British GT 2018 – Round 6 Review – Brands Hatch

A summertime sensation in the Garden of England

When people look back on the 2018 British GT race at Brands Hatch, they’ll probably remember two things about it – the first was the constant and unwavering heat from the unbridled summer sun and the excellent 2 hours of motor racing that happened on the baking Brands Hatch tarmac.

In the run up to Saturday’s practice action, the championship was announced to be still in the balance, once again, despite the large lead held by the Barwell #33 Lamborghini drivers Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen, as the #75 Optimum Aston Martin pairing of Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam were awaiting the rulings of the MSA judicial committee of their appeal to the penalty applied to them at Snetterton, knocking them down the order and costing championship points. This caused a mild amount of consternation, but with SRO unable to push the MSA into making a decision the situation in the title race remained to be disclosed. But racing titles are better decided on track, and everyone put this to the back of their minds for the weekend ahead.

Brands baked on Saturday. Thankfully, the drivers in the paddock are a hardy breed, and the extreme heat of a GT cockpit didn’t put many off. Rather sadly, the field was missing several regular entries. The #101 Balfe Motorsport McLaren GT3 car was missing in action, as was the #24 RJN Nissan GTR and it’s baby brother #54 Nissan 370Z, although the #53 car for Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman remained. Also missing was the #68 Steller Motorsport Toyota GT86, which was lacking suitable parts to maintain the car, and the #8 ABBA Racing Mercedes, which suffered a fiery demise at Spa, but promised to return in 2019 with Richard Neary and Adam Christodolou.

Practice was the first chance for drivers to get their eye in around Brands Hatch. Many drivers were concerned about the traffic around the Grand Prix circuit, with Brands feeling narrower with the speed and size of the two different classes becoming an issue for the faster GT3 drivers. Unfortunately, an incident claimed the wildcard entry of the #26 Ultimate Speed Aston Martin of Mike Brown/Matt Manderson in practice as their car shunted heavily on the entry to Paddock Bend – a notorious crashing point that has seen cars from many different forms of racing become very second hand at a rapid rate. The practice sessions were also interrupted by the misfortunes of Will Moore in the #62 Academy Motorsport Aston Martin, who found his GT4 car beached in the deep gravel traps twice in one session to bring out the red flag to recover the Yorkshireman from his stony place of rest.

Qualifying begun for the GT3 class but was halted after one flying lap apiece after Mark Farmer planted the #11 TF Sport Aston Martin neatly into the deepest part of the gravel at Paddock Bend. With the car recovered, the flying laps came in. Topping the times at first was the #1 Team Parker Racing Bentley of Rick Parfitt, who recalled his paces from the 2017 race here. Consistency between drivers is what gets pole though, and although Yelmer Buurman in the #116 ERC Sport Mercedes topped the Pro session, it was the Optimum #75 Aston that took pole, with the #99 Beechdean AMR Aston (with the perfect advertising campaign for the hot weather) of Andrew Howard/Darren Turner partnering up alongside it. Title leaders Minshaw/Keen could only manage 5th overall in qualifying. Not a promising start for the Barwell boys.

The Silver pairings of GT4 made light work of Qualifying. Even lighter work was made of it by the Century BMW team whose #42 cars of Ben Tuck/Ben Green and #43 of Toyota refugee Dean MacDonald and Jack Mitchell took 2nd and pole respectively. Behind them was the #61 Academy Aston of Tom Wood and Jan Jonck, using the knowledge acquired from Academy’s run in the GT4 European Series at Brands in May to make a big step forward. Pole for Mitchell was just what the doctor ordered, as a penalty for winning at Spa hung over the head of the #43 drivers to make their race efforts that little bit tougher. Missing from the GT4 sessions was the #56 Tolman Motorsport McLaren of David Pattison and Joe Osborne, with an engine change necessary on their car, and they would start at the very back of the field for Sunday.

Sunday was as hot as Saturday. Almost everyone but the brave headed away from the heat, seeking shade and comfort around Brands Hatch. No joy for the drivers in seeking respite from the hot conditions though as temperatures in the cockpit soared exponentially as the 1:40pm start time loomed. Away leaped the field from the starting line as one pack, with Flick Haigh steering #75 into the lead with Andrew Howard in #99 following suit. Graham Davidson in the #47 Jetsteam Motorsport Aston looked around the outside of Howard into the first corner, but decided that a first corner lunge was not a sensible idea. Ben Green in the #42 GT4 Century BMW however took the lead from the sister car at the start, and left Dean MacDonald to the hungry looking #4 Tolman McLaren driven by Charlie Fagg, who dispatched with Tom Wood in quick fashion.

British GT/Jakob Ebrey

Jon Minshaw though, was not having a fun time holding back Sam De Haan in the #69 Barwell Lamborghini, and then the #1 Bentley of Rick Parfitt, who both looked like they were more than capable of passing the #33 car during the first hour. As time ticked on it looked more like a job of keeping the bottle corked for Minshaw, and hope that the pit stops would do them good.

The race however went into neutralisation, after Graham Roberts beached the #88 Team HARD Ginetta in the gravel, necessitating snatch recovery and a Safety Car. There’s been a recent phrase in television commentary on GT racing – safety cars breed safety cars. Once the #88 car was recovered, the track returned quickly to green flag conditions, only for the second Safety Car period to happen within the next 5 minutes after the #50 HHC Motorsports Ginetta of Mike Newbould tangled with the #44 Jaguar of Paul Vice on the Brabham Straight. The Ginetta speared off hard left nose first into the tyre wall, demolishing the front of the HHC car and a large chunk of barrier. Mercifully, Newbould emerged unharmed. Vice, with damage to the rear left quarter, spun the #44 car around and continued, minus a few panels of car. The clean up was lengthy, and the field was sent through the pit lane until racing resumed once more. In the brief green flag period between the two caution periods, Graham Davidson had caught Andrew Howard napping at the flag line and passed the #99 car for second place behind Haigh, but the #47 couldn’t match the pace of the leader enough to make any inroads before the pit stops came.

At the hour mark, there were notable changes in both races – with penalties coming for the GT3 and GT4 winners from Spa, the #47 Aston and the #43 BMW would no longer be at the sharp end of their respective fields. The biggest surprise though, when the first pit stops ticked over, was a new leader – the #69 Lamborghini, now driven by Jonny Cocker. Behind him, Jonny Adam had hared out in the #75 Optimum Aston to find his vision of a clear road with a black and pink obstacle now in his way, and driving excellently. First and second were never more than a second apart for quite some time after this, but that wasn’t the focus of the attention.

Behind them, the hottest and fastest train of the day took shape – Darren Turner in Aston #99, Phil Keen now in the #33 Lamborghini was now holding off Nicki Thiim in the #11 TF Sport Aston, which had made its way forward from the back of the GT3 pack, with Yelmer Buurman in Mercedes #116, Callum MacLeod in the #7 Bentley and the rapidly catching #17 TF Sport Aston driven by Marco Sorensen. These 6 cars barely put a wheel out of place for up to 45 minutes of hard, determined racing, punctuated by GT4 traffic, but showing the absolute class and equality of the professional drivers and their cars on a searing afternoon. It was gripping to all watching to see the battle continuing. Turner chased by Keen, Keen holding off Thiim, Thiim being threatened by Buurman…

There’d been a big change in GT4 though. All the leaders from earlier in the race had been Silver graded drivers, but now the Pros stepped in in the Pro Am cars. Silver drivers, with extra time added in their pit stops, watched the race slip away from them as the lead changed drastically. Graham Johnson, in the #501 Balfe Motorsport McLaren had been running a consistent and clean race til the pit stop, so when Mike Robinson took over, the 2016 champions took the class lead. Behind them, Martin Plowman in #53 Nissan began the unenviable task of keeping Scott Malvern at bay in the #66 Team Parker Racing Mercedes, which looked every bit a challenger for not just the podium, but more. Plowman used all his experience to hold the Mercedes off, which was not without eventual consequence.

Cocker and Adam continued on at the head of the race, unperturbed by traffic and incident around them. The #1 Bentley of Parfitt and Ratcliffe suddenly went off the road at Stirlings, and then headed back to the pit to retire. Also missing went the #62 Academy Aston, after Will Moore had sent up a large white smoke signal from the exhaust, which Matt Nicoll-Jones could not put right. Maxime Martin returned to the pits a shaken man in #47 Aston, with a hole in the windscreen caused by a low flying object, shattering the glass, and sending the unfortunate Belgian and the Jetstream car out of the race. Thankfully, Martin was not badly hurt by the close encounter.

