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

British GT Round 2 Preview – Rockingham

Ah, Rockingham. The only anti-clockwise, oval/road course combination in the British Isles to be hosting the British GT championship is nearly upon us and there’s nothing like a complete change of venue style from the previous round to put drivers and teams on their toes. Especially after a race of high drama in Round 1 which saw huge accidents and a premature end because of a car fire.

The flowing nature of Brands is replaced by a flat out blast round one of the UK’s only banked corners followed by a twisting infield section with lots of heavy braking zones, which will no doubt be to the advantage of the cars with lower top speed and nimble handling.

One of the not so surprise results from last week was the winning combination of Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam in the Aston Martin V12 Vantage of TF Sport. Adam, relinquished of his Aston Martin WEC duties at Silverstone, made the most of being in a strong position after the round of pit stops to be in the lead after the red flag ended the race with 23 minutes left on the clock. It was business as usual for Aston though – a win at the end of 2015 and a win at the start of 2016 for TF Sport could be considered from their part “just what the doctor ordered.”

The focus though, fell on the big Bentley. Parfitt Jnr and Morris had dramatic race – with the Bentley’s nimble character fitting the circuit well, however a block-in at the pit stop meant that Morris’ charge towards the front in the second half of the race would be from further down the field than he would have liked. Although the Bentley boys only inherited second after a post race time penalty was applied to the #7 BMW of Mowle and Osborne, there was no doubting that the Bentley had serious capability ahead.

The third placed finisher at Brands was one of the new Barwell Lamborghini Huracans; in this case that of Liam Griffin and Fabio Babini. The Italian GT stalwart pushed the sleek Lambo up into contention as the race wore on, and this will serve as proof that Barwell’s new partnership with the Italian marque has been a good one. Rockingham will see Babini replaced by former Team Ireland A1GP driver Adam Carroll, who has previously driven a Ferrari in the British GT series.

One team that will be buzzing as the Rock looms on the horizon is Ecurie Ecosse. At Monza, the sister team of Garage 59 took a sensational win in the Blancpain Endurance Series, with Rob Bell being one of the winning drivers. Bell will be looking to take as much feedback to the garage as they look to make inroads into the 2016 season. McLaren will hope that this time at Rockingham, they will make the end of lap one after a double shunt at the final chicane put both their cars out!

Audi’s Optimum boys will be looking to make progress at the Rockingham roval as well. A shipment of parts for the R8 LMS arrived in time at Brands Hatch to put an extra few kmh’s into the car, which were welcomed by Ratcliffe and Moore, but unfortunately fate conspired against them as the Audi decided to go and investigate a gravel trap during Moore’s stint at the wheel. With an upgraded car though, the team could well be pushing for honours on the many turns of the infield.

In GT4, the Optimum Ginetta G55 took the honours at Brands Hatch and Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson led home a trio of Ginettas at the top of the GT4 leaderboard, with the Century car of Walewska and Freke taking second and the RCIB car of Stilp and Phillips taking a podium on their GT debut.  It will be hard to see Ginetta maintaining their run at the top of the GT4 field as the BOP will level out the field once more. The wide expanse of the Rockingham banking may favour the “bigger” GT4 machines of Aston and Maserati but with handling being at a premium, you can never write off the nimble McLaren or Lotus, which rely on light weight and rear engines to get the best from cornering.

There are no guarantees for the coming weekend at Rockingham. The winter chill hasn’t disappeared from Britain, which could yet throw surprises at the entire field (don’t rule out snow, seriously) and the change in circuit character will mean different front runners. Expect the pack to be bunched up pretty rapidly once the lights change at the start, as the flat out Turn 1 leads into the double 90 degree left at Deene, where those in haste will make a dive to the front of the field  – usually resulting in contact and tears…

Backstage at the Rock:

The Motorbase Performance and Generation AMR Astons, along with the Simpson Ginetta return after the almighty high speed shunt at Brands last time out. Thankfully no drivers suffered harm in this well publicised accident, but the cars involved have needed a fair lump of TLC to get back!

