Dennis Strandberg Reunites with Academy Motorsport

Dennis Strandberg announces a one off comeback to British GT’s at Silverstone in June.

Dennis will be reuniting with the Academy Motorsport team for which he drove the 2015 season alongside Will Moore and achieved several podium visits and a dominating performance at the Aston Martin Le Mans Festival, ultimately ending the 2015 season as British GT team champions.
This time Dennis is racing alongside team owner Matt Nichol-Jones in the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 car.
Both know the Vantage well and have much experience between them, Matt Nichol-Jones is himself a former British GT champion so combined these two are more than capable of making their guest appearance unforgettable for the fans.
Earlier in May he competed at Mantorp as a guest driver in Swedish GT5 challenge of which he was a champion of in 2013, and won both his races with dominance.

Dennis is still seeking to form new partnerships with companies for next season

 

Photo credit- Jakob Ebrey/British GT

British GT Round 3 Preview – Oulton Park

The British GT Championship has begun its annual pilgrimage to its most northerly venue on the calendar. And far from being the frozen wastes of the Arctic, the paddock is packing its bags and heading into the lovely parkland of Cheshire, where Oulton Park provides the setting for Round 3 of the 2016 season.

This round is the first of this season’s “Sprint” rounds, with two races taking place on the bank holiday Monday, each being one hour long and putting an emphasis on speed rather than consistency. Each driver will take his seat in the car for half an hour in both races, and the points on offer for each race will be slightly lower than those offered for a 2 or 3 hour race.

The Balance of Performance has now been altered for this round as well, so we can expect changes throughout the field, and maybe we may see winners from outside the #17 TF Sport Aston Martin of Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam, who lead the championship heading into the third round. Two victories from 2 rounds put them well in control at this stage with a 25 point gap to Liam Griffin of Barwell.

So, to bring the others closer, the Aston has been put on a high 95kg ballast diet and will be noticeably heavier as it cruises around the Cheshire countryside, whilst its rivals have all remained relatively lightweight in comparison. Whether this has any effect will be proven, although with the Lamborghini, Bentley and McLaren looking quick at Rockingham, they will be hoping to press up to the Astons for GT3 and overall honours.

What the new machinery will make of the Oulton circuit is yet to be discovered. The general feeling around the paddock is that although the track is aesthetically pleasing and one of the British classics, the circuit is not suited to the GT3 cars, with parts being too narrow to feel comfortable passing the GT4 class. A quick mind will be necessary to make progress through the field as much as anything else, especially on the section returning from Knickerbrook back to the start/finish line, where space is at a premium and speeds are relatively high.

In GT4 there is one noticeable change, and that is in the driver line up at RCIB Team HARD, where Wilson Thompson has been replaced in the #75 Ginetta GT4 by Aaron Mason, a frequent driver in Volkswagens with the “boys in pink and green” for the rest of the season. Rob Barrable has retained his seat and will carry on alongside Mason for the 2 one hour races.

Following the penalty palaver at Rockingham, drivers will be looking to keep out of the steely gaze of the stewards at Oulton Park, especially Nathan Freke of Century Motorsport, who along with Anna Walewska piloted their Ginetta GT4 to first place only to be DSQ’d for passing under yellow flags.

The Balance of Performance for GT4 cars has also changed, and inspite of their win at Rockingham in the hands of #407 Beechdean drivers Jack Bartholemew and Jordan Albert, the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 will actually lose weight to keep up with the Ginettas and McLaren which flew at Rockingham, although their challenges ended for various reasons before and after the chequered flag. The Ginetta and McLaren both gain 60kg of ballast for this round, although their drivers will be keen to put mechanical issues, accident damage and more behind them.

Pit time is crucial in a one hour GT race, and the top 3 finishers in each class from the last round will have additional time penalties to face. This leaves Johnston/Adam with 10 seconds extra in the box at their stop, with Minshaw/Keen facing an extra 7 seconds in the #33 Barwell Lamborghini and Howard/Gunn having an extra 5 seconds in the #1 Beechdean Aston. The same penalties apply to #407 Beechdean Aston, #40 Century Ginetta and #51 Lanan Ginetta in GT4. In a race round a tight track the pit routine is vital to keep a race challenge alive as passing opportunities will be at a premium.

With this considered, it is worth looking to some of the mid order runners from round 2 throughout each class for potential sprint race victors. The #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley of Parfitt/Morris has been sensationally quick so far this year, and they will want to get back to good places after an emotionally charged weekend at Rockingham. The #14 Optimum Motorsport Audi of Moore/Ratcliffe has been on a severe BoP diet and looked consistent for pace in the last round, and so could leap up the order. And Liam Griffin will want to catch up ground on the TF Sport Aston with Adam Carroll again partnering him in the #6 Barwell Lamborghini Huracan.

