Balfe/Wolfe take Gentlemen Drivers win at Brands Hatch after dominant Whitaker gets meatballed

Shaun Balfe and Andy Wolfe – a driver pairing in the Wolfe AC Cobra for this occasion – were happy to take the win in the Masters Gentlemen Drivers race at Brands Hatch when, with less than half an hour to go, a dominant Mike Whitaker was given the black-and-orange ‘meatball’ flag for a loose exhaust, having gone off on lap 34. Whitaker dropped back to third after the issue was dealt with in the pits but recovered to take second place from fellow TVR Griffith driver John Spiers.

Shaun did exceptionally well in his first historic race, looking after the tyres”, said a jubilant Wolfe, “but for me it was hard work trying to catch up with Mike – the tyres were down to the canvas!

“Yes, I’m supersub!”, said Balfe about replacing Michael Gans for the weekend. “I enjoyed it, definitely. You feel everything. You feel you are going fast, and you are going fast!”

Whitaker was very disappointed with losing a win that for over an hour looked unchallenged. The TVR driver removed Balfe from the lead on lap 2 and proceeded to build a gap that was up to 24 seconds at the pitstops. With Wolfe in Balfe’s place, the gap wasn’t really coming down until Whitaker made a mistake at the back of the circuit.

I always hate to lose a dominant win”, said Whitaker, “but I went off at the back and took a brake duct off. I tried to go on, as it was only a brake duct, but I knew that was why I was called in.

John Spiers ran third for most of the race, on lap 3 having passed the Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie Jaguar E-type and the Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé – two favourites that were hit by trouble in the first half of the race. Due to Whitaker’s misfortune, Spiers was handed second place but lost it again three laps from the end.

“I didn’t have any brakes”, Spiers explained. “The rear shoes exploded five laps from the finish so I couldn’t defend.”

Meanwhile, Rob Fenn’s Lotus Elan came through to take fourth overall and a strong CLP class win, first passing the early class-leading Andrew Haddon/Mark Martin Elan before demoting the Peter Thompson/Mark Hales TVR Griffith back down to fifth. Rob Ellis in 11th was a distant third in class. The Ron Maydon/James Hanson Ginetta G4R led early on, with Hanson at the wheel, but had to retire on lap 10. On the same lap, Dutchman Sander van Gils’s Elan also dropped out.

In C2, the David Grace/Jack Rawles Austin Healey 3000 led all the way but behind them the Nils/Fredrik Nyblaeus/Jeremy Welch Healey only ended up in second place after a tight battle with their team mate Mark Pangborn and Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger, whose SLR ran second in the opening stages. After the pitstops, it was Pangborn’s turn to move up into second but a final push by Welch got him and Nyblaeus the runner-up place.

Malcolm Paul and Rick Bourne were equally convincing C1 class winners in their TVR Grantura, their lives made easier when the Mark & James Bates Porsche 911 dropped out with a broken driveshaft. On the final lap, the Ed Stone/Nigel Greensall MG B pipped Pietro Vergnano’s 911 for second place in class.