seconds. Little passed Mazza for third in the closing stages, with the top five completed by Alex Ball. Production championship leader coming into this race, Stuart Ratcliff, got involved in an incident with a Supersport car at Brooklands but still managed sixth ahead of Freddie Hetherington.
Eighth went to Axel van Nederveen, with the top ten rounded out by Simon Oakley and Mark Richardsson, who spun at Village but continued.
Mike Perkins and Mads Peterson were 11th and 12th respectively ahead of Paul Baker and Steve Summers, who had a number of excursions throughout the race. Russell Anderson and Jackie Perkins finished the grid.
The track was beginning to show signs of a (slightly) drying line ahead of the second and final Lotus Cup/Elise Trophy race at Silverstone, until rain began to fall again just as the cars headed out onto the green flag lap...
With the reverse grid it was Ian Fenwick and Phillip Britten on the front row and the duo led the way into Copse for the first time. Britten quickly assumed the lead from Fenwick but they wouldn't stay up front for long, and the lead had already dramatically changed in just half a lap. Adam Balon started seventh but was now in the lead ahead of Rob Myers (starting sixth) and third-place starter Marcus Jewell.
Balon had a healthy 2.4s lead over Myers at the end of the opening tour, whilst the flying Mackay was now up to third from the back of the grid. Using road-car ABS and no traction control for this race after the race one drama, this was even more impressive progress for Mackay. He quickly deposited Myers for second, who was also quickly passed by a charging Jason Baker in his Elise.
So at the end of the second tour it was Balon (just) leading Mackay and Baker. Mackay quickly took the lead and Baker also found a way through, dropping Balon's Exige down to third. The lead battle was now set up as Baker closed in.
Ryan Savage was making progress too, and was up to fourth and challenging Balon. He passed the #72 car around the outside at Chapel on lap five and was running third until the half-spinning Freddie Hetherington Production-class Elise clipped him exiting Vale. Savage managed to hold a massive slide towards Club and continued until slowing later on the lap and coming into the pits as a result of the damage.
It was now even more crucial that Mackay finished this race, and finished it with a good points haul. He still led Baker but the pair were tied together as they entered the sixth lap. This was Baker's best opportunity so far, and a thrilling exchange saw them running side-by-side from Copse to Becketts, with Baker going around the outside at the quick right-hander and taking the lead as they begun the Hangar Straight. Baker was quick to pull away and Mackay, possibly struggling with his car's issues, dropped behind by over two seconds.
That was until the closing few laps, as Mackay now got his head around the lack of traction control and road car ABS, and began to close back in on Baker. Lap 11 and Mackay was back through, having passed Baker around the outside at Chapel.
It wasn't over, though, and the lead changed again on the 12th and final lap as Mackay began to intermittently slow with a fuel surge problem. Baker got the move done at Copse and came home to win with a rather unrepresentative 16 seconds in hand over Mackay. Despite his problems, Mackay was still over 34s ahead of Myers, who completed the podium in his first weekend racing the Exige V6.
Myers was very much helped by a lap eight excursion, and then retirement, from Balon. An incident at Farm left him with suspension damage, thus retiring from third place. Adam Knight also retired on the same lap after a heavy self inflicted impact into the new pit wall exiting Club corner.
All the drama left Marcus Jewell running a strong fourth at the flag ahead of David McInulty, Bob Drummond, Andrew Wright and polesitter Fenwick, who finished ahead of fellow front-row starter Britten. Savage rejoined after his drama, in a patched-up 2-Eleven, and completed the top ten. The final Supersport finisher was Andrew Hamilton.
Mark Richardsson had pole courtesy of finishing tenth in race one, starting in front of Simon Oakley and Axel van Nederveen...
The best start came from James Little, starting down in eighth, who led ahead of Oakley and van Nederveen at the end of the first tour. Jason McInulty- starting 11th- was also flying and moved up to second on lap two, passing Oakley and then setting his sights on Little, who had a big lead at this point.
Little's advantage was whittled down to basically nothing within the next two laps and McInulty was right there pressuring the #34 Elise Cup R. It remained close for the next few laps, with nothing between them, whilst further back Freddie Hetherington was third before his spin and subsequent contact with Ryan Savage put him out of the race.
It took until the very late stages of the 30 minutes for McInulty to finally make a move, getting a better exit from Vale and passing Little up the inside before the next corner, the Club right-hander which leads onto the International straight.
McInulty looked set for the win- just managing the gap to the closely-following Little- before a big mistake at Vale saw the purple Elise lock up and go straight on. This really bunched them back up again but McInulty held on for his first win of the season, a mere 1.6s ahead of Little at the flag. William Stacey had come from tenth to third, securing his second podium of the weekend, ahead of Alex Ball and Stuart Ratcliff.
van Nederveen and Oakley were next up, just ahead of Chris Perkins, Richardsson and Mike Perkins. Paul Baker, Mackenzie Walker, Mads Peterson, Russell Anderson and Jackie Perkins completed the order.
The LaMaster/Mazza car retired with an issue on lap 7 whilst Peter Mansfield spun exiting Stowe and ended his race in the barriers a lap earlier.
Next up, Snetterton 300
The final round of Lotus Cup & Elise Trophy takes place where the season started in March, but this time using the full 300 configuration when the championship returns at the end of October. Ryan Savage now holds a nine-point lead over Adam Mackay, on 279 and 270 points respectively but dropped scores will come into effect with just one round remaining - Mackay, looking to move into the British GT Championship in 2017 needs to make sure he has a trouble free weekend at Snetterton.
Production is still led by Stuart Ratcliff but with a reduced margin over John LaMaster/Luigi Mazza, on 266 and 237 points respectively...
Meanwhile in Elise Trophy, Alex Ball (336) leads Ratcliff (309), with both having a big points gap over third-place Freddie Hetherington.