But, with time ticking down rapidly, the race and the title fight was blown right apart, as Keen pulled out onto the Grand Prix loop in a slowing and suffering #33 Lamborghini. Barwell’s heads fell. Not another year where luck had deserted them, surely? Keen disappeared from the timesheets and into the box, a casualty of mechanical misfortune in the heat at just the wrong moment. Nicki Thiim pounced on Darren Turner, who found his mirrors less green and more blue in a sudden moment, and stole third place.

With only 5 minutes on the clock, Jonny Adam finally abandoned caution and passed Jonny Cocker for the lead. It had been coming for a while, despite the tenacity and skill of Cocker giving him reign to pilot the #69 car gracefully round without causing grave concern for most of the second hour. But Adam had played it better – the tyres held on just at the right moment for the Aston to open a couple of seconds as the flag fell on the race. Optimum took their second win of the year and the championship lead in one fell swoop. A highly successful and sweet victory.

But that wasn’t all the drama left. Robinson kept his head to win the GT4 class for Balfe Motorsport in the #501 McLaren, but behind him things went head over heels for the remaining podium places in exciting fashion. Martin Plowman’s rapid Nissan was just holding Scott Malvern off, for a very long time. Defensive driving isn’t necessarily a fast business, which probably explains the sudden arrival with no time to go of Ben Tuck in the #42 BMW. Tuck was bold and opportunistic on the final lap. Passing Malvern first, and then at the finishing line, outdragging Plowman to take 2nd place in a “blink or you’ll miss it” finish, which the Nissan only just took 3rd place from as Malvern tried to finally get past Plowman with the BMW stealing a march on them both. It was no less than this race deserved to have thrilling climaxes in both classes.

The champagne was chilled for the victors, but nothing is sweeter than more championship points with one race left in the year. Barwell will be ruing their luck once again, as the race for the 2018 title comes to a thrilling finish. Donington, as always, will provide us with the setting for a decider of gargantuan proportion. Standing the heat is one thing, standing pressure and holding your nerve is a greater challenge altogether.

 

© Pete Richardson 5th  August 2018

British GT – Round 6 – Brands Hatch GP Preview

 

Tension, tension, tension

As the summertime drags on, the British GT calendar gets increasingly smaller, and with the annual ‘works away day’ at Spa complete the focus now remains on consolidating positions in the fight for titles.

Spa gave us more than we probably could have asked for in a race – Graham Davidson and Maxime Martin finally put the #47 Jetstream Aston Martin in the #1 spot on the podium, following the fiery trials of several of their fellow competitors. Sadly, this is meant literally, as Mark Farmer’s #11 TF Sport Aston exploded into flames on the run to Eau Rouge on the first lap, and the #8 ABBA Racing Mercedes also caught fire, injuring Adam Christodolou in the process. Thankfully Christodolou was not too badly hurt, and will be back racing somewhere before long.

Brands Hatch itself poses a major headache for all of the drivers. There are relatively few corners where overtaking isn’t possible. The circuit has known to throw up some real humdingers in the past – 2012’s photo finish, 2014’s last laps of drama where Nick Tandy pushed through to win, 2015’s Battle of the BMWs between Joe Osborne and Alexander Sims and the confusing chaos of 2016 with the Full Course Yellow and early red flag. 2017’s race saw the Team Parker Racing Bentley of Parfitt/Morris take a very convincing victory, after the MacMillan Racing Aston fell back with a stuck throttle. With the added pressure to prevent an early title win this weekend, the pressure is on the chasing drivers to tame the undulating course, and prevent the urge to take the passing points at Druids, Surtees and Clearways with reckless abandon.

As we roll into the Garden of England, the possibility of a new champion being crowned at the penultimate round of the series is entirely possible. At the present moment the #33 Barwell Lamborghini pairing of Jon Minshaw/Phil Keen are leading the way in the championship standings with a 14 point gap over the #75 Optimum Aston drivers Flick Haig & Jonny Adam. 14 points is not an unsurmountable gap by any standard, especially when there are 37.5 points available for a win in the 2 hour races that make up the remainder of the season. The last 2 seasons though have been painful for Minshaw and Keen at the final round, so if there’s the opportunity to put the title to bed at Brands this weekend, they’ll take it with both hands. Add to this their lack of pit stop time penalty for being off the podium in Spa and you start thinking that the championship might yet be tied up before the end of season party at Donington in September. Never say never though, as last year, the #33 went from top of the table to 2nd best in 2 rounds when it counted most. All eyes will be on their finish at Brands, whatever that may be.

GT4 is also rather tensely poised. Jack Mitchell had a new driving partner at Spa, in the form of ex karting ace Dean McDonald, who has made his way into the #43 Century BMW via McLaren in 2017 and the Toyota this year. Admittedly, they had a big help from a safety car period which saw their pit stop penalty negated, but with Mitchell’s determination to perform seeing him through to the flag, he now holds a championship lead of 17.5 points over Callum Pointon and Patrik Matthiesen in the #55 HHC Ginetta. This isn’t all though as just .5 of a point behind the HHC team is Michael O’Brien and Charlie Fagg in the #4 Tolman McLaren who have maintained a solid season save for a DNF at Silverstone to remain in contention. Mitchell’s task at Brands to maintain his lead will be hampered massively by a 30 second pit penalty, but there’s no reason to suspect he can’t keep the pressure up on the chasing pack.

This is the time where predictions are fruitless. Add in the English heatwave to the variables and you have questions to ask of durability and tyre wear, as well as stamina. But there’s a feeling in the air that this year is different somehow. Could we finally see the decider at Donington redundant?

There is one further point from the last two weeks that has come up which needs addressing before long. 2019 is coming and with it come changes in British GT once more, this time in the form of the introduction of the Amateur Only GT2 Class (for GT2 read supercars with GT4 style upgrades to aerodynamics and tuning. Not the class above GT3, which it was under SRO’s previous iteration). Already this is raising eyebrows in a confused manner. Is this another attempt to avoid a reduction in GT3 entries? How popular will it be when you are only permitted 2 bronze drivers in the seat over a race weekend?

Also, with a pre-published calendar for 2019, we appear to have lost Rockingham Motor Speedway from our roster. Rockingham was popular with drivers, but sadly, it appears the oval/road track combination has seen its last racing action with GT cars, which raises questions about the future of the series with its current calendar. With top-grade standard tracks in the UK being few and far between – where next? Are we likely to see 2 European rounds in the future? Will we make 2 trips to Donington or Silverstone, which have variants and pit space as well as the opportunity to hold two rounds? Again, it appears to be in the lap of the gods as to whether there are 6 or 7 rounds. We wait with baited breath for more.

