Olly Bryant beats David & Oliver Hart in Stena Line Gentlemen Drivers showdown

Oliver Bryant beat the father-and-son team of David and Oliver Hart by seven tenths to win the 90-minute Stena Line Gentlemen Drivers race at Spa.

Always quick on cold tyres, David Hart in the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé had led the first part of the race, opening up a four-second lead on pole man Bryant’s AC Cobra, right up to a caution period after 33 minutes when Malcolm Paul crashed his TVR Grantura in the daunting Blanchimont corner. With the safety car period extending into the pit window, Bryant took charge when Hart had to pit twice during the pit window, having come in too early the first time. Oliver Hart then kept Bryant on his toes all through his entire stint but gave his rival a breather with a high-speed spin, from which he recovered quickly. In damp, ever-changing conditions, young Hart then closed up the gap to 0.7 seconds at the line.

The deciding moment came when the safety car missed the two lead cars, which were able to drive on at a speed they liked. The lead then changed hands when David Hart pitted ahead of the pit window, while Bryant stayed out for another lap. When Hart realised his mistake, he had lost 29 seconds in the pits. Still very much ahead of the pursuers, led by the Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield Shelby Daytona Coupé, which were kept at a slow speed by the safety car, pitting a lap late didn’t hurt either Bryant or the Dutch crew. When the green flag was waved, the two still held a 30-second lead on Simon Hadfield, who was unable to do anything about it and finished a distant third.

It was very easy to make a mistake out there”, said Bryant. “It was raining at the back, and so tricky. I’m happy that I kept it together.

“Yes, I had a huge moment up on the Raidillon”, Oliver Hart confessed, whose sector-two times were always quicker than Bryant’s, before and after he lost 6 seconds by his spin, “but I reacted very quickly, stuck it in first, put the car straight and on I went!”

It was very slippery, just no grip”, said Voyazides. “The car was in dry set-up, so it felt like ice-skating! And then we were very unlucky with the safety car…

Even more lonely was Michael Gans and Andy Wolfe’s race, yesterday’s Spa Six Hours winners finishing fourth in their AC Cobra, over a minute down on Bryant. They were followed home by the Graham Wilson/Nigel Greensall Lotus Elan 26R, which in Greensall’s hands flew again, taking the CLP class lead with 15 minutes to go and nicking fifth overall from the C2-class-winning Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger Morgan SLR on the very last lap. The Morgan then dropped to seventh overall when the Rui Macedo Silva/Joaquim Jorge AC Cobra also nipped past on the final lap. Jamie Boot’s TVR Griffith was eighth.

In ninth, and second in the CLP class, came the Mark Martin/Andrew Haddon Lotus Elan, which was handed the place when Ron Maydon’s Ginetta G4R stopped at turn 13 with four minutes still on the clock. Martin and Haddon narrowly headed the Jeremy Cooke/Mike Dowd 26R, which took tenth overall, and ahead of a group of quicker C3 cars that failed to make their pitstop at the first opportunity when the pit window opened under the safety car.

Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger were easy C2 class winners, with the similar Morgan SLR of Simon Orebi Gann and Calum Lockie taking second place a long way behind. In the early stages the Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus/Jeremy Welch Healey 3000 kept Ahlers honest before dropping back with Welch at the wheel. This gave the Chris Clarkson/David Smithies Healey third place in class.

The Steve Monk/Pietro Tognola Porsche 911 was a shoo-in for the C1 class win, especially after Malcolm Paul’s crash at Blanchimont. The Nik Spencer/Brian Johnson MGB was a very distant second in class.