Lanan Racing have permanently severed their ties with Porsche for the year and gone in full swing with the Ginetta G55 in the GT4 class. It’ll be a shame not to see the German marque on the grid in their hands, but to lose a whole team would have been a greater shame.

Whilst McLaren may have taken the honours in the opening Blancpain Endurance race, Barwell’s Lamborghinis by contrast had a tough time at the flat out fest that is Monza. The Huracans have made the return to British shores for this race, once again with driver changes all round. It’ll be a busy few weeks as the team skips between Blancpain and British GT. Not to mention all the livery changes that need to happen!

 

Race Diary – Brands Hatch – Round 1

14-1 (5)

April 15th 2016 was the date and that only could mean one thing, The British GT Championship was back for the 2016 season and this year the opener was at the iconic Brands Hatch in the garden of England’s county of Kent, as exciting as it was for all it didn’t go according to plan as Will Moore explains to us in our first race diary of the 2016 campaign.

Will was first to step into the car to begin the qualification period in changeable weather conditions.
“It was a disappointing first round to the season, definitely one to forget and move on!
In Saturday’s qualifying, my time was average at best. I got the best out of the car I could with it not handling right and the BOP massively against us!”
BOP is the Balance of Performance, it adjusts limits on horsepower, weight, engine management, and aerodynamics to prevent a single manufacturer from becoming dominant in the GT3 class.
“Ryan unfortunately had an off at Druids on his first flying lap which meant he took no further part in Quail 2!
Had he got a lap in I’m sure it would of been well up the field.”
At the end of qualifying the Optimum Motorport Audi R8 LMS sat in 12th spot and so focus was all on race day and improvements that could be made overnight, including some new parts that the team had to go back to their Yorkshire base to collect.
“Starting 12th on the grid for the first round is not where we wanted or expected to be but Ryan soon made good progress up the field handing it over to me at the pit stop in 6th under code 80 full course yellows due to a huge crash involving 3 cars.
Once the incident had been cleared we were back to race speed, with the car still not handling well, she was very nervous in high speed corners and mid corner over steer I battled on only to push too hard into Paddock Hill and found myself facing the wrong way stuck in the gravel and out of the race!”
14-3
“A tough weekend for everyone involved but the Optimum Motorsport team did a sterling job as always.
Setup work and data needs to be done before Rockingham but I have no doubt we will be competitive there.
With 45kg added to our car because Ryan and I are silver-silver pairing, the BOP is heavily against us with Aston Martin and Bentley driving past us in a straight line like we are a GT4 car so I feel there needs to be some changes to make things fairer”
Optimum-01
A pleasant surprise came post race when it was announced that Optimum Motorsport had won the inaugural Professional Motorsport World Expo Team of the Weekend Award.
explained here with an excerpt taken from Britishgt.com
The prize is offered to an outfit that has gone above and beyond or produced a stand-out act at each 2016 British GT event. This, amongst other considerations, might include overcoming a particularly difficult technical issue, executing an innovative race strategy to perfection or achieving an unexpected result in the face of adversity.
British GT Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici said “There were a number of candidates for this weekend’s award but, in the end, we felt Optimum’s persistence and never-say-die attitude gave them the edge. The Audi ran strongly during Sunday’s race and I’ve no doubt that same spirit will help the team move further forwards at the coming rounds.”
So we now look forward to April 30th and onto Rockingham we go!
© Sandra Hebbourn 26/04/16

© All images courtesy of Jakob Ebrey

British GT Round 1 Preview – Brands Hatch

It is time. Brands Hatch awaits the bold driver for the opening round of the 2016 British GT calendar and the anticipation for a hard fought season begins in earnest at the Kent circuit. With the full field showing their noses for the first time all together it is time to put the winter testing aside and concentrate on bigger matters.

