Team Purple Helmets win at Estoril!
Jack Ashton and Mark Calver took a hard-fought victory for Team Purple Helmets in the Six Hours of Estoril, the second round of the 2023 Simply Race Endurance Series.
Ashton’s searing pace, allied to good use of the medium-compound tyre on his Mercedes GT3, allowed him to build a strong lead in the early stages. But a couple of spins for Calver, who made an otherwise impressive SRES debut given his lack of rFactor 2 experience, allowed the Brabham Esports Merc of Callum Cripps and Christian Kelly to come back into contention.
The most dramatic moment came in the third hour, when Cripps and Ashton were running nose-to-tail at a time when they were on different strategies. A virtual safety car was deployed for an unrelated technical issue, and differing interpretations on when to slow down led to a dispute on who should be leading.
A brief battle on track for the lead afterwards was ended when Ashton spun at Turn 6, but impressive stints by both Purple Helmets drivers in the latter stages of the race enabled them to claim the win. Although the gap at the end was almost 30 seconds, this flattered Purple Helmets slightly as Cripps eased off in the Brabham towards the end: as it turned out, the 20-second advantage that Ashton built in the first hour proved decisive.
Third place went to the Boo Barracuda Corvette of Martin Buchan and Stuart French, following up their win from Daytona in March with another solid performance. But the hero of the race was Nathan Burton, who drove the entire six-hour race solo for Ooh Barracuda, and brought his Corvette home fourth without any major dramas.
Avanti Racing’s Aston Martin, driven by Will Richardson and Max Wiczling, finished fifth, aided partly by a straight-line speed advantage that made them especially difficult to overtake. Richardson’s pace was especially impressive in qualifying, when he put the Aston on the front row. Sixth was the oNID Go For The Gap Racing entry of Aidan Carter and Dan Hyde, Carter surging through from eighth late on.
Two of the leading entries from Daytona had difficult days at Estoril, the NAPA Racing UK McLaren of Adam Christopher and Jon Dean-Smith finishing seventh, ahead of the oNID CamSport Corvette of Ben Brown and Chris Wilson. The number 63 McLaren of Ben Benneyworth and Adam Lock won the intra-team Quatermass Motorsport battle in ninth, ahead of the number 35 entry of Aaron Daly and Max Spooner.
And last, but by no means least, was the GDP Racing McLaren in 11th. While eight laps down, Darryl Pottinger and Ben Scott are both SRES newcomers and their performance was more than creditable against a strong and highly experienced field. The next round of the 2023 Simply Race Endurance Series is the Eight Hours of Bahrain, on Sunday 16th July. Entries are still available, so contact the Simply Race team now to book your spot on the grid! By Dan McCalla