BTCC – Snetterton

Snetterton – ‘Diamond Double’
On Saturday 28th July the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship roared back into action for the sixth meeting of the season at Snetterton, located in Norfolk. This event was different to the other nine this year, being named the ‘Diamond Double’ because race three of the weekend was extended to see the cars race for sixty miles to celebrate sixty years of the BTCC.
The notorious Matt Neal saw another landmark moment in his career occur after taking the victory in the ‘Double Diamond’ race aboard his Halfords Yuasa Racing FK8 Honda CivicType R. The ‘Diamond Double’ race was a one off 60 mile long race with all cars being ballast free, double points were also on offer.
The thirty race season and overall championship remained the main goal for the drivers and teams but this race was one they all wanted and looked forward to.
Jack Goff made a good start from pole position in his WIX Racing with Eurotech run Civic Type R, keeping Neal at bay. A quick shower of rain allowed the latter to close in on the bumper of Goff. On lap nine, Neal managed to dive past Goff whilst Speedworks Motorsports’ Tom Ingram followed behind watching the entertainment unfold aboard his Toyota Avensis. The three drivers were inseparable for the remainder of the memorable race, Neal held on to take the victory ahead of Goff and Ingram completing the podium. The victory was Neal’s sixty-third win in his career.
Race one of the weekend was a classic BTCC race as Goff and Team BMR’s reigning champion Ash Sutton crossed the finishing line together in a photo finish. The two were playing cat and mouse throughout the race with Sutton storming through from seventh to second on the opening lap of the race. Goff got a blinding start off the line and began opening up a gap that built to being more than three seconds before Sutton began closing in.
After setting multiple fastest laps during the middle of the race the Subaru racer was on the tail of Goff with just two laps remaining. Some contact occurred between the two with Sutton leading the duo along the start finish straight before Goff stormed alongside, bringing a photo finish to the race with the Honda driver taking the win. He won by just 0.152 seconds. Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Dan Cammish completed the podium.
Ash Sutton hit back in the second race as he took his third win of the season aboard his Adrian Flux backed Subaru. He narrowly fended off Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Josh Cook throughout the race. Tom Ingram was the standout driver in that race as he produced one of the best drives of the season as he stormed his way through from twenty-seventh on the grid to claim third place, taking a podium nobody thought he would. Ingram made amazing passes throughout the race with his final two moves bringing all of his team to their feet. He diced down the inside of BTC Norlin Racing’s Chris Smiley with just over one lap of the race remaining before storming up the side of Cammish to the line, beating the Honda to the line to take his podium finish by just 0.042 seconds.
With the dust settling after the historic day of racing in the BTCC paddock, Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram leaves Snetterton in the lead of the overall Drivers’ championship by five points over Team BMW’s Colin Turkington. BMW are still leading the Manufacturers’ title but Halfords Yuasa Racing moved into the lead of the Teams’ title race. Speedworks Motorsport are still in the lead of both the Independent drivers’ and team’s championship. Dan Cammish is in the lead of the Jack Sears Trophy.
The next rounds (19, 20 and 21) of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will take place at Rockingham in two weeks’ time (11/12 August).
2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 16 – Snetterton
1. Jack GOFF – WIX Racing with Eurotech
2. Ashley SUTTON – Adrian Flux Subaru Racing
3. Dan CAMMISH – Halfords Yuasa Racing
4. Josh COOK – Power Maxed TAG Racing
5. Sam TORDOFF – Team GardX Racing with Motorbase
6. Rob AUSTIN – DUO Motorsport with HMS Racing
7. Chris SMILEY – BTC Norlin Racing
8. Tom OLIPHANT – Ciceley Motorsport
9. Dan LLOYD – BTC Norlin Racing
10. Adam MORGAN – Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport
2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 17 – Snetterton
1. Ashley SUTTON – Adrian Flux Subaru Racing
2. Josh COOK – Power Maxed TAG Racing
3. Tom INGRAM – Speedworks Motorsport
4. Dan CAMMISH – Halfords Yuasa Racing
5. Chris SMILEY – BTC Norlin Racing
6. Sam TORDOFF – Team GardX Racing with Motorbase
7. Senna PROCTOR – Power Maxed TAG Racing
8. Tom OLIPHANT – Ciceley Motorsport
9. Andrew JORDAN – BMW Pirtek Racing
10. Ant WHORTON-EALES – AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing
2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 18:
‘The Diamond Double’ – Snetterton
1. Matt NEAL – Halfords Yuasa Racing
2. Jack GOFF – WIX Racing with Eurotech
3. Tom INGRAM – Speedworks Motorsport
4. Andrew JORDAN – BMW Pirtek Racing
5. Tom CHILTON – Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher
6. Colin TURKINGTON – Team BMW
7. Josh COOK – Power Maxed TAG Racing
8. Matt SIMPSON – Simpson Racing
9. Dan LLOYD – BTC Norlin Racing
10. Bobby THOMPSON – Team HARD with Trade Price Cars
Penalties
Qualifying:
– Rob Austin received a verbal warning for an incident involving Ash Sutton. This does not count as a strike.
Race 2:
– Ollie Jackson received a verbal warning for an incident involving Matt Neal.
Race 3:
– Rob Austin was officially reprimanded and given two penalty points for an incident involving Tom Oliphant.
– Senna Proctor was penalised by the addition of 0.1 seconds to his race time following an incident involving Ollie Jackson. This does not count as a strike.

British GT 2018 – Silverstone 500 Preview

It’s time to go long again.

June has finally arrived, and with it comes the blue riband event of the British GT season, the Silverstone 500. 500 kilometres is a fair distance for the championship to face, and the longest race of every season always brings a good scrap and a surprise result or two. So what can we potentially expect from this weekend’s endurance event? Perhaps we need look no further than last time out at Snetterton.

What happened at Snetterton was a massive display of V12 Vantage dominance from Aston Martin – try as the other GT3 teams might, there was little chance of an Aston not being top across the whole weekend. And this won’t have gone unnoticed by SRO. It’s unusual for one manufacturer to have such a good time of it across a race weekend. But to have almost all the GT3 Astons at the pointy end of the results will probably hit the Warwickshire concern with a change in Balance of Performance. Add to that the victory in May’s Blancpain Endurance race at Silverstone for R-Motorsport (incidentally running ½ of the Dane Train in the form of TF Sport’s Nicki Thiim) there will be severe concerns that the Aston will need the anchors added for the longest race of the season. While nothing has yet been disclosed, don’t be surprised for the V12 Vantage to be perhaps a little ‘fatter’ for the weekend ahead.

And yet, with the Aston dominance last weekend, it’s the ERC Sport Mercedes pairing of Lee Mowle and Yelmer Buurman who top the tables by 4 ½ points from the title-hungry #33 Barwell Lamborghini drivers Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen. Things never change for the Barwell pair – another year, another title challenge, but still second, for now anyway. Leading the Aston fight is the #99 Beechdean pairing of Andrew Howard and Darren Turner, who’ve a 12 point deficit from Mowle/Buurman.

So, there’s impetus for drivers to maintain points scores. Minshaw and Keen will want to repeat 2016 where they took victory at the Silverstone 500. Mowle/Buurman will want another endurance race win, and Buurman’s ability to charge for long periods of time will help that. Then we have last year’s winners – Rick Parfitt took the Bentley round to a majestic win, and there were green shoots of promising performance at Snetterton for he and Ryan Ratcliffe. A good race at Silverstone would bring a little joy to the Team Parker garage, where Ian Loggie and Callum McLeod’s podium at Rockingham in #7 has been the sole reason to shout loudly so far.

There’s always an augmentation to the field at Silverstone, and this year we welcome back the ABBA Rollcentre Racing Mercedes for a wildcard role in this year’s race weekend. Richard Neary has been driving the Merc in the Britcar Endurance series, but returns with factory driver Adam Christodolou for this one. Last year, Neary had a promising performance in the early stages of the race before suffering a spin. Also returning are new series regulars Balfe Motorsport, after their McLaren suffered a big hit at Rockingham. Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell had a great weekend in the McLaren during International GT Open’s visit in 2017, and there is no reason why they can’t have another crack of the whip on their return. Rounding out the new faces, Nissan’s Gran Turismo star Ricardo Sanchez will partner Struan Moore in the #24 GT-R for this weekend to have another hustle round after having had a play in the Blancpain race last month.

The battle for GT4 is even tighter than that for GT3. So tight infact that you can barely fit a sheet of paper width between Callum Pointon and Patrik Matthiesen’s #55 HHC Motorsport Ginetta and the #4 Tolman McLaren pairing of Charlie Fagg and Michael O’Brien. The battle of the Silver cup drivers in GT4 is back again this year, and as we come to this round there is only ½ a point between Pointon/Matthiesen from Fagg/O’Brien. This is testament to how consistency vs wins works. Fagg and O’Brien have always loitered around the steps of the podium, whilst Pointon/Matthiesen have had a big win at Rockingham to take the larger points score.

HHC Motorsport can be proud of what they are doing in the GT4 series. To be at the top for the second year running in their second year of British GT competition is nothing short of spectacular. Snetterton for them wasn’t brilliant – no podiums allowed the Tolman #4 car to catch back up to their championship leaders, but keeping up the pace is tough, especially when you’ve two Silver drivers facing off against some fantastic professional drivers. Silverstone will be another hard ask for them, but with Ginetta struggling at Snetterton they may yet receive a BoP boost to help them against the McLarens.

