Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes are hopeful of carrying their strong form in the latter stages of the British GT season forward into the 2017 campaign.
After a difficult start, Farmer and 2008 British GT champion Barnes hit their stride in the second half of the year and followed up a first series win at Spa with a maiden pole at Snetterton, helping them to an eventual fourth in points. Both drivers will return to the series next year with TF Sport, alongside 2016 champions Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam.
Speaking ahead of a guest outing in the International GT Open at Barcelona with their regular TF Aston Martin, 33-year-old Barnes was optimistic that it was only a sign of things to come.
“TF gave us a car that was significantly quicker and easier to drive than we had in 2015 [with 22GT Racing] and then with the car being a more stable platform, that gave Mark more confidence,” he told Racing.GT.
“As ever in this championship it’s the Am’s performance that really makes the difference to your result and it allowed us to focus on improving Mark’s driving, trying to gain more time as well as being more consistent. The performance in the second half of the year was massively improved and if we can maintain that momentum into next season then I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Having built a good relationship with Johnston and Adam this year, Farmer is looking forward to renewing their friendly rivalry and challenging them on a more consistent basis in 2017.
— British GT (@BritishGT) October 26, 2016
“Our main goal is to turn up at every weekend fully prepared and not make any mistakes – if I can do that then I think the results will come,” he said. “We’ll be literally taking every corner, every race as it comes.
“Derek’s a great guy and we have a lot of fun together – the atmosphere in the garage is fantastic with the four of us. I was delighted for Derek and we had a fantastic evening in Nottingham that night celebrating the win, but next season if we don’t make mistakes then we should be able to give them a run for their money.”
Although Barnes and Farmer won on their last appearance in Europe, they face an uphill struggle to repeat the feat this weekend.
Having never raced at the Spanish venue before, attempts to learn the circuit and GT Open’s Michelin control tyres in Thursday practice were disrupted by power steering and gearbox issues. As a first-time entrant to the championship, they also have one less set of tyres to use over the course of the weekend and will serve a 10 second pitstop penalty in race one.
“We’re going to be a bit up against it and we’ve had to slightly revise our expectations of the weekend, but we’ll know ourselves if we’ve put in a good performance and take confidence from that,” Barnes said.
Farmer confirmed that he was treating the weekend as a means to stay fresh during the off-season, but didn’t rule out making further appearances in the championship next season if they can manage a good result.
“It’s just a fun race this weekend to keep the hand in really, in the down time between seasons,” he said. “We might do the odd European race next year, but I think it would take quite a major change in fortunes and in performance to make us focus on it, we just want to focus on British GT.
“Maybe we’ll slot in the odd round here and there, but we won’t be contesting the championship unless the world turns upside down.”
Barnes and Farmer are one of several interesting additions to the GT Open grid, which features a season-high 25 cars for the season finale.
Chief among them is Attempto Racing, with Porsche factory driver Kevin Estre joined by GT4 Europe champion Peter Terting in an all-Pro line-up. The team has also brought a second Porsche for AM drivers Jurgen Haring and Dietmar Ulrich, as well as a Lamborghini Huracan for VLN ace Christian Krognes and young Finn Emil Lindholm.
— kevin estre (@kevinestre) November 4, 2016
Another Lamborghini is entered by Antonelli Motorsport, with Attempto regular Daniel Zampirelli joined by Marco Antonelli, while Kessel Racing have entered a pair of Ferrari 458s, including one for promising South African David Perel and Steve Earle.
AKKA ASP team boss Jerome Policand makes a comeback behind the wheel of one of his own Mercedes-AMG GT3s alongside the team’s regular gentleman driver Jean-Luc Beaubelique, while Jody Fannin is installed in the Solaris Motorsport Aston Martin with Italian Francesco Sini.
The Drive-X Audi R8 LMS ultra makes a return for the first time since round three at Paul Ricard, with sometime GP2 racer Juan Cruz Álvarez joined by Esteban Gini. Nissan are also represented for the first time all season by Portuguese gentlemen drivers José Correia and Ricardo Gomes.
Team Lazarus duo Fabrizio Crestani and two-time FIA GT champion Thomas Biagi lead the standings by 29 points from Teo Martin Motorsport BMW pair Fernando Monje and Gustavo Yacaman. Shaun Balfe, who shares his family-run McLaren 650S with Phil Keen, is the rank outsider, sitting forty points behind, while TF Sport’s Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey are now out of title contention after suffering a gearbox failure in race two at Monza.
To view the full GT Open entry list, click here.