Mike Donovan takes final FIA Masters Historic Sports Car win of the year at Jarama

Mike Donovan pipped poleman Max Smith-Hilliard at the start and then fended off a challenge from Jason Wright’s fellow Lola T70 Mk3B to win the final FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race of the year at Jarama. Smith-Hilliard (Chevron B19) finished third after coming back from a drivethrough penalty that had dropped him back to fourth behind Paul Gibson’s T70 Mk3B.

Meanwhile, Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger sealed the title by gaining maximum points despite finishing second in the Hulme class, as class winner Pedro Macedo Silva (Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder) was ineligible for points. The Cooper Monaco King Cobra pair, who had come to Jarama with a slim one-point lead over Graham Wilson and Nigel Greensall, edged out the Chevron B8 duo, even though Wilson and Greensall took fifth overall and won their Bonnier class.

Donovan laid the foundation for his victory at the start, when he and Wright used their excess horsepower to charge past pole-sitter Smith-Hilliard. The Chevron was past Wright by lap 2 but then took another eight laps to reel in Donovan. There was contact when on lap 10 Smith-Hilliard found a way past in turn four, but the move was done under yellows. Smith-Hilliard would be punished with a drivethough penalty right after the pitstops.

For Donovan, it didn’t matter anyway since he took back the lead on lap 13 and opened up a 9-second gap over Smith-Hilliard before coming in for his compulsory mid-race pitstop. After the stops, Jason Wright was on a charge, though, and narrowed Donovan’s lead down to 3.5 seconds. However, the American proved unable to keep up his pace, which helped Donovan extend his lead to ten seconds at the finish. After his drivethrough, Smith-Hilliard finished third, a further 35 seconds adrift, having grabbed the place from Paul Gibson’s hands on lap 29.

“I had a good start”, said Donovan, “and then led until there was oil in turn four. There were yellows, so I slowed, and then Max smacked into the side of me! After the stops, Jason got down to about four seconds, but then I pulled it back to ten. On tracks like these, it’s always good to keep a buffer.”

“To tell you the truth, I was tired”, Wright admitted when asked why he dropped back after his initial attack on Donovan’s lead. “I started making mistakes, so I said to myself: wake up, calm down, there’s lots of oil out there, be careful. And I had undergeared the car. On the straight, I was hitting the rev limiter quite early on. I could catch him around the back, but there was no way I would ever have been able to pass him on the straight.”

“They were just too fast on the straight”, said Smith-Hilliard about the Lolas flying past him at the start. “I got back a few though. And that drivethrough? I guess I needed another rest!”

In fifth, Graham Wilson and Nigel Greensall won the Bonnier class, after another typical charging drive from Greensall, who hauled the Chevron B8 up from eighth overall after he took over from Wilson. He was followed across the line by Pedro Macedo Silva, who became the Hulme class winner. The Portuguese being ineligible for points, though, the title was Ahlers and Bellinger’s. The pair finished second in class, having received a little help from their class rivals Steve Farthing and Chris Jolly when Farthing spun his Cooper Monaco on lap 9.

“I’m delighted”, said Ahlers. “This is my eighth title, and from all my championships this was unquestionably the most difficult. And all tribute to Billy, he’s a good driver and he’s built a beautiful car.”

In seventh overall, Alec Hammond (Chevron B8) finish second in the Bonnier class after the Mark & Andrew Owen B8 was forced into the pits on lap 27, its front left tyre flattened. The Owens finished last of the runners, behind Ahlers/Bellinger and Farthing/Jolly. The single Siffert class runner, John Sheldon’s Chevron B16, pulled off between turns five and six with just five more minutes on the clock.