If there is one certainty that the sprint format brings us, it is that there’s not enough time to wait for other people to make a mistake and hand you a result, so drivers will be pushing as hard as they dare during their half hour stretches in the cars on Monday. Don’t expect a “friendly” race at Oulton, this will be elbows out action from flag to flag…

Parklife Patter:

The #66 Simpson Motorsport entry remains for the time being, a Ginetta, however Nick Jones and Scott Malvern will soon have a Porsche Cayman GT4 in their hands to race, and the new car should hopefully make an appearance for the Silverstone 500 in June.

All drivers will want to be on their best behaviour and will be polishing their halos frantically for presentation to the race director this round, as the last race at Rockingham saw a wave of penalties for pit stop infringements, yellow flag overtaking and causing avoidable incidents. At Oulton’s narrow tarmac, there could yet be more wrist-slapping ahead.

The support package at Oulton Park this weekend includes a race for 1950s sports cars. Oulton Park has been holding sports car racing in some form since 1953, and the comparison between the contemporary and classic will show just how far the world has changed, although don’t bet against Aston Martin being at the top of both piles come Monday evening.

Race Diary – Rockingham – Round 2

After Brands Hatch being not  great opening round we moved onto Rockingham for Round 2, with 45kg of ballast onboard due to BOP being slower on the straights but great in corners meant there was a much higher hope for Rockingham and it turned out not to be to bad in the end.

DSC_0540Unfortunately I made contact with the Ginetta and the Bentley in the first few laps, which saw us receive a 10 second stop, go penalty! I thought the move was on but looking back at the footage and hindsight being a wonderful thing it probably wasn’t.

Car feels great now the twitchy issue we had at Brands is now resolved and Ryan and I are driving well!

Good result for the team and some points on the board!

So 6th is good but should of been better, we just need a break in the BOP if we are going to challenge for podiums. Onwards and upwards bring on Oulton Park

GO HARD OR GO HOME

Our great friend Mark Eakin has become a Weekend Warrior! The term is used for those who volunteer their weekends to gain motorsport experience with a team, it’s a wonderful way to begin a career in motorsport or simply learn new skills!

Without further ado we’ll pass straight to Mark! enjoy!

My first weekend working with Team HARD RCIB Insurance Racing was for lack of a better word EPIC!

It all started on the Thursday morning before the Thruxton rounds of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), when I had to get over to the team base in Rochester to meet some of the guys and help get things loaded into the trucks to take down to the track. It wasn’t too long before our first issue of the weekend apPicsArt_05-14-01.02.27peared, in the shape of a lorry tail lift motor. Unfortunately the one on one of the older trucks was a bit worse for wear and we decided it was best not to put it under too much strain by trying to load the cars, once that was decided it was a case of doing 2 trips with a van and trailer down to the track to take 1 car at a time, the 3rd we were able to get into the other truck. First trip down was uneventful, I followed the van in my car so I could leave it down there for use over the weekend.

Eventually we got all 3 cars to the track by about 6pm, and luckily (for me) most of the garage set up had been done by the other lads so most of what was left was unpacking the details of the garage and working out who was staying in which hotel for the weekend.

Day 2 was when my work really started, when we had to get the hospitality area built and set up. Last time I did this, it took us 2 days to get it all built, this time, now we’re a little more practiced it only took just over half the day on Friday. We could get quite a good view of the track where we were if you stood up on top of the truck too. One of our team was a man that used to work for Mercedes AMG F1 up until the end of 2014, and thankfully he was able to put his organizational skills to good use here or we would have probably made a right mess. So with some good tunes on the stereo and a lot of banter we cracked on and I’m glad to say it was finished with time to spare on Friday afternoon. Even if the Boss man Tony Gilham had to get the golf buggy to try and flatten the floor out!

Saturday rolled round right on schedule as ever and this was when the work started getting manic. Most of the guys in the team all know their roles, some of them work on different cars each weekend but everyone knew what had to be done and was able to do it without a fuss. I was there to lend a hand wherever I PicsArt_05-14-01.03.24could and (hopefully) not get in anyone’s way in the process. Most of my work around the garage involved keeping the cars looking clean and shiny, making sure after each session I cleaned off any dead bugs and molten rubber.

What really shocked and impressed me was how well this team works under pressure. That came first, after FP1 when the car of Chris Smiley snapped a drive shaft, at this point once anyone working on the other cars setups had finished what they had to do everyone would chip in where they could to help get Chris’ car back together ready for FP2. Unfortunately during the next session the same car decided to lose all drive again out on track. Once back in the garage it was discovered that it needed a whole new gearbox to be able to get out for qualifying.

Amazingly and all credit to these guys, they managed to strip the whole front end of the car off, get the engine out, strip out the old gearbox, source a new one from a friendly team, prep it, attach it to the engine, get the whole unit bolted back in place and rebuild the front end of the car in under 2 hours and get the car into the pit lane just after the qualifying session started.