We’ve another returnee to GT4 at Silverstone in the form of the Appleby Engineering Aston Martin driven by James Holder and Matthew George. Yes, that Matthew George. George will be piloting both the Jaguar F-Type and the Aston V8 Vantage, requiring him to drive all 3 hours of the race at Silverstone in one way or another. Anyone who frequents the paddock will have spotted him maintaining a thorough fitness routine, so at least physically he’ll be more than capable of coping. It’ll be a fair juggling act at pitstops though. Sadly, for this race, we’ve lost the Johansen/Anttila #54 Ultratek Nissan, which is beyond repair after a punishing race at Snetterton.

The cards are on the table for the weekend ahead at least. 3 hours is a long time to face, and there’s so much that can happen across the field in that time. Will the experience of Minshaw/Keen pay through? Will it be a fairytale return for Beechdean and Andrew Howard with Darren Turner backing him up before his Le Mans trip? Can either of the GT4 Silver pairings make advantage of the extra half point on offer for an endurance race win? All will be revealed on Sunday afternoon.

© Pete Richardson June 2018

BTCC- Croft

Ash Sutton got his title defence underway by taking a double win at Croft. BTC Norlin’s Dan Lloyd took the final win of the day becoming the latest BTCC race winner.
Sutton claimed pole position in qualifying before dominating race one taking a lights to flag victory in the opening race before fighting his way past Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram in race two to take his second victory of the weekend. Subaru scored a one-two finish in the opening race of the weekend when Jason Plato finished in second place behind Sutton.
Sutton’s first win of the weekend was in comfort as Plato battled with BMW Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan for almost the entire race. The latter slipped into second on the run to turn one on lap one before having to defend from Plato before he managed to nip past the BMW. Things began getting worse for Jordan in the BMW as he began struggling with his rear tyres, losing his chances of a podium after running off the track as they headed through Clervaux late in the race. This off track moment allowed Ingram to slip past onto the podium.
Sam Tordoff drove a defensive race to get his Team GardX Racing with Motorbase Ford Focus in fourth by the flag. He held off the Team BMW duo of Colin Turkington and Rob Collard for the whole seventeen lap race whilst Josh Cook looked on from behind in his Power Maxed TAG Racing Vauxhall Astra.
Sutton, Ingram and Plato all went three wide as they headed down to Clervaux at the start of race two, when the dust finally settled it was Ingram who led the pack. Plato was handed a drive through penalty after being judged to have jumped the start. Sutton managed to slip back past Ingram as the two headed through the Hairpin on the second tour of the Yorkshire circuit. After all the early entertainment in the race it was Sutton who led to the flag with Ingram following and Turkington rounding out the podium. Tordoff settled for fourth.
BTC Norlin’s Dan Lloyd went on to win the final race of the day. Not only was it the Yorkshireman’s first ever win in the BTCC championship, the win was made even sweeter for Lloyd as it was at his home track. This was the first step of success for the BTC Norlin Racing team. Tom Chilton took second in his Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher after firing his Ford Focus off the line from fourth to second. Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Senna Proctor took third place.
After leaving Croft, Colin Turkington remains in the lead of the overall Drivers’ championship after he secured three top five finishes over the weekend. BMW hold their advantage in the Manufacturers and Teams’ title fights. Tom Ingram and Speedworks Motorsport lead the Independent drivers’ and teams’ titles. Dan Lloyd took a clean sweep of wins in the Jack Sears Trophy but Dan Cammish still leads the way.
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship now enters its five week mid season break, it will return to action on the 28/29th July at Snetteron, located in Norfolk.
2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 13 – Croft Circuit
1.Ashley SUTTON -Adrian Flux Subaru Racing
2.Jason PLATO – Adrian Flux Subaru Racing
3.Tom INGRAM – Speedworks Motorsport
4.Sam TORDOFF – Team GardX Racing with Motorbase
5.Colin TURKINGTON – Team BMW
6.Rob COLLARD – Team BMW
7.Josh COOK – Power Maxed TAG Racing
8.Dan LLOYD – BTC Norlin Racing
9.Matt NEAL – Halfords Yuasa Racing
10.Andrew JORDAN – BMW Pirtek Racing
2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 14 – Croft Circuit
1.Ashley SUTTON – Adrian Flux Subaru Racing
2.Tom INGRAM – Speedworks Motorsport
3.Colin TURKINGTON – Team BMW
4.Sam TORDOFF – Team GardX Racing with Motorbase
5.Andrew JORDAN – BMW Pirtek Racing
6.Tom CHILTON – Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher
7.Matt NEAL – Halfords Yuasa Racing
8.Senna PROCTOR – Power Maxed TAG Racing
9.Dan LLOYD – BTC Norlin Racing
10.Rory BUTCHER – AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing
2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Round 15 – Croft Circuit
1.Dan LLOYD – BTC Norlin Racing
2.Tom CHILTON – Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher
3.Senna PROCTOR – Power Maxed TAG Racing
4.Matt NEAL – Halfords Yuasa Racing
5.Colin TURKINGTON – Team BMW
6.Andrew JORDAN – BMW Pirtek Racing
7.Ashley SUTTON – Adrian Flux Subaru Racing
8.Sam TORDOFF – Team GardX Racing with Motorbase
9.Tom INGRAM – Speedworks Motorsport
10.Dan CAMMISH – Halfords Yuasa Racing
Penalties:
Weekend:
– Adrian Flux Subaru Racing has had 10 points deducted from the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ Championships having changed an engine above the number permitted
– BTC Norlin Racing has had 10 points deducted from the Teams’ Championships having changed an engine above the number permitted
Qualifying:
– Matt Simpson was verbally warned for driving in a manner incompatible with general safety or departing from the standard of a reasonably competent driver
Race 1:
– Josh Price received a verbal warning for an incident involving Aiden Moffat
Race 2:
– Rory Butcher was officially reprimanded and received two penalty points for an incident involving James Cole
Race 3:
– Tom Oliphant was penalised by the addition of 9.5 seconds to his race time for gaining an unfair advantage. This does not count as a strike
– Ash Sutton was penalised by the addition of one second to his race time for gaining an unfair advantage. This does not count as a strike

British GT 2018 – Round 3 – Snetterton

A solid weekend all round

When you look back at the opening two rounds of the season at Oulton Park and Rockingham, you begin to wonder whether there’s any hope of there being a race weekend where the drivers can stop worrying about the weather and just get on with the job in hand. The first knockings of summer bring with them optimism, a feeling of serenity and the threat of those barbecue-quelling storms that make everything feel like a typical British year.

The weekend of 26-27th May though will go down as a generally pleasant weekend though, and for no reason less than we got our usual feast of GT action at the Norfolk venue of Snetterton, where drivers and teams stare down the barrel of a narrow, tight and twisting circuit surrounded by wonderful high speed blasts which brings with it a question of whether to make the most of cornering or fit the car up for the acceleration and top speed for the two 1 hour sprint races on Sunday.

Sadly, we were short of the #101 Balfe Motorsport McLaren 650S which pranged at Rockingham’s Turn 4 last time out. Shaun Balfe is a canny man though, and knows to rush back would probably only have been a disadvantage. Better to be ready for the 3 hour blue riband Silverstone 500 event in a few weeks time where more points, and more space await the field. Also missing was Devon Modell from the #24 RJN Nissan, who was replaced by Jordan Witt, making his return to the championship after previously having wielded the “small but mighty” Chevron in past seasons in British GT.

The Mercedes was the car to have last time out at Rockingham, or at least Lee Mowle and Yelmer Buurman thought so, with justification. As free practice began though it was clear that a British Summer weekend needed a British manufacturer to make hay, and Aston Martin looked imperious, with Nicki Thiim in the #11 TF Sport Aston and Darren Turner in the #99 Beechdean cars leading the way with the other Astons looking serious behind them. Rather worryingly, the competition looked like not being at it’s usual strength. We are used to having Lamborghinis from Barwell being there or thereabouts at Snetterton, but Minshaw/Keen and De Haan/Cocker looked like being the best of the rest at best. Buurman was pushing the #116 Mercedes as best he could with the changed BoP on the Mercedes following the Rockingham win, but not even the flying Dutchman could halt the Warwickshire-made titans.

