Thomas & Wolfe beat Pastorelli to Masters Gentlemen Drivers win at the ‘Ring

Julian Thomas and his ‘supersub’ team mate Andy Wolfe fought off a race-long challenge by Nicky Pastorelli’s Ferrari 250 GTO/64 to win a thrilling Masters Gentlemen Drivers race at the Oldtimer Grand Prix event. The rival Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé of Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield finished third, ahead of local heroes Christopher Stahl and Oliver Mathai in their TVR Griffith.

“He was like a bloody rash, I just couldn’t get rid of him!” quipped Wolfe. “Every time I got away, backmarkers would get in the way, and then it would start all over again. A couple of times I think he was saving his brakes or tyres, but then he came back at me. But it was nice to have a good race. Nicky’s a good driver and you trust him all the time, that’s the most important thing.”

The winning Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé led the entire race, save for a short spell after the stops, as both Thomas and Wolfe failed to succumb to fierce pressure from Pastorelli’s Ferrari. Meanwhile, Nicolaj Kjaergaard looked to have cornered the CLP class win by taking fifth overall in his Lotus Elan, the Dane having passed the ailing Rob Fenn/Jake Hill Elan with 20 minutes to go. In post-race scrutineering, however, a non-conformity showed up in Kjaergaard’s Elan. This gave Fenn and Hill the class win after all, ahead of Mark Martin’s Elan and German Malte Müller-Wrede’s Marcos 1800 GT.

“That was a great race”, said Pastorelli. “I usually hate finishing in second place, but I loved this! No, I didn’t have quite the pace to pass him, I think. I got close a couple of times but he was quick enough to pull away again every time.”

Ten minutes into the race, Julian Thomas had Pastorelli all over his back, the Dutchman having got the drop on Voyazides at the start. The Greek subsequently lost places to Christopher Stahl and Jake Hill too, but then maintained his fifth place ahead of Joaquin Folch’s E-type and Nicolaj Kjaergaarrd, the Dane chasing Hill in the CLP class. The German Bizzarrini 5300 GT of Leon Ebeling ran eighth, ahead of Mark Martin’s Elan (third in the CLP class) and Didier Gruau’s Cobra.

In C2, Billy Bellinger in the Morgan SLR led Mark Pangborn’s Austin Healey, Pangborn having passed the fellow Healey of Swede Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus. The battle of the 911s in C1 was raging hard, Uwe Bruschnik five seconds ahead of Pablo Briones who in turn had three seconds in hand on the private battle between Peter Tognola’s 911 and Christian Ondrak in the Alfa Giulietta S2.

With 20 minutes gone, lapping one and a half second quicker than Stahl’s pursuing TVR, Thomas and Pastorelli had opened up a gap of 12 seconds, the Dutchman himself having dropped two seconds on Thomas due to traffic. Hill was keeping Stahl honest in fourth, while Voyazides’ deficit had grown to 37 seconds. The Greek now had Kjaergaard’s Elan breathing down his neck, as on lap 6 the Dane has passed Folch for sixth. Ebeling was still eighth while Martin and Gruau kept on warring over ninth, now a full minute behind the leading Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé.

Bellinger’s lead over Pangborn in the C2 class had meanwhile amassed to 43 seconds, with Nyblaeus a further 19 seconds down. In the B2-class Jaguar E-type, John Burton starred by keeping ahead of the Swede. In C1, the top three Porsches continued in the same order, Bruschnik leading Briones and Tognola.

At the half-hour mark, Thomas had eased out to a 3.5-second lead over Pastorelli – the ‘gentleman driver’ of the Thomas/Wolfe pairing was really on it. Not letting go, the leader kept on pounding in the purple sector times. Stahl was now 19 seconds in arrears, still chased by Hill. Voyazides – still with Kjaergaard challenging him – had 50 seconds to cover to Thomas, while Folch had dropped seven seconds on the duo. Meanwhile, Ebeling was penalised with a stop-and-go for a jumped start, the Bizzarrini losing five places in the process.

“Not good”, Voyazides said afterwards, looking back on his stint. “This circuit doesn’t suit me. Even though we won here in the Lola last year, I’ve never done well here.”

Miraculously, all 30 cars were still in the race – but that changed when the Austin Healey of Lars von Wedel lost a wheel at the chicane and slid into the gravel trap. The loose wheel remained right in the middle of the track, and the need for its recovery led to a safety car just three minutes shy of the pit window… It was no surprise that the entire field came pouring into the pits at the first opportunity.

The pit window closed with the safety car still out. With their shorter stop time, the Elans suddenly featured in the top-five. Fenn (having taken over from Hill) led from Andy Wolfe (subbing for Calum Lockie in Thomas’ Cobra Daytona), Pastorelli, Kjaergaard, Martin and Gruau. Oliver Mathai in Stahl’s Griffith was seventh, ahead of Simon Hadfield in the Daytona Cobra started by Voyazides, and Nick Padmore who had taken over from Folch in the E-type. Nikolaus Ditting’s E-type rounded out the top-ten.

At the green, Wolfe and Pastorelli soon swept back into the two front-running positions, with the Ferrari going on the attack and even taking the lead momentarily before Wolfe got him back. Towards the one-hour mark, the fight continued unabated, the Dutchman chasing Wolfe hard. Behind them, Fenn was slowly losing ground on Kjaergaard, a former CLP-class winner at the ‘Ring, while Martin spun away fifth. Mathai took over the place but Hadfield was closing fast on the German, the pair now leading Gruau (who was facing a 30-second time penalty for crossing the white line at pitlane exit), Martin and Padmore.

“I couldn’t catch second place, but was trying hard”, said Martin. “After the safety car I got bunched up by a couple of E-types, and just couldn’t get past. And then I had a bit of moment while trying to pass one of them…”

In C2, Keith Ahlers in the Morgan SLR had 19 seconds in hand on Pangborn, with Jeremy Welch in third in the Healey started by Nyblaeus. However, when Pangborn spun, Welch was there to snap up the place. Further back, Tognola had taken the C1-class lead, having passed Robert Haug in Bruschnik’s 911 and Klaus Horn in the 911 shared with Pablo Briones.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Wolfe was inching away from Pastorelli but 36 seconds down the road it was all change, as Kjaergaard had caught and passed Fenn, while Hadfield caught and passed both of them! Mathai, meanwhile has hunched up to the back of Fenn’s Elan too, and was passed on lap 31, Fenn losing three places in the space of two laps. Then Mathai also moved past Kjaergaard to snatch fourth.

“The clutch was going”, Fenn said about losing pace. “It got progressively worse. At the end, I just kept it in third gear, and just cruised around…”

It wasn’t over at the front, though, as the Ferrari pushed for one final attack. Pastorelli gave it a try in the first and second corner but Wolfe fought off the challenge and pulled out a gap that was good enough until the chequered flag. Hadfield finished a distant third, followed by Mathai, Kjaergaard, Fenn and Martin. After the race, however, Kjaergaard lost his class win when his Elan failed post-race scrutineering. This elevated Malte Müller-Wrede’s Marcos 1800 GT to third place in class. The C2 and C1 wins went to Ahlers/Bellinger and Peter Tognola respectively.