Sims and Attard strengthen grip on title
“That was the race of the year, it was great to watch” was Alexander Sims’ assessment of his first win since Round Three at Rockingham. It wasn’t hard to see why.
The British GT championship put on a terrific show in the August sunshine, with incident aplenty and close racing throughout, but the broadest grins were reserved for Attard and Sims – fresh from a podium finish in the Pro-Am class at the Spa 24 Hours last weekend – who stretched the pair’s championship lead over Beechdean to a commanding 34 points.
“There were a few good, close overtakes but I think they were hard, but fair,” Sims said. “It was really good fun, especially with Joe [Osborne], he made it really hard for me but in the end he slipped on a bit of oil which I was able to capitalise on.”
The enthralling battle with Osborne was only part of the story. After starting fourth, Attard survived a glancing blow with TF Sport’s Andrew Jarman at Clearways – from which the Aston Martin came off decidedly worse – before Sims set the fastest lap on his very first flying lap. Having worked his way past Rory Butcher’s Motorbase Aston, which would slip to sixth at the finish, Sims cruised up behind the Triple Eight BMW started by Lee Mowle, which had itself survived a scrape with Ross Wylie’s McLaren at Stirlings.
Osborne defended expertly on tyres well past their best, but a slight mistake at Graham Hill Bend handed Sims the inside line for Surtees; he didn’t need asking twice. Second was a good result in isolation for the Triple Eight squad, but seeing Ecurie Ecosse extend their championship lead was far from ideal.
“Sitting in the garage, it was almost like waiting for a baby to be born,” Mowle said. “At first I thought there was no chance, but as the race went on I started to think it might just be possible. We now need a bloody good Snetterton to be in with a chance!”
A trouble-free run saw the second TF Sport Aston Martin of Derek Johnston and Matt Bell collect their first podium of the season in third, just ahead of Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam, who did well to limit the damage caused by a 20 second time penalty carried over from Spa. Starting from pole, Howard ran strongly in the opening stint, but the intervention of the Safety Car meant Adam was playing a game of damage limitation.
“I think the penalty of 20 seconds is hard for Brands because GT3 cars are quite hard to overtake round here, it’s such a short lap as well, but we maximised what we could,” said the Scot. “Andrew drove really well and it was close at the end, the BMWs were having a good scrap amongst themselves and given another 15 minutes I think it would have been an interesting finish.”
After being turned around by Rick Parfitt Jr.’s Ginetta in the early stages, Gary Eastwood and Adam Carroll fought their way back to a strong fifth ahead of Butcher and Liam Griffin, while Benny Simonsen narrowly beat Phil Keen to the line for seventh on Rosso Verde and Hector Lester’s return to the championship. The RAM Racing Mercedes of Lewis Plato and Alistair MacKinnon took ninth, while four laps down, Wylie and Andrew Watson completed the top ten after a chastening day for the young Scotsman, who also tangled with David Jones’ Mercedes.
Davenport dominates GT4
Luke Davenport and David Pattison charged through the pack from ninth on the grid to take a maiden GT4 win for Tolman Motorsport. Having shown promise throughout the season, without reward, it all came together at Brands Hatch, where Davenport enjoyed success last season in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup.
“The race just went to plan really, we knew we had good pace as we have done all season, it was just a case of converting it,” he said. “We knew that the strengths of the car would be around the back of the circuit in the high-speed stuff, we were just killing the Astons there, nobody was really defending too hard. I came out in sixth, we just picked them off one-by-one and controlled the race from there.
“I’ve always looked up to British GT; I did the Ginetta Challenge back in 2012 and 2013, went over to the TOCA package to do the Supercup last year and that was like serving my apprenticeship, so to come over here and get my first win is a great feeling. This car is the best Ginetta I’ve driven, the team make a rapid car which is really easy on its tyres as well, so all credit to them. They’ve never done endurance racing, they’ve never worked on cars at this level, so it’s a massive thing for them. We’ll build on this, we won’t get too big for our boots.”
Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson made it a Ginetta 1-2 in the Optimum Motorsport car, while championship leaders Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn completed the podium, despite being laden with ballast which destroyed the tyres towards the end of their stints. The Beechdean drivers were never truly in the running, but were the chief beneficiaries of a clash between Jake Hill and Dennis Strandberg at Druids which forced the Porsche man to retire on the spot.
“From my view there was clearly a gap on the inside and I had started to creep alongside into the braking area,” said Hill, “but he turned in on me, put me on the grass and broke my steering arm there and then. It was such a shame, we should have had third place which would have been our second podium in a row, but that’s how racing goes sometimes.”
The pole-sitting Fox Motorsport Ginetta of Paul McNeilly and Jamie Stanley was also out of luck, with two separate incidents knocking them out of contention and leaving an irate Stanley to remonstrate with the officials.
“If you look back over the year, we’ve been on the podium with ten minutes to go three times and we’ve been really unlucky, this weekend was just more of the same,” he said. “Driving standards need to improve, but the championship needs to take a serious look at how it applies its regulations to make sure it’s done consistently. At Rockingham, Adam Carroll was disqualified for taking a car out of the race, and the decision was that if you end someone else’s race, then your race will be over as well. But we’ve had two people end our race and they’ve been there at the end. It’s very disappointing.”