In GT3, the questions raised are can Aston Martin retain their seat at the top of the British GT tree this season? Jonny Adam’s AMR contract has seen him move to the TF Sport team for the 2016 season and Beechdean now turns to youngster Ross Gunn to partner Andrew Howard. Beechdean may carry number 1 this year, but the battle for supremacy will be wide open.

The second question will be how will the new breed of GT3 cars cope with the British season? Audi’s new R8 in the hands of Optimum Motorsport pairing Will Moore and Ryan Ratcliffe has shown good pace in the 24H Series, and the bonkers Lamborghini Huracan is also welcomed in the hands of Barwell drivers Liam Griffin, Alexander Sims, Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen having seen success on its very first GT3 racing outing at Monza last year.

As a contrast to the new machinery, the BMW Z4 of Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne is out there to remain one of the strongest partnerships from the last few seasons. The team finished 3rd in the 2015 season and will look to go one better in the 2016 season. With Brands Hatch being a strong hunting ground for the Z4 previously, it could all come good for “Batman and Robin.”

McLaren are back too with Ecurie Ecosse. The Scottish team are fielding Alasdair McCaig and Rob Bell for the first time together and will hope that Bell’s time as a factory driver will push them forward. The 650S may yet see more glory, and the corkscrewing nature of Brands puts the grippy car at an advantage.

Of course, it’s foolish to rule out Aston Martin at any cost, especially with Derek Johnston having taken his first win last season with the TF Sport team, and his new partnership with Adam coming at a good time. Alongside them Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes reunite for another season in the Aston, and Phil Dryburgh joins Ross Wylie in an all Scottish driver pairing at Motorbase. All of these teams will grow with the venerable Vantage and cannot be ruled out for challenging for podium spots.

One team who will be looking to impress will be Team Parker Racing, who field the Bentley Continental of Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris. The team bring a long association with GT3 racing to Britain this year and are keen to prove the Bentley can win on home turf. “RPJ” and Morris both believe that the Bentley, though grand as it is, has the nimbleness of a car capable of taking good finishes.

The garages are also filled with a wealth of promise in the GT4 class, where the grid expands even further for this season with entries from new teams and manufacturers. Two of the most exciting being the Ginettas of Team HARD and the McLaren 570S run by Ecurie Ecosse.

Team HARD are not strangers to the British GT atmosphere, having run cars in the accompanying VW Trophy, but this is a step forward for Tony Gilham’s team, who have brought along 4 fast and talented drivers to drive their 2 G55s for the 2016 season. Jordan Stilp, Will Phillips, Rob Barrable and Wilson Thompson all take their places in the brightly coloured cars, and have shown strongly in testing.

McLaren’s new baby GT4 car will be piloted by Ecurie Ecosse youngsters from F4, Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell who will be taking their place in a promising development. Rob Bell tested the car at Snetterton and was favourably impressed by the new car, but we are yet to see it in full racing action to know how it will go.

Aston Martin’s Beechdean challenge this year is mounted by Jordan Albert and Jack Bartholemew, who are looking to follow in the footsteps of Jake Giddings, Ross Wylie, Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn as the GT4 championship winners, but with the field size growing the youngsters will be faced with a herculean task to be as dominant as Chadwick and Gunn in 2015.

The Maserati Gran Turismo MC makes its British racing debut at Brands Hatch too, with Abbie Eaton and Marcus Hoggarth moving from GT Cup competition to come together with the Italian machine, which sadly didn’t go too far at Snetterton, but will surely turn heads as it hits the grid for the first time, especially if it puts its nose up with its slightly smaller rivals from the start!

