Thomas & Lockie close Masters Gentlemen Drivers season with win at Spa

Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie ended their Masters Gentlemen Drivers season in style by taking their sixth win in the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé. On a very wet Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the pair led from the start but faced a strong challenge from the similar Daytona Cobra shared by James Hanson and Andy Wolfe. At the end of their stint, Hanson grabbed first from Thomas but then the former was hit by a stop-and-go penalty.

“That was really tense!” said an elated Thomas. “I had a brilliant race with James – managed to keep him at bay for most of it.”

“It was just traffic that got you”, said Hanson, “but I’m still wondering what the penalty was for…”

In an all-out effort to negate the deficit, Wolfe hunted down Lockie with fastest lap after fastest lap but his demon drive came to a premature end when on lap 21 his Daytona Cobra suddenly snapped sideways at the back of the circuit moments after he had wiped out Lockie’s advantage and was about to make his move for the lead.

“I was not prepared to race any harder than that…” said an incredulous Lockie about Wolfe’s demon drive. “I finally found someone who is madder than me!”

“I said to myself, hang with him, hang with him, push, push, and then: poof – sideways…” said Wolfe looking back on the moment he lost the car. “It was a good chase, though…”

The pair left John & Gary Pearson’s Jaguar E-type well behind in third while Andrew Haddon completed a dominant performance in the CLP class by finishing fourth overall in his Lotus Elan. Trailing home the Markus von Oeynhausen/Lando von Wedel E-type in sixth overall, Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger ran away with the C2 class win in their Morgan SLR, beating the Austin Healey 3000s of Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus/Jeremy Welch and Mark Pangborn.

“It rounded off the weekend quite nicely”, said an understated Pearson about his lonely drive to third. “It was a nice drive around – it was so slippery, you didn’t need any entertainment!”

“Yeah, it was nice”, said Haddon about his dominant drive. “The car was good, I was sliding everywhere. I got a good scrap with the Pearsons until Gary got in – he’s a bit quicker…”

A similar giant-slaying result was produced by Mark & James Bates, the brothers hauling their C1-class-winning Porsche 911 up to eighth overall from the back of the grid. Equally shining in the rain were Nick Swift and Mark Burnett in the Ogle SX1000, the pair completing the under-2-litre podium.

“Yeah, we did!” said Mark Bates when asked if he and his brother James enjoyed themselves. “I just didn’t think it would last this long, honestly. Yesterday, the engine was out, that is why we were out in qualifying and had to start at the back. It did the whole Six Hours race and now this as well!”

“No!” quipped Burnett when asked the same question. “Oh yes, it’s always good fun fighting the big cars in the wet, but it was very, very, very slippery, even in a Mini-based front-wheel drive car.”

The opening ten minutes of the race saw James Hanson passing Markus von Oeynhausen’s E-type to set off after Julian Thomas’ similar Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé that started from pole. Setting two fastest laps in a row, Hanson was on Thomas’ tail by the end of lap 3 and continued to give chase. Behind the German E-type, John Pearson held fourth in another E-type while in fifth Andrew Haddon led the CLP class in his Elan.

In an effort to redeem his mistake in the earlier FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race, Billy Bellinger was performing miracles in the Morgan SLR, storming up to sixth overall to set up a massive early lead in the C2 class. In seventh, Nicolaj Kjaergaard’s was second in the CLP class, while the C1 class had star performers similar to Bellinger, Mark Bates rising up to eighth overall in the Porsche 911, chased by Nick Swift in the Ogle SX1000, both exploiting their cars’ nimble nature to the fullest. On the edge of the top-ten, Nikolaus Ditting had dropped to tenth in his E-type before being usurped by Niall McFadden in the older B2-class E-type.

Ten minutes later, Thomas and Hanson were still at it, no more than a few tenths apart, the pair having stretched their lead to the chasing E-types to nearly half a minute. On lap 6, however, the safety car was out to allow for the retrieval of Peter Tognola’s stopped Porsche 911, and the effect was that it bunched up the field and down to ninth place all but wiped out anyone’s advantage.

