MURRAY SHEPHERD and KARL RUIJSENAARS – Croft Circuit – Photo: Mick Palmer

By Mick Palmer

The 750 Motor Club kicked off its 2021 season at its home circuit of Donington Park on Easter Monday. An eight race card for the one day meeting, in freezing temperatures, provided some close and exciting competition as the 5Club MX5 and Locost championships proved to be the most exciting championships on the bill. A pair of endurance races and an appearance for Bikesports prototypes delivered something to suit all tastes.

Ben Short won the opening 5 Club MX5 Cup race. The Warminster racer headed former BTCC racer Michael Epps by 1.141seconds after an eight lap battle between the pair for the honours. Epps got away in the lead and the pair battled tooth and nail for the entire length of the race. The duo swapped places on consecutive laps at McLean’s after rubbing against one another across the line at the end of lap 4. Short cemented the lead on lap five but Epps got the gap down to 0.17s for a couple of laps to keep Short under pressure before dropping back on the final lap.

Mike Comber took victory in the second race when Michael Epps was disqualified after crossing the line in first thanks to a post race scrutineering failure. Comber took the lead from the second row, outdragging the huge field down to Redgate with Iain Cameron following. Epps and Ben Short- who’d battled for the race one win – fought through to be second and third by the end of the first lap. Comber built a lead of a couple of seconds over Epps -who had a similar distance over Short who was edging away from the pack. Epps made up the deficit over the next lap and moved to the inside at McLean’s on lap three where he slotted into the lead, crossing the line first on track with Comber and Short behind. Ben Hancy inherited the final podium place.

Joe Stables won the RLM Racing Bikesports curtain raiser by 0.992 seconds from Scott Mittell. The Radical PR6 driver was beaten away by polesitter Mittell (Mittell MC41R) from the rolling start but Stables clung to his left hand side through Redgate and down Craners before backing out and allowing Mittell to lead thorough The Old Hairpin. Stables kept the pressure on the leader before a second lap move at the Melbourne Hairpin to take the position. Stables answered every push from Mittell to ensure he took the first chequered flag of the season. Andrew Kimpton (Radical PR6) took third – 40 seconds down – after a race long battle between himself, Leon Morrell (Radical SR3) and Alastair Smart (Radical PR6.) Kimpton took fourth on lap six to get onto the tail of Morrell, who he managed to take around the outside at The Esses.

Stables, Mittell and Morrell took off in the first three places again in race two. Richard Wise (Mittell MC41R) locked onto the back of Morrell and took third at the Melbourne Hairpin on lap four, but by this point Stables and Mittell – as in race one – were 15 seconds up the road. One lap later, into the Esses, the diffuser flew off Stables’ Radical and Mittell got past at Melbourne. Mittell came back and the pair crossed the line dead together with the gap registered at 0.000. Despite the lack of rear downforce Stables took the lead and held the position. Even with the underfloor being missing he still posted the fastest lap up to that point. After a brief safety car period for a car stuck at Goddards the flag flew confirming Stables, Mittell and Wise as the top three.

Andrew Tait won the Locost curtain raiser after on-track leader Simon Walker-Hansell was penalised with a five second penalty. Walker-Hansell got the jump when the lights went out on the run to Redgate with reigning champion Murray Shepherd having a look down the inside. Walker-Hansell held station for most of the first lap but Shepherd had a run out of Coppice and went side-by-side with Walker-Hansell through The Esses before diving up the inside at Melbourne to take the lead. Walker-Hansell locked up into the hairpin and dropped to eighth, spinning Gregory Smith in the process. Martin West took the lead by passing Shepherd at Redgate but they were faced with a Safety Car due to an incident at Coppice. At the restart Geoff Peek and Shepherd fought over second, swapping places twice to maintain the order. Shepherd took the lead by passing West at Mclean’s. The leading group fell into a typical Locost slipstream battle with Walker-Hansell climbing to third and West taking the lead at the Esses before Walker-Hansell again grabbed second at Melbourne, before taking the lead across the line. Shepherd moved to second at Redgate passing West, before Peek moved through to take both. The chasing pack battled through Starkey’s and Peek spun into the field exiting McLean’s allowing Andrew Tait to pick his way into second, later becoming first. Shepherd was finally classified second with West third.

Walker-Hansell made amends in the second race from the front row, and it was the race of the day. The Middlesbrough racer took the lead at the start while West took second ahead of Shepherd and Tait through McLean’s. Walker-Hansell was not going to have it all his way though. West slipstreamed into the lead before braking for The Esses, while Shepherd dove into second at the Melbourne hairpin. Walker-Hansell came back into second across the start/finish line with Shepherd losing the place at Redgate. On lap three Walker-Hansell took West at Redgate after pulling out at the last moment. It was status quo next time around for the lead while Tait despatched Shepherd for third. One lap later West pulled a carbon copy move for the lead – getting ahead before The Esses braking zone – but a mistake exiting dropped him down the order to fifth. It kicked off on lap six when Tait made a squirrelly move for the lead at Redgate, which was short lived. Walker-Hansell kept on the line and re-took the lead at Hollywood, but the battle was still on. Tait slipstreamed into the lead after Starkey’s Bridge and held the position through McLean’s and Coppice. He managed to hold off Walker-Hansell through The Esses but the ECO-Trailer boss had a better run and the lead swapped for the fourth time on the lap at Melbourne. The next two laps saw Tait held in second, but on the final lap he had one more try. Again, out of Starkey’s Bridge he passed for the lead, but Walker-Hansell bombed him at the final traverse of The Esses to cement the win.

Matt Holben won the first of two endurance races, taking the flag in the combined CALM ALL Porsche Trophy/Bernie’s V8s encounter in his TVR Tuscan. Jonathan Evans finished second in his Porsche Cayman S to take the win in the Porsche side of the field. Evans lead for the first nine laps of the 40 minute race until he took his mandatory 90 second pitstop. Holben, who had been running second, took the lead after his stop to the final conclusion with a 12.888 second gap. Adam Southgate in a Boxster 986s finished third. Robert Baker and Carl Swift took victory in the Tegiwa Club Enduro two hour race. The Seat Leon Eurocup duo finished 3.835s ahead of the Ashley Hicklin and Joe Lock BMW E46 M3 GTR. Adam Howard and Chris Boardman scored a third in their BMW E36 M3. William Stacey took class B in a Lotus Elise and Class C went to Jeremy Crook and Alec Livesley in a Type R Honda Civic.

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