Sadly though a fuel issue quickly ended the session for Chris and all focus was placed on Michael Epps and Jake Hill in the other 2 cars. It must be said at this point that most people in the team before most of the work had been started, thought this would be the end of Chris’ weekend and the fact they not only managed to fix the problem but get the car into the circuit again that day was nothing short of incredible, and watching them work together like that was amazing!

PicsArt_05-14-12.59.55Sunday was another day of highs and lows (thankfully more of the former). The first race ended early with a bit like up when on of the Honda Yuasa cars caught a puncture then was collected by another car in its way into the pits. Unfortunately for us, Jake Hills car got caught up in the melee and needed some work to the front crash structure before race 2, but, saying that we still had all 3 cars finish race 1 with 2 of them in the points. Race 2 was another interesting one as TOCA decided that for safety reasons, the races were to have the total laps shortened and quite a few teams were getting punctures on the highly abrasive and extremely hot track. Jakes car was fixed, again in record time by the incredible Team HARD mechanics, with a new front end bolted on in time to make it to the grid. Another chequered flag fell and again we brought home more points and had all 3 cars finish!

Race 3 was more of the same, this time we ended the weekend with all 3 cars within the top 20, 2 of which scored points again. Needless to say when the last flag fell we were all mighty relieved and very happy with the results as Team HARD now stand ahead of some of the bigger teams in the championships.

But there was still work to be done! All the garage had to be dismantled and packed away in the trucks, cars had to be loaded AND the hospitality area had to be taken down. The garage was the easy bit, some parts took longer than others (like stacking all the flooring in the back of the truck) but generally it didn’t take us too long. The worst part of that came when we had to load 2 cars into the back of the now fixed truck that couldn’t lift on Thursday. The lift was working fine taking parts and other bits, but when we loaded a car onto the back, it decided it was too much and that we needed to help. So with 1 person on each corner of the lift and 1 in the car with his foot on the brakes, we proceeded to lift and push the tail lift up enough so that the cars could be loaded into the upper deck of the trailer!

Eventually when that was all done, all we had left was to finish taking down the hospitality area, thankfully this was a bit more simple and it all went away without much fuss, we were just losing daylight by this point. I think by the time we drove out of the circuit it was about 9:30pm and most of us had a nice long drive home to look forward to. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see my own bed as I was on Sunday night.

Before I sign this off I want to take the opportunity to thank all the gents and ladies at Team HARD, especially Tony Gilham, for giving me the opportunity to come into the team and help out as and where I could. It really opened my eyes to the amount of teamwork and effort that goes in to making a race weekend run smoothly (and we don’t even get to watch the races). All the crew here are incredible guys and I can’t wait to see them all again when we head to Oulton Park for the next 3 rounds of the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship.

British GT Round 2 Race Review – Rockingham

DSC_0540The British GT championship rolled into Rockingham this weekend for round 2 of the 2016 season, and there was anticipation of a rejoining of battle following the shortened race at Brands Hatch. Or at least, signs that the teams in the championship were not prepared to give up the fighting spirit showed in Kent.

With the damage repaired from Brands Hatch and cars safely returned from Monza’s Blancpain Endurance race, as well as good weather to boot in Northamptonshire for the weekend, there was a buzz in the air as the drivers went out into free practice on Saturday morning.

The initiative was taken immediately by Barwell, who with Adam Carroll replacing Fabio Babini for the next two races, boasted the top two times with the #6 and #33 Huracans in the opening session. However there was bad news for the Bentley team. The unfortunate Rick Parfitt hit a fresh patch of oil and the big #31 revolved into the barriers, seriously damaging the car. Team Parker Racing immediately set about the task of repairing the machine, a task which would take until the Sunday morning to complete, ruling the car out of qualifying.

The second free practice was taken by the #17 TF Sport Aston Martin of Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam, who set a marginally faster time than the Huracans in FP1. The winners from Brands would face a time penalty during their pit stop in the race, and would need to open a huge gap to prevent challenges from other teams.

The GT4 pack had a very uniform top 3 in free practice. The #73 Century Motorsport Ginetta of Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke took top spot in both sessions ahead of the #50 Optimum and #66 Simpson Racing entries, giving a very resounding top 3 of Ginettas in the class. At this point it seemed that the British marque would have the weekend sewn up, not knowing what fate would intervene across the remainder of the weekend.

As qualifying arrived, the pendulum swung firmly toward the #17 Aston in GT3, with Derek Johnston’s time in the Am session giving enough cushion to allow Jonny Adam to comfortably seal pole position from the #79 Ecurie Ecosse McLaren of Alasdair McCaig and Rob Bell. The times set in the Pro GT3 session were blistering however, with both Rob Bell and Phil Keen setting times below 1:16 – the fastest of the weekend in fact. The #1 Beechdean Aston and the #6 Barwell Lamborghini would follow up on the second row.

