UVio Hofmann’s Dominate Season Opener
25 cars were on the grid at Donington Park, with a healthy mix of regular’s and newcomers.
The weather hadn’t been kind during the morning’s qualifying, but at least the rain stopped for the afternoon’s four hour race. Stephen Walton had drawn pole for Make Happen Racing, sharing the front row, with Agua Caliente’s Rob Perry. The rain may have stopped, but it was very slippery, as Walton found out as he braked from the chicane and slid off sideways, handing the lead to GCI’s Craig Butterworth. “It didn’t brake like a GT car,” said Walton.
There was further chaos behind with cars spinning and RAW’s Alex Macleod was stranded in the gravel with a broken front upright. Team Viking’s Mark Holme joined Butterworth in a very early break, with Sam Smeeth’s Greensall car third. Both Smeeth and Track Focused’s Teddy Wilson started to close in though, and after five laps Smeeth led out of Coppice, before Wilson’s surge took him passed both Smeeth and Butterworth a lap later.
Wilson’s lead soon started to grow, with Smeeth consolidating second, as Butterworth and Holme continued to contest third. Steve Johansen was running a solo sixth for CCS, before a train of cars followed, led by Stobart Sports Colin Kingsnorth. Smeeth’s attempt to close on Wilson, actually lost him time, overshooting the chicane on lap 10.
“It had been the first time I had led a Fun Cup race, but when I tried braking later at the chicane it didn’t work,” Smeeth admitted. Wilson, Smeeth and Butterworth all held station to complete the first half hour in the podium places, with the lead now over 15 seconds, but Holme had lost ground with an early misfire.
Despatch Bay’s Andy Bicknell was on a charge too and on lap 13 he ousted Johansen from fifth, but both had UVio/Hofmann’s Farquini closing too. Wilson was one of the last to pit, as he handed to Mike McCollum, but they retained the lead to complete the first hour, 6.356secs clear of Team Viking, with Nigel Greensall at the wheel. “I didn’t expect to get away like that, it was my first time at Donington, first time in a Fun Cup car and first time in the wet,” said ex US F4 star Wilson.
Fabio Randaccio retained third for UVio/Hofmann’s, while in fourth the GCI car of Ian Wood was a lap down in fourth, followed by Ted Smeeth for Greensall’s and Harry Mailer for DespatchBay. DespatchBay could have been higher but Bicknell had a spin approaching the chicane before the change. “I was making good progress, the it just snapped left, felt like a wishbone had broken, but then I saw purple on the timing screen,” he explained.
Greensall had reeled in McCollum and led from lap 40, with Randaccio in second, from McCollum, while Mailer ousted Wood for fourth. The top four remained unchanged until the second stop, but Greensall came in early. “The misfire had got worse, coughing and spluttering, so we decided to change the coil,” he said.
So Randaccio handed the lead to Farquini and from there started the total dominance by the former champions. “We had a bit of a touch at the chicane on the first lap, but the car is handling fine,” said Farquini.
They were a lap up on their rivals at half distance, but a great effort by DespatchBay’s Bicknell and Mailer had them in second, ahead of GCI’s Butterworth/Wood. MJ Tec GITI had also moved into the reckoning with Scott Jeffs/Martin Gibson in fourth, similarly the defending Champions Team Olympian, after a sterling stint by Kristian Rose, made way for Riley Phillips.
Completing the top six at two hours were Agua Caliente’s Rob Croydon/Paul Turner,
while Track Focused were seventh, and Team Greenheath, MakeHappen and EDF 104 completed the top 10. Barring problems no one looked likely to catch UVio/Hofmann’s, “but you can’t relax for one moment in Fun Cup, “Farquini added.
DespatchBay were also looking fairly comfortable in second, which left the final step of the podium to be settled during the second half of the race. With the third hour completed there was still a lap between UVio/Hofmann’s and DespatchBay, but MJ Tec GITI , GCI and Olympian were all in contention for third, with Viking and MakeHappen almost back in the hunt too.
“The car was mega fast, but I had a little off, “admitted Olympian’s Phillips. “I had a slight off too at Redgate,” added DespatchBay’s Mailer.
“I was finding it difficult, in both of my stints it was drying and then it rained, so I had to be cautious not to overcook it,” said GCI’s Wood. 30 minutes left on the clock and we were in to the last stops. “There was a dry line now, but you can’t deviate from it,” Farquini explained, after he was one of the last to stop, for Randaccio to bring it home.
The final winning margin remained at one lap, with DespatchBay a clear second. “Great, the car, the crew faultless,” Randaccio confirmed, after they had led the last 94 laps!!
“I lost a bit of power at the end, but no real problem”, said Mailer. But with third looking safe, it wouldn’t be Fun Cup without a last minute drama and with four minutes on the clock, Phillips had to pit the Olympian car for fuel.
MJ Tec GITI had almost accepted fourth place, and were delighted with a debut podium for the new team. “Fantastic, we had a good balance in the car, but I didn’t like that early pressure,” said Jeffs. Earlier leaders Team Viking’s Greensall had edged out GCI’s Wood for fifth, but with Olympian’s demise suddenly picked up a late fourth. “We were quick after that coil change, perfect race otherwise,” said Holme.
Olympian still held onto fifth from GCI, while MakeHappen came home seventh and the top 10 was completed by PLR Racing, Agua Caliente and Team Greenheath. Making their Fun Cup debuts and finishing just outside the top 10 in a solid 12th, were former World Championship downhill mountain biker Steve Peat and Isle of Man TT racing legend John McGuinness, who shared the GT Radial car with Ellis Hadley. The next round of the championship is at Silverstone on June 19th .
Published by Peter Scherer for Fun Cup Endurance Championship, May 10th 2021.