GT4 thankfully was as open as ever, and although the #62 Aston of Matt Nicoll-Jones took the second free practice session, it wasn’t by a huge margin, and the rest of the field, including the #66 Mercedes of Jones/Malvern which topped FP1 were still in close contention. It wasn’t all plain sailing though as the RJN Ultratek Nissan #53 of Fletcher/Plowman suffered engine troubles which would keep the car firmly in the garage needing severe transplant surgery under the bonnet, which the mechanics went at with heart and vigour to get the 370Z out on track once more.

Qualifying in GT3 though was all about one car and two men. Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim made the most of the improved weather in the #11 Aston to top both the qualifying sessions for TF Sport. A little adjustment to the set up saw the blue car take the pole from its rivals, much to the delight of the pairing. Mark Farmer has history at Snetterton of podium visits, and another wouldn’t harm his morale or reputation. Graham Davidson got P2 for race one with the #47 Jetstream car holding off the #1 Team Parker Bentley of Rick Parfitt and the #33 Barwell Lamborghini of Jon Minshaw, who made an effort to prevent it being a total walkover for the Astons for Race 1. Qualifying’s second session saw Yelmer Buurman and Maxime Martin attempt to topple Nicki Thiim’s top time, but both fell afoul of the rules – Buurman pushed the #116 ERC Sport Mercedes beyond the limits of inhabitable race track, and Maxime Martin set a blistering time only to not set enough timed laps to qualify the #47 car properly, sending him to the back of the GT3 pack.

GT4 qualifying saw the #42 Century BMW of Ben Tuck/Ben Green take pole for the first race, happily putting a different marque top of the times for each separate session up to and including Quali.1 in the class. Tuck made a very neat and tidy lap to give himself space over the #55 HHC Ginetta of Pointon/Matthiesen. Behind them, Will Moore in #62 Aston headed off the suddenly speedy #68 Toyota of Tom Canning. The Toyota is the least-cylinder bound car on the grid, but it has legs when it needs them. The second qualifying session saw Nicoll-Jones nab race 2 pole, heading off Jack Mitchell in the #43 Century BMW, who was riding on the crest of the wave caused by #42 earlier. Jan Jonck, fresh off a solid performance in the GT4 European Series at Brands, took the other #61 Academy Aston to third, with Scott Malvern pushing the #66 Mercedes to fourth spot.

Race one got underway with the #11 Aston pulling away from the start to try and keep itself there. Behind Mark Farmer, Jon Minshaw reminded Graham Davidson that being a newcomer in British GT should be an ‘experience’ by passing him to take 2nd place and try and keep up with Farmer. But Davidson soon got the bit between his teeth, back past Minshaw and started to close up to Farmer, bringing the #1 Bentley of Parfitt with him to keep him company in pursuit of the top step. Infact it was all going really well for Graham Davidson, and then the safety car came out. A 60 minute sprint with a safety car period is rather frustrating for everyone, especially when it coincides with the pit window opening. In came the drivers for a change around – Davidson got out and Martin got in, but were held up, so Nicki Thiim once again pushed to the front as the #11 Aston retook the lead, which it would hold to the finish, taking the first “Dane Train” win in British GT, a highly popular score with the fans. Behind the TF Sport car, Davidson/Martin held a solid second, with Minshaw/Keen taking third after pit stop calamities held back the #1 Bentley from achieving further progress.

The GT4 race was fairly similar at the start. Ben Tuck got his head down behind the wheel of the #42 BMW, but sadly it wouldn’t last as the safety car meant that it was advantage neutralised when the pit window opened. With the field closer than it had been before, it was down to who could change and profit best. Cue the entry of one of the most popular men in the paddock: Joe Osborne in the #56 Tolman McLaren. Osborne is fast at Snetterton (he’d set pole last year here and had a podium with David Pattison), and the McLaren was in good shape to profit from the extra time required to be taken by the Silver driver pairings. 12 seconds is a huge time in motorsport, so when Tuck and Green swapped round, they had to watch and wait as the Pro-Am McLaren with David Pattison having driven a reliable and neat stint gave the #56 to Osborne who promptly waved goodbye to the cars behind and hello to a GT4 race win. Behind him, Charlie Fagg and Michael O’Brien came through to take 2nd place, proving their speed and consistency in the Silver Class again in #4 McLaren, with Will Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones climbing up to 3rd after Martin Plowman’s #53 Nissan got a penalty for a pit infringement late on in the race, robbing it of a podium place when everything looked good for the rather unlucky 370Z.

Photo-Jakob Ebrey/British GT

So, Race 1 yielded two of the most popular wins of the season so far, but Race 2 was coming. To add to the drama and perhaps increase the blood pressure of some drivers, just as the field took to the formation lap, some drops of warm (but not unpleasant) rain started hitting the track. As the Pro drivers would take the start first, it was clear that the rain in the air was completely psychological and could be ignored. Sadly in GT4 though, this meant that when the field bunched up for the tight Agostini hairpin, the cars infront were psychological and could be ignored too, as the #86 Toyota of McDonald/Quinn hit the #72 track-club McLaren piloted by Ben Barnicoat, putting both cars out of the race, and the track into neutralisation with barely a lap gone.

Nicki Thiim wasn’t complaining though. He’d led from the first moment of the race and the #11 TF Sport would only have a 10 second penalty in the pit stop to serve which would knock them back down the order, but Thiim barely saw the back of anyone else in his stint, lest it were a backmarker or the safety car, which came out early to suspend proceedings a little. Behind him though was WEC teammate and fellow Dane Train driver, Marco Sorensen, who was in the #17 sister TF Sport Aston. And it was he who would profit from a lack of pit penalty this time round when the window opened.  Sorensen handed over to Derek Johnston, and Darren Turner handed over to Andrew Howard in the #99 Beechdean Aston, which would finally make a race distance having failed to manage it in race 1. What then happened was one of the finest pressure/defence drives we’ve seen as Howard nailed his nose to the rear bumper of Johnston’s car, in an effort to put the 2016 champion off his stride. Johnston is no fool though and kept his business to himself as the Beechdean car started to sniff out gaps and put pressure on him. The two cars finished neatly, cleanly and safely first and second, with Howard having to settle for second to Johnston/Sorensen. Behind them, Mark Farmer held on to 3rd with the #11 TF Sport car, which was holding off the #75 Optimum Aston driven by the scarily fast Flick Haigh, who was making up time hand over fist in the late stages. It would have been Astons 1-2-3-4-5, but for a penalty for the #47 car of Davidson/Martin, which went in a little too heavily on the #33 Lamborghini of Jon Minshaw in the last quarter of the race, putting Minshaw off the road, but thankfully not out. 1-2-3-4 still looks good for Aston though, if a little too dominant ahead of the next race.

Photo-Jakob Ebrey/British GT

Despite the messy beginning, GT4 played out pretty cleanly in the end, as Nicoll-Jones led the field to begin with, but Jack Mitchell squeezed the #43 BMW into the lead in the opening half of the race, showing his credentials as a solid racer in any machine once more. Behind them, the other BMW of Ben Green got nudged into a spin, and had to work hard to get ground back. As the pit stops came, it was now time for the third Tolman McLaren to take over the lead, as the #5 of Jordan Albert and Lewis Proctor got a shift on and went to the front. Behind them though, Ben Tuck had been shown the proverbial red rag, and was turning bullish laps to recover the time lost by Green’s earlier spin. He made up time and time each lap, and positions, to be in place when Proctor succumbed to pressure on the last lap of the race, demoting the #5 McLaren to second, and giving the #42 BMW a deserved win on sheer effort. Once again, Nicoll-Jones/Moore took 3rd place to remind everyone that Aston Martin weren’t done with GT4 yet either.

Snetterton had provided us with a fair bounty of racing again. And Aston Martin came away with a huge pile of trophies, a pair of happy Danes, and a potential headache of BoP, ballast and pit stop penalties to be applied at Silverstone next time out, for the 500km, 3 hour event which sees the winning drivers awarded the RAC Trophy and is the highlight of the British GT year. Good things come to those who work hard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t escape the hammer of racing justice of course… Silverstone, and its long race, await.

BTCC – Thruxton

 

This weekend saw the British Touring Car Championship roar into Thruxton Race Circuit, located in Hampshire. Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal, Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Josh Cook and Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport’s Adam Morgan took a win apiece. This sees Morgan move into the lead of the championship standings as the championship heads to Oulton Park next.  

