The Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit hosted the latest edition of the Master’s Historic Festival on 22-24th August 2020. The programmed was packed with amazing views, engine sounds and tire rolling. As expected, the crown jewels were the two Formula One races where Martin O’Connell and Greg Thornton took turns in being the first one to pass the checkered flag.
F1 – O’Connell, Undisputed Champion
Behind the wheel of his Tyrrell 011 B, Martin O’Connell kept in front of the pack throughout the race after qualifying a full eight tenths of a second ahead of second place. While he dominated the entire Formula One race and finished four seconds ahead of the closest car, there were points along the race where the Tyrrell saw even a 7 second gap between itself and second place.
Steve Hartley’s McLaren MP4/1 had no shot at O’Connell, at times the Tyrrell even escaping its sight. However, it did put a good fight against Greg Thornton’s Lotus 91/5. Pressure did pay off during 4th lap when Steve Hartley managed to pass the front-row qualifier. Pumped up by the position gained, Hartley started pushing hard towards O’Connell, diminishing his 7-second gap and managing the best lap time of the race with 1m22.280.
A big battle was held at the end of the race pack where Philip Hall and his Theodore TR1 fought hard against the McLaren M23 (Lukas Halusa) and the Tyrrell 012 (Ian Simmonds). In the end, Hall managed to hold on to the sixth place. Behind the trio, the all famous 6-wheeled Tyrrell P-34 placed ninth driven by Jonathan Holtzman.
During the second F1 race, Thornton swept the victory from O’Connell. Just two laps after the start, the crowd saw the Lotus 91/6 fly by O’Connell’s Tyrrell 011 B. Thornton wasn’t satisfied; he kept pushing the pace and put healthy distance between him and the chasing pack, managing a 5-second lead by lap 4.
Johnny Herbert, ex-Grand Prix winner and Sky Sports F1 rep had a frustrating retirement on lap six as his Ensign N180B decided not to continue within the race. Fate wasn’t pleasant for Chris Perkins either as his Surtees TS14 retired also during the second day race.
Ferguson and Smith Rocked the Pre-66 Mini
The opening Master’s Pre-66 race found Jeff Smith, former BTCC racer, winning on the Brands Hatch circuit after starting fifth and working his way through the race pack, finally pushing for a controlled overtake on pole position starter Tom Bell.
Smith fought Bell hard on the turns and managed to distance himself by 0.2s in lap one, then extending the lead to 0.7s and eventually finishing 1.1s ahead. A huge seven seconds behind the front battle, Ian Curley raced for a lonely third place, although he did pose a threat for Bell at the beginning of the race.
Down the pack, the fourth place was heavily disputed by Cullen and Nick Swift, the latter dropping from an initial 2nd place on the grid.
Although faced with a strong effort from Swift, Cullen kept his ground and maintained fourth place until the end of the race. Swift passed the finish line in fifth place with Druids breathing in his back, just 0.175 seconds away.
During the second race Jeff Smith slightly lost his edge and conceded the 1st place to Ferguson who drove a perfect race from behind the wheel of his Austin Mini Cooper S.
After an unsuccessful attack on the outside against Smith, Ferguson had to keep his head down for a while, eventually managing to get ahead by 0.6s. Although setting the fastest lap of the race, Smith couldn’t recover the first place as the checkered flag rose above the start-finish line.
Cullen applied constant pressure from the start of the race and moved to third position, overtaking Curley. However, in lap eight, his involvement in the race came to an end as he headed to the pits, retiring from the race.
Pearson and Brundle’s flawless performance in Historic Sports Cars
Gary Pearson and Alex Brundle teamed inside the Lola T70 Mk3B for an extremely relaxed victory in the Masters Historic Sports Cars race. Coming in second place, Jonathan Mitchell and his Chevron B19 was a whole 7 seconds behind the winning team. The podium was completed by Goncalo Gomes and James Clardige behind the wheel of the Chevron B23. These were the only three cars to finish the race in the same lap.
As laps started accumulating on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, Brundle’s Lola T70 Mk3B put seconds between itself and Gary Culver whom was racing for third. Unfortunately, Culver suffered a stop-n-go penalty for an unlawful rolling start.
As the 25-minute mark came by along with the pit-window, Brundle was enjoying healthy 10-second lead from the front. Just a few minutes later, Clardige went for the mandatory pit stop and switched to Gomes, followed by Beebee switching the control of the No. 59 Lola to Steve Brooks.
Although the traffic on the track forced some changes within the leading group of cars, fluctuations eventually dropped and Pearson took the winning Lola T70 across the finish line on lap 38, 11 seconds ahead of the runner-up. Mitchel followed up, 50 seconds ahead of Chevron B23, then Beebee and Brooks, followed by Culver and Devis.
Whitaker takes out 90-minute Gentleman’s Drivers Race
The 90-minute Gentlemen’s Drivers race found Mike Whitaker showcasing a spotless performance within his TVR Griffith. Drama in the final 4 minutes of the race saw a Safety Car finish due to a car becoming stranded in the gravel.
Calum Lockie and Julian Thomas did their best to hold on to second place in their Shelby Daytona Cobra while John Spiers and Tiff Needell took third in another TVR Griffith. Gary Pearson and Alex Brundle hadn’t had the same luck here as in the Historic Sports Cars race, as their E-Type Jaguar was forced into a penalty, ripping the podium finish away from the duo.
Brundle and Pearson’s Jaguar held in front of Whitaker’s TVR until the No.71 Morgan became stranded, forcing the appearance of the Safety Car. During lap 12, Whitaker overtook the E-Type and stood in first place until the end of the race. Brundle was left to fight Thomas’ Cobra for second position. A late braking in lap 19 slipped the Cobra into second, but only a few laps later Brundle pushed back and regained its spot behind the leading TVR.
Whitaker consolidated his position for the remainder of the 90-minute race, pushing as much as 1m43.281 for the best time lap. As the clock ticked four minutes to the end, the MGB rolled into the gravel and forced a Safety Car finish. Just behind the leading four cars, Mark Donner took fifth while Marco Attard and Phil Keen’s Corvette Stingray settled for sixth position.
Pre-66 Touring Car race gives Fenn victory with Dramatic Finish
The one-hour Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit saw Ford Mustang driver Rob Fenn take an unexpected win when a late incident for Steve Soper led to a red flag stoppage with one lap to go.
Soper was leading by well over six seconds after a typically sensational second stint in the Mustang, but he went off track at Stirlings to hand the win to Fenn. Rob Fenn went on to win by 3.7 seconds from Olie Taylor in the Lotus Cortina.
Overall, a packed weekend of great historic car racing revolved on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit. Clouds darkened at times but the tarmac kept dry and allowed drivers to put on as per usual a great show.
The next race is the Historic Grand Prix at Zandvoort (4-6th September)
The full photo gallery of the event can be seen on the following pages: