Croft Report – 4th/5th May 2024

There was a fabulous weekend of motor racing when the BRSCC’s North Western Centre took charge at Croft Circuit on 4th & 5th May.

Gordon MacMillan scored a maiden victory… and then took two more wins! Photo: James Roberts Photography

The action was particularly intense during the Nankang Tyres BMW Compact Cup. After his double victory at Oulton Park, Joe Doble was on pole for the opening encounter at Croft but too much wheelspin when the red lights went out allowed Gareth Claydon to take the lead as Doble dropped to third behind Gordon MacMillan.

After a Safety Car period, Doble passed MacMillan at the Complex to latch onto the back of Claydon. Exiting Hawthorn Bend on the penultimate lap, Doble pulled alongside Claydon so that they arrived at the Chicane side-by-side. It was a tight squeeze and Claydon clipped the tyre stack. This damaged the leader’s steering and caused him to plough wide across the circuit and on to the grass. As he did so, Doble’s path was blocked therefore they both left the tarmac allowing MacMillan through to take his maiden victory.

Despite his car crabbing due to the damage to his left front corner, Claydon continued to finish fourth behind the second and third placed cars of Connor Grady and Max Noble with Doble classified eighth.

MacMillan’s win put him on pole for race 2 and a poor start by Grady alongside him meant he was the first to reach Clervaux with Max Noble in pursuit of him.

The leader was soon more than a second ahead as Noble held off Claydon. Once Claydon was clear of Noble he reeled in MacMillan but couldn’t pass him… and then on the last lap he retired at the Complex with broken front suspension.

So MacMillan took the chequered flag 7 seconds ahead of Noble. This gap proved to be crucial as it meant he kept the victory even when the stewards applied a 5 second track limits penalty.

Runner-up Noble had earlier survived a wild fish-tailing slide under braking for Sunny. This allowed a recovering Grady to pass him but later he ran wide at Tower having been caught out by some fluid that had gone down on the track which dropped him back to third.

Race 3 featured a grid which had the Top Ten reversed. Mike Doble took the lead at the start from Alex Read and Peter Smith. This trio pumped in quick laps to break away from a huge battle for fourth.

By half distance, Steven Dailly and MacMillan were closing in on the 3 leaders who had begun dicing amongst themselves with Read getting ahead of M. Doble. Smith was then the last of the late brakers to move from third to first at the Hairpin with Dailly following him through and trying to take the lead around the outside at Clervaux where he ran wide and skirted the edge of the gravel trap. This allowed Read to push him back down to third which became fifth when he ran wide exiting the Chicane.

Dailly wasn’t fifth for long as he moved up to fourth when M. Doble lost momentum exiting the Jim Clark Esses after MacMillan passed him to take third.

This was the first time Dailly had featured at the front of the field all weekend as he had missed qualifying due to an electrical gremlin on his BMW and, with the consent of all the other drivers, started race 1 from the back of the grid in MacMillan’s spare chassis. Smith had started that initial contest alongside him as his car had been found to be a few kilos underweight after qualifying.

As this thrilling final race approached its conclusion, MacMillan drew alongside Read and they both ran wide exiting Sunny – Read went a long way on to the grass and re-joined in fourth as Dailly tried to take second at the Complex but MacMillan kept him at bay.

At the start of the last lap, MacMillan was all over the back of the leader but Smith defended superbly. At Tower MacMillan ran wide at the exit allowing Dailly up to second but Dailly handed the place back at the final corner as a thank you for loaning him the car.

However…amidst all the frantic racing, Smith and Dailly had both overtaken in yellow flag zones so they were both excluded from the results handed a third victory of the weekend to MacMillan.

Michael Blackburn leads the way in the Vinyl Detail Fiesta ST150 Challenge. Photo: James Roberts Photography

There was another Tin Top Triple Header with competitors in the Vinyl Detail Fiesta ST150 Challenge enjoying 3 races. Qualifying saw Dan Robinson and Michael Blackburn duelling it out for pole. This was resolved when Blackburn clipped the grass and went into the barriers.