Brands Hatch isn’t the usual starting point for the British GT series, after several years of the season opening at Oulton Park in Cheshire. Previously the season started with a doubleheader meeting, with 2 1-hour races over the weekend, but the change means that teams go straight into the first 2 hour race for 2016. This will give us watching fans a chance to see the strategists in action rather than the sprinters. Brands Hatch has previously put up some amazing shows in this championship, stemming back to 2012, where Jann Mardenborough beat Jonny Adam by a bare bumper width after a last lap fight. In 2014, Le Mans hero Nick Tandy made a one off appearance and blew most of the field away in a Porsche, while last year, the battling BMWs of Barwell and TripleEight fought to the final flag in a nose to tail scrap. If this continues then the season opener will be one to remember, and surely will show where the big hitters will be aiming their sights for the rest of the season.

Some more Kentish knockings:

Jamie Chadwick will be making a substitute appearance at Superdry Generation AMR this weekend, filling in for James George here and at Rockingham while he has other commitments. Chadwick will return to Beechdean later in the season to partner Paul Hollywood in the Vantage V8 GT4.

With the absence of the Porsche Cayman GT4 from these shores, Lanan Racing and Simpson Racing have received delivery of Ginetta G55s as a replacement. A worry while the German cars haven’t arrived to GT4 customers, it’s always reassuring to see drivers able to take to the grid.

Jonny Adam was slated to drive in ELMS, WEC AND British GT this weekend, however, Aston Martin Racing decided to lighten his load by giving him free reign to race at Brands Hatch alone. Andrew Howard, however, will be making the trip between Silverstone and Brands to compete in both ELMS and British GT. Hard work for the Beechdean boss!

Rollcentre Racing will arrive on a high after victory at the Silverstone 24 Hour race, where Richard Neary and Martin Short teamed up to take the win from dead last on the grid in their M3 tourer. The BMW Z4 awaits these gentlemen this weekend, and you can never rule out drivers who come in from a good result elsewhere from making another strong performance happen.

 

 

British GT Media Day – What We Learnt

 

The British GT season has been building up to the full racing launch at Brands Hatch on 16-17th April, but on 15 March at Snetterton a glimpse of what would be coming this season was given to the waiting media and The PitCrew Online was there amongst the proud names in GT3 and GT4 racing to find out and learn more.

Sadly, from a driving point of view, the weather didn’t play ball at Snetterton that day, and Norfolk was cold, gloomy and a little bit damp, but with the opportunity to shakedown new machinery, teams took the chance to get mileage on the clock with their cars and drivers ahead of the season starting.

The day had started though with a huge announcement – the brand spanking new McLaren 570S GT4 was revealed to the waiting world, and took the paddock by storm. Not many people had anticipated the arrival of the 650S’s baby brother, but it has signalled McLaren GT’s attempt to enter the class with a flourish. The Ecurie Ecosse squad will run McLaren’s in both GT3 and GT4 this year, and although there is no announcement as yet on the drivers of the GT4 car, Andrew Kirkaldy of McLaren GT told us that the intention was to place a “Silver” driver partnership in the car so as to enhance the development of the car through racing in its first season. Feedback though from the car had been positive with McLaren GT factory driver Rob Bell praising the small machine and even setting the fastest time in class during one of the testing sessions. The Balance of Performance regulations are yet to apply, but people will watch this new entry with keen eyes.

Another new entry in the GT4 paddock this year was the Maserati run by EborGT. The huge and spectacularly noisy GranTurismo MC will be driven by former GTCup pairing of Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton. Abbie is catching a lot of attention round the paddock as a female driver with a history of good results, and she was looking forward to the season ahead. On speaking to her she talked of how it was brilliant to be in the British GT, and although issues on the media day prevented the Maserati from completing all 3 test sessions there was potential in the car. The team’s best hopes for good results, she explained, would come at the “bigger circuits” such as her home track of Silverstone where the ‘big’ Maserati would come into its own against some of the smaller, and potentially more nimble competitors.

Our next port of call was the Team HARD garage, where we found their two Ginetta G55s (in the usual vivid green and pink paint associated with the concern) and a very determined team manager, Tony Gilham. Tony very kindly shepherded us out of the Norfolk cold into his motorhome to discuss the team’s ambition for 2016.

