Over the recent years, Barwell Motorsport has become a name synonymous with British GT racing. Winning the Team Championship in 2007 and the British GT driver’s title in 2006, added weight to their pedigree that has seen them collect honors in Touring cars, Formula BMW and the FIA GT series. The Surrey-based team returns once again to the UK’s leading sportscar series in 2013, with their sights firmly set on more success. With such credentials to their name, it was only fitting that Racing.GT should grab Barwell Motorsports’ Managing Director and former Touring Car racer, Mark Lemmer, for an exclusive pre-season interview.
In 2013, Barwell Motorsport will be fielding three cars in the British GT Championship, with some old and new faces at the wheel. Whilst they’ve lost the impressive Alaisdair McCaig, who raced valiantly for them last season, to driver grading, Barwell have put together an impressive line up for the season ahead.
“There’s been a slight change in the way the Championship is looking at the pairings now, and they want to get away from the silver-silver pairings.” Lemmer explains. “So unfortunately for us, this meant Alaisdair couldn’t continue with Oli Bryant. But with Marco Attard (his replacement), it’s a guy I’ve known for years, so we’re delighted to get him on board. He’s a good experienced bronze level sportscar racer.
“Obviously he’s in at the deep end with a top team and a top team-mate, but he’s got the absolute right attitude, and I’m really confident that we’re going to get him up to speed with a really good test program, and he’s going to be a strong bronze. So that gives us a really strong pairing with a new car, and we’ve got a great engineer Adam Hardy on that car.”
Another new addition for 2013 is the pairing of the unrelated, Piers and Ron Johnson, although the former shares some history with Lemmer. “We’re delighted to have Ron and Piers Johnson on board.” The Barwell team boss shares. “I’ve know Piers for years, we were Castrol Honda Scholarship drivers way back in the day, and he’s driven with me in the old DBRS9 and the GT1 DBR9.
“Him and Ron are really easy guys to get on with and they fit in brilliantly, and I know that Piers on his day can do a really good job. Ron’s less experienced at this level obviously, but when we tested before Christmas in the Z4, he immediately took massive steps forward. He had a car that was slightly difficult to drive, he’s responded to how the Z4 reacts and he was immediately much closer to the pace. So I think they are both going to take a step forward this year.”
Making it a full stable for the Barwell team this season is the addition of two brand new names to the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, and both of them enter this year as ‘unknown quantities’.
“In the Aston, we’ve got the dark horse pairing. No one knows much about Mark Poole and Richard Abra, but I do.” The former TVR Tuscan racer enthuses. “Mark is really focused; he’s got a lot of ability for a bronze. He’s done a lot of testing and each time he gets in the car, he gets closer and closer. At the moment he’s really impressed me, and I think that by the end of the year, he could turn out to be one of the star bronze drivers.
“Obviously these guys have got a lot to learn at this level, so there’ll be mistakes along the way, but Richard is quick. No one knows who he is yet, but they will do by the end of the year. He’s got loads to learn, he’s moved up through the ranks very quickly, but he’s got the raw speed and talent, no doubt about that. He’s now getting used to fitting in with a professional team, working with the team to adapt to the various conditions of the circuits, so it’s a steep learning curve, but they’ve got the ingredients to surprise.”
This year, Barwell Motorsports return with the BMW Z4 that came so close to securing the drivers championship title, a second 2013 Z4 and the stalwart Aston Martin Vantage. “We’ve got the new Z4 for Ecurie Ecosse, which has been provided by John Clark Motor Group.” Lemmer points out. “John Clark is a massive supporter of Ecurie Ecosse, so that’s fantastic that he’s on board. We built that car; BMW Motorsport wanted to supply it to us in kit form, so we built the car from scratch – it’s come straight out of the box and is bang on the pace, so that’s great.
“The Aston, we’ve obviously got a long standing relationship as a proper working partner team with Aston Martin Racing. We work very closely with their engineers. We’ve already got a handle on what is clearly a very good all round GT3 car. We did a warm up event with that car last year, and we’re getting to know the car very well.
“Then there’s the ex Ecurie Ecosse Z4, which is now with the Johnsons. A famous chassis, Spa 24 Hours pole setting car, multiple Blancpain winning chassis, and British GT winning chassis. It had a fantastic run, no DNFs, always on the pace last year in Blancpain and British GTs and that’s been upgraded, fully rebuilt over the winter, running to 2013 spec. That’s just a great car, we love that car. It’s got all the new aero, new engine, new RPM, new exhaust, it’s quite an extensive upgrade package.”
With new drivers and cars joining the team, pre-season testing is crucial for the Barwell team to give them that extra momentum when the British GT Championship starts this Easter weekend, at Oulton Park. “It’s very important.” He promptly replies. “Even with European testing you can be hindered by the weather, but we’ve been fortunate to have two really good days here at Oulton Park and we had two really strong days at Snetterton.”
With such a prestigious reputation in sportscar racing, hopes are high for the British GT season ahead. “We’ve always been competitive, it’s in the nature and blood of our team.” The son of Richard Lemmer, Barwell’s founder shares with Racing.GT. “Even if we have bad BOP, or whatever is thrown at us, we’ll find somehow that we’re fighting our way to the front. It depends on the driver pairings as well. There have been a few new ones that have come out, that on the face of it, look a little bit suspect.
“I think what will be easier this year is that the Porsche should be more race-able. They’ve gone high on aero this year, and improved their mid-corner speed, but in the same vein, they should be much slower down the straights. That was the thing that was difficult last year. If you were stuck behind a Porsche, you couldn’t get near it in the braking areas and if you had one on your tail, it was very difficult to defend from. They should be much more in the mix with the level of grip, aero and drag as the rest of the cars.”
One hurdle that the team has had to straddle is the move from Dunlop Tyres to Avon for the Abra and Poole Aston Martin Vantage, with each type of rubber having their own specific characteristics. “They are both very intelligent drivers and after four days of driving, we’ve educated them that it’s a very different proposition, and they understand that and they are getting their heads around that.” Lemmer responds.
Despite the team fielding three cars in 2013, Lemmer is confident that the Barwell team is big enough to handle the challenge that comes from running a trio of vehicles. “It’s not stretching resources now.” He asserts. “It’s been a very tough winter of planning. We’ve run three cars in the past, we know it’s all about structure and personnel. We’re structured really well and we have got some brilliant people on board, and I’m really pleased. Each crew is running individually under their engineer, it’s making my job relatively easy at the moment, and so I think we’re structured correctly and we’ll be able to handle it.”
You can discover how the Barwell Motorsport Team fair, when the 2013 Avon Tyres British GT Championship kicks off with a pair of one-hour races at Oulton Park this Easter bank holiday weekend.