Donovan Takes Win as Ahlers and Bellinger Claim Title

Mike Donovan triumphed in the final FIA Masters Historic Sports Car Championship race of the season at Jarama on Sunday.
Donovan’s Lola T70 Mk3B pipped pole-sitter Max Smith-Hilliard (Chevron B19) at the start and then fended off a challenge from Jason Wright’s similar Lola T70 Mk3B to take the win, as  Smith-Hilliard (Chevron B19) finished third after coming back from a drive-through penalty that had dropped him back to fourth behind Paul Gibson’s T70 Mk3B.
Meanwhile, Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger sealed the title by gaining maximum points despite finishing second in the Hulme class, as class winner Pedro Macedo Silva (Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder) was ineligible to score. The Cooper Monaco King Cobra pair, which had come to Jarama with a slim one-point lead over Graham Wilson/Nigel Greensall, edged out the Chevron B8 duo, even though Wilson and Greensall took fifth overall and won their Bonnier class.
Donovan laid the foundation for his victory at the start, when he and Wright used their horsepower to charge past pole-sitter Smith-Hilliard. The Chevron was past Wright by lap two but then took another eight laps to reel in Donovan. There was contact when on lap 10 Smith-Hilliard found a way past at turn four, but the move was done under yellows. Smith-Hilliard would be punished with a drive-though penalty right after the pit stops.
For Donovan, it didn’t matter as he took back the lead on lap 13 and opened up a nine-second gap over Smith-Hilliard before coming in for his compulsory mid-race pit stop. After the stops, Jason Wright was on a charge, though, and narrowed Donovan’s lead down to 3.5 seconds. However, the American proved unable to maintain his pace, which helped Donovan extend his lead to ten seconds at the finish. After his drive-through, Smith-Hilliard finished third, a further 35-seconds adrift, having grabbed the place from Paul Gibson’s hands on lap 29.
“I had a good start,” said Donovan, “and then led until there was oil in turn four. There were yellows, so I slowed, and then Max smacked into the side of me! After the stops, Jason got down to about four seconds, but then I pulled it back to ten. On tracks like these, it’s always good to keep a buffer.”
“To tell you the truth, I was tired,” Wright admitted when asked why he dropped back after his initial attack on Donovan’s lead. “I started making mistakes, so I said to myself: wake up, calm down, there’s lots of oil out there, be careful. And I had under-geared the car. On the straight, I was hitting the rev limiter quite early on. I could catch him around the back, but there was no way I would ever have been able to pass him on the straight.”
“They were just too fast on the straights,” said Smith-Hilliard about the Lolas flying past him at the start. “I got back a few though. And that drive-through? I guess I needed another rest!”
In fifth, Graham Wilson/Nigel Greensall won the Bonnier class, after another typical charging drive from Greensall, who hauled the Chevron B8 up from eighth overall after he took over from Wilson. He was followed across the line by Pedro Macedo Silva, who became the Hulme class winner. With the Portuguese driver ineligible for points, the title went to Ahlers and Bellinger. The pair finished second in class, having received a little help from their class rivals Steve Farthing and Chris Jolly when Farthing spun their Cooper Monaco on lap nine.
“I’m delighted,” said Ahlers. “This is my eighth title, and from all my championships this was unquestionably the most difficult. And all tribute to Billy: he’s a good driver and he’s built a beautiful car.”
In seventh overall, Alec Hammond (Chevron B8) finish second in the Bonnier class after the Mark Owen/Andrew Owen B8 was forced into the pits on lap 27, its front left tyre flattened. The Owens finished last of the runners, behind Ahlers/Bellinger and Farthing/Jolly. The single Siffert class runner, John Sheldon’s Chevron B16, pulled off between turns five and six with just five more minutes on the clock.

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