Round 2 of the 2011 Lotus Cup UK held at Silverstone Arena GP circuit on the 17th April 2011.
Supporting the FIA Formula Two Championship, the second round of the inaugural Lotus Cup UK Championship took place on the newly-extended Silverstone Arena circuit, as debuted in the British Grand Prix last year.
With the safety car intervention throwing the dice at round one, would we see a long wait before a busy pitlane in the dying minutes of the pit window and would there be advantage to gain by stopping early, perhaps whilst the garages are clear?
Mark Speller, the Fenn pairing and Jamie Stanley will certainly be hoping to stamp their authority on the weekend. So, too, will be Mark Fullalove, who has taken wins in Europe.
With practice held on Saturday afternoon, many of the drivers elected to wait until the Sunday qualifying session. Fullalove and Speller were immediately on the pace and the Fenns were third quickest from Deacon, Williams and Chatterway, whilst Jonathan Mobbs lapped fastest in the Exige class and the John LaMaster and David Hay pairing quickest in Production.
Fullalove headed the sheets in the early running for Qualifying and whilst Williams and Speller were disputing second, the latter pulled off the circuit, putting his race participation in serious doubt. Jewell and Sherwood/Stanley displaced the 340R driver to claim third and fourth, until the GWS Exige popped in a time to promote them to second but still 3.5 seconds adrift of the flying 2-Eleven of Fullalove.
Production was going the way of Dunster and Bennett, the car hastily repaired from the previous day’s woes in the Elise Trophy races. Savage was nearly two seconds adrift and the Foley/Donnelly pairing another 7 tenths back. At this stage James Knight was nowhere to be seen on the timesheets.
Stanley worked on the gap to Fullalove, but was unable to make much progress, taking just half a second and needing another three. Speller remained at the head of Open, David Harvey being a second and a half behind and Production was fair set for Dunster and Bennett, Knight having closed to within a few tenths of Foley and Donnelly.
At the flag it was Fullalove still three seconds clear of Sherwood and Stanley, with Williams a solid third, and Deacon and McNeily and Chong pipping Jewell to fourth and fifth – a good effort from the 1000km-winning Exige to lead the open class.
Speller remained seventh but doubtful for the race, then Chatterway eighth, Storey ninth and Harvey tenth. In thirteenth, Dunster and Bennett led Knight – who hauled himself to just over a second away from the ex-BTCC driver, Savage and Quick, with the Foley/Donnelly pairing losing out at the end.
Speller’s 340R remained absent from the starting grid as the cars set off on their pace car lap. Fullalove set off into the lead, followed by GWS, Williams/Storey, Deacon and Jewell. Knight’s race barely lasted a few corners, ending up in the gravel. Jewell was on the move early, taking Deacon and as Williams/Storey demoted the GWS car he worked on the latter. McNeily/Chong and Chatterway held on to this group but all the time Fullalove was pulling away, having nearly the length of the Hangar Straight on the field.
Further back and with Knight out of the picture, Savage led production from Livsey/Bradshaw, Quick, Selway and Foley/Donnelly. The latter two were especially keen to work their way up the order as the Livsey/Bradshaw car took the class lead.
With GWS just hanging onto Williams/Storey but holding up the chasing Jewell, Deacon and Chong, Jewell lost out to Deacon and the pressure was back on GWS. All the while, the Fenn Exige was making its way up from a lowly qualifying position and it was clear that the cars ahead would need to work together to hold back this challenge.
McNeily/Chong were next to take up the challenge and a move round the outside into the final corners set up a challenge on Williams/Storey, still in second place. Twenty minutes in and the five-way battle for second was nowhere near over, the next to change position was Deacon on GWS, which then became a move on McNeily/Chong as they fell back to the rear of the pack. Meanwhile the Fenns were just seven seconds down the road.
Problems for Livsey/Bradshaw – that resulted in a skewed nose – dropped them to the back of a Production class pack similar to the battle for second overall. Savage led Selway by a couple of seconds, then Foley/Donnelly and Quick were not far behind as the pitstop window opened.
Deacon and McNeily/Chong were first to blink, with half the race to go. The Fenns joined them and were right on the tail of the other Series 1 Exige. Quick and Foley/Donnelly also stopped around this time, as did Dunster/Bennett, running a little further back in the race. Then Selway and Livsey/Bradshaw made their stops as the race leader came in, followed on the same lap by GWS.
Savage, then Williams/Storey and Jewell pitted late into the window, from first and second place as Fullalove made up the time he’d lost earlier. GWS were in fourth and 34 seconds behind the net leader as the window closed. Fullalove put in the race’s fastest lap so far to reassert himself ahead of Williams/Storey, 34 seconds behind. Jewell was third, Deacon fourth, GWS fifth and the Fenns sixth as the field re-ordered itself after the stops. Meanwhile Savage remained in the lead of Production from Quick and Selway but with Quick on the move, he passed Savage for the lead as the class became a repeat of the Elise Trophy races from the previous day – just five seconds separated them and Dunster/Bennett weren’t too far behind, either.
At the front the main point of attention was the battle between Jewell and Deacon – as they lapped traffic there was barely a second between them. Then just as this hotted up the Fenn car pitted with just ten minutes remaining. More drama as a two lap penalty was given to Williams/Storey for leaving the pitlane too quickly. Harvey also made the same error and would lose his sixth place. Thus Jewell and Deacon for battling for the runner-up slot.
The black 2-Elevens squabbled over second hard and Deacon seemed to be getting the better of Jewell and at the same time Quick and Savage were doing the same for Production. Savage got the better of Quick for a while then a moment at Brooklands trying to get the place back after he’d lost it again, put him two seconds behind with barely two minutes left of the race. Selway was right on their tail now and Dunster/Bennett three seconds behind. Savage took a while to recover as the pair passed him, dropping him off the class podium. Then Selway passed Quick to give her the class victory at the very end of the race.
Fullalove crossed the line a dominant winner over Deacon and Jewell, both of whom had spent the entire race together and never gave up on their fight. GWS will take some consolation from fourth and the class win but will be disappointed not to have built on their strong showing at Snetterton.
McNeily and Chong took a good fifth place, ahead of Vitthal Chauhan, whilst Selway’s class win handed her seventh on the road, ahead of Quick, Dunster/Bennett and Savage.
As predicted, the pitlane did remain a little quiet, at least until halfway through the race but there were still plenty of mistakes made in this phase of the race to mix up the order. No change to the leader, however, as Fullalove put in a commanding performance from the very first lap of qualifying. Class wins for GWS and McNeily/Chong were deserved, following their fierce competition for second place in the early running that was the highlight of the race. It would also have been interesting to see if Speller would have had an answer to Fullalove had he made the start.
Selway proved to be best of the experienced drivers in Production, with Phil Bennett helping Chris Dunster to a result that confirms his promise. Round three of Lotus Cup UK will be a return to the Snetterton 300 circuit for the Lotus Festival in June. In the meantime the race will be shown on Motors TV and the first two rounds of Lotus Cup Europe take place in France, starting with Dijon later this month.