Neal dominated the opening race of the day, taking a lights-to-flag victory, keeping Team BMW’s Colin Turkington at bay for sixteen laps. The season so far had been largely in the favour of the young drivers but Neal showed that the experienced drivers are still more than capable when he fought back to take the first pole position in the new Type R. Turkington pulled alongside as the pair accelerated off the line before Neal managed to get ahead and stay there until the end of the race but was kept honest by the BMW driver every corner for the sixteen lap race.

Sam Tordoff chased down Neal’s teammate Dan Cammish aboard his Team GardX Racing with Motorbase run Ford Focus to catch the Honda man in an attempt to take the final podium position. Cammish fought back and took third place with Tordoff taking fourth. The latters stablemate Tom Chilton in one of the Shredded Wheat backed Focus RS’ rounded out the top five.

Josh Cook kept his winning form going as the Power Maxed TAG Racing driver took the victory in race two. Neal started on pole but was unable to hang on as they accelerated off the line, Turkington blasted ahead into the lead on the entrance into the Complex. Cammish bogged down as the race started which allowed Tordoff and BMW Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan to fly past, fighting for third place. The Power Maxed TAG Racing duo of Josh Cook and Senna Proctor soon started to make progress as they slipped past Chilton. Proctor’s progress stopped there but his teammate Cook charged forward, quickly passing Tordoff and Jordan. He then went on to drive around the outside of Neal at the final chicane to take second. By the tenth lap of the race Cook was challenging Turkington for the lead of the race. His moment came at the end of lap eleven as he passed Turkington around the outside, which saw Cook move into the lead. Turkington finished the race in second ahead of Neal in third, Tordoff in fourth, Jordan in fifth and Proctor in sixth.

Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport’ Adam Morgan took his second victory of the season so far in the final race of the day at Thruxton. He led the race from the moment the lights went out until the flag flew at the start line at the wheel of his Mercedes Benz A-Class. Morgan got a blinding start off the line and defended well from a quick starting Senna Proctor. WIX Racing with Eurotech’s Jack Goff was crawling all over the bumper of Proctor’s Astra which allowed Morgan some breathing space. Goff made his move stick on the youngster towards the end of the race but he was unable to chase down or challenge Morgan for the lead. Tordoff enjoyed a strong weekend as he took his third top five result of the race weekend as he finished in fourth. Turkington finished the final race in fifth, which puts himself back into strong championship contention.

Morgan now leads the overall Drivers’ championship by just a single point ahead of Cook in second. Tom Ingram sits third in the championship with ten points splitting second and third after he suffered a rather challenging day, suffering a DNF in the opening race. However, the rapid Toyota driver went on to take a brand new lap record in the final race.

Yvan Muller’s Thruxton lap record was set in 2002 and had been the longest standing lap record on the BTCC calendar but was beaten multiple times during the weekend this year. Ingram now holds the lap record of 1:17.060s.

Vauxhall leave Thruxton in the lead of the Manufacturers’ standings. Power Maxed TAG Racing leave in the lead of the Team’s championship. Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport’s Adam Morgan leads both the Independents Teams’ and Drivers’ championship tables. A trio of top ten finishes sees BTC Norlin Racing’s Chris Smiley now at the head of the Jack Sears Trophy.

The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship returns in three weeks’ time at Oulton Park.

At the end of racing at Thruxton some drivers were handed penalties, those being;

  • Michael Caine – received a verbal warning and two penalty points for an incident involving Tom Boardman during race one.
  • Josh Cook – received a verbal warning for gaining an unfair advantage in an incident involving Andrew Jordan in race two.
  • James Cole received a verbal warning for an incident involving Tom Oliphant in race two.

Adrian Flux Subaru Racing were deducted 10 points in the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ championship as they exceeded the engine allowance for this season.

© Fay Tilley  May 2018

 

BTCC Brands Hatch

The opening round of the British Touring Car Championship got underway on the 7th/8th of April at Brands Hatch,using the Indy circuit format.
Qualifying took place on Saturday afternoon at around 3:15pm where Wix Racing with Eurotech’s Jack Goff came out on top, taking pole position for the first race of the new season. Joining Goff on the front row was Team GardX Racing with Motorbase’s Sam Tordoff ahead of Team BMW’s Colin Turkington and Halfords Yuasa’s Dan Cammish on row two.
The three races took place on Sunday with three different drivers each taking a win as well as nine different drivers taking the steps on the podium.
Race one saw Jack Goff take the win ahead of Team BMW’s Colin Turkington and BMW Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan. During the race twenty-seven laps were completed with many trading places before the chequered flag came out.
Three drivers failed to complete the first lap of the race, those drivers being; Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing’s Mike Bushell, Eurotech run Matt Simpson and Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal. Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Josh Cook was not classified in the results after only completing eighteen racing laps. Post race BTC Norlin Racing’s Chris Smiley was handed a 0.6 second time penalty for breaching regulation C2.3 due to gaining an unfair advantage over a fellow competitor.
Post race BTC Norlin Racing’s James Nash received a verbal warning for an incident with Senna Proctor.
Race two saw Jack Goff once again start from pole position. The race began to confuse a lot of people when the leader changed three times over two laps of the race with Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Senna Proctor going on to win the race, taking his first BTCC career victory. Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing’s Jake Hill took his first podium in the BTCC with a second place finish ahead of AMD with Cobra Exhausts’ Ollie Jackson, who also took his first BTCC podium in third place.
Three drivers failed to finish the race, those being; Team Parker Racing’s Stephen Jelley, Ciceley Motorsport’s Tom Oliphant and Team HARD with Trade Price Cars’ Bobby Thompson.
Post race AMD with Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing’s Tom Boardman received a verbal warning for an incident with Matt Neal. Senna Proctor was also given a verbal warning for an incident with Aiden Moffat.
For the final race of the weekend it was Duo Motorsport with HMS Racing’s Rob Austin on pole position with Laser Tools Racing’s Aiden Moffat alongside. After twenty-seven laps of the race had been completed it was Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram who came out on top to take the victory. Mac Tools with Ciceley Motorsport’s Adam Morgan finished in second place ahead of Rob Austin in third.
Three drivers failed to complete the race, those being; Team BMW’s Rob Collard, Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher’s James Cole and BTC Norlin Racing’s James Nash.
Post race five drivers were handed penalties. Mike Bushell receieved an official reprimand and had his license endorsed with two points for an incident involving Aiden Moffat. Team BMR’s Ashley Sutton receieved a verbal warning for an incident with James Nash. Senna Proctor received an official reprimand and had his license endorsed with two points for an incident with James Nash. Stephen Jelley received an official reprimand and had his license endorsed with two points for an incident with Tom Chilton. The final driver to be penalized was Jack Goff, he was given a verbal warning for an incident with Ollie Jackson.
© Fay Tilley 2018

