Sunday’s Snetterton double-header saw Trackspeed secure its first victory of the 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship this year as Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen’s Porsche took the honours in the opening race of the weekend. Having qualified fifth the Demon Tweeks sponsored 997 GT3R fought its way up the order to challenge the pole-sitting Ecurie Ecosse BMW before jumping ahead at the pit-stop and staying ahead to give the former champions a narrow win.
In GT4, Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw also secured their first win of the year in the home race for both Kershaw and the Lotus Evora GT4, which beat the Beechdean Aston Martin GT4 home by three and a half seconds, with the Schjerpen/Dons Century Motorsport Ginetta a further six seconds behind.
Heading into the race, many had predicted that everyone in GT4 would be the winner at Snetterton. Literally. With only ten entries into the class, everybody was guaranteed to be in the points.
On Saturday pace there looked to be only one contender, the ISSY Racing Lotus was over half a second a lap quicker the previous day. However; come race day and come the green flag, Oz Yusuf came under sustained pressure from Parfitt Jr. in the Century Motorsport Ginetta right from the start. Pressure that forced Yusuf into a mistake on lap 3 and allowed Parfitt through into the lead, a lead he would build upon before handing over to Tom Oliphant.
Oliphant was unlucky to miss a couple of gears and lose valuable time in the grass before rejoining the race. Gavan Kershaw took the lead as a result of Oliphant’s woes and was making hay with a comfortable lead before the threat of overheating led him to short-shift and lap more slowly, allowing the field to close-in. All controlled, however, and the #77 ISSY Racing Lotus Evora took the win by three seconds over the Beechdean Aston Martin GT4 of Jake Giddings who had been defending against a resurgent Oliphant in the closing stages.
Fourth in GT4 went to the second Century entered car of Morton Dons and Aleksander Schjerpen, the Scandinavians unable to repeat the podium finish of Silverstone, followed by TF Sport’s Jarman and Modell in their Aston Martin in fifth, and the Barwick/Ellis Twisted Team Parker Ginetta sixth.
This is what we wanted, to be at or near the front when I hand the car over, and for Gavan to take the lead and stay there!
In GT3, British GT Championship leader Marco Attard took the green flag in the first race, Round 5 of the championship, in the #79 Triple888 BMW Z4 and held the position into Riches from Jody Firth, in the first of the Trackspeed Porsches, up into second place having got the better of Pasin Lathouras in the #29 AF Corse Ferrari now third.
The second of the Trackspeed Porsches also got a good start with Jon Minshaw’s re-numbered #63 car up one place and tucked-in behind third placed Pasin Lathouras’ Ferrari after having got the better of Mark Poole in the #38 MP Motorsport Aston Martin. Poole’s nightmarish start saw him drop further down the order and tangle with Gary Eastwood’s #18 FF Corse Ferrari at Turn 2, aka Montreal, on lap 6. The Ferrari came off the worse and limped back to the pits to retire. Poole later walked to the steward’s office to offer the requested explanation.
Attard looked comfortable in the #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW, easing out the lead to two seconds over Firth’s #12 Trackspeed Porsche. Behind these two a five car train had formed, stuck behind Lathouras’ Ferrari. After Minshaw found a way through and set about chasing down the leaders, Lathouras would continue to hold up the cars behind; the Thai driver had both Derek Johnston’s #888 BMW Z4 and Andrew Howard’s #1 Beechdean AMR, plus a further three cars in very close attendance. Johnston did, eventually, find a way to barge through at Montreal just before half-distance. The contact saw the Ferrari drop down the order and piqued the interest of the race Stewards also.
The top three – #79 BMW, #12 Porsche, #63 Porsche – all pitted together. An expert Trackspeed pit-stop saw Minshaw hand-over the #63 car to Phil Keen and for Keen to emerge a Gnat’s whisker ahead of the #79 car. Attard’s lead on the road had been negated due to a five seconds success penalty added to the team’s pit-stop following its podium finish at Silverstone last time out. Racing.GT’s #OneToWatch for the weekend Jonny Cocker took the wheel of the second placed BMW and set about reminding leader Keen of his readiness to take the top step at the slightest hint of an error.
