Thruxton played host to one of the wettest Britcar races in memory at the weekend and mirrored many of the events that the F1 teams were experiencing across the pond in Canada.
Race day was in stark contrast to the beautiful weather for qualifying on the Saturday and for some the qualifying positions belied the eventual podium successors of the race.
Due to the horrendous weather conditions the race started under the safety car for the opening laps. Kyle Tilley had done a fantastic job of securing 5th overall in the Class 2 Marcos he was sharing with Sam Head. Mick Mercer and Gary Smith in the Ginetta G50 qualified 9th overall with points for bagging pole in Production Class 1, Jon Harrison made a welcome return (again) to the team to partner Owen O’Neill in the Class 3 Marcos, perhaps a little disappointed not to have secured a place a little further up the grid in 12th.
The safety car peeled off into the pit lane after 2 laps to give the drivers time to adjust to the conditions. This worked for most except for the Morcillo/Cintrano Mosler which went off but got away with not more than a glancing blow against the tyre wall, a more significant shunt from one of the production cars forced the safety car to be deployed again before it had even had time to switch off the engine. That said, a great deal of car shuffling had occurred, the most significant recipient being Harrison who had snaked his way through into 7th place before having to form an orderly queue behind the safety car again.
The race was on again by lap 7 and Harrison snatched 6th in no time at all. He was lapping in the 1 min. 31secs. Only 3 seconds a lap off the Mosler driven by Le Mans racer, Callum Lockie and 3rd quickest on track.
Mercer, however, was being unnerved by a suspected diff mount failure and pitted on lap 17 for the team to give the car a cursory check, with nothing else obviously wrong with the car, Mercer vacated his seat to hand over to Gary Smith with the hope that his suspicions were wrong and that the car would continue without a problem.
Kyle Tilley had never raced in the rain before, let alone in a car with 550bhp. Despite Tilley having set the 5th placed qualy time in the Class 2 Marcos, he was now focused on making sure he didn’t crash the car and let the rest of the pack grapple for position in what were dangerously wet conditions. He fluctuated between 15th and 16th place overall during the course of his stint. Later, he recounted, with some trepidation, on his first ever experience of aquaplaning whilst travelling at around 100mph.
On lap 22, Harrison moved up yet another position into 5th place.
Smith meanwhile had settled into the Ginetta and as yet the suspected diff mount posed no problem. All the while, Smith had to be content with following an increasingly wayward BMW until eventually the BMW was broadside in front of him, forcing Smith to lift off slighty, enough though to send the Ginetta off track and backwards very hard into the tyre wall, marking the end of the race for the Mercer/Smith duo on lap 25.
Tilley’s lap times were coming down steadily posting his fastest lap of 1.35.9 on lap 20 despite the lack of driver aids available to most of the other cars in the race.
Kyle was understandably relieved to pit to hand over to an eager Sam Head who seemed to relish the challenge of testing his mettle in the conditions.
A number of cars pitted as the first hour of the 2 hour race was drawing to a close, Harrison continued to pound round, clearly unperturbed by the worsening weather conditions. His steely performance saw him leapfrog his way into 3rd place.
Head had little opportunity to prove himself in the race although it only took him a couple of laps to get on the pace. By the end of the first hour the rain was torrential and rivers had formed around the circuit, the safety car was back out again to recover more cars that had succumbed to the standing water. At this point the race was deemed too dangerous to continue and the chequered flag was
waved. This gave the team and Harrison great delight as 3rd place overall was sealed as he crossed the line and vital points earned for the championship. O’Neill , who did not get to do any laps of the race, looked unashamedly relieved to have been spared on this occasion. The Head/Tilley duo, having survived the race unscathed, were very happy to take 2nd in class.
Mercer and Smith had some consolation that they earned points for 2nd in Production Class 1 as many of their class rivals fell foul to the conditions too.
The next round of the MSA Britcar Endurance Championship will be at Spa, Belgium on 25-26th June.