The Lotus 1000km at Brands Hatch ended successfully with 17 of the 25 starters classified at the finish. The opening hour will be remembered for an intense battle for the lead between the GWS and Fox Motorsport 1 teams, piloted at the time by British GT G4 champion Jamie Stanley and BTCC regular Paul O’Neill, neither driver a stranger to this series. As the Exiges swapped the lead they left the rest standing, with Silverstone winner Eugene O’Brien and Martin Donnelly squabbling over Production honours, at least until the former F1 driver paid an early visit to the Paddock Hill gravel, bringing out the first of a few Safety Car interventions; however these barely interrupted the furious pace.
With the challenge of Jon Walker dented after a fire only ten minutes into the event forced him into his spare car, polesitters GWS gradually opened up a good advantage, helped when the Fox 1 car briefly pitted with a minor electrical problem. However each time the lead car stopped, the engine cover was removed and the look of concern on the mechanics faces told the story of a developing oil-related issue. With barely 300 of the 519 laps covered, the GWS Exige pitted, this time with a very smoky motor.
With Fox 1 in front once more, the Datum team with multiple winner Mark Speller on board started to gain ground. However a gearbox problem put paid to their chances, initially stuck in fourth gear before visibly expiring and their retirement put the focus on Hoffman’s 2, consisting of Chris Randall, father Nick and Ben Pitch. Using the Europa’s large fuel tank to great effect, they completed their final stop early but Pitch was unable to catch the Fox 1 car, now with BJ Chong and Paul McNeilly driving.
The final winning margin was just two laps after nearly nine hours but closer throughout the race was the Production fight. The Perrys team, with Martin Roberts and Ken Savage joining O’Brien, ran in second for a fair distance and after early challenges from Donnelly’s Essex Autosport team and Andrew Walsh’s Drunk and Disorderly faltered, the threat came from Track-Club. With Marcus Jewell joined by Greg Noble and Formula Palmer Audi hotshot Ramon Pineiro, an early spin almost had them done for but with Pineiro in for the final shift, he caught and passed the class leaders, who were almost out of the running in the very final moments. The intense pace meant that the distance was completed well before the circuit curfew but satisfyingly under dark evening skies.
Photos courtesy of Snappyracers, except Night_Laps, by Kevin Ritson