BTCC – Donington Park

The second race meeting of the British Touring Car Championship took place at Donington Park on the 28th/29th April. The weekend saw a new pole sitter for this season as well as three different winners during the races, resulting in five different winners so far. Josh Cook, Tom Ingram and Adam Morgan took a win each. Speedworks Motorsport’s Ingram is the only driver to get two wins during the 2018 season so far. The average age of the three winners from Donington Park is just twenty-six years, the three wowed the crowds of thousands of spectators around the circuit on race day which more than made up for the weather fans had braced on the Saturday.
Qualifying saw Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Josh Cook take pole position in one of the two Vauxhall Astra’s with BTC Norlin Racing’s Chris Smiley alongside on the grid in second aboard his Honda Civic Type R, his best qualifying yet in the BTCC. Third on the grid went to Sam Tordoff at the wheel of the Team GardX Racing with Motorbase’s Ford Focus RS ahead of Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Dan Cammish in one of the new for 2018 Honda Civic Type Rs. Laser Tools Racing’s Aiden Moffat qualified his Mercedes in fifth ahead of Wix Racing with Eurotech’s Jack Goff alongside in sixth aboard his Honda Civic Type R. BTC Norlin Racing’s second Honda in the hands of returning BTCC racer James Nash finished the qualifying session in seventh ahead of Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher’s Tom Chilton in eighth. Wix Racing with Eurotech’s #39 Honda Civic Type R in the hands of Brett Smith qualified in ninth with Ciceley Motorsport’s Tom Oliphant rounding out the top ten.
Race one saw Josh Cook take his first victory in the 2018 season ahead of Cammish in second and Moffat in third. Initially Cook got a great start but second placed Chris Smiley got the jump as they headed into turn one at Redgate to briefly snatch the lead, followed through by Tordoff. Lap two saw Cook back in the lead of the race with Cammish having passed Tordoff and Smiley to be running in second place ahead of Tordoff in third, Moffat in fourth and Smiley in fourth.
Smiley was holding out well before Brett Smith pounced and demoted the BTC Norlin driver to sixth. Lap five saw Jack Goff, James Cole, Colin Turkington, Senna Proctor and Tom Ingram all battling for seventh place. Half a lap later the battle got a tad too close with Turkington receiving contact forcing him take to the grass.
Three laps later saw Goff leading a train of half a dozen cars as they all wanted to break inside the top ten with the Honda driver holding his position in tenth. On lap fourteen the order up the front was; Cook, Cammish, Moffat, Smith, Cole, Neal, Smiley, Proctor, Oliphant and Turkington in the top ten which is how the race ended.
After the race Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Senna Proctor was handed his third strike of the season for an incident involving Team BMW’s Colin Turkington. As a result of his third strike the youngster will start the second race from the back of the grid. The only driver to not finish the race was Team GardX Racing with Motorbase’s Sam Tordoff as he retired in the pits after completing just ten racing laps.
Race two of the day saw championship leader Tom Ingram take victory after starting in thirteenth on the grid. Chris Smiley was immensely happy with how he drove in the second race as he took both his and BTC Norlin Racing’s first ever podium in the BTCC. Jack Goff completed the overall podium in third.
At the start of the second race it was Dan Cammish who got a rocket start and found himself in the lead, he soon found himself struggling to hang on to the lead as he was battling against the harder compound tyre. Drivers on the Dunlop Sportmaxx Prime tyre were able to storm their way through. Smiley and Ingram were both on the prime tyre and at about half race distance they began putting Cammish under immense pressure, Ingram followed Smiley through as they both passed the leader. Smiley then ran wide on lap ten, allowing Ingram to see his opportunity to pass and take over the lead of the race on the run down to the final chicane.
Jack Goff rounded out the podium in third after starting in twelfth. Cammish drove his Honda to the best of his ability to take fourth. Adam Morgan finished the second race in fifth ahead of James Cole in sixth, race one winner Josh Cook in seventh and reigning champion Ashley Sutton in eighth. Ninth place went to Rory Butcher with Tom Chilton rounding out the top ten.
Three drivers failed to complete the race, those being; BTC Norlin Racing’s James Nash after completing no laps, Team BMW’s Colin Turkington and AMD with Cobra Exhausts’ Sam Smelt who both completed eight laps of the race.
Jack Goff was the ony driver to be penalized in the second race of the weekend after receiving his second strike for an incident with Josh Cook.
After race two Jonathan Palmer, the boss of MSV circuits completed the reverse grid draw for the final race of the day. He pulled out number nine, promoting Rory Butcher on to pole position for the final race.
Initially Butcher held on to the lead of the race as the field launched off the line at the start.  Reigning champion Ashley Sutton and Ciceley Motorsport’s Adam Morgan managed to pass the MG racer before the end of lap one. Drama surfaced through the pack as Power Maxed TAG Racing’s Senna Proctor, Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Gallagher’s James Cole, Team GardX Racing with Motorbase’s Sam Tordoff, Wix Racing with Eurotech’s Brett Smith and Autoglym Academy’s Josh Price all saw their races ended on the opening lap of the race. Due to the multi car collision and the number of stranded cars around the circuit a safety car was called out to allow the cars to be moved to a safe place.
On lap eight Morgan made his all important move to take the lead of the race from reigning champion Sutton. The latter then fell into the clutches of the chasing pack. Morgan took the win from Josh Cook in second and Aiden Moffat rounding out the overall podium in third place. Team BMW’s Rob Collard finished the final race in fourth ahead of fellow BMW racer Andrew Jordan aboard the BMW Pirtek Racing 1-series. Sutton completed the race to take sixth ahead of Halfords Yuasa Racing’s Matt Neal in seventh and Tom Ingram in eighth. Ninth place went to Tom Chilton with Trade Price Cars with Brisky Racing’s Jake Hill rounding out the top ten.
Seven drivers did not manage to finish the race, those being; Price, Smith, Cole and Tordoff who did not complete any laps, Proctor finished one lap before retiring in the pit lane, Tom Boardman retired his MG after ten laps of the race and Dan Cammish only completed eleven laps before retiring. BTC Norlin Racing’s Chris Smiley was not classified in the results after completing fifteen laps of the race.
Upon leaving Donington Park Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram leads the Drivers’ standings by seven points from Adam Morgan with Josh Cook a further eight points behind in third.
The Power Maxed TAG Racing team running Vauxhall’s currently lead the Manufacturers’ standings as well as the Teams’ championship standings.
Ingram and Speedworks Motorsport lead the Independents’ standings. Dan Cammish currently leads the Jack Sears Trophy.
Jake Hill currently sits at the top of Dunlop’s #ForeverForward standings as he has been the driver to make the most passes so far this season.

The next round of the season takes place at Thruxton, located in Hampshire on the 19th/20th May.

 © Fay Tilley 2018

British GT 2018 – Round 2 – Rockingham Motor Speedway

 

What A Difference A Day Makes

 

 

After the controversy of Oulton Park, what British GT needed was a race weekend that ran smoothly, without things suddenly being thrown into doubt and confusion. So as the teams emerged from their garages on Saturday morning, it was a case of “oh no, not this again” as the weather decided that it would be a wet beginning to the weekend. Wet, and bitterly, painfully cold. Rain and cold are the enemies of successful practice. That said, any track time is a good thing, especially at Rockingham where drivers must contend with a lap of two distinct halves.

 

The main feedback from drivers was the lack of adhesion during practice. It was visibly evident that even the top drivers were reluctant to pile into the fearsome banked Turn 1 with any particular gusto. It’s possibly down to this that the Free Practice sessions ran so relatively smoothly. Only the #88 Team HARD Ginetta of Joshua Jackson and Ben Wallace suffered any heavy calamity, as they met heavily with a barrier and severely dented their front end. Tony Gilham’s team is all “never say die” attitude though, and the car was fixed for the afternoon’s qualifying sessions, a feat worthy of recognition. On the whole, most teams came out without much concern, other than helping the car stick to the road in right places.

 

If there’s one wonderful thing about wet and cold practices it’s the one lap pace of the classes. In the first session, Yelmer Buurman showed his strength in the #116 ERC Sport Mercedes, with the fastest GT4 car being the #4 Tolman McLaren of Charlie Fagg and Michael O’Brien. There was only 5 seconds between them, with the GT4 car outpacing some of the GT3 runners. Let it be said on record once more, that perhaps this should not be a surprise as the Bentleys, for all their excitement are a real trouble in the wet conditions, and Parfitt/Ratcliffe and Loggie/McLeod in nos 1 and 7 respectively didn’t really put down scintillating times while the big cars scrabbled for traction. The second session went the way of Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam in the #75 Optimum Aston Martin, whilst Will Burns set down a laptime good enough to give him and Mike Newbould top spot in GT4 in the #50 HHC Ginetta.

 

As Saturday wore on, the cold remained, but the rain lessened, and became a steady nagging drizzle, which in part relieved the tarmac of some excess water, but didn’t exactly improve grip around the course. As if to prove this, during the GT3 Am qualifying session, Jon Minshaw in #33 Lamborghini and Lee Mowle in the #116 Mercedes both rotated their vehicles at Deene and Turn 4 of the oval within moments of each other. Embarrassment for Minshaw, but heartbreak for Mowle, as the Barwell man went on to set second fastest time, but the Mercedes was buried firmly in the tyres protecting the pit entry wall. The fastest GT3 Am was once again the mercurial Flick Haigh, who went nearly a second faster than Minshaw.

The GT3 Pro session flipped things about though, with Phil Keen taking over from Minshaw and going nearly a second faster than Jonny Adam, who’d taken over from Flick Haigh. There was enough in it to give the green and red Lamborghini pole, which was handy considering the 20 second success penalty the #33 had to take in the pit stop during the 2 hour race.

