Winter WEC 2022

The months preceding the Christmas break saw three new WEC races in the UK, taking place at North Staffs, Rockingham and Stanborough.

North Staffs once again held the double twelve hour race, aggregated over six hours each on the Saturday and Sunday. Previously a GT3 fixture, this years event was open to WEC cars and saw a healthy ten car field, notable newcomers being Worthing and an as yet named team featuring Lewis Gough and Ashley Evans of Wolverhampton SCC, joined by Wayne Lander of Carfunmostly. Running an in-house developed chassis for the Slotit Lola Aston Martin, the trio would establish themselves as the quickest car in the field and take a commanding lead by the end of the first day. Hot on their heels was the Gas Monkeys Corvette, recovering from an 80 lap deficit after transmission problems in the first hour of the race.

The twelve hours would come to be remembered for a number of technical maladies across the field. Sports Carazing had entered their new Toyota TS050, but missed the start and suffered numerous problems during day one. Rockingham and Exiles were also beset by technical difficulties, despite the latter being one of the quickest cars and early challengers for the lead. It would be Worthing and Garage 27 that’d dodge most of the problems, both running toward the front of the field for most of Saturday.

Sunday would not see the end to the misfortunes however, as the leading Lola of Gough, Evans and Lander suffered electrical problems at around three quarters distance and was eventually forced to retire. Along with Rockingham’s spent efforts to get their car running properly, this left the Carazing Toyota the only LMP1 car remaining, nevertheless out of contention for any overall honours. Garage 27 also suffered the misfortune of retirement after a near flawless first day, leaving Gas Monkeys in first place, Worthing climbing to second, and home team North Staffs grabbing the final podium position.

Rockingham  was next on the calendar, with a double-header named Digipaoolza, featuring a pair of GT3 Euroseries races on the Saturday and six hour WEC race on the Sunday. Garage 27 would carry their run of good form to their home race, achieving a third place aggregate for the GT3 event. Gas Monkey duo of Graham Eldridge and son Preston would take second place racing under the South Coast Monkey banner, while a somewhat surprising victory for the BMW Z4 of home team Rockingham courtesy of Matthew Tucker and Keith Fishenden, would take the honours. Their BMW did not qualify particularly well but had impressive pace during the races, presenting the rest of the field with two uncatchable victories.

For WEC on Sunday Wayne Lander had returned with the Lola Aston Martin that had raced at North Staffs, alongside rookie team mate Alex Thurston. Once again it was between this car and the South Coast Monkeys Ferrari for the front row, both separated by hundredths of a second from Exile’s Ford GT and Sports Carazing’s Toyota. After the green flag Lander’s Lola assumed a lead that looked like it would never be challenged. Eldridge’s Ferrari suffered some early problems and dropped down the field, and a similar batch of issues would hinder the Exile’s Ford. The door was open for the Carazing Toyota to assume a podium position, and at two thirds distance the gap to Lander and Thurston was 40 laps.

As at North Staffs, electrical problems set in for the Lola. A lighting kit failure followed by a botched pit stop erased the margin, and saw the Toyota in the hands of Martin Thorpe assume the lead. By the time Thurston was back on track, it was now Sports Carazing leading by a margin of nine laps. With one hour to go, the midlanders were able to keep their lead with an eventual gap of seven laps at the chequered flag. Though not the quickest on track, it was a flawless run for Sports Carazing, who’s performance could hardly be more opposing of the issues suffered at the previous event.

Stanborough club, near Watford, would host a four hour WEC event toward the end of November. Lander and crew were not in attendance for this race, and as a track beneficial to those with local knowledge, the grid was shaping up a little differently. Dominated by London based drivers, The hosts Stanborough together with the South Coast Monkeys, now running an Oreca LMP1, and Chimp Militia established themselves at the front of the order. As strong as they were, the local teams were bested by the Lola of Exiles courtesy of the pace and experience of John Underwood, taking the pole. Travelling teams would struggle, Rockingham, Worthing and Garage 27 were toward the tail end, Carazing drivers Gary Skipp and Alex Jones were visiting the track for the first time.

Come the race, the Eldridge duo once again displayed their astonishing pace and were almost untouchable for the rest of the field. Stablemates Chimp Militia would follow in their wheel tracks making it a Gas Monkey 1-2, with Exiles rounding off the podium after some lap counting problems. Other LMP cars seemed to struggle, with a third race of miserable issues for Rockingham running them out of contention. Hosts Stanborough faired no better, leaving the Carazing Toyota to climb up to fourth with an off-pace but issue free run. It would seem that the teething problems with the new car were behind them at this stage, helped by a strong drive from Nick Wade.

All three clubs will co-host the UK National Digital Championship in 2023, with events for cars built to DiSCA technical specifications.

Photo by Adam Le Maistre