Ferrari detail. Ferrari Owners' Club
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Pirelli. Laurent-Perrier. MJC.

PIRELLI MARANELLO FERRARI CHALLENGE
RACE REPORT: ROUND 9 : DONINGTON PARK - 26/27 JULY 2003

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This was one of the higher profile meetings for the PMFC, sharing the bill with the DTM circus. The only downside was a lot of German bully-boys around the paddock but it certainly brought in the cars and put on a good show for the sponsors.

The Ferrari entry was obviously buoyed by this high profile stuff and 27 cars turned up, including various part-timers like Jim McWhirter, David Ward, Alan Newton and, for the first time in many a year, Tony Winship in his beautifully prepared 308.

It was a long weekend, with free practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday afternoon and then the race being the last one on Sunday afternoon. But there was lots to see and do in between and the PMFC hospitality unit set up camp in the middle of the paddock rather than on the in-field as normal.

Lewis Carter (360/Ch), who else, made short shrift of pole position, which he took by nearly one and a half seconds from Peter Sowerby (360/Ch). Oliver Morley, Marco Attard, Chris Niarchos and Gary Culver (all in 360/Chs) followed in very close order behind. If you were to view the race as being for second place behind Carter then it all made a pretty exciting prospect.

Ian Hetherington's 550 made a welcome reappearance but was hampered by binding front brakes and languished way down in 13th place.

The "C" class (for 355/Chs) was equally tightly packed on the grid. Chris Catt was quickest ahead of Henry Lawson, Les Charneca and Graham Reeder. The latter, in the lead of the "C" class championship, would clearly have some work to do.

Sunday race day, whilst pleasantly warm, had some dark clouds rolling about and the teams all had their wet tyres ready as the Ferraris gathered in the assembly area. In the event there was not the slightest sign of any rain, much to the relief of some of the busier teams with a number of cars to look after. One bad omen was the sight of Henry Lawson's 355 jacked up, gearbox gremlins being suspected.

The race was longer than usual, being 15 laps over the long circuit and tyres and brakes were going to get a good pounding. As soon as the red lights went off Sowerby got the perfect start and, taking a tight line into Redgate, managed to keep Carter behind. Attard, Culver and Morley followed in a tight bunch. Down the back of the circuit Hetherington's 550, trying to find a way through the 355s, went on to the grass and spun but continued at the back of the field.

Past the pits for the first time Sowerby still led, with Carter right behind clearly looking for a way past. There was already a small gap back to Culver and the squabbling Attard/Morley duo. The latter two gave each other no room in the Melbourne loop and banged together, with Attard retiring with a broken radiator, spilling coolant on to his front tyre. Morley continued unabated and on the third lap was able to squeeze by Culver and take third place. Niarchos was now right behind in fifth but then came an incredibly long gap back to the 360s of Burton, McWhirter, Cale and Coleman.

In the "C" class Catt had established himself in a handy lead ahead of Ted Reddick but Graham Reeder was closing rapidly and, as feared, Lawson soon pulled off with terminal gearbox failure.

Sowerby clung on to his lead for the first four laps but inevitably Carter found a way past and quickly pulled away into the lead. Behind Morley, Culver and Niarchos ran closely together until, on the fifth lap, Morley's gearbox electronics suddenly began to play up and he dropped to the back of this bunch. Niarchos now had Culver in his sights and on lap ten he made an audacious out-braking manoevre and moved into third place and immediately gave chase after the 360 of Sowerby just a few seconds ahead of him.

The "C" class scrap was tremendous. Reeder went past Reddick on the fifth lap and began to take a second per lap out of Catt's lead. The latter's car was becoming more and more wayward as the tyres went off and the brakes became unpredictable. After several attempts Reeder finally went ahead with just two laps to go, but by that time his own 355 was losing coolant and was far from secure at the head of the class. Reddick and Charneca followed in third and fourth in the "C" class.

Lewis soon eased off at the front and cruised to yet another untroubled win. Although Sowerby had Niarchos close behind he had the situation under control and finished second, some nine seconds behind the winner. Culver finished fourth but on the very last lap Morley retired with smoke now coming from the car, allowing Phil Burton into fifth overall, with McWhirter, Coleman and Cale finishing in places 6, 7 and 8.

Graham Reeder hung on to his "C" class lead by less than two seconds but Catt's car was sounding as rough as nails as the two of them shot across the finish line.

The only "O" class runner, Andy Duncan in his 348, finished the race and picked up the points to further consolidate his lead in the "O" class championship. Lewis Carter seems unassailable in the "S" class but behind him Sowerby, Niarchos and Attard are just a few points apart. Graham Reeder also looks comfortable at the top of the "C" class but Catt and Reddick are quite capable of giving him a hard time before the season is over.

Not one of the most exciting races we have ever seen but some excellent drives from Sowerby, Niarchos, Reeder and Catt kept everyone well entertained. And Lewis? Well, as someone remarked, the others might as well organise their own race series.

 

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