 

In GT4, qualifying was pride and joy of the Tolman team, as the #4 and #5 cars took positions one and two on the class grid, with Jordan Albert and Lewis Proctor backing up Fagg and O’Brien from their earlier morning exploits. As cars received penalties for yellow flag infringements, the third car on the grid made it a McLaren 1-2-3, as the Pro-Am track-club #72 car of Adam Balon and Ben Barnicoat backed up the Tolman development drivers.

As Sunday dawned, the grey layers of cloud over Northamptonshire remained, as did the unpleasantly chilly winds which swirl round the quad-oval at Rockingham on a year-round basis. Thankfully though, the rain which had saturated Saturday, didn’t decide to trouble the circuit on Sunday, but the cold still gave a prevailing absence of grip to the tarmac. Warm-up was interrupted briefly by a clash between the #66 Team Parker Mercedes of Jones/Malvern and the #10 Equipe Verschuur McLaren of McKay/Hutchison, but the field went out for the full allotted 10 minutes and finally got some relatively dry track time in.

 

With the cars and drivers prepared, the only thing remaining now was for the race to begin. As the field got away, the Minshaw and Haigh battle began at the front of the pack in GT3. What neither of them figured on was the sudden awakening of Sam De Haan in the #69 Barwell Lamborghini. The pink and black machine looked a colourful missile chasing the pair, eventually passing Haigh to make it a Lamborghini 1-2 in the early stages. And then the first safety car came out when the #101 Balfe Motorsport McLaren of Shaun Balfe clattered the outside wall of the oval at Turn 4, leaving him stranded on the high line. With the field neutralised it was time to take stock of the early proceedings. Balfe had managed to claw himself up to 4th behind MInshaw, De Haan and Haigh, before his unfortunate crash. In GT4, Charlie Fagg was giving it everything in the #4 McLaren for Tolman, but was being reeled in by HHC Motorsport’s Patrik Matthiesen in the #55 GInetta, which was benefitting from a drier surface on race day.

 

As the race returned to green flag conditions, it was clear that things were very different from Saturday. Rick Parfitt now had the bit between his teeth in the #1 Bentley and started to go up the order, and Derek Johnston in the #17 TF Sport Aston also fancied a piece of the action. Flick Haigh however wasn’t enjoying the pursuit of the Barwell pairing and she speared off the track in the #75 Aston at Tarzan before rescuing and rejoining. Lee Mowle also took to the outskirts of Tarzan in the #116 car, but came out unscathed.

 

A second safety car period ensued when David Pattison beached the #56 Tolman Pro-Am McLaren in the gravel at Chapman Curve, and required a snatch to pull him from the depths. By this time, Graham Davidson in the #47 Jetstream Aston had taken an interest in the chase of the Barwell Lamborghinis. Davidson is no stranger to the front end of the field and before long he had overhauled De Haan, and taken second behind Minshaw. Flying Scotsmen are no strangers in British GT and Davidson is the latest to prove his mettle. His charge was helped by what sounded like the imminent demise of the #69 Lamborghini, which suddenly took on a melodic tone not dissimilar to a selection of nuts and bolts in a tin can.

 

Behind the lead battle, there was a squabble for space at Tarzan between Johnston and Parfitt, and with the Bentley seemingly occupying the space that the #17 Aston should have been in, Johnston decided to assist the #1 car out of its path, causing Parfitt a nervous spin and an even more nervous wait for the traffic to pass around him before he wellied the throttle to point the Bentley in the right direction. Another hard charge had been ended, and from that moment the #1 Bentley failed to make any further inroads into the race. During his stint, Ratcliffe even had the misfortune of the car suddenly requiring a “hard reset” as he cruised to a stop just past the Deene hairpin.

 

Pitstops in British GT are a thing requiring precision and good timing. Every team member must be ready to play their part properly for any incident that may arise. The Optimum Aston squad had a small fire to deal with, which hindered Jonny Adam from getting a clean getaway back out to chase after the pack in his stint. The Barwell squad welcomed both their cars in, the #33 for the regular stop plus 20 seconds penalty, and the #69 permanently with transmission issues stopping the car from rejoining the race. Unfortunately, Phil Keen did not have his helmet equipped at the right point, and breached safety laws, which required the team to serve a further stop go penalty, denting their hopes of remaining in the top 3. Graham Davidson swapped for Maxime Martin in the #47 car, and the Belgian got to work on showing his factory talents.

In GT4, things had been relatively calm. The #4 Tolman McLaren led the #55 HHC Ginetta, and those positions soon reversed as Callum Pointon took over from Matthiesen. Making ground since the pitstops though were Finn Jesse Anttila, who had taken over in the #54 Ultratek Nissan, and was looking very competitive and very fast suddenly in one of the oldest cars on the grid, and Ben Barnicoat in the #72 track-club McLaren, where Adam Balon had once again put in an underrated but competent drive. Sadly, the track-club challenge blunted when the car started spitting a huge jet of flame from its exhaust. This left the way clear for the chasing pack, and the Tolman team were finally losing their grip on the weekend. Eventually, it was the #62 Academy Aston Martin piloted by Will Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones that seized the initiative for 3rd place in class, despite a hairy moment into Turn 1 when Moore brushed sidepanels with the #11 TF Sport Aston of Mark Farmer, thankfully without major damage to either car.

 

GT3 though, was about to change utterly. Maxime Martin had set off from the pits in the hope that outright speed would put him on top of the pile come the chequered flag. A penalty coming for Keen would give him breathing space. What he didn’t anticipate was for the penalty that would apply to himself as the overran the track limits one too many times for the clerk of the course’s liking, and that turned hope into “what if” for the Jetstream Motorsport team. Cue the surprise package of the weekend.

 

At Monza the weekend before, the German Black Falcon squad took their car to 3rdplace overall in the Blancpain Endurance Series race. One of their drivers that day, Yelmer Buurman, was more than keen to show off his ability in the driving seat. A good series of fast laps let him up to the tailpipes of the #99 Beechdean Aston Martin, which was now driven by Darren Turner, who had inherited a podium spot following Andrew Howard’s usual gritty drive.

 

Buurman didn’t like the Aston being infront, but being a fair man he decided to give him a real show. Buurman showed the nose of the #116 Mercedes down Turner’s inside at Tarzan, knowing the British driver would give him short change for the cheek of an attempt. Buurman and Turner then went side-by-side along the following straight, where the left-right-left of the Brook chicane was located. With no regard for the average way of overtaking, Buurman launched the Mercedes round the outside of Turner into the first left hander in what was a superb passing manoeuvre with no comeback. From then on, it was top spot or bust for the Dutchman, and so it proved to be, with the Mercedes barely missing an apex or a cylinder blast to the chequered flag, whilst others behind him squabbled, struggled, slithered and slipped back. Lee Mowle had until this weekend never won a British GT race. It was high time after some near misses for him to achieve this goal. Behind them, Marco Sorensen had taken over from Derek Johnston in the #17 Aston and taken second on the road, only for this to be rescinded following an additional time penalty for the team for causing the spin for Rick Parfitt’s Bentley in the opening hour of the race.

 

Whilst the #1 Bentley suffered, Callum McLeod made up for Team Parker’s rather under-par start to the season by inheriting 2nd place after pushing the #7 Bentley up to 3rd on the road at the flag, whilst the #99 Beechdean car of Andrew Howard and Darren Turner took 3rd spot on the rostrum.

GT4 finished as it had been in most of the second hour. The major change being the rise of the #62 Aston to 3rd spot, although the performance of the Ultratek Nissans in 2nd and 4th was definitely something of a remarkable achievement. It was a definite reversal of fortune for the Tolman squad though, whose cars went from top of the world to off the rostrum in a 2 hour period on Sunday. HHC Motorsport were now back again, and Matthiesen and Pointon look no less effective than Middleton and Tregurtha did last year.

 

The most remarkable thing though was this – the race winner, who nobody expected, started from the very back of the GT3 pack, following Lee Mowle’s spin and prang during qualifying. It often shows how much a difference a race makes, and how much time can pass between being nowhere and being somewhere. Next time out, it’s two one hour long races at Snetterton, where there’s usually always something occurring to change the order of the field, and usually quite spectacularly.

 

© Pete Richardson May 2018