Rory Butcher and Liam Griffin kept their British GT title hopes alive with a second win of the season at Snetterton.
The race looked like a foregone conclusion after ex-BTCC racer Griffin pulled off a superb move around the outside of pole-sitter Andrew Jarman at Coram in traffic, but the combination of a few laps stuck behind the Von Ryan McLaren of Andrew Watson – which was later hit with a three-second stop-go penalty for a too short pitstop – and a lightning fast in-lap by the sister Motorbase Aston of Ahmad al-Harthy meant Alex MacDowall was presented with a comfortable lead after the pitstops.
However, championship returnee MacDowall was powerless as the GT4 Academy Motorsport Aston Martin of Mike Hart drifted across his line at Murrays. With bent steering, MacDowall struggled to ninth at the flag, with Butcher and Griffin the chief beneficiaries.
“I always said we needed to win, so I’m delighted,” said Griffin. “To be fair to Andrew, he drove really well and we didn’t get much of a look in, but I knew that once the backmarkers came into play then we would have a chance. He just decided to tuck up inside and I’d had a little play with it in practice to see what the grip was like out there and so I thought ‘alright, let’s go for it.’
“We were surprised when we were behind the McLaren, which obviously held us up a bit, but unfortunately Alex got taken out by a GT4 which gifted us the lead. We would have liked Alex to stay there and maybe knick some points off the other guys behind and the McLaren as well, but we’re not discounting ourselves yet. At Donington last year, Attard didn’t finish the final race…”
Behind them, Jarman and Jody Fannin held on to take a mistake-free second, with TF Sport team-mates Matt Bell and Derek Johnston completing the podium in third, their second in a row, and all without the assistance of power-steering.
“I think it’s the form we’ve been threatening all year, we’ve had some bad luck and Derek has been taken out a couple of times, but when the luck starts to run your way and the team and the car is good then the results start to come,” said Bell. “It was always going to be a tall order with the five second penalty, but the team did a mega job in the pitstops and we came out ahead of where we came in, which was a cracking effort from TF Sport again. They’ve been great all year, persevered through the hard bit and now they’re starting to get a bit of a reward. A double podium is really what they’ve deserved.”
Despite bettering his lap record from last year, Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard were unable to pass the TF Sport cars and finished fourth, with Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne the best BMW in fifth.
Championship leaders Alexander Sims and Marco Attard battled through to finish sixth on the road after qualifying ninth and serving a 15-second penalty carried over from Brands Hatch, but were docked 30 seconds in lieu of a drive-through penalty for making contact with Mike Simpson’s Ginetta at Nelson, much to Sims’ frustration. That relegated the Ecurie Ecosse to eighth, prompting Watson and Wylie to sixth and Jon Barnes and Mark Farmer to seventh, despite a lurid spin at Riches.
In GT4, Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw took a lights-to-flag victory in the ISSY Racing Lotus to keep the pressure on Beechdean. The no. 77 crew will also start from pole in Race Two, but Yusuf was eager to avoid any complacency.
“You can never be too confident, you’re always nervous until the checkered flag because we know that luck can go against you like it did at Brands, so thankfully it all went to plan,” he said. “We just want to take it to Donington, it would be sad if the championship was wrapped up before he final round. We’ve just got to keep going and hopefully get the same result.”
Behind him, Academy Motorsport’s Will Moore and Dennis Strandberg prevailed in a close fight with fellow Swede Fredrik Blomstedt and Aleksander Schjerpen’s Century Motorsport Ginetta in a straight fight for second, but Blomstedt wasn’t too disappointed after coming through from seventh.
“It was very exciting and very tough, now I can’t feel my arms!” he laughed. “It was very, very hot in the car. When it’s hot like it was yesterday the car gets very slippy, which makes it much harder for everyone to drive. Today the conditions were quite good, so it’s much better. I think we started P7 in the last race also, a top three is possible, hopefully we can get second this time!”
Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson were fourth, ahead of championship leaders Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn, who reckoned that second was on the cards before a brief loss of power cost them 12 seconds.