Davies takes commanding win in Masters Pre-66 Touring Car finale at Dijon
Craig Davies put in a convincing performance to win the Masters Pre-66 Touring Car season-closer at Dijon. In the opening stages, Davies was hounding fellow Ford Mustang driver Peter Klutt for the lead when the Canadian was handed a drivethrough penalty for overtaking a backmarker by exceeding the track limits. In the second part of the race, Davies saw Andy Wolfe (in the Falcon started by Mike Gardiner) and Klutt initially close in on him but then Wolfe and Klutt’s challenge faded to hand Davies a commanding 11-second win.
It was my first time at Dijon”, said Davies, “so I had to use qualifying to get to know the place. I absolutely love it, and the car loves it too. It’s a wonderful way to end a great Masters season! Would I have got ahead of Peter without his penalty? I’ve got to say yes, of course, he was driving extremely well.
I was defending from Pete, that was the problem, and the car was tired”, said Wolfe about his challenge fading in the end.
Could I have kept Craig behind?”, said Klutt, “I don’t know, he was pulling awfully strong. And the battle with Andy? That was fabulous! It was back and forth, very even – there was a little bit of contact, and then he got me around the outside.
Geoff Letts was the early leader in the Cortina class, but despite Mark Martin dropping back behind a trio of Minis, team mate Andrew Haddon soon cleared Alan Letts to take the class win, as the Letts got delayed at the pitstops. Norwegian Martin Strommen was third.
Nick caught me”, Martin explained about dropping three places in one go. “I didn’t want to close the door on him, and then all three came through! I then picked them off one by one before the stops but it was not what I wanted.
“The start was pretty good”, said Geoff Letts. “I was really pleased to make up ground and get the class lead. After that I was just ticking off the laps.”
“It was a shame that we had a problem at our pitstop”, said Alan Letts. “It should have been close with Andrew until the final laps but unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
Despite a 5-second time penalty, Nick Swift won the Mini class ahead of Ian Curley and Liam Sullivan. The three initially ran nose-to-tail before Swift used the second part of the race to move away from Curley’s sight. An 11-second lead was enough for Swift to claim the class spoils.
“I saw the board change from +5 to +0 all of a sudden!”, said Swift. “So I knew I had been given a penalty. I said to myself, ‘I just gotta push, push, push!’”
Initially, Gardiner led away from pole but on the second lap Klutt was past to take the lead. Two laps later, Davies also got ahead of the Falcon that after 10 minutes of racing had the third Mustang of Rob Fenn breathing down its neck, and at quarter distance a Mustang 1-2-3 appeared on the timing screens.
In the Cortina class, Geoff Letts took charge from the start and soon opened up a sizeable gap to Martin Strommen. Mark Martin followed the Norwegian on his bumper before dropping down from seventh to tenth overall, behind the three leading Minis, Nick Swift, Ian Curley and Liam Sullivan running nose-to-tail. Behind Allan Ross-Jones in the fourth Cortina, Ron Maydon led a gaggle of more Minis.
At the front, Davies was closing in on Klutt but when the Canadian was given a drivethrough penalty for overtaking a backmarker while exceeding the track’s limits Davies was free to go. Klutt’s penalty dropped him down to third, right on Gardiner’s rear, as Fenn had spun away second place and now found Letts right in front of him. Adding insult to injury, Fenn was then given a stop-and-go penalty for a jump start.
As the pit window opened, Davies was leading Gardiner by some 20 seconds, with Klutt and Letts right behind. Fenn and Strommen were next up, followed by Martin who had made his way past the three Minis before diving into the pits on lap 16 to hand over to Andrew Haddon. Gardiner joined them on the same lap to allow Wolfe to take over. Davies, Sullivan and Curley followed on the next lap, with Klutt and Letts coming in on lap 18, the latter handing the Cortina to Alan Letts.
Going into the final 25 minutes, Davies maintained a 18-second lead but Wolfe – who soon cleared Klutt to take second – had that down to 12 seconds after five more minutes of racing. Klutt, meanwhile, was not letting go of Wolfe, shading the Falcon through every corner of the circuit. However, in the final quarter Wolfe’s progress ground to a halt, Davies increasing his lead back to 14 seconds.
In the Cortina class, Haddon was hounding down Alan Letts (and got past on lap 20) while Swift and Curley had moved ahead of Strommen, Swift having eeked out a 5-second lead over Curley in the Mini class. He really needed those five seconds, though, as on lap 25 he was given a 5-second time penalty (to be added at the end of the race) for exceeding track limits one time too many.
With five minutes still to run, Davies consolidated a 16-second lead as Klutt finally found a way past Wolfe to take second. Two laps later, however, Wolfe was back into second, as Davies’ two pursuers continued to tussle. At the front, Davies coasted home to win by 11 seconds, leading Wolfe and Klutt across the line. Martin and Haddon took the Cortina win ahead of Geoff & Allan Letts and Martin Strommen, while Swift increased his lead over Curley to 11 seconds to win the Mini class despite his time penalty.