Masters celebrates glory days of F1 at Brands Hatch

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Kiwi GP2 racer Brendon Hartley nearly won on his first drive of fellow New Zealander Roger Wills’ recently acquired ex-Nigel Mansell Lotus 92/5 in a gripping GP Masters race at the Brands Hatch Historic Masters Festival on 26-27 May.

Richard Meins got the jump from pole in his Williams FW07/D, but retired after six laps handing the lead to Richard Barber’s Fittipaldi F5A (above), in evocative Copersucar livery. Hartley nipped past four tours later – after an epic tussle with Barber – and looked to be on for victory until he had a problem selecting fourth gear on the last lap and Barber took the chequer 5.86 secs ahead of the 22-year-old.

Andrew Smith took third in his March 701, but was harried all the way by Wills in his Tyrrell P34 six-wheeler (below).

Hartley took revenge on the second day, winning from historic hotshoe Simon Hadfield in a Tyrrell 009 that he’d never raced before and was only confirmed as driver on raceday morning. Hadfield had to start from the back of the grid, but surged through to snatch second from Barber’s Fittipaldi with three laps to go.

The irrepressible Wills – he’d entered cars for most of the weekend’s races – had better luck with the debut of his stunning Martini-liveried Group C Lancia LC2 (above), another recent acquisition, part of an invitiation class in the CanAm Interserie Challenge.

The younger cars didn’t have it all their own way, though. Polesitter and Group C veteran David Mercer set the pace in his Spice SE90C, but Michele Liguori stormed through from the back of the field to take the lead on the second lap in his rapid, DFV-engined Lola T292 (below).

The Group C cars soon asserted their authority, though, with first Mercer and then Wills finding their way past the lurid, lime-green Lola. And, as Wills gradually got the hammer down in the flame-belching, twin-turbo Ferrari-engined Lancia, he took the lead at about half distance in the 40-minute sprint.

“It was great fun to drive and a good shakedown for the Le Mans support race,” enthused Wills. “Bob Berridge has only just finished the car this week.”

Scot Smith had better luck, too, in the two Historic Race of Champions heats to celebrate the event held at Brands from 1965-’83, latterly for a mixed F1 and F5000 grid.

Smith was chuffed to take his first single-seater win, fittingly in his March 701 – the car in which Jackie Stewart was victorious in the 1970 RoC (above). An early battle with the howling Matra MS120 of Rob Hall was sadly cut short after a halfshaft failed on the Matra. John Delane was second in his Tyrrell 002 (below) in race one and in the overall standings.

Gary Pearson looked set for victory after establishing a clear lead in the early stages of the Gentleman Drivers’ enduro on Saturday – he was about 20 seconds ahead after 15 laps in Carlos Monteverde’s E-type – but Mike Whitaker paced himself (and his brakes) to give his TVR Griffith the edge in the closing stages after the mandatory pitstops.

Whitaker, driving solo, passed Joe Twyman in Roger Wills’ Bizzarrini 5300GT, who finished a clear second from the deft-handling Marcos 1800GT of Allen Tice and Chris Conoley.

In the Pre-’66 Touring Cars, Leo Voyazides put his trusty Ford Falcon (below, chasing Robert and Josh Beebee's Mini Cooper) on pole, but Patrick Watts won the race in his Mustang after the Falcon's gearbox played up.

For the full results – and details of the next stop for the Masters tour (Dijon on 23-24 June) – go to www.themastersseries.com

Photos by Kevin Wood of LAT

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