Beechdean AMR GT3 team owner and driver Andrew Howard writes for Racing.GT about his eventful race at Rockingham in the British GT Championship.
It only takes one mistake!
It is amazing how 48 hours of near perfect racing can be turned on its head in a few seconds, one corner on one lap, a lack of concentration and it’s all gone.
Racing for Beechdean AMR in the Aston GT3 at Rockingham at the weekend was certainly living the dream. We came to Rockingham after a great result at Monza in the Blancpain Endurance championship. 62 cars started at the historic circuit, we were in class 2 (the pro am class) and started 8th after a stunning qualifying lap by Jonny Adam. We eventually finished 4th in class so our tails were up and we were ready for the Rock.
It became apparent in the free practices that we had problems with setup on the car and the tyres were going to be a major factor. After some radical changes we joined the other 32 cars for qualifying. The car felt a lot better, Jonny got two runs with the new tyres but could still only manage 10th. It shows what a strong grid British GT is but also shows how cars vary on different circuits.
Race day started with glorious blue skies and lots of people coming to watch one of the premier GT championships in Europe. Morning warm up is about checking everything is okay. I had to bed some brakes (get them ready for the race so they are not new out of the box) and check some tyres ( we had an imbalance the day before). All done the car is prepped for the race and we go off to meet guests and do the fans card signing session (good fun).
The start at Rockingham is always a little fraught as you have lots of cars going flat out around a massive curve, and then a compression into Turn 1. It doesn’t matter how far the field stretches out the compression will always catch people out.
My start was text book, by the end of lap 2, I was down to 14th. Whilst not quite what the team ordered, I was in one piece and starting to protect my tyres. The next 50 minutes was the hardest and most enjoyable racing I have done in quite a few years. Moving from 14th to 5th was a combination of attrition and overtaking, great fun with a car that was amazing on the brakes and quick on the infield (purple sector for a while).
Jonny then did a brilliant job with a car and driver that were performing above their grid slot form book. The last 20 minutes were tense but chequered flag, 3rd position and wow what a race. Champagne, handshakes, make up with previous rivals, photos and then back to the team for a massive WELL DONE EVERYBODY and then … the dreaded “Bernard wants to see you” … Silence.
I was shown a clip of film where it clearly shows me overtaking under a yellow flag, fair cop, 60 second penalty down to 7th position. Gutted.
I could say going into turn 5 in 3rd gear flat out and overtaking someone, on the inside, who you had tried for the last 4 corners to get past does, not help to your powers of observation. I could say that the car causing the incident, had gone off 2 laps earlier, was parked and without overtakes, we were all still going around the corner at race speed. I could say that a drive through penalty would only have cost us 30 seconds and we would have been 4th or 5th.
You can say a lot of things but at the end of the day the yellow flags are there to protect the marshals, cars and warn of danger. There are no excuses and it’s another lesson that if you want to be a racing driver at this level of racing, you need to be the complete package.
On my behalf, apologies to the marshals, I appreciate there was no one on track but there might have been and that’s the bit we never know. We cannot race without the brilliant job the marshals do and the least we can do is help protect them.
Next stop Silverstone BGT and then Silverstone Blancpain the week after, home circuit and one that suits the Aston much better. Fingers crossed.