FIA Masters Historic Sports Car honours go to Piercy & Stretton
The FIA Masters Historic Sports Car Championship car race would be contested for one hour under slight cloud but in dry and bright conditions. A couple of significant withdrawals by Monteverde/Pearson and Minshaw/Keen sadly depleted the field, but the head of the grid was still dominated by Lolas, headed by Mark Piercy on pole and one exception in the shape of the Andy Willis Matra in 4th.
From lights out, the Andy Willis Matra was ahead into Redgate, but not out of it, as it went too deep and dropped back to third. A collision involving Chris Jolly and Mark Bates brought out the safety car immediately so at the end of the first lap, the field was headed by Paul Gibson ahead of Mark Piercy and Andy Willis. Robert Oldershaw, who had started at the back of the grid after being excluded from qualifying, was in 12th.
With the safety car in, the race resumed and Oldershaw forged through to 7th, he and Mike Donovan making places past Nick Pink. Andy Willis had a brief off in the Matra, which dropped him to 5th and Mark Piercy was setting fastest lap to keep Paul Gibson very honest in first. Behind, four battled for third, Andy Willis attacking Michael Gans in fourth and Oldershaw following him through.
On lap 8, the Matra was back into 3rd with Oldershaw in 4th, both relieving Chris Beighton of 3rd. Lead Bonnier class runner at this point was the Owen Chevron in 12th with Billy Bellinger heading the Hulme class in 13th.
Willis and Oldershaw now set off in pursuit of the leading pair, Oldershaw setting fastest lap and passing Willis for 3rd just as the Matra took to the pits with a problem. This left the leaders – Gibson, Piercy and Oldershaw, covered by just four seconds when Oldershaw asserted himself at the Melbourne loop into second, taking fastest lap in the process. A carbon copy move on the next lap put Oldershaw into the lead, Gibson spinning as he tried to re-pass and Piercy heading for the pits from second to hand over to Martin Stretton.
Michael Gans was now 4th ahead of Chris Beighton as Oldershaw pitted from the lead and the pit stops began in earnest at the half way mark. Gibson and Gans pitted too, putting Chris Beighton into the lead on the road with Mike Donovan right behind. Beighton then pitted, leaving Mike Donovan as virtually last of the leading non-stoppers as Owen and Bellinger stopped from their respective class leads.
On lap 18, Beighton pitted and completed the pitstops, the order resuming with Robert Oldershaw in the lead narrowly ahead of Martin Stretton, with Paul Gibson and Michael Gans in 3rd and 4th. Chris Beighton slowed and pulled into the pits, deprived of a great battle with Mike Donovan. Stretton was now with Oldershaw, the pair running side by side for most of lap 23 in a fascinating lead battle, Stretton leading by lap 24 but Oldershaw staying within two tenths.
Behind the gripping lead battle, Michael Gans was in 3rd but Paul Gibson was penalised for speeding in the pitlane. This elevated Mike Donovan to 4th with Scott Mansell in 5th. With 12 minutes to run, Stretton was still holding off Oldershaw who remained within around a second until the very final laps when he slowed, but still came through to take a delighted second place on the road, 23 seconds shy of the winning Stretton. However, shortly post-race, Oldershaw was disqualified from second, putting Michael Gans into second and Paul Gibson into third. Gibson took the Rodriguez win, Ahlers/Bellinger won in Hulme, Owen/Owen took Bonnier and Bruce White headed Pescarolo.