However, their fortunes were reversed when the opening race for the hatchbacks got underway as Robinson made a poor start and dropped to third behind Jamie Lewthwaite while Blackburn took the lead.

Blackburn pulled away a few lengths, setting the fastest lap, as Lewthwaite held off Robinson until just before half distance when the latter moved up to second at Tower.

The Safety Car was scrambled to enable a stranded car to be pulled away from the exit of Sunny Out. This put Robinson on the back bumper of Blackburn but when the contest resumed the leader never gave his pursuer the opportunity to overtake, braking a little early for corners to reduce the risk of losing control.

As the field formed up for the second encounter, Robinson felt something was amiss with his brakes and departed the grid for the pit-lane. Having had the pressure in the system checked, he re-joined after the race had got underway but pulled off after a couple of laps.

This allowed Blackburn to lead from start to finish although Paul Dobson kept him on his toes, running in his slip-stream throughout. Mark Blunt demoted Lewthwaite exiting the Hairpin to take the final place on the podium.

The Fiestas’ third race featured a partially reversed grid which meant Thomas Ikin started from pole with Sam Watkins alongside him. It was the latter who took the lead when the red lights went out. Further back, Blackburn got a rapid start but was squeezed between the two cars that were ahead of him and had to back off.

Proceedings were quickly neutralised by the Safety Car due to a competitor coming to rest in the gravel trap at the first corner.

There were 10 minutes remaining when the race resumed. Initially, Watkins pulled away a few lengths, but Ikin closed in and spent the final couple of laps on the leader’s tail but couldn’t find a way by.

Despite bodywork rubbing against a wheel after he clipped a tyre bundle at the Chicane, Blunt held off Dobson to take third while behind Lewthwaite, Blackburn was overtaken by Max Buxton on the last lap and finished seventh.

Morpheus Motorsport take an emotional Fun Cup victory just ahead of the MJ Tec car. Photo: James Roberts Photography

This weekend, the Fun Cup had two races with the first being a 1 hour “Sprint” followed by a 3 hour “Enduro”. MJ Tec had taken their first win at Oulton Park a few weeks previously and the championship’s rules dictated they started from the back of the grid for the 60 minute encounter.

It looked a tall order for them to take back to back victories but after 20 minutes they were up with the 6-way lead battle that was raging.

After the first round of pit stops, Morpheus Motorsport broke away with a very fast middle stint but they were caught by MJ Tec just before the second and final round of pitstops. The leaders swapped positions a couple of times but after both had pitted, MJ Tec had an advantage of several lengths which Morpheus couldn’t overturn in the time remaining. Uvio/Hoffman’s Lotus completed the podium.

For the 3 hour contest, once again MJ Tec had to start from twenty-first and last on the grid but they had company back there in the shape of Morpheus Motorsport who were allocated grid slot twenty in the random draw.

MJ Tec followed Morpheus Motorsport up the order for the first 15 minutes of the 3 hours until they moved ahead at Tower. This put them fourth as they continued to motor towards the front of the field.

After just 20 laps, MJ Tec demoted EDF Motorsport to take the lead although a quicker first pit-stop during a Safety Car interlude put EDF back out in front.

When the race went back to green, MJ Tec soon returned to the lead but the Morpheus Motorsport car was very fast at this point and closed in on them. After a superb battle with MJ Tec and Morpheus Motorsport side by side for corner after corner, the latter moved ahead.

Their fight was suspended at the next pit-stop which was a long one for Morpheus Motorsport as they took on fuel. This put them back to sixth and left MJ Tec with a healthy advantage.

The fastest car in this segment of the contest was the Signature RV entry which charged up the order into second but at the next round of pit-stops it was their turn to take on fuel. This dropped them to seventh. Soon afterwards, they ran wide and had a trip across the gravel, ripping off the front splitter and robbing the car of speed.

