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The all-female crew of Michelle Hayward, Zoe Burke and Wendy Ellis-Smith had drawn pole in the GT Radial car for the four-hour race at Snetterton. “I couldn’t believe it, but excited and hope I can stay there for at least one-lap,” said Hayward.

Having gone into Riches side by side with debutant Simon Rudd, Michelle succeeded in her wish as she headed Rudd, GCI’s Ian Wood and Viking’s Nick Nunn, before a slight gap to MJ Tec  GITI’s Martin Gibson in fifth.

Although Rudd then led a lap, it was Wood in front at the end of the third lap, but he couldn’t hold off Nigel Greensall, who made it four different leaders in the first four laps.

As the top three started to spread out, Gibson was on his own in fourth, before a five-car train disputing fifth, with Nunn under pressure from Greenheath’s Gary Bate, Hayward, Vapeclub EDF’s Vlad Vassiliev and the closing UVio/Hofmann’s car of Farquini Deott.

“I was working with GCI but once Nigel had got me the swarm came, but I stayed with them,” said Nunn.

At the front Greensall continued to build on his lead, with Wood heading the chase until just before the first half hour was completed. “I made a couple of mistakes and then spun at the Wilson Hairpin,” Wood explained after slipping to fourth, behind Greensall, Rudd and Gibson.

There had been continuous reshuffling behind though, with Farquini up to fifth on the half hour, despite driving with a wrist injury, but he had Bate, Nunn and Vassiliev still close as Hayward lost the tow in ninth.

“I had dropped to the back of the group for top six, but then made a couple of errors and fell back further losing the tow” Hayward explained.

Wood was one of the first to stop at the opening pitstop window, quickly followed by Gibson, Vassiliev and Hayward, while Farquini stayed out until the last moment, before vacating the lead.

But as the first hour was completed it was Scott Jeffs in the MJ Tec GITI car that had just taken over the lead from Greensall’s Ted Smeeth, with Fabio Randaccio third for UVio/Hofmann’s, from Team Viking’s Mark Holme, GCI’s Craig Butterworth and debutant Jake Weston having taken over the JPR Hire Car from Rudd.

Randaccio was soon up to second, with Butterworth, Holme and Weston all following as Smeeth was down to sixth, and had Greenheath’s Paul Turner threatening too.

For a while it was constant exchanges between Jeffs and Randaccio for the lead. “It was good passing him but then I got tired of it. I would get him into Riches, but wherever he could slipstream he drove by me again, so I decided just to stay there,” he said.

Butterworth joined in too and managed to split them on the 33rd lap, which allowed Holme to close in too. But the second pitstop was beckoning and Jeffs was first in.

“I could get Fabio at Riches too, but he kept getting me back and Mark was getting closer too,” Butterworth added.

UVio, Viking and GCI all pitted together and it was Farquini emerging with their lead intact, from Wood and Nunn initially, but Gibson was up to second as GCI and Viking got back up to pace.

“The car was feeling really good but I could feel my wrist starting to hurt more and that wasn’t good,” Farquini explained.

It was close for fifth to as Sam Smeeth was in the Greensall car, being chased by Bate, while both Stobart Sport and PLR Racing had started to progress too, with Richard Webb back in for Jonathan Hoad and Ben Pitch for Neil Plimmer.

Although UVio/Hofmann’s had pulled out a 10 second lead, it had remained close for the other podium places. GCI had retaken second from MJ Tec after 43 laps and Viking were still close enough to challenge too.

As the halfway point was reached, the lead had grown to over 17 seconds, but only 0.4 secs covered the pursuing GCI, MJ Tec and Viking, while Greensall’s and Greenheath still held fifth and sixth.

The Olympian trio of Steve Lake, Chris Dovell and Kristian Rose had started to climb the leader board in seventh too, while Stobart’s, Vapeclub EDF and PLR were all on the lead lap and completed the top 10.

The lead had continued to grow but Greensalls were back into second after MJ Tec, GCI and Viking had all pitted again. But both UVio and Greensalls made their stops on lap 56 at the end of the window, before battle recommenced with UVio over 26 seconds up, as GCI, Viking and MJ Tec were almost as one in the fight for second.

“We just kept in there swapping and changing with GCI,” said MJ Tec’s Gibson. “It was just chasing, we didn’t worry about the cars behind,” added Viking’s Nunn.

But with 69 laps completed and a lead of almost 30 seconds, it was all over again for defending champions UVio/Hofmann’s Lotus. “It was a front wheel bearing, it rubbed away and disintegrated. It didn’t feel good early on as I think it was on it’s way out,” Randaccio explained.

GCI took over the lead with five seconds in hand over MJ Tec, who still had Viking inches away. But Stobart’s were now into fourth, with only PLR and Greenheath on the lead lap.

Into the final hour Wood’s lead had grown to almost 20 seconds for GCI, while Gibson had also finally consolidated second for MJ Tec over Viking’s Nunn.

Hoad had kept Stobart’s in a solid fourth, with Greenheath’s Bate, PLR’s Pitch and Olympian’s Dovell all on the lead lap too.

There was still drama to come as usual and once again in was MJ Tec GITI on the receiving end. Gibson pitted and Jeffs was in, but the car refused to fire up. It was about to be wheeled back to the pit garage after push starts had failed, when it suddenly started.

With 20 minutes on the clock Butterworth was over 20 seconds clear, but Holme was slowly chipping away and under no pressure in second.

Two-time winners Stobart’s were into a podium place too, with Turner, Plimmer and Rose the rest of the top six.

“I was super gentle in that last stint but couldn’t hear the radio. I knew we were winning and there wasn’t long to go though,” said Butterworth as he celebrated the maiden GCI victory.

“At last, no damage, mechanical reliability and great stops,” added co-drover Wood.

Viking were delighted to be back on the podium too, “the car had good pace and it was nice to be able to compete at the front again,” said Holme. “It was hard work though,” Nunn added.

Following their win at Brands Hatch, Stobart’s had a strong second half to take third. “We have shown we can do it without Colin now. But apart from me over cooking the tyres in the first stint, it was great,” said Webb. “The steering was out a bit, but it was a quick car throughout, we lost a bit of grip though,” Hoad added.

Turner brought Greenheath home in fourth, “I did push it a bit at the end trying to catch Jonathan though,” he admitted.

Olympian and PLR completed the top six, with Matt Dorkings bringing the Vapeclub EDF car home seventh.

After their problems MJ Tec GITI finally took eighth, while the delighted GT Radial Ladies kept Greensalls at bay for ninth, despite Sam Smeeth’s efforts to close the gap after earlier exhaust problems.

Next round Anglesey on August 13th.

Published by Peter Scherer for Fun Cup Endurance, July 25th 2022