Cocker began with what appeared to be a little helping-hand nerf for Keen on the run out of the pit lane, there may not have been room for a figurative cigarette paper between them as they exited their pits, and continued to stay in Keen’s mirrors for the remainder of the race; the gap to the leader hovered around the half a second mark with each marque showing its relative strengths:
Our car was very strong in the corners but the Porsche was quicker on the straights. Phil [Keen] drove very cleanly and to be honest, he did a perfect job. Obviously a win would be better but my focus was on scoring as many points for Marco as possible and I wasn’t going to make a move unless I was 100 per cent sure I could make it through cleanly.
Blasting out of the pit-stop blocks was Joe Osborne in the #88 BMW whose first full race lap saw him ‘purple’ i.e. fastest driver of the day in Sector 1, then ‘purple’ in Sector 2, and again in Sector 3, thereby setting not only the fastest lap of the day but also the ‘optimum’, the perfect lap, as he set about catching his Blancpain Endurance Series team mate Richard Abra in MP Motorsport’s #38 Aston Martin and his British GT series team mate Luke Hines’ #888 BMW running fourth.
The poor luck of the Trackspeed team so far this season continued and struck down the # 12 Porsche in the hands of Warren Hughes who, forced to slow due to a mechanical issue, ceded third place to Hines’ #888 BMW who was in turn being caught by team-mate Osborne who had by then found a way past Abra’s Aston.
The second placed car harrying the leader and fourth place catching third was the story of the middle section of the second stint; by lap 27 and with less than 10m to go, #63 Keen led #79 Cocker by just 0.3 seconds, a comfortable 15 seconds ahead of #888 Hines who had his team mate #88 Osborne who had driven well to be a second behind in 4th place. When the chequered flag waved the gap between Hines and Osborne, in third and fourth, mirrored that of split between the lead pair at just under half a second.
A podium of German machinery pilots then: a Porsche win for Minshaw and Keen moved them from 10th to 4th place in the championship; 2nd and 3rd for BMW courtesy of the #79 Ecurie Ecosse Powered by Black Bull Attard and Cocker car extending Attard’s championship lead to 12.5 points over Howard and Adam, who was followed home by Hines and Johnston’s Triple Eight BMW.
As in football as in motor racing, the Germans were victorious over the British as the three German machines on the podium led home the three Aston Martins that were next across the finish line: 4th went to MP Motorsport after a consistently quick stint from Abra; PGF-Kinfaun AMR’s John Gaw and Phil Dryburgh drove their Aston Martin Vantage home in fifth; and, the Beechdean pairing of Howard and Adam took sixth.
The #23 United Autosports Audi of Dockerill and Bell finished ahead of two more Aston Martins, the #4 Aston Martin of the Oman Racing Team in eighth and the Onslow-Cole/Paul White Strata21 #21 that finished ahead of the Tandy/Appleby #2 Generation Bentley Continental GT3, which rounded out the Top Ten point scoring positions nicely. Final score, as measured by manufacturers, Germany 4 – 6 England.
The overall race result was later amended by the stewards in the gap between races in delivering their verdict upon incidents occurring during the race: the #888 Triple8 BMW was excluded from the results for the contact between Johnston and Lathouras, additionally Johnston had his racing license endorsed with four points and was docked twelve championship points; and, the #38 MP Motorsport Aston was similarly excluded from the official result, although no penalty was given to the driver.
The exclusions promoted Osborne/Mowle into 3rd and Dryburgh/Gaw into 4th, the #6 PGF – Kinfaun AMR having benefitted from both cars being excluded.
Jon drove brilliantly. I had to hold off Jonny Cocker for a long time, which wasn’t easy but I managed to do it. I’m really happy with the result and it feels great to be on the top step of the podium.
And as if that wasn’t good enough, they did it all again four hours later.
Race 2 – Got under way. And then stopped. For, like, ever!