MJ Tec were grateful for the healthy advantage they had built-up at the front of the field when their penultimate pit-stop took place because the starter motor failed and the car had to be push started.

As the final round of pit-stops approached Olympian-GRD moved into second ahead of Uvio/Hoffman’s Lotus but then they were hit with a 5 second stop-and-go penalty which dropped them to fourth.

Uvio/Hoffman’s Lotus’ reprieve didn’t last long as they soon lost second place to Morpheus Motorsport with Ted Bradbury at the wheel. This was the fastest car on the track. Teenager Bradbury was very motivated as he wanted to win to dedicate it to his sister who was due to have an operation on a brain tumour a few days later.

At its final pit-stop, the MJ Tec car unexpectedly restarted without a push and knocked into a mechanic. Fortunately, he was uninjured but a few vital seconds were lost in the confusion.

When the leader was back up to speed, they were just 3.5 seconds ahead of the Morpheus Motorsport car which still had Bradbury at the wheel and firing in fastest laps.

Bradbury had caught the leader with 7 minutes to go but Scott Jeffs, who was now driving the MJ Tec car, was making it difficult to pass while driving very cleanly.

With time for 3 laps remaining, Bradbury made a move at the Hairpin. It looked like he hadn’t got far enough alongside but Jeffs ran wide and the Morpheus car moved into the lead as they exited on to the Pit Straight.

As the MJ Tec car now had the benefit of the slip-stream, Morpheus Motorsport couldn’t make an escape however Bradbury kept ahead to take an emotional win for him and his co-driver Neil Burroughs.

The changes to the podium positions had not quite finished as on the last lap Olympian-GRD recovered from their stop-and-go penalty to take third from Uvio/Hoffman’s Lotus.

Adam Marshall’s Golf leads the Audi TT of Paul Hoggins in the Evolution Trophy. Photo: James Roberts Photography

In the first of a brace of Evolution Trophy races, pole-sitter Adam Marshall’s Golf was beaten to Clervaux by the Audi TT of Paul Hoggins but at the end of the opening lap Marshall powered past exiting the Hairpin and was never headed.

Dave Pinkney ran third initially but his VW Vento had a mechanical issue and retired to the pits. After this, Cary Lewis (VW Golf) and Nick Sanderson (Seat Leon) contested the final place on the podium with Lewis coming out on top after an on the limit piece of late-braking at Tower on the last lap.

Next time out, Hoggins once again got the best start but Marshall was able to overtake on the run down to Tower to set up his second win of the day.

The decisive moment in the battle for third place occurred even sooner as Sanderson received a tap as he left the grid which turned him sharp right into the side of Lewis. The impact broke Sanderson’s suspension forcing his immediate retirement. Lewis continued with a huge dent in his passenger door and a sill panel flapping in the breeze. The latter component was a concern to the officials who called Lewis into the pits to have it removed. This dropped him well down the order and allowed Tony Hunter to take the final place on the overall podium in his Renault Clio. He crossed the line with 3 cars filling his mirrors.

The BMW 1M of McConomy/Horsten was the car to beat in the PBS Brakes Supersport Endurance Cup. Photo: James Roberts Photography

The BMW 1M of McConomy/Horsten finished a lap ahead of everyone else at the end of the 2 hour PBS Brakes Supersport Endurance Cup event despite a possible mis-communication causing them to serve a drive-through penalty that they didn’t need to. There was plenty of traffic for them to deal with and, due to light showers sweeping across the circuit, grip levels were changing constantly. Their victory wasn’t as easy as it looked from the outside.

Julian McBride came home second in his BMW M3 despite having to make an unplanned pit-stop to clear grass from his radiator. Paul Hinson was delighted to be third with his trusty BMW Compact – a car he has been driving for 12 years.

The BRSCC’s North Western Centre extends its thanks to all the marshals and officials for a very efficiently run race meeting.

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