Thursday, December 13 2012
MSV circuits hosted a wide range of major national and international championships in 2012. Here's a round-up of some of the most memorable:
The DTM returned to Brands Hatch with a new spring date, just three rounds into a new era that saw BMW join existing manufacturers Audi and Mercedes-Benz, and brand new cars, with coupés replacing the older saloons. This meant that everyone competed in current machinery, and could no longer state equipment as a reason for a lowly result.
Unsurprisingly the order at the front was unchanged, but Mercedes certainly had the edge in the early stages of the season. BMW were closing the gap, with reigning champion Martin Tomczyk providing a stirring performance in the M3 as he fought his way up the field. However no-one could stop home hero Gary Paffett and he took pole position on Saturday before dominating the race on the following day.
Jamie Green was the only other Briton in the top ten after a particularly tough afternoon for David Coulthard and Andy Priaulx. But the crowd, including Jake Humphrey, Paul Di Resta and Jenson Button, who awarded the winners' trophy to the McLaren test driver, were ecstatic at the result. Afterwards Paffett said: "It's very special, my first win here. I learnt to race cars at this circuit and to win here is an incredible feeling!"
The closest challenger to Paffett was BMW's Bruno Spengler but the Englishman's title lead looked unassailable after the race. However the Canadian has been in a similar situation only to lose out in previous campaigns and this experience paid off, for he worked hard over the year to take the title from Paffett at the final round. Next year Paffett will be more determined than ever to repeat his 2005 championship.
Meanwhile in the DTM-supporting VW Scirocco R-Cup the popular Legends category saw 1996 F1 World Champion Damon Hill make a one-off comeback to competitive driving. Sensationally he topped the opening practice session against the series young guns, and his old friends from racing's 'rat pack': Mark Blundell, Martin Donnelly, Perry McCarthy, Julian Bailey and honour member David Brabham. However the latter was the most successful in the race after Hill sustained damage in an encounter at Druids. Blundell and Donnelly featured strongly, the latter performing the save of the weekend after being tapped into a slide at Clearways.
Cooper Tires British F3 International Series
The Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series season started at Oulton Park over the Easter weekend, with a new Dallara chassis and a big name in Carlos Sainz Jr, son of the rally legend. With a reputation for being fast and in possession of great car control skills - just like his father - he was tipped for great things along with Carlin team mates Jazeman Jaafar and Jack Harvey. However it was the rival Fortec team who came away with the honours in Cheshire. Pipo Derani took a thrilling victory in the second race when National Class runner Spike Goddard managed to hold off the field for half the race, before Felix Serralles won the third, setting him up for a title challenge.
Harvey won the opening race of the year however, and took a pole and victory double at Brands Hatch two months later, with Derani winning the reverse-grid second race once again. The British title challenger took another MSV win at a wet Snetterton in August, with Sainz and Harry Tincknell claiming the other two. Meanwhile Jaafar was mounting a campaign based on consistency, and with Serralles threatening to steal the crown for Fortec, the battle went down the wire at the end of the season, with Harvey eventually declared the winner.
Avon Tyres British GT Championship
Sharing the bill with British F3, the Avon Tyres British GT Championship enjoyed a vintage season, with huge grids featuring one of the best supercar line-ups on the planet. At the Easter weekend opener, the United Autosports Audi R8 was cruising to a lights-to-flag victory before slowing on the final lap, leaving the BMW Z4 of the revived Ecurie Ecosse team to pick up the pieces. On a strong meeting for German cars, Trackspeed picked up a win in race two with one of their Porsche 997s.
The Trackspeed and Motorbase Porsches featured strongly throughout the season but Ecurie Ecosse were on the pace again in June on the Brands Hatch GP circuit. However the Z4 was being hunted down by Aston Martin driver Johnny Adam in the final 20 minutes of the 2-hour race. Despite a 25 second deficit, Adam passed the BMW in the closing stages and just missed out on beating eventual racewinner Jann Mardenborough in the RJN Nissan GTR by 0.002 seconds. It was the closest ever finish of a British GT race and one of the year's most memorable moments.
There was more drama at Snetterton in August with the weather playing an important part in the proceedings. Torrential rain showers added plenty of excitement, with another close finish in race one as Trackspeed's Steve Tandy and Joe Osborne held off team mates Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey as well as the Alex Buncombe/Mardenborough Nissan by less than two seconds.
Race two was much drier and saw United Autosports take their first win of the year but only after they'd swapped their R8 for a McLaren MP4-12C, the first to grace the series. They finished 16 seconds clear of Michael Caine and Daniele Perfetti in the Motorbase Porsche but this pairing were to end the year as champions, after several crews entered the final round in the hunt for overall honours.
Delphi British Truck Championship
The Delphi British Truck Racing Championship added a third visit to MSV circuits in 2012, with Snetterton 300 hosting a round of the series for the first time in August. Before then, the second round was held at Brands Hatch and rivals David Jenkins and Matt Summerfield fought for Division 1 honours. The former, entering the year as reigning champion, had a typically wild weekend that included a spin, as Summerfield started a run that saw him dominate the season.
Summerfield was victorious in Norfolk over the summer and at seasons' end, as the championship ended with a spectacular firework display, but Jenkins added a win in Kent to give him added confidence over the winter. Meanwhile Tonbridge's David Smith was equally as imperious in Division 2, but was unable to overcome Oly Janes at the end of the year. With the latter missing many rounds, it was a case of what might have been for the man from Weston-Super-Mare.
British Superkart Grand Prix
Snetterton also added the Superkart British Grand Prix to its calendar in 2012 and Lee Harpham dominated the second Round of the European Superkart Championship with a brace of victories. Defending champion Emmanuel Vinuales beat him to pole position but it was Harpham who made the better starts, holding off his rivals to the flag, with the former taking a solitary second place. Chris Needham performed well but retired from both races, despite running at the sharp end of the field.
Damien Payart scored his first championship points of the season with third in the opening race, but tyre trouble in the second left him back in sixth. Former champion Gavin Bennett took second and fourth places, whilst Emmanuel Vinuales drove into a very impressive second place in race two.
Tickets for the 2013 rounds of the DTM, Delphi British Truck Racing Championship and the British F3/GT Championships at MSV circuits are now on sale and you can order them by clicking here.
Images courtesy of Hoch Zwei, Jonathan Hatfield, Simon Hildrew, Norman Hayes, Az Edwards, Phatphoto, Danny Dzenis, Gary Hawkins and Richard Styles