A restarted Race 2 delived another maiden season win, this time for defending champions Beechdean AMR. The foreshortened race saw pole-sitting Jonny Adam power away from the field before handing an insurmountable lead to Andrew Howard who took the chequered flag with aplomb some 13.799 seconds ahead of the nearest rival.
The Beechdean Aston took the rolling start, naturally unaware of what was to unfold behind it. Whereas the GT4 pole-sitter will have had a good view, the #77 ISSY Racing Lotus Evora had suffered a lack of power issue on the formation lap and it crossed the start line second last with only the #38 MP Motorsport AMR trailing behind, it having elected to start from the pit lane.
On the run into the first corner three cars tangled, the #28 HorsePower Racing Aston Martin, #888 Triple Eight BMW, and #6 PGF – Kinfaun Aston Martin, placed 12th – 14th respectively. The outcome being a spinning BMW ducking under an airborne Aston and all three striking the barrier at Riches at high-speed. All suffered heavy damage, as did the barrier itself. The Safety Car was immediately dispatched and a Red Flag flew shortly afterward.
Those cars that did manage to complete the first turn were all parked back on the grid at the end of the first lap and it was some minutes later that, happily, a waiting paddock received the good news – all three drivers had emerged from the wreckage safely. The prognosis was not so good for the barrier, however, and a 45 minute delay ensued whilst the required repairs were carried out.
The run back the start line saw the #77 Lotus pit due to the misfire experienced on the formation lap and also into the pit came the #42 Ginetta of Tom Oliphant and Rick Parfitt for whom a repeat of the previous race’s gearbox issues had seemingly putting paid to their weekend. Yet, thanks to the lengthening delay for barrier repairs, both sets of mechanics were able to effect the necessary repair work in time for both cars to join the grid for the re-start. As did the MP Motorsport Aston Martin, whatever the issue that gave rise to their starting from the pit lane earlier having been resolved.
The race proper restarted at 17:30 with cars due to complete two laps behind the safety car, in the original starting grid order, before the Green Flag was to fly. As it was the start was delayed for a further two laps to allow for the recovery of the #17 M-Sport Bentley that had coasted to a halt trying to follow the Safety Car.
First lap under Green saw Jonny Adam’s #1 Aston Martin begin to pull away from the #18 FF Corse Ferrari of Adam Carroll, sitting in for Rob Barff who was racing at the Nurburgring 24h, as Carroll performed the Lathouras role from the first race i.e. making his car as wide as possible holding-off BMWs. Carroll successfully held-off Joe Osborne in the #88 Triple8 BMW and an eager Jonny Cocker in the #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 behind for the entirety of the first stint.
A successful re-start for the #77 ISSY Lotus Evora saw it lead GT4 from pole as its Team Manager was called to Race Control to be given a drive-through penalty for an incorrect start procedure. It would seem that the re-start in original start order advice didn’t apply to everyone.
When shortening the race time the stewards deducted time form the first stint. As a result, with the faster Pro drivers on-board, the teams elected to stay out as long as they could and the Top 5 GT3 race order on Lap10 as the pit window opened was #1 Adam (AMR), #18 Carroll (Ferrari), #88 (BMW), #79 (BMW), and #21 Onslow-Cole (AMR). The GT4 Top 5, with the Lotus having served its drive-through, was #44 Cammish (Porsche), #46 Ellis (Ginetta), #407 Wylie (AMR), #48 Stanley (Ginetta), and #49 Modell (Ginetta). As with GT3, the pit window opened but Cammish and Ellis stayed out.
A Charging Phil Keen in the #63 Trackspeed Porsche bridged the gap to the five car train stacked up behind Carroll’s Ferrari in P2 as, similarly, Richard Lyons lying eighth in the #29 AF Corse Ferrari appeared to be doing a good job of defending Richard Abra’s Aston Martin from further progress before Lyons, the first to blink of the Top 10, pitted with 2 laps of the pit window remaining to be followed shortly thereafter by the remainder of the field. Having better calculators or more of an appetite for a gamble, the GT4 leaders stayed out for an additional lap.
