Topcats Racing’s Marcos Mantis GT cars showed to a crowded Castle Combe that even a £½ m GT2 Ferrari can’t necessarily beat the years of development that have gone in to making the aging Marcos one of the fastest racing GT cars in the UK.
Although the Marcos of Neil Huggins and Raphael Fiorentino was pipped to pole position by 1 tenth of a second by the Aaron Scott Ferrari, the championship leading GT2 Ferrari of Gamski/Robinson sat on the second row for the start of the race, as did the Ferrari 430 of Cameron/Edmonson. It was a great sight to see the Marcos fronting the prancing horses.
Jon Harrison made his comeback since ‘retiring’ last year and he settled back in without any
drop in pace around what is his favourite circuit. He was sharing the Marcos Mantis GT3 with season campaigner, Owen O’Neill who was making a his first return to Castle Combe after a huge first corner shunt in the TVR Challenge race last year, miraculously escaping serious injury, he was composed and stoic considering he was starting the race….his wife, Ellie, however, was a bag of nerves and uncharacteristically quiet. Their qualifying session hadn’t gone as well as the sister car. Jon had planned to put his flying lap at the end but the session was ended prematurely following an incident. They lined up on the grid in 9th place.
The Marcos was soon to be fronting the field alone as count down to the start of the race began and Aaron Scott raised his hand to signal a problem with his car. Some commotion ensued as their team struggled to locate the problem but the Ferrari had to be pushed off the grid and back to the pitlane, where they would hope to restart the car. Another two race delays followed with problems from both the Sagaris’. But they were able to be restarted without removal from the grid.
Neil made a tactical rolling start as he backed the grid up round the last corner, Camp, slowing down so that he could utilise the enormous torque that the Marcos LS7 engine delivers with the plan that it would leave the others trailing in his wake, it did.
One minute and a few seconds later and the pack were back in view and incredibly, the Huggins Marcos was still in the lead and although still fairly bunched up, nobody looked to challenge him.
O’Neill had made the first lap and could finally put last years accident behind him. He was lapping comfortably and keeping rival cars at bay. .
Huggins, meanwhile, was edging ahead, his confidence noticable in the attitude and movement of his car.
Twenty minutes into the race and both drivers were radioed to ‘pace’ themselves to preserve tyres so although Huggins allowed the Gamski / Robinson Ferrari to close up occasionally there was not a chance he would let them get within biting distance.
35 minutes into the race and a wheel came off the Morcillo/Cintrano Porsche GT3 as they came down the pitstraight. With the car in a dangerous position the safety car was deployed and with the half way mark approaching in the race. Inevitably cars began to file into the inadequately small pits including the Huggins Marcos followed closely by the Gamski/Robinson Ferrari. Despite allocated space for teams to carry out their pitstops, a car came into the pits and completely blocked the exit for the Marcos. Fiorentino, who was now in charge of driving the car to the chequered flag had to wait for the car in front to move before he could get free. The Gamski/Robinson Ferrari just made it out in front of Fiorentino and the race lead was lost. The pace car was still out as they rejoined the race.
The O’Neill Marcos pitted under the safety car and handed over to Jon Harrison without incident.
Another handful of laps and the lights went out on the pace car and it peeled off into the pitlane signalling the restart.
Harrison fell foul to the rather confusing regulations of no overtaking until the start line despite being shown the green flag to start racing again. A disgruntled Harrison had no choice but to pit and and serve his ‘stop and go’ penalty.
Fiorentino managed to hang onto the Ferrari but Fiorentino was not getting much co-operation from the backmarkers as he tried to stay in touch with the GT2 Ferrari. Fiorentino had caught up with the Glynn/Head Sagaris and was about to be lapped. The driver may have missed the blue flags. The result was a collision as they both headed into the braking zone at Avon Rise. Fiorentino did well to prevent the car from spinning but the Sagaris did spin and rejoin. Fiorentino reported that car had developed a vibration and was no longer balanced. The concern was whether any damage had been sustained. The answer came with just ten minutes remaining of the race. Fiorentino radioed in and reported damage to the front left wheel. The front strut had broken and the wheel was tucked under car as he managed to drive the car back to the pits. A few minutes of the race remained but the super quick Marcos was forced to retire.
Jon Harrison was showing his usual form and had made his way up to 6th and 2nd in class as he took the chequered flag.
The Huggins/Fiorentino pairing took some consolation as they were still classified, albeit 10th overall and 2rd in class.
The next race is at Snetterton on 24-25th July.