The good luck that Century Motorsport had in the free practice sessions ran out in the GT4 Am qualifying as Anna Walewska suffered mechanical gremlins that would see the car sit out the rest of the session and start dead last on the starting grid for Sunday. Pole fell to the #50 Optimum Ginetta of Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson, who carried on where they had left off with times within tenths of each other to set a scorching pole, ahead of the #40 Ginetta of Byrne and Schjerpen and the #59 McLaren of Mitchell and Haggerty (the first time a non-Ginetta had broken into the top 3 of the timesheets in the class!)

A point of note in qualifying was that 6 cars had their fastest individual lap times removed due to exceeding the track limits – perhaps not giving a true reflection of the speed of all the cars on the grid from the weekend. Both the #8 Motorbase Aston Martin and the #14 Optimum Audi found themselves being penalised in GT3, with both Team HARD Ginettas, the #66 Simpson Ginetta and the #407 Beechdean Aston V8 in GT4 suffering a similar fate.

Overnight, the industrious folk at Team Parker Racing rebuilt the Bentley from wreck to restoration triumph, giving Parfitt and Morris a shot at glory (and leaving the racing rockstar slightly lost for words with gratitude). The #11 TF Sport Aston, which had also missed Saturday was restored to the hands of Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes for a racing effort, albeit from the back of the GT3 pack.

dsc_0275

The stage was set. Fast cars at either end of the grids and 2 hours of racing ahead of them could only mean drama was to come. And it did in bucketfuls, although not in the way it was expected. At the start, the field managed to avoid contact into the first tight double-left at Deene and set about trying to establish some order amongst chaos. The first major leap came when Liam Griffin set about passing Alasdair McCaig for second behind Derek Johnston, and starting a battle between the #6 and #33 Lamborghinis surrounding the #79 McLaren, with Minshaw in the #33 car eventually overcoming McCaig in the McLaren. Behind them, Parfitt’s Bentley began climbing the order, only to spin out following contact with Will Moore in the #14 Audi, who received a penalty for spinning the #31 car in the final chicane.

Neither Parfitt nor Moore let this hold them back though, and both drivers would make progress back up the order to put them in good stead as the halfway point neared. By contrast, the Tolman Ginetta of Ian Stinton had a rough time as a tyre shed its skin into the first corner, leaving the car with severe damage, and a visit to the pits that lasted most of the race. This was soon followed by its stable mate #56 suffering mechanical woes.

The Optimum Ginetta GT4 carried on in the race where it had left off before in qualifying, taking a lead in class. However, the hard work would not pay off, as shortly before the pit stops began, a collision on the straight behind the pits left the car unrecoverable, and out of the race. This in turn brought out the safety car to recover the vehicle before Mike Robinson could even push a pedal. This promoted the Ecurie Ecosse car of Sandy Mitchell and Ciaran Haggerty into a class lead.

Meanwhile, the sister Ecurie Ecosse GT3 McLaren was starting to get “hiccups” and suddenly losing time towards the end of McCaig’s stint. There was no particular explanation for the change in temperament, although it took a reboot of the car’s systems from Rob Bell after the pit stop to get everything back to full working order. The same issue went on to hit the GT4 car of Ecurie Ecosse, at one stage bringing out the safety car as Ciaran Haggerty brought the car to a halt on the exit of Turn 1, only to fire up at the first wave of the yellow flag from the race director.

Bentley’s weekend took another rollercoaster ride as Parfitt and Minshaw both ran wide fighting for position into Deene, sending both cars up the oval track rather than onto the infield, albeit with no damage to the cars, and allowing both #31 and #33 to continue. Then a stop go penalty for Parfitt ruined both the team’s pit strategy and progress up the field. As a penalty cannot be taken during a visit to the pit box, there was no alternative but to make 2 trips to pit lane, leaving the car a lap behind.

They were not the sole visitors to the penalty box either, as the Ecurie Ecosse McLaren #59 and the #60 EborGT Maserati of Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton faced 5 and 38 second stop and go penalties for pit stop infringements. More was to come later from the clerk of the course.

At the front of the race however, the #17 Aston barely missed a beat, even with the 20 second penalty in the pits for winning at Brands, and kept its lead from pole, only relinquishing it to Will Moore briefly, as the Audi stayed out for the full first hour, recovering well from its earlier misdemeanour thanks in no small part to Moore’s trademark aggressive speed. Once Adam replaced Johnston in the hot seat, there was no prising away the lead from them, and the chequered flag beckoned, whilst behind them confusion began.

On the deployment of the safety car for the short lived beaching of #59 McLaren in Turn 1