Voyazides & Hadfield take unexpected Masters Gentlemen Drivers win at Donington

Despite being regular winners, Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield took a very unexpected win in the Masters Gentlemen Drivers race at Donington Park. The twist was very much in the tail, as first a safety car with 15 minutes to go negated Hadfield’s 50-second deficit to the four lead cars, and then moments later the long-time leading Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé of Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie retired into the pits, the car on fire.

I went as fast as I could for as long as I could”, said a smiling Hadfield. “And then the safety car came, and we won. I’ll take it!

Hadfield took no time in dealing with new leader John Pearson, and despite a five-second time penalty incurred by Voyazides earlier, the Daytona Cobra stretched out enough of a lead over Pearson’s Jaguar E-type to take a win that had seemed very unlikely when Hadfield was still in sixth, catching John Spiers’ TVR Griffith that eventually finished third.

It was a lovely race”, said Pearson. “I had really great fun but I was disappointed with the safety car – I knew how quick that Daytona Cobra is, and I just couldn’t keep it behind.

“We had a disappointing qualifying”, said Spiers, “so to be up here is great. Everything was absolutely fine in the race – in fact, it was quite uneventful for me!”

In fourth came Ron Maydon in the CLP-class-winning Ginetta G4R, Maydon sharing with Andy Willis on the occasion. From 11th on the grid, Willis had been the star of the opening stint and was in a solid fourth – and second in the CLP class – when he handed over to Maydon. The class win – and maybe even overall victory after the demise of the Thomas/Lockie Daytona Cobra – looked to have been Steve Soper’s, but a stop-and-go penalty for stopping short at the pitstops dropped him back, and then the Lotus Elan slid off into the gravel trap right after the safety car had gone. This handed second place in class to Mark Martin who went off twice and took a stop-and-go penalty himself but still salvaged ninth overall.

My co-driver did all the hard work, and just had to finish it off”, Maydon quipped. “And then I saw Soper in the gravel – tough!

Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger were the clear C2 class winners in their Morgan Plus 4 Super Sports while Peter Aylett and Steven Farrall took C1 class honours in the Diva GT, having chased the Austin Kinsella/Olivia Wilkinson MGB Roadster until Wilkinson’s retirement became the cause of the safety car – and that unexpected win for Voyazides and Hadfield.

From the start, Julian Thomas in the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé had duly led away from pole but Steve Soper’s little Elan was on the prowl for second place and into Hollywood indeed moved past Leo Voyazides in the second Cobra Daytona Coupé. John Pearson’s Jaguar E-type was still fourth after four laps but Andy Willis in Ron Maydon’s Ginetta G4R was the true hero of the opening stages, charging up to fifth from 11th on the grid. One more lap, though, and Willis was up into fourth. On lap 6, he was third, ahead of Pearson who had taken care of Voyazides, the Greek also falling behind John Spiers’ TVR on lap 7.

In C2, Keith Ahlers had moved the other way, from fifth on the grid – achieved in a very wet qualifying session – to 12th on lap 8, but still led the class ahead of the Allan Ross-Jones/Richard Dodkins Triumph SLR, with Dodkins at the wheel. Austin Kinsella’s MGB led the C1 class ahead of Peter Aylett in the Diva GT shared with Steven Farrall.

15 minutes gone, Thomas led Soper by 15 seconds, with Pearson back in third, one second behind, and Willis another tick further down the road in fourth. Spiers was fifth ahead of Voyazides, who had 10 seconds in hand on the fighting E-types of Mark Donnor and Andy Wolfe. In ninth, Mark Martin was third in the CLP class, behind the class-leading pair of Soper and Willis, while the David Smithies/Chris Clarkson (Smithies driving) completed the top-ten. Meanwhile, the Ross Hyett/Chris Fox Elan had been the race’s first retirement, the suspension of the Lotus giving up on Fox. Ten laps later, Patrick Jack’s Elan joined the retirements with a broken diff.

On the half hour, all remained the same, Thomas still leading Soper and Pearson but Willis was dropping away in fourth. Spiers was a lonely fifth while Voyazides – hit with a 5-second time penalty for exceeding track limits once too much – was even lonelier in sixth. Ahlers and Kinsella remained the front-runners in C2 and C1 respectively. Ahlers’ closest rival Dodkins, though, had spun on lap 23, increasing the Morgan’s advantage even further. On lap 28, Dodkins retired the Triumph for good.

As the pit window approached, Soper had cut back Thomas’ lead to 11 seconds while creating some space between himself and Pearson in third. However, bang on the pit window opening on lap 29, Thomas put in a series of fastest laps of the race to increase the gap to Soper back to 17 seconds. Voyazides was the first one to stop, handing over to Simon Hadfield on lap 30, Thomas pitting one lap later to hand the wheel to Calum Lockie while Soper followed suit on the same lap. On lap 31, Pearson, Willis and Spiers were the last of the front-runners to come in.

With the Thomas/Lockie Cobra Daytona Coupé obliged to stop ten seconds longer than Soper’s under-2-litre Elan, Soper was the new leader, five seconds ahead of Lockie. In third and fourth, Ron Maydon (having taken over from Willis) and John Pearson had similarly swapped places. However, two laps later, Lockie and Pearson had passed the CLP-class leaders to reassert their cars’ authority, moving back up into first and third places, as Lockie set fastest lap of the race in the process. The Keith Ahlers/Bellinger Morgan (with Bellinger at the wheel now) was unthreatened in the lead of the C2 class while Olivia Wilkinson (having taken over from Kinsella in the MGB) still led the Diva GT in C1.

As Lockie continued banging in fastest laps of the race, Soper was given the bad news – he was called in to serve a stop-and-go penalty for stopping too short at the pitstops. This dropped him down to third behind Pearson, who was now trailing Lockie by a massive 34 seconds, with two-thirds’ distance done. Soper was now a further ten seconds behind but he still led the CLP class ahead of Maydon, as Spiers in fifth saw his lead over Hadfield evaporate at a rapid rate. In seventh and eighth, both Donnor and Martin also needed to serve a stop-and-go penalty but both were well ahead of the Smithies/Clarkson Cobra Daytona Coupé.

On lap 49, however, with 15 minutes left on the clock, the safety car was called as Olivia Wilkinson’s C1-class-leading MGB had come to a halt at Mcleans. Then even more drama ensued – suddenly Lockie was into the pits with a Cobra Daytona Coupé on fire! So after two wins in a row, and looking for a third, it was all over for the car in the lead.

On lap 53, the green flag was waved, with Pearson now leading Soper, Maydon, Spiers and Hadfield – the latter now just ten seconds adrift. The drama wasn’t over yet, though, as Soper suddenly found himself in the gravel at Coppice while Hadfield had moved to the front in the space of one lap – but still trailing Pearson on time because of the five-second time penalty that Voyazides had incurred earlier. In third, the Willis/Maydon Ginetta G4R resumed the CLP class lead, ahead of Spiers, Donnor and Martin.

Hadfield now had a sniff of victory, though, as on lap 56 he set fastest lap of the race, and again on lap 57 – which was the one that finally gave him the actual lead. Then, another twist in the tail – Mark Martin went off into the gravel to lose sixth overall but he recovered to ninth to keep second place in the CLP class.

After 90 minutes, Hadfield’s on-the-road advantage was enough to secure an unlikely win for himself and Voyazides. Pearson was second but right at the end Spiers passed Maydon for third overall, the Ginetta still taking CLP class honours. Ahlers and Bellinger took an unchallenged C2 class win, with Peter Aylett and Steven Farrall in their Diva GT the surprise victors in C1.