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Fletcher/O'Neill Marcos wins Britcar Into The Night race to end Brands Hatch season in style

Saturday, November 19 2011

The Top Cats Racing Marcos Mantis of Henry Fletcher and Owen O'Neill came through a thoroughly entertaining battle to win the Britcar Into The Night race at Brands Hatch to mark the final race of the season at the Kent circuit.

The race start was shrouded in drama with the pole sitter Barwell Motorsport Ginetta of Mark Lemmer, Ben Butler and Tom Kimber-Smith pulled off during the first warm up lap with what turned out to be a driveshaft failure. The Honda NSX of David Fenn, Rob Fenn and Rob Barff also suffered disappointment as they were unable to make the start due to engine problems.

With the pole sitter missing from the start, the Dodge Viper of Aaron Scott and Craig Wilkins had a clear path ahead of them and they held the lead as the field streamed into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time. At the end of the opening lap the Viper led the Porsche  of Rod Barrett and Jay Shepherd with Ginetta of Lee Mowle, Joe Osbourne and George Murrells.

The safety car briefly neutralised the race but once racing resumed Scott extended his lead but it wasn't long before dram struck again. With only 10 laps completed a fuel pressure problem forced the viper to surrender the lead and enter the pits. The car rejoined the race at the two hour mark 119 laps down but the pair had done enough to win the overall championship virtue of the points received for starting the race.

The Barrett/Shepherd Porsche inherited the lead but the Ginetta of Mowle/Osbourne/Murrells was in hot pursuit and the lead was shrinking by the lap. The pair were soon split by just 0.4 seconds but the car on the move was the Top Cats Marcos of Neil Huggins and Jon Harrison. While the Ginetta dropped back, the Marcos grabbed the lead from the Barrett/Shepherd Porsche on lap 23. Returning to the fray three laps later was the pole sitter Barwell car of Lemmer/Butler/Kimber-Smith.

The battle for the top three positions continued to entertain the crowds and a few laps later the Osbourne Ginetta snatched second spot from the Barrett/Shepherd Porsche. The Ginetta's impressive pace continued and an enthralling dice for the lead with the Huggins Marcos ensued. The pair went side-by-side on several occasions before both cars entered the pits, the Huggins car had developed power steering issues. The subsequent pit stops briefly handed the lead to Eurotech Racing Porsche of Morgan, Phillip and Gareth Jones.

With the pit window well and truly open, the other Top Cats Racing Marcos of Henry Fletcher and Owen O'Neill gathered pace and a string of fast laps allowed him to catch the leader, Barrett/Shepherd. An overtake seemed inevitable and the pass came on lap 95. The Marcos continued to perform strongly and was one of the last cars to pit, building up a three lap lead over Barrett and Shepherd. Fletcher rejoined the race in the lead but their advantage over Barrett and Shepherd was dramatically reduced.

The race really came alive in the final hour with the Porsche gradually reeling in the Marcos for the lead while the Jones Porsche 997 jumped the Osbourne/Mowle/Murrells Ginetta for third. A safety car spiced up the action on lap 177 which saw the lead gap dissolve to a matter of seconds. However, just as the crowd were awaiting a grandstand finish, the Barrett lost control of the Porsche at Clearways which effectively ended his challenge for victory.

In the end, the Fletcher/O'Neill Marcos comfortably drove to the chequered flag ahead of the Barrett/Shepherd Porsche and the Jones Eurotech Racing Porsche 997.

In the Production GTN race, the BMW M3 of Wayne Gibson and Kevin Clarke secured the top honours, crossing the finish line ahead of Mark Ticehurst/Owen Mildenhall and the Simon Phillips and Ben Gower Lotus Elise.

Britcar Into the Night Race Top 6

1. O'Neill/Fletcher, Marcos Mantis
2. Barrett/Shepherd, Porsche 997
3. Jones/Jones/Jones, Porsche 997
4. Mowle/Osbourne/Murrells Ginetta
5. Mardenborough/Heitkotti, Nissan GT4 
6. Bailey/Schulz, Ferrari 430