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It was back to a 20 plus grid as Fun Cup arrived at it’s traditional home of Oulton Park.

Team Ratters Peter Ratcliff and Fuelled Up Racing’s Paul Ellis-Smith had drawn the front row places, with two-time winners Team Olympian back on row seven with Chris Dovell.

The safety car was soon in action, despite the race being of four-hour duration. Morgan Sparrow had spun the MSBW car at Island on the opening lap, leaving Championship leaders UVio/Hofmann’s with nowhere to go but into the stricken car.

Randaccio managed to get back to the pits, but already out of contention, with four laps behind the safety car as Jimmy Broadbent led for GT Radial, from Ratcliff, MJ Tec’s Scott Jeffs, Axiatetrics’ Chris Weatherill, JPR Hire’s Ted Bradbury and Ellis-Smith.

Jeffs was quick to make a move from the green flag, second exiting Old Hall became the new leader at Knickerbrook, as Broadbent dropped to third behind Bradbury, after a grassy excursion.

Bradbury then led a lap later and the lead pair began to break away, while Ben Pitch brought PLR into third, after ousting Broadbent and Ratcliff on the same lap.

Mazda MX-5 racer Bradbury was impressing on his debut and by lap eight he was well clear, with Jeffs coming under increasing pressure from Pitch, after he escaped from a four-car battle for fourth.

Broadbent and Ratcliff had been caught by Viking/Ursus’ Mark Holme and Weatherill after they had exchanged for sixth too.

After the first 30 minutes Bradbury’s lead was up to 6.51 secs, but only 0.476 secs split Jeffs and Pitch, before an 11 second gap to the next group.

It took a while for Holme to finally get Ratcliff for fifth, which left him under pressure from Weatherill. He finally got by into Old Hall on lap 14 as the rain began to fall, and made short shrift of Broadbent, claiming fourth a lap later.

Bradbury’s dominance took his lead to over 19 seconds by lap 19, but there was suddenly a change behind, as Jeffs defence finally cracked. “I went off at Druids and I could see I was sliding towards the wall. It was very scary with is raining too, but I was trying too hard,” he explained.

The first pitstop window soon followed with Bradbury one of the first to pit, handing to Ross Dunstan. Jeffs had still come in third behind Pitch as they pitted a lap later, handing to Will Abraham and Neil Plimmer. “Great fun, especially leading the race,” he commented.

The first hour was completed as the pitstop window closed, with PLR’s Plimmer having taken the lead from JPR’s Dunstan, while MJ Tec’s Abraham was still in third, before a nine second gap to Viking/Ursus’s Colin Kingsnorth, running solo in fourth.

It was another 11 seconds before Axiametrics Simon Rudd, who had Olympian’s Kristian Rose chasing, while Greenheath’s Gary Bate, EDF’s Rob Croydon and Vapeclub’s Vlad Vassiliev filled the rest of the top 10.

Greenheath were soon back in the pitlane, “I was caught speeding 4mph over the limit, but we had been having trouble with the pit limiter,” Bate explained.

Plimmer soon began to extend his lead, with Abraham, Kingsnorth, Rose, Rudd and Dunstan following, while Marcus Clutton had brought the Signature car into seventh and continued to close.

Rose then managed to take both Kingsnorth and Abraham on his 32nd lap, into second and closing on the lead. Kingsnorth ousted Abraham too a couple of laps later, with Clutton just making into third before the pitstop window opened again.

Rose was one of the first to stop, handing to Riley Phillips, but it was another five laps before Plimmer relinquished his lead and headed pitwards. “New engine and the car is mega now, it’s just great,” he enthused.

Clutton had also handed to Steve Ruston, having only arrived at the circuit about an hour before the race, from GT testing in Portugal. “I’m really back into it now, it’s still great racing, but car is running a bit hot though,” he explained.

The battle for the lead was getting closer and closer, with Phillips charging after Pitch. He went into his 45th lap 0.790 secs down, but by the end of it, he was 2.090 secs clear.

Holme was comfortably in third too, over 30 secs clear of Jeffs, with Signature’s Ruston and EDF’s Coles the rest of the top six.

At half distance there were just the three crews on the lead lap, with Olympian’s Phillips having increased his lead to 25.946 secs, with Holme in second for Viking/Ursus and Pitch third for PLR, but three laps later it was the third pitstop window.

There was very little change in the third hour. Dovell had handed the lead car to Rose for Olympian, with Viking/Ursus only 6.456 secs behind, with Pitch a further 16 secs back in third.

“I think that was my best wet session I have ever done, but will wait and see if I have cracked it now,” said Dovell.

But Jeffs was back on the lead lap too for MJ TEC, and only Olympian were lapping fastest at the sharp end.

As the final pitstop approached Rose had Holme closing in and into Old Hall they swapped, leaving the Viking/Ursus driver five laps before pitting with a 21 second lead. “That was a very long battle with Mark, but he was superb and we had changeable conditions,” said Rose. “It was a fantastic 20 minute duel,” Holme replied.

Olympian had made their final stop a few laps earlier, so as Kingsnorth took over the lead car, he emerged from the pitlane with a 13 seconds deficit to Phillips.

By the end Phillips had secured Olympian’s third win of the season by 26.873 secs, “the goal was to finish and the second goal, which I did in the end was fastest lap, perfect,” said Phillips.

“I was only racing the clock in the end, but I looked across to see where the others were, and I couldn’t see them,” said Viking/Ursus’ Kingsnorth, after securing a clear second.

Plimmer/Pitch retained a clear third too, over MJ Tec’s Jeffs/Abraham. “We had to work really hard to try and catch Colin though,” Plimmer admitted. “I would have liked a Trophy, but we were lucky at the end as I ran out of fuel on the slowing down lap,” Jeffs added.

Coles/Croydon were fifth for EDF one lap down, “adapting to the changing conditions was hard for me, as we tried to stay on the lead lap,” said Coles.

Broadbent/Hadley came home sixth for GT Radial, from Greenheath’s Bate/Paul Turner, JPR For Hire’s Bradbury/Dunstan/Stephen Riley and Vapeclub’s Vassiliev/Dorkings, while completing the top 10 and two laps down were Axiametrics’ Weatherill/Rudd/Neil Burroughs, after a rear hub came loose. 

Published by Peter Scherer for Fun Cup Endurance, July 17th 2023