Gilham and Team HARD’s aims were very much clear from the outset: To turn the dreams of talented drivers into a racing reality, by supporting them through a clear chain of programmes designed around getting those with clear ability into racing seats. With this in mind for the GT programme the team had signed Jordan Stilp and Will Phillips for one car, and Robert Barrable and Wilson Thompson in the other. Tony was quick to heap praise on his drivers. Barrable has moved over from rallying, and Team HARD had previously offered him the chance to drive on tarmac in the VW Cup in 2015 with good results. Stilp had been in the Team HARD programme since 2012 and, following on from a strong showing in the Ginetta GT Supercup at the end of the BTCC season in 2015, was made for a seat in the British GT Paddock.

The enthusiasm of Tony Gilham in his project is very clear to see. This was a proper “racing team” run by a family not to find drivers who would pay for a drive, but to give competitive racing to drivers who are proving their capability behind the wheel. It will be hard to miss their presence in the British GT paddock this year, not only as their cars and drivers were right at the sharp end of the time sheets, but with no less than 17 cars produced by them in the VW Cup support series (and 34 drivers in total on their development programme) they will be a huge part of the series. Gilham’s other main aim though? Being able to challenge for GT4 wins and titles. With the organisation of his team you can’t doubt they’ll be ready to do that from the first fall of the flag.

The bigger GT3 class is also growing this season, and lovers of big GT cars will have pounding hearts at some of the exotica on show this season round the British tracks.

The most striking arrival for 2016 in GT3 is the Lamborghini Huracan, which Barwell Motorsport have brought to the paddock. The Huracan is a monstrous car – with typically outlandish sleekness and a roaring V10 engine in the back. Mark Lemmer, team principal of Barwell, gave a very clear reasoning to the introduction of the Lamborghini. The team had previously run the BMW Z4, and with the new M6 having a turbocharged engine, Lemmer and Barwell sought to find a car with a normally aspirated engine for 2016. With the Lamborghini having the obvious appeal of the supercar, plus the right engine it was a perfect match for the team for 2016. With the Lamborghini comes a wealth of driving experience as the team will be joined by Italian driver Fabio Babini, to partner Liam Griffin in one of their cars for 4 of the season’s races. Alexander Sims will join Griffin for the remaining 3. Barwell are competing in both British GT and Blancpain GT this season, and are looking to develop the car into a real force in both the shorter British and longer Blancpain races.

Another 2 teams in the paddock are running the BMW Z4 this year, the first of which being AmD Tuning who have taken onboard one of the most popular driver pairings of the very affable Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne. Mowle and Osborne reunited with their Z4 with some vigour at Snetterton and were never far off the top of the timesheets overall. The loss of TripleEight to the British GT paddock was a sorry sight, but with the AmD team taking up their cars for the 2016 season, there’s no doubting the Z4 can stay near the top with these two in hand.

The second car saw the return of a familiar face to British GT – that of Martin Short and Rollcentre Racing. Short will be partnered by Richard Neary, who has stepped up to the big GT class for this year. In speaking to Martin, he was quick to underline the task he faced in his return to the series as the competition has grown over the last few years of the series. The car was running capably at Snetterton during the testing sessions, and Short had been able to see where he could improve the Z4 to get closer to its rivals. The advantage of the Z4, mused Short, lay in the weight distribution of the car compared to the Mosler of old. The front-engined machine gave a better balance and with Neary coming from a background in Cosworth tin tops, this was the ideal machine for his debut in the series.

