In the first two-hour endurance race of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, Gregor Fisken and Richard Westbrook claimed the top step of the Rockingham podium in the Trackspeed Porsche.
Starting from the second row of the grid, the tartan livered GT3R under the stewardship of Fisken, maintained the third spot on the opening lap, despite an early attack by the Zak Brown United Autosports McLaren. For Brown, the ambitious attempt at taking the lead around the outside of the Deane hairpin ultimately ended his race, as he made contact with the M-Sport Audi of Rembert Berg in the process, and pulled off the circuit a corner later. This brought out the first safety car of the day.
Once the proceedings got underway again, Jon Minshaw in the third Trackspeed Porsche wasted no time in passing the sister car of Ashburn and power into a comfortable lead. A handful of laps later, Fisken was also working his way past Ashburn to move into second and start the chase to his team-mate at the front. With Trackspeed holding positions one, two and three, events were to take a turn that would have ramifications at the end of the day.
A spin and subsequent retirement by Jay Palmer in the Vita4one Ferrari brought out waved yellow flags at the Gracelands corner, but despite this, Andrew Howard in the Beechdean Aston Martin passed Ashburn there. Attempting to follow Howard and also pass the Trackspeed Porsche was the Marco Attard Ecurie Ecosse BMW, but the Z4 made heavy contact with the 997, causing suspension damage to the Porsche that would eventually cause it to retire later in the race. For Attard and Bryant, the collision also carried a heavy penalty, as they were excluded from the results for avoidable contact.
When the pit-stop window opened, Minshaw and Fisken took an early opportunity to hand over to their co-drivers, Phil Keen and Westbrook respectively. Once the remaining field had made their mandatory stops, a second safety car was issued to retrieve the strewn GT4 car of Rick Parfitt Jnr, which was parked in the gravel following an issue.
On the restart, it became evident that Keen’s Trackspeed car was nursing a problem, which was revealed to be a throttle-body issue. This allowed Westbrook to sail into the lead once the green flag dropped again, and amass a lead of more than 20 seconds over the ensuing laps.
Westbrook’s pace was unrelenting, until the closing stages of the two-hour race, when the Corvette works driver managed his speed to safely bring the Porsche 997 GT3R to the line, with 16 seconds in his pocket.
“I’ve had a bit of a bad run in British GT.” Westbrook said post race. “Oulton was disastrous, so it’s just great to get a win, and when I look at the points table tomorrow I’ll be far happier.”
With Keen’s throttle issue, Warren Hughes made light-work of moving into second position in the M-Sport Audi R8, and was soon consolidating his advantage and podium ambitions. Behind him Jonny Adam in the Beechdean Aston Martin, and Matt Bell in the United Autosports Audi, had moved up to third and fourth respectively, separated by less than two-seconds. However, despite Adam joining Hughes and Berg on the podium at the end of the race, after taking the flag in third place, the Beechdean Vantage was issued a restrospective penalty of 60 seconds for the pass on Ashburn in the early stages. This handed the final piece of silverware to Bell and his co-driver Mark Patterson, who have rocketted up the standings as a result.
Although Jason Minshaw had to make an unscheduled stop on lap four that put the Fortec Mercedes at the back of the field, by the time his team-mate Benji Hetherington had brought the SLS to the chequered flag, they’d clawed their way back to fifth. As a result of Beechdean’s penalty, fifth became fourth, securing the team their best result of the season so far.
When Gary Eastwood handed the FF Corse Ferrari to co-driver Rob Barff, they were placed twenty-second. With the bit between his teeth, Barff put on a fightback of epic propotions to work his way up to sixth at the finish line, which would later become fifth. Leaving it until the last lap to poach sixth position was the Motorbase Porsche of Ahmed Al Harthy and Michael Caine. With Caine at the wheel, the reigning British GT Champion clung to the back of Jake Rattenbury’s MTech Ferrari, looking for a way past. On the final circuit his opportunity came, as he edged his 997 GT3 past the 458 at the Kirby corner.
Making impressive debuts to the 2013 British GT Championship were the Von Ryan Racing and Balfe Motorsports teams. Although Von Ryan’s Duncan Tappy handed the McLaren to his team-mate Greg Demoustier with a power steering issue, the pair handled the issue admirably to take ninth place as the final car on the lead lap. For Shaun Balfe and Tomy Erdos, the finish in tenth spot was a huge step for the team, who only came together for the first time at Rockingham.
With the retirement of the Ashburn and Tandy Porsche, United Autosports Bell and Patterson are now just a half a mark off the Trackspeed duo on 42.5 points. The victory for Fisken and Westbrook sees them move up the leaderboard to third on 37.5 points, 4.5 clear of Hetherington.
In GT4, Complete Racing’s Steve Chaplin and Tom Wilson secured their first class victory of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, and a first ever win for the Aston Martin Vantage GT4. Starting from the back of the grid, the pair meticulously worked their way up the order, and claimed their position at the front when the leading Ginetta of Rick Parfitt Jnr was forced into retirement. Adding to their championship points lead was the Century Motorsport Ginetta of Zoe Wenham and Declan Jones, who beat the third placed Redgate Lifetime Racing G50 by 15 seconds.
The podium finish for Wenham and Jones means they now have 77 points to their names and a lead of 39.5 over Chaplin and Wilson.