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November 22, 2019

Jonny Adam’s Blog: Making British GT History

Jonny Adam’s Blog: Making British GT History
Photo Credit To Gary Parravani/www.Xynamic.com

In winning the 2016 British GT title with Derek Johnston and TF Sport, Jonny Adam became the first man ever to retain the crown in back-to-back seasons. Following last week’s announcement that they will return to defend their title with Tom Ferrier’s squad in 2017, the Scot reflects on the year past, his place in the record books and the one that got away with Andrew Howard in 2013…

On the 2016 season:

I think it was December when I first got told I was doing British GT again and this time it was going to be a change to TF and Derek. I was quite excited, purely because of the challenge. I’ve raced with Andrew for five seasons and had good success, having won two championships – obviously only one for me and two for him – but I’ve also known Tom a while, having raced against him as far back as 2006 in SEATs. I’ve watched his team develop closely over the last few years and having won two races last year, they were the in-form team coming into the year. I knew all about Derek’s pace too – over the years he’s just been a bit unlucky, needed a bit of guidance and continuity as well, so with him staying put in a good team, we were hopeful that it was going to be a good year.

Testing went very well. I was very impressed the first day I met Derek because he was ready and hungry for it. He was already wanting to book a simulator session before we went to Valencia, and when we turned up there I was amazed by the laptimes he was doing – he was bang on it, which gave me good motivation.

Derek’s weakness has always been the wet, but he did a massive U-turn when it came to pace at Silverstone. He was incredible – he drove away and pulled out a ten to twelve second gap over the rest of the Ams, he was driving the best I’ve ever seen him in the wet by a long way. Unfortunately he just lost it coming onto the Hangar Straight as three or four others did, hit the wall and that was it – 37.5 points gone. He also made a little mistake at Spa when he went off on oil in practice and the gut feeling was that might be the end of our weekend, but the Aston is so easy to work on that we managed to bolt parts onto it and get back out for qualifying six hours later. Okay we only got a seventh in the race, but those points really did tally up at the end of the year.

The rest of the season I’d say we were really, really strong. We got two wins straight off the bounce, to take 76 points away from the first two races was mega. I did win three races in a year once before with Andrew, but never back-to-back, so to get two off on the bounce I thought ‘this is going to be a good year!’

We went into the last weekend maybe a bit too far behind – it was a bit uncomfortable because 11.5 points was a lot to gain back. John Gaw was winding me up in the week before saying ‘it would be great if you can do it – if you need any help or advice just ask!’ but we did our homework and I spent over three hours in the sim with Derek on the Wednesday to get his mind right. He said to me on the grid, ‘I’ll do what you told me and pull a gap’ and that’s exactly what he did.

A lot of people won’t realise this, but Tom engineered our car this year – he took it upon himself to look after the car and he did a great job as the season went on. He’s a good team boss, he doesn’t miss any details and he knows from racing himself at a good level what’s right and what’s wrong. I have to say, the TF Astons are arguably some of the best turned out cars I’ve seen on any grid, he’s got good people in the right places that do a good job. It’s a young team that’s only been going for two or three seasons, so I can see massive potential in the future for them.

On his unofficial third title:

I’ve got the trophy and everything! The frustrating thing was after I saw how bad the driving standards were at the start of that year, myself, Andrew and a few other drivers said look, ‘let’s change the system and penalise people with points on their license to stop people having lunges’. It did, but unfortunately I had a small bit of contact with Michael Caine at Snetterton – it wasn’t anything malicious, we both finished the race and he was right behind me – but because I gained the advantage, I got two points on my license, which took six points off my championship. Andrew only won the championship by a point and a half, so I ended up finishing fourth!

I still feel I’ve actually won three championships, but the nice thing is I’ve done it back-to-back, with two different teams and two different Am drivers who are like chalk and cheese. Andrew is all about facts and figures, where Derek drives on feel and enjoyment – when his head is right and he’s enjoying it he’s arguably one of the fastest guys out there. They have very different approaches, but what’s nice is that with both of them, if I phoned them today, they’d be in the sim tomorrow. To get that last little tenth, they’ll go anywhere or do anything – whether it’s another test day, or another new set of tyres or a sim day, they will go for it and put in as much as I do to get that goal. If they’re not quick, I’m not quick and that’s what British GT is all about that – you have to get the Am working well.

On racing with Ams:

Of course, being in a Pro car is brilliant and it’s nice to be in that environment, but there’s only so many seats in the world that give you that opportunity and longevity in this sport comes from working with customer teams – Ams will keep you racing for a longer time than getting a Pro seat. Don’t get me wrong, doing Le Mans this year with Richie Stanaway and Fernando Rees was a big tick in the box for me and that’s the level I want to race at in the future, but I still enjoy British GT and I get a great buzz from working with Ams.

I’ve been coaching drivers for about 11 years now and at the end of the day, the Ams are there to win the same as everyone else. They’re not only there just to pay their cheque, drive around 10 seconds off the pace and have a good Sunday afternoon, they invest a lot of their effort as well as their money. With Derek, I could have told him that a hairpin was flat out and he would have questioned it, but he would have done it! I get more nervous sitting on the wall watching these guys – both Andrew and Derek – than I do myself and it’s because I put so much effort into these guys away from the track that I know if they can perform how I know they can, they can win championships. It’s been a really good two years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

On success with Aston Martin:

From an Aston point of view, we’ve had a lot of customers in British GT for a long time now, and we’ve had good success. I was the first one to shake the car down in November 2011 – I remember the day at Warwick at Prodrive’s test track. It was mega to be involved in the project from the start and I could see how good a car it was the first day I sat in it. I’ve probably done the most laps ever in a GT3 Aston and I’ve seen how it’s evolved to be arguably one of the most successful GT3 cars in British GT’s history.

The Aston may look slightly outdated against the Merc or a Lambo, but it can still do the laptime and I still love every lap that I drive in the car, especially new tyre runs under pressurised situations where I know I’ve got the kit underneath me. The kids that I coach, I always say to them ‘make sure you’re in a good team, but most importantly make sure you’re in a good car’ and that’s what Aston have given me. If I had a car that was difficult for an Am to drive then I wouldn’t have won what I won and Andrew or Derek wouldn’t have been successful, it’s as simple as that.

About The Author

James Newbold

James Newbold is Racing.GT's Editor. He graduated from a politics degree at the University of East Anglia in 2015, which should help him navigate through the political minefield that is GT racing. He likes Marmite on toast and Oreo cookies. Speaks Spanish, but only when no one is looking.