Events of the month
BTCC Brands Hatch
The crowd at Brands Hatch experienced something unusual during the BTCC finale: it wasn’t raining. Well, not for the first few hours, anyway. Not since 2011 had there been a dry championship decider, which has added to the excitement – or stress, depending on which side of the paddock fence you sit. But the track was dry as the grid lined up for race one, championship leader Colin Turkington looking ahead from fourth at a front row lock-out for MG, with his only real title contender Jason Plato on pole. Outsider Gordon Shedden sat third in his Honda.
There was little Plato could do except hope for some mishap to befall Turkington’s West Surrey BMW. Even if Plato won, Turkington only had to maintain third place to take the title. Sam Tordoff jumped into the lead after a safety car period triggered by a first-lap Paddock pile-up, which eliminated Shedden. Turkington held on to third, but only just, coming under attack from the Ford of Mat Jackson and the Mercedes of Adam Morgan. Jackson mounted his most serious challenge at half-distance, but rivals acknowledge Turkington’s frustrating habit of being able to defend robustly without losing any lap time. Despite a nudge from Jackson at the exit of Clearways, Turkington did just that and took the title.
“I’m over the moon,” Turkington said. “I suppose the main feeling is relief. We were ready to do battle until race three, so I really wasn’t expecting to clinch the title so early in the day. I actually thought I was a point short when I crossed the line and didn’t want to celebrate until I was absolutely sure.”
Even with the championship wrapped up, the best racing of the day was yet to come – courtesy of Morgan. Plato unceremoniously dumped Turkington into the barriers at Paddock early in race two, then Jackson spun out of his inherited lead, leaving a top three of Rob Collard, Plato and Morgan. The youngster was all over the back of the veterans, eventually working his way past, but he then took a trip over the grass and allowed Plato to take the lead. The order remained until the end of the race, but afterwards Plato was given a 20-second penalty for the clash with Turkington and the win went to Morgan. It wasn’t the best way for him to earn his maiden BTCC victory, but it was a just reward for what was arguably the drive of the day.
Race three was run under the traditional Brands conditions, Shedden capping off a relatively disappointing season for the Team Dynamics squad with a dominant win on a waterlogged circuit. Reverse grid pole-sitter Jack Clarke managed to hold on to second for his first podium in an impressive end to a difficult rookie season. Jackson took third, capping off what might have been the best body of work for any BTCC driver in 2014. He finished every race – the only driver to do so – and scored points in 29 of 30, including two wins in the recalcitrant Focus. Alex Harmer
WEC Fuji 1000Kms
Toyota made it three wins from three starts at Fuji in the short history of the revived World Endurance Championship. But its triumph was not the close run thing it had been in 2012, nor did it have any of the good fortune of last year’s win in a shortened race run entirely behind the safety car. This time the Japanese manufacturer dominated on the way to a one-two result led by Sébastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson.
The Toyota TS040 Hybrid was in a class of its own around the 2.84-mile circuit. Porsche posted another encouraging performance with its 919 Hybrid, but once again had one-lap pace rather than the speed required to challenge over a stint, while Audi endured a disastrous day. The two R18 e-tron quattros both had clean races, yet finished fifth and sixth behind both Porsches.
The sheer dominance of the Toyotas could not simply be ascribed to the traits that have made the TS040 the quickest car in the WEC at every race so far this season.
Its aerodynamic efficiency and benchmark hybrid systems played their part, but they didn’t explain a 2sec per lap advantage.
Toyota unlocked the performance of its Michelin tyres on a cool day on the quirky, low-grip Fuji asphalt. Audi, quite simply, didn’t.
The Toyotas led all the way, apart from a brief 10-lap period either side of the one-hour mark when Mark Webber hit the front courtesy of an out-of-sequence stop precipitated by a puncture.
There was little to choose between the two Toyotas, which was not the case at the previous round at Austin (when the two cars ran different but undisclosed specifications).
Championship leaders Buemi and Davidson, who drove as a duo after Nicolas Lapierre stood down ahead of the event for what appeared to be a mixture of personal and performance reasons, ultimately prevailed by 25sec over team-mates Kazuki Nakajima, Stéphane Sarrazin and Alex Wurz.
Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley ended up third, despite their out-of-sync stop and a fruitless double stint on a set of Michelins for the Australian. They took the final podium spot courtesy of two minor delays for their team-mates, while the two Audis were two and three laps down respectively. Gary Watkins
Spa Six Hours
An audacious two-stop strategy, a second driver change during a storm-enforced safety car interlude and a supremely reliable Ford GT40 earned Briton Martin Stretton his fourth Spa Six Hours victory – and Portuguese newcomer Diogo Ferrao his first.
Previously a winner in Jaguar E-types, Stretton kept the Ferrao family’s ex-Eric Liddell/Carlos Gaspar P/1022 within sight of the leaders during a conservative opening stint. Ferrao then drove brilliantly through the worst weather in the race’s 22-year history to hand Martin a lead of more than a lap.
Quintuple victor Simon Hadfield, targeting a hat trick with Leo Voyazides in the Greek’s GT40, unlapped himself in the final hour, but the spacing of five full-course cautions and an extra stop decreed that second would be their eventual prize.
Swede Kenny Bräck joined Christian Gläsel in the German’s ex-Graham Hill/Jackie Stewart GT40 AMGT-2 (a different chassis to his 2003 and 2011 winner), but three drive-through penalties for various infringements contributed to more than 14 minutes in the pits.
The impositions left them fourth, behind the late-built GT40 of Roger Wills/James Littlejohn, a long-time leader. Kiwi Wills was gutted when Littlejohn pitted to report zero oil pressure four hours in, but the engine sounded crisp and Roger took a gamble and pressed on, suspecting a faulty gauge.
First non-GT40 home was the Jaguar E-type of Germans Marcus Graf von Oeynhausen (owner of the superb Bilster Berg ‘Drive Resort’ test circuit) and Dirk Adorf. It went further than the Fords before needing fuel, outlasting several similar cars.
Three quick Lotus Elans scrapped furiously for class honours, but only the pacemaker survived. Andy Wolfe/Graham Wilson/Oliver Stirling finished seventh overall, as last year. Bandaged after a qualifying shunt, Michael Schryver’s Shapecraft coupé lost a wheel with Ben Mitchell up, while diff failure put Richard Meaden/Grant Tromans/James Hanson out.
The Marcos GT of Allen Tice and 1995-96 race winner Chris Conoley floated through the lake that formed at Eau Rouge during one of the monsoons and was a fine ninth when the Pre-66 enduro was eventually stopped early as another electric storm pierced the darkness.
Stretton also won the first FIA Masters Historic F1 race in Andrew Haddon’s Williams FW07B but, with several rivals in the clashing Singapore GP support event, second leg victor Steve Hartley (Arrows A4) secured his third title. Marcus Pye