Brands Hatch race report – March 2018
It seemed like no time at all since we concluded the 2017 Nankang Tyre BMW Compact Cup Championship at Brands Hatch in October last year, yet a few short months later we were back at the very same iconic venue to kick off what is destined to be yet another hugely competitive and exciting race season.
By retaining existing drivers, seeing the return of some previous Compact Cup competitors and welcoming a number of new drivers, we’ve seen a significant upsurge in Championship registrations ahead of the 2018 season and our grids are destined once again to be full this year. This is testament to the quality and equality of our regulations, and also to the fact that everyone involved gives maximum effort to offering top class racing and fantastic value for money. The BRSCC have once again given the Championship a fantastic selection of circuits this year.
Heading into the 2018 season, we were delighted to confirm the return of our 2017 Champion, Edinburgh based racer Steven Dailly. Steven is completely focused on retaining his crown this season, however a number of other very competitive drivers have their own plans. Top class 2017 Compact Cup competitors such as Owen Hunter, Matt Parkes, Ian Jones, Mark Skeats and Ben Huntley (to name only a few) are all returning this season, and all are capable of taking podiums and wins. These are not the only racers who are capable of taking the fight to Steven Dailly however, and we certainly have to look out for some of our seasoned racers such as Chris Hack, Tom Griffiths and a returning Paul Hinson…as well as one or two of our new drivers getting in on the front end action at the start of the season.
Leading up to race weekend, due to us having 35 entrants for the race meeting and this exceeding the 34 car race grid capacity of the Indy Circuit layout, BRSCC had set in motion our contingency plan for a 3 group / 3 race format. Unfortunately for both drivers, due to mechanical gremlins Tim Scott Andrews and Jim Barratt did not make Qualifying, so a normal single group 2 race format was adopted. It also looked for a time that one of our new drivers Phil Sharpe would have to drop out, however a Saturday all night engine swapping session saw him line up his car for qualifying on Sunday…albeit with Phil being a little weary eyed due to having had zero sleep the night before!
So into Sundays cold but dry qualifying session with the BMW’s first out onto the circuit for the days events. The sight of 33 Compacts lined up in the pit lane and ready to head onto the circuit was fantastic, and excitement and anticipation levels were high. Unfortunately however, we were only moments into the session when Phil Adcock in car number 30 seemed to forget for a moment how loose the rear end of a BMW Compact can get on stone cold tyres whilst heading through Paddock Hill Bend on a cold morning. As his car did an almost slow motion sideways slide into the gravel at the bottom of the hill, everyone watching was thinking exactly the same thing… “please don’t dig in and roll”. Unluckily for a slightly embarrassed Mr Adcock, the car did dig in, and it did roll…gently enough to not cause massive damage, but bad enough that the session was immediately red flagged and the Barratt race crew started to think about who within their family team may be the best at replacing BMW windows.
Thankfully Jim was none worse for his car gymnastics and he and the car were removed from their gravelly resting place by the impressively efficient Brands Hatch marshals and recovery crew, thus allowing for the session to be restarted.
As the minutes of the session ticked by, it became clear that Steven Dailly’s love affair with the Brands Hatch Indy circuit was still fully in place as he ended the session with a full half second advantage over second place man Owen Hunter. Owen put up a great fight through the session, as did Ian Jones (3rd), however neither of them could dent Steven’s confidence or challenge his qualifying pace. Newcomer to the English Championship and to Brands Hatch, Scottish racer Liam McGill popped in a cracking late lap time to put himself 4th and on the 2nd row. David May, one of our 45+ year old Masters Trophy competitors surprised almost everyone by driving beautifully to slot into 5th place just ahead of Matt Parkes and Chris Hack. David didn’t have the best of years in 2017, so it was great for him to find this kind of pace so early in the year.
To prove once again how closely matched our cars and drivers are, behind Dailly, the next 15 cars (on a packed circuit, with traffic coming into play) were all within less than a second of each other!
Qualifying top 10
As is always the case in BMW Compact Cup races the full grids are a stunning sight, with beautifully prepared race cars stretching right back to the last grid slots on the Brands Hatch main straight. With excitement at maximum the red lights dropped and we were off. Steven Dailly got one of his now trade mark starts and led the field around Paddock for the first time. Ian Jones managed to squeeze past Owen Hunter into 2nd. Matt Parkes had got off to a flyer and quickly found himself in 4th with David May dropping into 5th. Liam McGill seemed to bog down a little off the line and dropped back a few slots, behind Hinson and Macmillan.
Wherever you look through the field of a Compact Cup race you’ll see unbelievably close door to door racing, with every driver fighting a personal battle to retain or make up places. In a race report it’s impossible to describe everything that went on throughout the race, however it’s safe to say that from the front to back of the massive grid of cars, everyone was racing someone else with exactly the same intensity as the lead cars.
As the laps ticked past, it seemed clear that Dailly would have to suffer a mechanical issue or make a mistake if the following Jones and Hunter had any chance to mount a challenge, and due to the chasing pair fighting so closely, they were taking a little bit of momentum from each other in the process.
