19 May 2018
Colin Noble and Tony Wells battled to victory in a tense third round of the LMP3 Cup Championship on the Brands Hatch GP circuit. Under glorious sunny skies, Noble grabbed the lead with a lightning getaway and neither he nor Tony Wells would surrender the lead for the remainder of the race.
Noble spent his lengthy opening stint trading fastest laps with Nielsen Racing/Red River Sport team-mate Johnny Mowlem, both jumping the pole-sitting Mechtech Motorsport Norma of Duncan Williams as the top four cars briefly ran four-wide at the rolling start.
Wells took over the lead car while Bonamy Grimes jumped into the second-placed Ligier, both resuming the fight at the front. Grimes showed his nose on numerous occasions, but Wells held on to ensure a first win of the season by just 0.472s.
“Johnny was very strong”, said Noble on the early battle for the lead. “He was quick around the back section of the track while I was struggling slightly and ran wide onto the grass at one stage. He closed the gap and put me under pressure a little bit, but I could sustain the advantage we had and put in some solid laps.”
Wells had defensive duties of his own, adding: “I came out in the lead and Bon was all over me almost immediately, so I thought ‘I have to get my head down’ and tried to get away but I couldn’t quite shake him for most of the lap. He was blisteringly fast, but I gapped him a bit at the end and relaxed on the last lap. It was entertaining!
Mowlem was full of praise for the performance of Grimes. “I had no doubts that, if Bon had been out there on his own, he’d have been going a good five or six tenths quicker than he was behind Tony,” he said. “But because we were scrapping, the Norma was catching and it’s no given that it wouldn’t have got through. Bon did a superb job.
“Having spent a lot of time racing overseas, I didn’t find it that hot out there. The car was quite fun to drive and felt the most comfortable that we’ve had it the whole time, so credit to the Nielsen Racing guys and I think that showed in my driving and how I was keeping the pace.”
Narrowly missing out on a first victory of the season for Red River Sport/Nielsen Racing, Grimes added: “It was great coming out and seeing Tony just in front of me – I knew I could try and hunt him down. I think Johnny was right and I had more pace, but it would have been a risk to overtake. It’s not the easiest circuit to pass on and I even got the hurry up saying the Norma would be with me soon. It would have been an even more exciting finish.”
From over 30 seconds adrift at one stage, the third-placed Norma closed its deficit to just five seconds in the hands of Smith. His charge ended abruptly with a stop/go penalty in the dying minutes, with Mectech having to settle for the final podium spot.
“It’s such a shame”, said Smith. “The car is great – Mectech and Norma have put together and great car and done a lot of hard work, so hopefully we can reward them tomorrow. It’s nice to have people like Tony and Colin in the championship from the Le Mans Cup and compare to them. It’s a quality grid and competition is fierce.”
The Speedworks Motorsport pairing of Jack Butel and Dominic Paul finished a close fourth. “We just couldn’t pull it together toda,” said Butel. It’s awesome [at Brands Hatch] going through the back section and it’s phenomenal how quick we can go through those corners. We’ll just have to see what we can do tomorrow.”