Wolfe wins Masters Gentlemen Drivers race at Dijon after shock error by Hadfield

Andy Wolfe led from start to finish in the 90-minute Masters Gentlemen Drivers race but he would have lost it five minutes before the end had Simon Hadfield not mistakenly thought that the drivethrough penalty issued to car number 6 was intended for him…

The lap before, Hadfield had cut Wolfe’s initial 34-second lead to almost zero before he came in to serve the penalty that wasn’t his. The Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield Shelby Cobra Daytona carries number 2 in Masters Gentlemen Drivers whereas their Lola T70 Mk3B in the FIA Masters Historic Sports Car Championship does indeed have starting number 6… Hadfield’s error left Wolfe – who was nursing an ailing AC Cobra home – with an 18-second lead that was ample enough to win the race.

I can’t hear him, I thought, where is he?” said Wolfe about Hadfield suddenly disappearing. “I was really struggling on the brakes, and then the oil light came on, so I was really nursing it to the finish…

“Now I know!” Hadfield said when told he wasn’t in the number 6 car. “I didn’t want to be blackflagged so better safe than sorry. My right eye is really hurting me, I have so many painkillers I’m struggling to think, let alone remember my starting number…

In third overall, Dale & Aaron Head won the CLP class in their Lotus Elan, Aaron disappearing into the distance after Dale had had an entertaining lead battle with Andrew Haddon the Elan that later dropped out with Mark Martin at the wheel. Rob Fenn’s Elan ultimately took second in class after an eventful race that saw Fenn overtake Urs Müller in the final corner when the Swiss driver’s Elan ran dry…

Dale started the race and led initially, but then he had a spin and dropped back from first place”, said Aaron Head. “When I got in I just kept it as consistent as I could, and brought it around.

“It was entertaining” said Fenn about his eventful race. “I’m dizzy because I spun twice on oil, so I think had to overtake Müller four times! But I’m glad I finished, I had a misfire right from the start.”

“I lost the place at the final corner when I ran out of fuel”, Müller said ruefully. “But it was big fun with fights everywhere!”

The opening phase of the race saw Wolfe quickly take charge to open up a 15-second lead by lap 12, Leo Voyazides keeping a second in hand on Julian Thomas. A few more ticks further down the road, Mark Martin and Dale Head were fighting over the CLP class lead in their Elans, with Tom Kimber-Smith in another Elan a further 14 seconds adrift.

With one third (and 19 laps) of the 90-minute race done, Wolfe’s lead over Voyazides and Thomas had increased to 24 seconds, now a mere six tenths separating Wolfe’s pursuers as the Cobra Daytona Coupé and the E-type navigated through traffic. Their fight was over on lap 20, however, Thomas crawling into the pits, the E-type’s fan belt having destroyed itself.

Meanwhile, Charles Allison in the TVR Griffith had fought his way past the Elans of Urs Müller and Rob Fenn, with Serge Kriknoff’s lone A-class Lotus XI holding ninth overall ahead of Jamie Boot’s Griffith. A unschedul. In 19th overall, Caroline Rossi was leading the C2 class in her Austin Healey 3000.

As the pit window opened, Wolfe’s lead was up to 34 seconds, and Voyazides decided to pit at the earliest opportunity on lap 25. Behind them, Martin had eased away from Dale Head, who on lap 26 followed Voyazides’ example to come in and hand over to brother Aaron, as the cars now came pouring in.

Wolfe made his pitstop on lap 28 to return with a massive 34-second lead on Simon Hadfield in Voyazides’ Cobra Daytona Coupé. Andrew Haddon in the Elan taken over from Mark Martin was still in third, ten seconds ahead of Aaron Head, and a further five seconds in hand on Paul Whight. Two more Elans – those of Fenn and Müller – were up next, leading TVR Griffith pair Peter Thompson (having taken over from Allison) and Jamie Boot, who were in the thick of a fight over the final over-2-litre podium spot. Despite an additional unscheduled pitstop, Kriknoff was still in tenth, leading Manfredo Rossi’s Shelby Mustang GT350.

On lap 33, with just over half an hour still to go, CLP class drama ensued as Haddon pulled off, the same applying to the Georg Nolte/Andy Newall Bizzarrini 5300 GT that had been in 15th place. Haddon’s demise handed the class lead to Aaron Head who was pulling at a rapid rate from Whight, himself caught by both Fenn and Müller, the Swiss getting ahead of Fenn on lap 37.

At the front, Wolfe’s lead had shrunk to 20 seconds but more worryingly, the leader had now been given a final warning for exceeding track limits. Both he and Rob Fenn were now under threat of a drivethrough penalty. With 20 minutes to go, Hadfield was catching the leader at the rate of a second per lap, but fastest lap of the race on lap 44 closed the gap even further. Hadfield was well and truly on it. More fastest race laps brought Hadfield’s deficit down to five seconds with ten minutes still to go. Could this become a repeat of the Nürburgring showdown between the two?

In the CLP class, Aaron was under no threat but both Müller and Fenn had got past Whight on lap 45. Thompson and Boot were still vying for seventh place and third in the C3 class, with Kriknoff in ninth and Rossi in tenth. The Italian’s wife was still consummately leading the C2 class in 14th overall.

In the end, Hadfield didn’t need to leave it until the final lap like at the Nürburgring, his closing rate now up to two seconds per lap – and at the start of lap 50, Hadfield was right on the Cobra’s tail. But shock and horror, the red Cobra Daytona Coupé was into the pits at the end of that lap, and when it returned to the track Wolfe had 20 seconds in hand on it… It was a genuine mistake as the Rick Carlino/Jonathan Lewis Elan had just been handed a drivethrough penalty, a car carrying number 6 – the same starting number Voyazides and Hadfield have on their Lola in the FIA Masters Historic Sports Car Championship!

And so, Wolfe’s Cobra crossed the line in first, ahead of the Voyazides/Hadfield Cobra Daytona and the Dale & Aaron Head Elan. As the Heads took the CLP class win, Rob Fenn took second in class when Urs Müller dramatically ran out of fuel in the final corner. Whight finished sixth while Thompson narrowly held off Boot for eighth, and the final spot on the over-2-litre podium.

It was not relaxing!” Peter Thompson said about his fight with Boot. “I was pretty aware that he was there! He was always close around the back, particularly in the final two laps, but traction saved me – I always able to pull a gap coming onto the straight.

Krikhoff was ninth, and Rossi tenth. Caroline Rossi won C2, while the Roger Whiteside/Richard Thorne Morgan 4/4 took C1.