The post-pit stop shakedown saw Andrew Howard inherit a sixteen second lead over the second placed Gary Eastwood, a lead that Eastwood would chip away at but not be able to make any serious dent in. Sterling work by the Strata21 team enabled Tom Onslow-Cole, in fifth when the window opened on lap 10, to hand over the #21 Aston to Paul White who would be in third place on lap 16, with 20 minutes to go before the circuit curfew would call an end to proceedings. Going the other way was the Ecurie Ecosse #79 BMW as it pitted from fourth and emerged sixth, the success time penalty performing the role that it was designed for. The GT4 top order remained unchanged through the pit stops.
With 15 minutes of racing left, Howard in the #1 Beechdean Aston Martin continued to lead by a Norfolk Country mile, aka 14 seconds, and Marco Attard finally got the #79 BMW ahead of Lee Mowle’s #88 BMW for fifth place, bumping his way through in the process and the incident was investigated for contact but no action was taken by the stewards. However; a late-on spin for the Ecurie Ecosse driver meant he would drop back to finish tenth.
The story of the closing stages of the race belonged to Jon Minshaw, clearly buoyed-up by his win in the first race as, having dispatched Dhillon in the AF Corse Ferrari, he put the moves on Poole’s #38 Aston first to move up to 7th before joining the three-way scrap between Attard, Mowle, and Dockerill for fourth. Clearly wanting to make up for the disappointment of last year, when he scored -3pts here, and to use the form that won him Race 1, Minshaw put himself in the right place to take advantage of Attard’s spin and pass all three cars in front in two laps. That meant that as cars went over the line for the penultimate lap Minshaw sat fourth with White’s Strata21 Aston firmly in his sights. Had there been any more than a lap left then the 4 second gap would have been much reduced and Minshaw may have been on the podium for a second time in a day.
Race 2 finished with Howard victorious for Beechdean AMR 13.8 seconds ahead of Eastwood’s FF Corse Ferrari that was in turn 10.8 seconds ahead of White’s Strata21 Aston in third, which Minshaw’s Trackspeed Porsche followed home 2.5 seconds ahead of Lee Mowle fifth in the remaining Triple8 BMW. Iain Dockerill headed a four car sixth through ninth Audi-Aston-Bentley-Ferrari train that were covered by less than a second and, rounding out the top ten, was the unlucky Marco Attard in the Ecurie Ecosse Powered by Black Bull BMW.
In GT4, with the oddly awarded drive-through having ruined the Lotus’ day, much to the chagrin of the local spectators, the Twisted Team Parker #46 Ginetta of Adrian Barwick led the #407 Baby Beechdean Aston Martin, in the hands of Ross Wylie, by two seconds before the Beechdean car received a stop-go penalty for its pit stop being too short. This meant that Andrew Jarman’s #49 TF Sport Aston Martin GT4 inherited second place, 3.842 seconds behind the leader, with Rick Parfitt in the #42 Century Motorsport Ginetta a further 3.127 seconds back and carefully nursing his box of cogs.
A flying Jarman took over a second a lap out of the leader to be just 1.513 seconds behind with seven minutes to go before an unforced error saw him rejoin after spinning in at Montreal, undoing all of his good work. The TF Sport driver had allowed Rick Parfitt, Morten Dons, and Ross Wylie through in the process and finished the race fifth in class.
Talking of undoing good work, step forward Academy Motorsport. It is a fact that the team would have been a lot higher up the order if not for receiving punishing penalties. The clue is in the name. A team receives two warnings for exceeding track limits prior to the stewards getting shirty. Basey-Fisher collected one and co-driver Nicoll-Jones followed suit. However; the ‘Pro’ driver of the pair then took further liberties with the white lines and received five seconds of penalty time and, ‘in for a penny in for a pound’ one supposes, further exceeded the track limits and got another 30 seconds more penalty time at the end of the race. But that’s racing I guess.
The Avon Tyres British GT Championship pauses for its summer holiday before resuming activities in Belgium the second week of July. Last visited by British GT in 2011, Round 5 is brought to you by the letters Spa and Francorchamps.
Mark your diaries for 11th July. Better yet, book Eurostar tickets whilst they’re still cheap!