Dunlop BTCC stars at Henry Surtees Foundation karting challenge
The annual ‘Henry Surtees Foundation Brooklands Team Challenge’ took place at Mercedes-Benz World, Brooklands, earlier this week (1 July) where the Dunlop BTCC were among the stars of the show.
The team was keen to set the record straight this time around having taken pole position before missing out on a podium in 2013. Last year the Dunlop BTCC boys were denied a champagne-supping position by a late black flag for Rob Austin for a track limits infringement – surely lightening wouldn’t strike twice?
After a bruising BTCC encounter at Croft last weekend it was Daniel Welch who set the pace for the team during practice as Rob Collard, Rob Austin and Hunter Abbott took time to acclimatise to their new surroundings.
Qualifying was a ten-minute blast around the fantastic circuit in Daytona’s DMAX karts, with Collard having the honours for the BTCC. The eBay Motors driver ended up 13th after a solid effort although it was almost impossible to record a clear lap in the congested charity contest.
Collard stayed in the kart for the start of the race and produced an ‘elbows out’ BTCC masterclass as he muscled his way into the top five before handing over to Abbott.
“I really enjoyed it,” beamed the multiple BTCC race winner. “I’d forgotten just how entertaining karting is. There were a lot of top drivers there though so of course the competitive nature of the field came to the fore, but overall it was just great fun and an honour to be a part of.”
Abbott hadn’t been karting for more than a decade but few would have known as he scythed his way through the field after taking over from Collard. After Hunter’s sensational stint the Dunlop BTCC team were leading at what was then the midway stage of the two-hour race.
“I had a great time helping support a great cause,” said Hunter. “I hadn’t really driven a kart for 15 years so I was a bit worried about how I’d fair against the fresher competition – but after a couple of laps it all came flooding back and I had some great scraps! I think Daytona can be proud of the job they did – the karts were really well prepped and as evenly matched as you could possibly expect when running a fleet of 35 karts!
“It was nice to race against drivers you wouldn’t normally come across, from all different types of motorsport – F1, BTCC, GT, Sportscars, Rally, Karting, Single-Seaters, one-make etc and just have a bit of a laugh and a friendly scrap. Thank you so much for the invitation Dunlop BTCC, I’d love to do it again next year!”
The team fell to third when Welch had to stop for compulsory refueling but he was soon back on the pace, passing 2013 GP2 runner-up Sam Bird, as he took the squad back into second. He even had to time to enjoy a huge battle with fellow BTCC driver Marc Hynes, who was racing in his own Quentel Bifold team. Unfortunately the light-hearted scrap ended when both drivers were given a black flag for earlier incident, leaving the BTCC team back down in third.
Fans’ favourite Austin also faced the wrath of the race stewards soon after taking over the wheel following a minor misdemeanour on-track! After pitting to take a late penalty the Dunlop BTCC boys had fallen to seventh when the chequered flag fell.
“It was a great day – everyone had a lot of fun and it was all for a good cause,” said BTCC Media Manager Simon Melluish. “We’d like to thank Dunlop for the entry and our four drivers who turned up to entertained everyone. We’ll be back to try and do it all again next year!”
Those taking part on Tuesday included legendary actor Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, BBC One’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ professional Brendan Cole and star of chart-topping band Boyzone, Shane Lynch.
Competing from the world of motorsport were the likes of Sam Bird, Alexander Sims, Lucas di Grassi, Marc Hynes, Darren Turner, Tom Ingram, Oliver Rowland, Jake Dennis, Ben Barnicoat and Rick Parfitt Jnr to name but a few.
The Ginetta entry won the event ahead of Titan Motorsport. Other entries included Mercedes AMG F1, Kartforce, TW Steel, Racing Steps Foundation, Motorsport Magazine, EFG, Toshiba, Land Securities, Blick Rothenberg, Carlin Motorsport, Ginetta, Quantel Bifold Racing, Goodwood, Vauxhall, KSS Air Ambulance and the Metropolitan Police!
During the lunch break John Surtees OBE was reunited with his 1964 F1 World Championship winning Ferrari 158, which led an exciting on-track display of iconic Team Surtees’ cars driven by Max Chilton, the latest and youngest British racing driver in F1, driving for Marussia; Sam Bird and Alexander Sims.
The two-hour endurance kart race was followed by a Champagne reception hosted by Steve Rider and Henry Hope-Frost.