Topcats Racing celebrated their Class 2 victory and 2nd overall in the Britcar Championship on Saturday in the 90 minute night race at Brands Hatch after father and son duo Steve and Jonny Hyde stepped up to take over the class lead handed to them by Neil Huggins and Raphael Fiorentino who had both campaigned the whole season but had used up their sponsorship funds after the last race at Donington.
For the Hyde’s, there was no uncertainty that their result in the Class 2 Marcos would determine the outcome of the championship and both drivers bore the pressure supremely.
Another celebration within the camp was for the Class 3 Marcos which finished 2nd in class 3 but was by no means a sealed deal until well into the race as cars moved up and down the leaderboard.
Owen O’Neill could rightfully claim the accolade having been the only driver to campaign the whole season in the car, sharing the drive this season with the likes of Jon Harrison, Henry Fletcher, Sam Head, team boss, Warren Gilbert and finally Graham White who gratefully jumped in for the Brands Hatch race to assist with the championship grapple and ultimately secure 2nd.
Qualifying saw the return of the very quick but not so reliable Aquila, driven by pro drivers, Rob Huff and Phil Bennett, who although securing 2nd on the grid behind Martin Short in his new space framed chassis Mosler did not make it to the start line for the race.
Steve Hyde put in the fastest lap to secure 7th on grid. O’Neill set the pace for his car securing 15th.
It was an exciting start to the race as the cars jostled to establish their positions in the opening laps, there were many changes going on at the front of the field, none more so than at the hands of Steve Hyde who was blazing a trail through the lead cars, taking advantage first of the championship leading Gamski/Robinson Ferrari 430, then the supercharged Lotus of Hedlam/Stanley and swiftly on to take the TVR Sagaris driven by Tim Hood.
Only 20 minutes into the race and Hyde was already up in to 3rd place and as half an hour in to the race approached, Hyde was gifted another place, transporting him into 2nd place overall as the McInerney Mosler pitted with mechanical problems.
White in the Topcats Class 3 Marcos was worthy of his place in the car, holding firmly onto 15th and not at all unnerved by the fact that this was his first move from club level racing, making a huge leap in power differentials as well as racing in the dark.
With 50 minutes remaining White was scheduled to pit first for his mandatory pitstop for refuel and handover to O’Neill which went without a hitch and O’Neill was quickly despatched to rejoin the battle albeit now down in 19th place and some devilish driving needed to make his way up through the field.
Five minutes later and Hyde was in the pits to hand over to son Jonny who was already proving to be a match for father, Steve, despite the deficit in experience. Hyde Jnr filtered back in in 5th place and with Jonny an ‘unknown quantity’ at this stage, where he would be running as the laps counted down could not be predicted. It was long though before he had the team on their toes. A coming together with a BMW had Jonny radioing in to the team, but as he continued to lap it was apparent that no damage was done and he could continue at race pace. A few minutes later and Jonny reported that the battery light was coming on. The team were uncertain whether the battery would hold its charge to the end of the race.
Meanwhile O’Neill was up to 17th ten minutes into his stint and was clearly getting his head down, championship position his main focus. His job was made a little easier as the Headlam/Stanley Lotus made an unscheduled stop and looked to have mechanical problems. If they failed to get back out this would place 2nd in the championship firmly into O’Neill’s hands.
Earlier dramas with the class 2 Marcos resolved by itself and Jonny was getting on with the job at hand, moving up to 4th place with 28 minutes until the end of the race.
By now it was confirmed that the Lotus had suffered a broken drive shaft and O’Neill had 2nd in class in the championship in the bag.
The 3rd placed Ginetta of Draper/Barnes was a handed a 2 lap penalty for short stopping during their pitstop handing the position to a grateful Jonny.
O’Neill was clearly relishing his fine run in the car and was back up to 15th despite an unwelcome punt from Phil Keen in the McInerney Mosler.
Jonny, meanwhile, had clearly got to grips with the Marcos and was now giving father Steve a run for his money as he put in a succession of laps to beat those set by Steve in the race.
9 minutes remaining and 3rd overall looked assured for the Hyde pairing. It was not to be though, a punctured front left tyre had Jonny limping back to the pits with a frantic tyre change to get him back out. 5 places lost and a lesser driver may have given up.
Jonny drove like a man possessed though and the 5 minutes remaining of the race were not wasted. Some brave manoeuvres saw Jonny pass the Gibson/Clarke BMW and then the Morcillo/Cintrano Porsche before crossing the finish line to take 6th place overall and 2nd in class. The hard charging O’Neill had done his work and crossed the line in 12th, signalling the end to the seasons championship and with it, 2nd in Class 2 in the championship.
Hyde and Hyde, although disappointed not to have had their chance to stand on the 2nd step of the podium, delivered the Class 2 Championship trophy to the team.
Please keep up to date with Topcats Racing’s championship campaigns for 2011!