Just as the race was settling down however, Phil Sharpe through one of his well used overnight spanners in the works by parking his car in the gravel at the bottom of Paddock Hill…however to be fair to him, it transpired that a popped coolant hose and the resultant slippy tyre syndrome that often results was to blame. As his car was so close to the edge of the circuit, the Safety Car was called to allow it to be safely recovered. This should have had the effect of bunching up the whole field, however due to either lack of concentration by some (or maybe a lack of race craft?) the majority of cars seemed frustratingly to stay far too spread out! Maybe a word from the Clerk of the Course before our next races is needed.
So, after a couple of safety car led laps, its lights went out and Steven Dailly set himself up to restart the racing. With the experience he has, Steven knew exactly what he was doing and backed up the field as much as possible before Surtees, the he nailed it and strangely seemed to take Ian and Owen by surprise as by within half a lap he had extended his lead further than it had been before the safety car was called. Behind the leading group of Dailly, Jones, Hunter and Parkes, David May had fallen back by almost 1.5 seconds…certainly not what he needed if he wanted to challenge for another position.
Up ahead, Hunter was continuing to put pressure on Jones, and it seemed to work as on lap 6 Jones got a little bit wide through Surtees which allowed Hunter to push through on the inside to take 2nd place. Jones was never going to take this lying down however and everyone watching held their breath as the pair of them headed down the pit straight side by side towards Paddock. Through respect for each other and for the clean racing ethos of the championship, they gave each other just enough racing room and both made it through Paddock with Owen holding position.
Behind the front three, Matt Parkes was having to concentrate hard to keep a very quick and consistent David May at bay, and following this pairing there was a close fight taking place between Hinson, McGill and Macmillan, with all three determined not to lose ground. Chasing this pack another trio of drivers in Tom Griffiths, Mark Skeats and Keith Towers all showed great pace and consistency, any one of them quite capable of seeing a podium as the season develops.
Over the last couple of laps, not much changed inside the top 10, however elsewhere it was far from a done deal as moves were being attempted right to the last corner to gain that elusive one more place!
Race 1 Top 10:
In a new format to the 2018 season, the championship has adopted a format where a driver’s finishing position in race 1 dictates their grid position for race 2. This change seems to have been welcomed by drivers, and it means that people will try to make passes right up to the last corner instead of what sometimes happened in the past where drivers settled for a poor race 1 result knowing their 2nd race grid position was already protected.
So with race 1 finishing order dictating the grid positions, Steven Dailly was once again on pole with Owen Hunter beside him and Ian Jones and David May on the second row.
As the lights went out to start the race, Dailly made another of his lightning starts and led Hunter into Paddock Hill, not for the first time of the day. Jones and May held station behind, however behind this leading quartet it was proving to be frenetic with the cars 3 and 4 abreast heading up Hailwood Hill and through Druids. More of the same continued throughout the first lap, however an unfortunate coming together between Gordon Macmillan and Mark Skeats as they batted together through Surtees, ended with them both heading into the gravel at McLaren. Due to both cars being stranded the incident brought out red flags and drivers were instructed to re-take their grid positions for a restart.
At the restart Dailly made yet another brilliant start to secure the lead through Paddock Hill Bend, however Hunter seemed to bog down a bit, giving Jones and a fast starting Matt Parkes a chance to gain an advantage. Ian Jones managed to get his nose in front of Hunter, but Owen had enough pace to keep Matt at bay. Matt himself was also under pressure from Paul Hinson. As the cars headed through Surtees on this first lap, Hunter was still pushing hard to find a way past Jones, and as they headed onto the pit straight he managed to squeeze his car to the preferred inside line. As the pair of them headed toward Paddock Hill Bend their cars were door handle to door handle and neither of the drivers was giving an inch. Both of them showed maximum respect and commitment however, and because he was on the inside line at the entry to the corner, Owen managed to hang Ian Jones out wide to take back 2nd place.
For the next few laps most of the top 10 runners held position, with the only real change being Matt Parkes managing a brave pass on Paul Hinson for 4th. Behind the leading pack however, the racing was as close and exciting to watch as it always is through BMW Compact Cup meetings. David May was worth the watching at this point as he had just about broken the tow between himself Keith Towers and Liam McGill, and hadn’t given up on catching Paul Hinson and Matt Parkes who were ahead of him. Wayne Flint has also now found some pace in his car, and along with Chris Hack and the impressive young newcomer Mikey Doble, they were having a great battle as the laps ticked by.
As the race headed towards the final laps, Dailly had stretched his lead at the front to almost 5 seconds, maybe helped by the fact that Hunter was constantly having to fend off passing attempts from Ian Jones, and in doing so they were slowing each other down a little in the process. Behind the leading trio, as Paul Hinson and Matt Parkes seemed to get baulked a little when passing back markers, and this gave a hard pushing David May enough of an opportunity to eventually make passes on both of them to put himself up into 4th place at the end. After their almost race long fight, Matt Parkes also managed to re-pass Paul Hinson to take a well deserved 5th. Liam McGill had also continued to fend off Keith Towers to round off what was a very impressive first weekend in the Championship.
Race 2 Top 10:
With only a 3 week break until our next meeting at Snetterton, it’s once again very clear that we’re going to enjoy yet another top class season of racing in the Nankang Tyre BMW Compact Cup Championship.