With an hour to go, the field was released again, with Hanson immediately taking the lead from Thomas, but right at that moment Hanson was slammed with a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for dangerous driving under the safety car. Further back, Mark Bates had taken seventh from Kjaergaard to take his 911 further up than it had ever been. Just outside the top-ten, meanwhile, Jamie Boot’s TVR Griffith chased Ditting E-type while leading the two other C2-class contenders in the Austin Healey 3000s, Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus ahead of Mark Pangborn by a whisker.

As the pit window opened, Hanson led Thomas by three seconds but with that stop-and-go still hanging over his head. The Daytona Cobras had both drawn clear of the Von Oeynhausen and Pearson E-types by 14 and 19 seconds respectively, while Haddon continued to lead the CLP class in fifth. Bellinger was still a strong sixth in his C2-class-leading Morgan SLR, ahead of the equally miraculous Mark Bates. Kjaergaard, Swift and McFadden completed the top-ten with 50 minutes still to go, all three ahead of more powerful machinery.

At the halfway point, Hanson came in to serve his penalty at the same time Thomas was in to hand over to Calum Lockie, with almost everyone deciding to come in at the end of lap 12 too. Von Oeynhausen was the only one staying out for another lap, and the German barely made it in time to hand the turquoise E-type to Lando von Wedel. Hanson led the E-type into the pits to be relieved by Andy Wolfe.

The result of it all was that Lockie now led Wolfe by 20 seconds, with the Pearsons’ E-type having jumped their German rivals at the stops. Haddon was just two seconds behind the Jags and holding a cushion of 20 seconds to Keith Ahlers in the Morgan SLR started by Bellinger. Mark Bates’ brother James was up next, followed by Kjaergaard and McFadden, while Jeremy Welch had made it into top-ten in the Big Healey shared with Nyblaeus. The Ogle, now with Mark Burnett at the wheel, had dropped behind Pangborn and Boot and was in 13th.

Going into the final half hour, von Wedel was dropping back at a rapid rate, having lost a place to Haddon already, and was in the pits on lap 16. When the German rejoined he was still in fifth but only seconds ahead of Ahlers and Bates (J.). At the front, though, it was anything but over. Wolfe truly had the hammer down and in three laps’ time cut Lockie’s lead by eight seconds. If he continued to make similar inroads into the rival Cobra Daytona Coupé‘s advantage, the fight was on for the final minutes of the race.

With 20 minutes, Wolfe again set fastest lap of the race to get within ten seconds of Lockie. Far behind, the Pearson Jaguar and Haddon’s Elan held a lonely third and fourth while the rest of the top-ten remained unchanged. This meant that all eyes were on Wolfe’s demon drive – another fastest lap meant he now only had six seconds to cover, and there were still more than 15 minutes to go.

Two more fastest laps were enough for Wolfe to narrow down the gap to less than three seconds but on lap 21, his chase came to a premature end when he dropped the car at the back of the circuit. Now Lockie’s lead was suddenly back up to 15 seconds! In the meantime, three minutes further back, Welch had passed Kjaergaard for eighth overall and set off after James Bates. One lap later, the Dane disappeared altogether, allowing McFadden into ninth and Boot into tenth.

Wolfe having resigned to second, Lockie crossed the line taking the sixth win of the season for himself and Thomas. Gary Pearson came home third, close to a minute adrift while Andrew Haddon completed a dominant CLP-class display by taking fourth in the Elan. The Von Oeynhausen/Von Wedel E-type was fifth ahead of C2 class winners Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger in their Morgan SLR. On the final lap, Jeremy Welch took seventh ahead of the Bates’ Porsche, with Niall McFadden winning the B2 class in his E-type. In 14th overall, the Burnett/Swift Ogle SX1000 completed the under-2-litre podium, while the remaining CLP-class top spots went to Laurent Dutoya’s Ginetta G4R (17th) and the Steve Jones/Chris Atkinson Elan (18th) – both having been hit by stop-and-go penalties for missing the pit window.