Let us look back to that exciting climax to the 2012 Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Donington Park. The stage was set for a thrilling two-hour finale with several drivers in with a shot of taking the fiercely contested title: David Ashburn [Trackspeed Porsche], Alasdair McCaig [Barwell BMW] (both of whom had different co-drivers through the season so were challenging alone), Michael Caine/Daniel Perfetti [Motorbase Porsche], Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin [Mtech Ferrari] and Jann Mardenborough/Alex Buncombe [RJN Nissan GTR]. As the Championship headed into it’s final ‘winner takes all’ round of the season, there was a mere 9.5 points between the main protagonists above.
Not only did this reflect the competitive renaissance the British GT series has seen in recent years, it also heralded the SRO’s relentless strides it has taken in balancing the performance of the various marques.
With the green flag barely returned to it’s holster, the drama started, with a nervous Duncan Cameron, who was a pre-race favourite, haemorrhaging positions through the opening corner. As the time counted down, the tension ramped up, with each of the potential champions finding themselves in a title winning position over the course of the race. But as the two-hour spectacular headed into it’s second half, several hopes were dashed.
Series debutantes Buncombe and Mardenborough were taken out of the equation with suspension failure. 2010 British GT Champion, David Ashburn had fallen by the wayside, after an off-track excursion. So now it was a three horse race. In the box seat was Carrera Cup regular Caine in the Motorbase Porsche, running second in the (points scoring) field, with the BMW Z4 of Olivier Bryant/McCaig in seventh place and making the most of a safety car that had bunched the field together, to catch up to the Mtech car. If Griffin and Cameron were to clinch the title, they had to hold on to their fifth place to usurp Caine and Perfetti.
Then with 19 minutes remaining on the clock, the Championship fight took a dramatic turn. As Griffin’s Ferrari headed to the apex of the final hairpin, Bryant’s Barwell BMW made contact with the car’s rear quarter as he out-braked the Preci-Spark Mercedes SLS of the Jones brothers. “The safety car really helped us and put us right back in the thick of it.” Bryant explained on the Barwell Motorsport website post race. “I was pushing as hard as possible and I soon caught up with the Mtech Ferrari. Unfortunately when we both passed the Jones’ Mercedes I got caught out by where Matt braked and ran into the back of him.”
The resulting spin for Griffin sent him plummeting down the order, which put Bryant’s team-mate, McCaig as the driver set to take the 2012 title. A flurry of protests ensued, and several minutes later, the BMW was given a one-minute stop-go penalty (to ensure when they rejoined, they were behind Griffin again). This effectively handed the 2012 Avon Tyres British GT Championship to Caine and Perfetti (who incidentally didn’t win a single race in the season), because the Griffin/Cameron Ferrari was now out of touch – as was the Bryant/McCaig marque.
On the face of things, the penalty issued to the BMW, which ended the hopes of an inaugural British GT title for McCaig may seem fair, but was the judgement consistent with similar verdicts in the 2012 season? Should the Barwell BMW have been allowed to continue in the race without penalty?
Over the course of the 2012 Avon Tyres British GT season, there were several similar ‘mishaps’ under racing circumstances, that passed without penalty.
Oulton Park: During the opening two-rounds of the British GT season at Oulton Park, Griffin and Cameron found themselves embroiled in on track skirmishes that effectively ended the race of fellow competitors. The first involved Griffin’s MTECH Ferrari and the Jones brothers’ SLS Mercedes. Approaching Turn One, Old Hall, Griffin made a move to the inside line, hugging the kerb to effect a pass on the Preci-Spark machine. With Jones trying to squeeze the 458 Scuderia, the pair made contact, which sent the Mercedes off the circuit and tumbling down the order.
In the second race of the weekend, it was Cameron’s turn. Making a late lunge into the opening corner, the MTECH Ferrari made contact with Hector Lester’s car, sending the Rosso Verdi Scuderia across the grass on the outside of the turn and into the tyre barriers, forcing the Ulsterman into an early retirement.
Neither of the incidents at Oulton Park were penalised, and if they were, the drop in points could have seen Cameron and Griffin out of the title hunt by the time the final fateful round came about.
Brands Hatch: During the two-hour race at Brands Hatch, there were a couple of incidents, with one of them earning a penalty. There was a collision between Cameron and Steve Tandy in the Trackspeed Porsche which was allowed to pass without any sanctions. However, when David Jones made contact with Perfetti’s Porsche at Druids corner early in the race, the Mercedes was given a drive-through penalty.
Donington: Whilst the Bryant and Griffin incident was the biggest talking point of the British GT Championship finale, earlier in the race, Ian Stinton collided with Jon Minshaw’s Trackspeed Porsche. The resulting damage was enough to retire Minshaw from the race, but Stinton was able to continue, unhindered
So the questions remain. Would Griffin and Cameron have been in the Championship mix if the same penalty applied to the Barwell BMW had been made earlier in the season to the MTECH Ferrari? Should the Bryant incident have been over-looked? Was McCaig robbed of Championship glory?