2017 Brands Hatch GP - Round 2 - Lotus Cup Race Report

 

2017 05 pitlane.jpg

Savage and Atkinson share wins on a gloomy Bank Holiday Monday

Simon Atkinson took the lead of the Lotus Cup standings following  a win in the second race on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, as a typically wet Bank Holiday Monday made conditions tricky for all involved.

Qualifying

A 20-minute free practice session was the first track activity of the day, held in damp conditions, and after multiple heavy rain showers the track was still comprehensively slippery in time for qualifying.

Practice pacesetter Atkinson lost out to Ken Savage (2-Eleven) by just 0.950s at the end of a session which saw the places trade on multiple occasions as the times tumbled. Savage's 1m49.983s came on lap eight and wasn't challenged as Atkinson, after setting his quickest time on lap six, pulled his Exige V6 Cup R straight into the pits and would take no further part in the session.

Bob Drummond was only a further nine tenths back in his Exige V6 Cup, but had a great Elise Trophy pole battle right behind as Alex Ball and William Stacey flew in their Elise S1 and K-series Elise S2 respectively.

Stacey looked to have the upper-hand for the majority of the session before a very sideways Ball, who had already touched the gravel at Paddock Hill Bend on one occasion, put in a 1m52.094s on his last lap to pip Stacey by just over fourth tenths of a second.

Third in class was a strong result for Axel van Nederveen, with Simon Oakley in close pursuit. Mark Richardsson, Mike Perkins and Sam Tomlinson rounded out the top ten.

Remarkably Mads Petersen  was only 0.004s behind Tomlinson in 11th with John Powell a slightly larger 0.019s in arrears! Paul Baker, Steve Summers and John Atherton were fairly evenly spread in positions 13-15 with photographer Jon Bryant not much further back in 16th, despite a spin into the gravel at the foot of Paddock.

Chris Thirkettle was the last of those classified as Barry Strong spun his Elise S2 R111 into the gravel at Paddock on his second lap and couldn't set a time. That incident brought out a Code 60 for the first and only time of the meeting.

Race one

A damp track once again greeted competitors ahead of the first of two 30-minute races, but with dark clouds looming over Brands it looked set to get a lot worse.

On the rolling start it was a very close affair between the top three as they stayed as one through Paddock for the first time. Polesitter Savage lost out here as Drummond took the lead, with Atkinson holding station in third.

With the split-start format there was a small gap before Elise Trophy was underway, and when the lights went out it was a determined Stacey who stormed past polesitter Ball before reaching Paddock, with van Nederveen holding third.

Everybody was safely through the first few corners and indeed nearly the whole lap, before Mark Richardsson spun and rejoined at Clearways.

It only took until lap three for Savage to move his 2-Eleven back into the overall lead ahead of Drummond's Exige, whilst Stacey was absolutely flying in Elise Trophy and had a huge buffer over Ball's yellow Elise. Further behind there was some good racing to be seen despite the challenging conditions, which were about to get a whole lot worse.

The clouds- which were already looking ominous- did finally burst on lap six and the rain came down in buckets. With tyre choice mixed (some running dry tyres, some on wets) it was all about who had the best tyre for any given condition. In this instance, those on wets would have a massive advantage as the track became soaked very rapidly.

A spin for Elise Trophy leader Stacey at Graham Hill Bend was a sign of things getting bad- luckily he got the #49 Elise S2 going again without losing the lead, owing to his big advantage over a now-struggling Ball, who was running dry tyres.
The same fate befell Atkinson, running third overall, and his pace dropped so much that Stacey was now catching him.

As the clock ticked down and track conditions became worse, Stacey finally made it through when Atkinson slithered off-track and into retirement.

Up front though, it was a dominant performance from Savage who took the chequered flag with 35 seconds in hand over Drummond. Stacey won Elise Trophy as well as taking an overall podium, ahead of Axel van Nederveen and an impressive Sam Tomlinson, who had started tenth.

John Atherton and Mike Perkins were next up, whilst Alex Ball struggled to eighth overall on the dry tyres. Simon Oakley and the spinning Barry Strong rounded out the top ten.

Jon Bryant had made it up to second in Elise Trophy when the deluge hit, but that was shortlived as a snapped throttle cable put paid to his race at Surtees. Mark Richardsson was another retiree and the unfortunate Paul Baker didn't even make the start.

Race two

The reverse-grid saw Atkinson line up on pole ahead of Drummond and Savage, with David Powell and Steve Summers on the front row in Elise Trophy. Conditions were much better as the sun finally broke through the clouds and the track was much drier than at any other point in the day. A reduced distance of 25 minutes due to incidents in other races wasn't ideal but a good race was in prospect.

After race one's rolling start, it was a standing start off the grid this time around. Savage stalled his 2-Eleven which allowed Atkinson and Drummond to storm away off the line, going virtually side-by-side around Paddock.

Elise Trophy made it through Paddock safely but a spin for polesitter Powell later in the lap mixed up the order nicely. Emerging in the lead at the end of lap one was Alex Ball, looking to put the woes of race one firmly behind him. He was actually catching- and then passed- a slow Savage, and like William Stacey earlier in the day, was now in an overall podium position.

Out front it was a fantastic battle between the top two, helped somewhat by their differing tyre strategies and the circuit conditions- Drummond was on wets and Atkinson dry, so different parts of the circuit favoured either of them relative to their tyres. Three laps in a row the pair came side-by-side through Paddock and swapped positions on multiple occasions in what was a very hard but fair scrap for the lead.

Eventually it settled down as the track got ever drier and Drummond began to struggle on his wets, letting Atkinson escape. Small drizzle towards the end of the race wasn't enough for Drummond's tyres to come back in and so Atkinson took victory by some 25 seconds in his Exige.

Third did eventually go to Savage after his earlier dramas- and then there was the Elise Trophy battle, which was thrilling right to the flag.

A hard-charging Stacey, who started 10th on the reversal but fell to 16th after being caught up in  Powell's spin, was up to second and hunting down leader Ball in big chunks per lap. On the penultimate tour the lead changed as Stacey got ahead and therefore took his second win of the day. Ball held second ahead of Simon Oakley and Mike Perkins.

Oakley was having a great race with Mark Richardsson right until the final lap, as Richardsson tried the outside line at Paddock but came in too quick and spun into the gravel, positing his second retirement of the day.

Barry Strong came home in the top five after dramas earlier in the day, whilst there was a great race in the midfield as Steve Summers just beat Sam Tomlinson to the line for sixth.

Positions 11-14 went to Paul Baker, Mads Petersen, polesitter Powell (after his lap-one spin) and Chris Thirkettle. A flying start from Jon Bryant was unfortunately followed by another retirement, this time much earlier in the race with engine failure.

-------

Simon Atkinson goes into the next race day, Silverstone on June 3, with a 10-point lead in the Lotus Cup standings over Bob Drummond, with Jason Baker a further three points back in third. Meanwhile in Elise Trophy, William Stacey has put 45 points between him and Alex Ball at the top of the table, with Simon Oakley third.

2017 05 Jon.jpg

2017 05 Simon.jpg

2017 05 wet.jpg

2017 05 close.jpg