Let us reflect back 10 days ago to Round Seven of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship race at Brands Hatch. The Kent based circuit hosted a two-hour endurance leg of the series, and as usual, put on one of the greatest races of the season. It wasn’t just filled with the thrills of close racing, but also some decisions that in hindsight should not be repeated.
The weekend opened with a tribute to Allan Simonsen, who tragically lost his life at this year’s Le Mans. In honour of the great Dane, the 32 car field revved their engines for a minute whilst sat on the grid, creating a cacophony of high octane melody – a fitting tribute to the man who’d once held the lap record at Brands Hatch in the Rosso Verde Ferrari. In addition, the front of the grid was left empty as a mark of respect to Simonsen and his time in the British GT Championship.
Lesson 1: The Aston Martins proved themselves to be particularly quick around the 2.6 mile circuit. Whilst it’s not really a surprise, following last year’s result that saw the Beechdean Vantage pipped to the finish line by thousandths of a second, this season’s result was more convincing. Over the distance of two-hours, the Beechdean car created such a lead, that Jonny Adam was able to manage the pace by the end of the race and slow things down to save tyres. The high-speed nature of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix track was a perfect match for the Aston Martin, which was also reflected by Barwell’s Richard Abra and Mark Poole. The pair had made great progress through the field and were challenging for a possible top-five finish, until confusion with a lapped GT4 car sent them into the gravel at Clearways, with just a few minutes remaining.
Lesson 2: The BMWs are coming of age. Although Ecurie Ecosse had fielded a BMW Z4 during the 2012 season, this year’s updates to it’s aero package and engine has seen the car become a serious contender for race wins. Not only did the Optimum888 model of Dan Brown and Steve Tandy take pole position and finish a respectable fourth, the Ecurie Ecosse car of Oli Bryant and Marco Attard bolstered the Bavarian machine’s status with a podium third-place.
Lesson 3: The British GT Championship standings look set to make this year another season that will take it to the wire. As a result of their Brands Hatch win, Beechdean’s Andrew Howard now lead the series by 6.5 points over Ecurie Ecosse’s Attard and Bryant (team mate Adam is six behind Howard after a penalty for a driving infringement). With three races remaining, a double header at Zandvoort and a three-hour leg at Donington, there is still 87.5 points available. With the Netherlands based circuit being new to many, it’s impossible to predict who will come out on top.
Lesson 4: Trackspeed struggle with the longer distances. Whilst the Porsche 997 of David Ashburn and Nick Tandy had been sitting atop of the standings, Brands Hatch highlighted a fundamental flaw to their season so far. The Trackspeed performance in the one-hour races has seen them dominate the team standings, whilst putting Ashburn and Tandy at the top of the drivers championship, albeit by a slender half-point. But at Brands Hatch none of Trackspeed’s three car scored any points. This reflects a trend for 2013, that has seen the team suffer at the hands of fate for any races over an hour in length.
Lesson 5: Balance of Performance seemed to make little difference. Ahead of Round Seven, new Balance of Performance changes were made to some cars on the grid. This included bigger restrictors for the Ferraris and Audis, plus weight and ride height changes to the Porsches. However, over the course of the weekend there was no change to the expected top performing cars, which was shown by the BMW’s results, which had no adjustments made.
Lesson 6: Ginettas have strong windscreens. As Mike Simpson was making his way through the order, a GT4 car shed it’s door. Heading downhill at Pilgrims Drop, Simpson was confronted by the airborne door whilst travelling at a speed close to 140 mph. The impact of the door on Simpson’s G55 caused the windscreen to shatter (whilst holding it’s integrity) and blow a radiator. It was a scary moment for Simpson, that would have further repercussions in the race.
Lesson 7: Sometimes a race does need a safety car. Following Simpson’s confrontation with an errant door, there was several pieces of debris left on one of the fastest parts of the Brands Hatch circuit. Despite this, there was no safety car called, and as a result, a few laps later, there was more trouble on the back straight. United Autosport’s Zak ‘I can’t even buy bad luck’ Brown was heading down the hill and passing a lapped GT4 car. Catching a piece of the debris that had been left on the circuit, his McLaren MP4-12C suffered an immediate tyre deflation, sending him spinning at 120 mph. Luckily for Brown he was slowed by the gravel before hitting the safety barrier, but the incident could have been so much worse. Despite Brown’s exit, officials still didn’t introduce the safety car, maybe on the assumption the McLaren had cleared the track for them.?
Lesson 8: Zandvoort is anyone’s guess. It’s the first time the British GT Championship visits Zandvoort, and only a handful of drivers have any experience there. The course is a mix of high speed aero-demanding corners, tricky slow chicanes, and a high-camber hairpin. Whilst the Porsches will handle the slower stuff with much aplomb, it will be punished by the likes of the final turn, that will be more suited to the McLarens and Ferraris. This should mean a great fight to the finish line in the pair of one-hour races, that will set-up a thrilling finale at Donington for the 2013 Avon Tyres British GT title.