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Topcats Battle with Europe's Finest.
Unpredictable weather set the scene for the Friday qualifying session and Saturday’s race in the British opening round of the Dutch Supercar Challenge at the Silverstone GP Circuit. With just a 20 minute qualifying session split between two drivers, the opportunity to post a pole grabbing lap would be limited to two or three laps. Andrew Beaumont was tasked with setting the opening qualifiers in the MT900 GT3 spec car and pitting a handful of minutes later to relay the car to the reigning Britcar 500 champ, Ben Clucas.
A small error on Ben’s part denied him the challenge for pole on his first lap and on his second flying lap posting fastest sectors up until the approach to Stowe, where a back marker moved across the track alongside him as he was passing, pushing Clucas wide onto the run-off and having to gather the car back up again as it fishtailed into the corner. Only on his lap to the chequered flag did he manage to secure 5th place on the grid, needless to say Clucas was disappointed to not have secured pole.
Mosler MT900 GT3
Rain arrived as forecast, just in time for the Saturday race but tyre choices were hard to call as the track was dry and only a smattering of rain was falling whilst the cars grouped for the start of the race. Although rain clouds appeared to be incoming, no-one could afford to take the gamble of opting for intermediate or wet tyres if there was a chance the clouds would bypass.
With the race underway, Short in his works ‘development’ Mosler took the lead but Clucas, who would complete the hour long race without a driver change was fighting to get temperature into the tyres as the rain began to soak the track. A quick exchange of words with the pit crew to confirm a tyre change and Clucas pitted on lap 3 to swap to intermediate tyres. As the other teams held out on slicks in the hope that the rain would stop, Ben rejoined in 17th place and was immediately lapping 15 seconds quicker than the lead cars. It soon became clear to the other teams that the rain was set to stay and eventually all the cars were pitting for a tyre change, including the lead Mosler of Martin Short. Clucas was now on terms with him and taking advantage of the ailing weather conditions, harassing Short for several laps, all the time gaining on the lead two cars of Lockie in the Mosler and Cor Euser in the GT2 Ferrari who were still persisting with slick tyres. Eventually they had to the pay price as Short and Clucas snatched the leading two positions and were engaged in a dogfight, as Clucas made a number of attempts to get down the inside for the lead. Clucas’ superiority showed though and as the race reached the halfway mark he made a definitive move on Short to take the lead. Only fractions of a second separated the two for twenty minutes of the race, Clucas getting the occasional breather as they passed back markers but having to defend down the long straights as Shorts higher powered Mosler took advantage.
Weekend Trophy Collection
Compulsory pit stops still had to be served and Clucas was called in. The Short Mosler was on the same strategy and tailed Clucas into the pit lane, docking within the first few pit garages, Clucas, however, had to continue on halfway down the pit lane. With no tyre or driver changes required by either team, Short was released first and heading down the pit lane with Clucas pulling out in front of him just in time.
Despite the pressure from Short, it looked like Clucas had the measure of him until Short was able to close in on him down the Hanger Straight ten minutes from the end of the race, just getting his nose in little as they headed into Stowe corner, Clucas was in no mood to relinquish and held his line which would have given him the run down to Vale on the inside line, but a dubious sideways punt from Short, forced Clucas wide knocking the tracking out in the process. With misaligned steering Ben was still able to hang onto the back of Short’s car. The team radioed to Clucas that he could hold position as the third placed car of Cor Euser was over a minute behind. Clucas was having none of it and replied that he was till trying to win it. With just two laps remaining Clucas still hadn’t given up and chased hard to get back at Short, but it was not to be and Short took the chequered flag with Clucas finishing a very close second but deserving of the win.
A shorter 45 minute race for Sunday beckoned a rematch between the Moslers of Clucas and Short, at this stage it seemed that no-one else could challenge them for honours despite a six strong turnout of Moslers. A dry race, as promised, was only going to give the more developed Short Mosler a bigger advantage on a dry track though.
Upside down Mosler
As the cars powered towards the green light, Clucas got the run on Short and took the lead, but further back Riley in the red and silver Mosler was caught out by the cold track and with a lack of temperature in the tyres, lost control spearing across the track, forcing the Mosler driven by Paul White to take to the outside of the track and onto to sodden mud (due to construction work to widen the pit straight run-off). White could not have anticipated the consequences as his car dug into the mud, flipping the Mosler onto its roof. The first time this has ever happened to a Mosler in its ten year racing history. Driver escaped unhurt.
Several other cars fell victim to the incident and the race was stopped. A lengthy clean up operation to rid the track of mud as cars were pulled free now cut the race to a 15 minute sprint.
On the restart, Clucas couldn’t gain advantage into the first corner this time and Short took the lead, but did not pull away and Clucas hung on as Short managed to eek ahead down the straights and Clucas having to work hard in the corners to stay within touching distance.
Short did eventually pull a couple of car lengths away as Clucas now had to take a defensive line to stave off an attack from the GT2 Ferrari of Cor Euser who had now found pace to challenge.
Euser, eventually edged a nose length in to the corner and Clucas was forced to concede but tailed him as they began to edge towards Short again in the closing laps of the race.
Topcats Mosler Trophies
On the final lap, the lead cars were bearing down on the backmarkers and Cor was full in Shorts mirrors and challenging for the lead. Clucas was back in contention as they approached Luffield for the final time. Cor took one direction round a back marker, Short taking another, Euser chose a better passage and came out in the lead. Clucas had also gained some advantage and it was impossible to predict who would cross line first. Cor held onto his lead and took the chequered flag with Short taking second, but only just as Clucas was almost along side for the final podium position.
Next race: Snetterton, 17th April. Follow us as the Topcats GT2 and GT3 Marcos Mantis’s fight for race honours in the 2 hour Britcar Endurance Championship race.
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