One of the most notable GT3 changes for this season is at Ecurie Ecosse. Where last year the Scottish team had run the BMW Z4 in partnership with Barwell, it was time to move on to pastures new, and the McLaren 650S GT3 was sitting in their garage. Alasdair McCaig of Ecurie Ecosse will be partnered by the McLaren GT factory driver Rob Bell, who will bring a lot of experience to the team for the 2016 season. In moving on to McLaren, the team have secured one of their desires to have a British manufacturer backing and supporting them for their 2016 effort. McCaig was quick to highlight the importance of the McLaren’s capabilities, with the car recently taking victories in the Asian Le Mans Series and at the Bathurst 12 Hour race. With direct factory support from the McLaren GT team, there’s no reason that there cannot be further success for the Woking marque.

We moved on to the Team Parker Racing garage next. Team Parker have picked up the Bentley Continental GT3 for the 2016 season, and along with it, they have new drivers in the form of Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris. We talked to both drivers about their new mount and in both cases, it seems that the Bentley has impressed massively. Seb Morris is joining British GT after a year in the GP3 series, but was immediately taken by its performance. Morris’ experience in single seater racing has transferred well to tin tops with this car, and he was able right away to put in strong lap times with the stately machine.

Parfitt Jnr has moved to Team Parker Racing after a long association with Ginetta, and was keen to show his gratitude to Lawrence Tomlinson of Ginetta for supporting him during his last few years of racing. 2015, explained RPJ, had been a very tough year for him with his debut in GT3 racing but Team Parker seeking him out as a strong bronze-graded driver had given him renewed motivation for the new season. Like Morris, he had been impressed with the nimbleness of the Bentley, although his much more immediate reaction was “it sounds like thunder!” Not really surprising for a rock musician!

Astons are once more prolific in the top class although there is a swap of drivers taking place amongst the teams. Beechdean, 2015 overall champions, return for 2016 with team boss Andrew Howard sitting alongside Ross Gunn, last year’s GT4 driver’s champion. Howard initially not planning to do British GT, kept his seat for 2016 and the #1 plate on the car to give Gunn his chance to step up to the faster class. Aston Martin Racing contracted driver Jonny Adam moves from Beechdean to TF Sport where he will partner Derek Johnston, although Adam retains his close link to the Beechdean team and was seen assisting Ross Gunn and his teammates throughout the testing session at Snetterton in the absence of TF Sport.

One of the biggest wholesale changes across the championship this year is the arrival of Pirelli tyres. British GT has moved away from Avon, who supplied tyres to the series for a number of years, and both Pirelli and Stephane Ratel (head of SRO, the organisers and promoters of British GT, Blancpain GT and more) were keen to explain the change to Pirelli gave a consistency across GT racing as a whole. The move to Pirelli also allows for a better application of the Balance of Performance, which is so important to maintaining the levels of exciting competition which we all have come to enjoy from this class of racing. Indeed there are drivers and teams in the British GT paddock who have welcomed the switch, finding the performance of the Pirelli tyre favourable to the Avons previously used.

During the press conferences, Stephane Ratel was keen to point out the strength of the GT4 class in this championship. Whilst GT3 is seen throughout Europe and internationally, GT4 also provides a large amount of interest, not least in the British championship where the entries are growing year on year, with new manufacturers coming in to boost competition further. As part of this season’s package, the grid will be joined by the GT4 European Series at the Silverstone 500 and Spa Francorchamps round, expanding the grid to up to 50 entries at these two famous venues. Credit must go to SRO for having managed to grow the British GT interest to such a point where the grid in both classes is expansive, varied and retains close racing action. There can only be better times ahead, and the first formation lap hasn’t even begun…

Other noises from Norfolk:

It wouldn’t be life In The Pitlane without some additional snippets. We’ve had the pleasure of speaking on a few other subjects with people in the paddock…

Paul Hollywood, the master baker and now TV chef, will join Beechdean’s GT4 team later in the season. When we spoke to him, he admitted to being a huge petrolhead with a collection of amazing cars. The Editors present at Snetterton were rather stunned to find that Paul owns a replica Aston Martin DBR1 – a car most potently driven by Stirling Moss to win the World Sportscar Championship in the late 1950s!

One of our first interviewees on the day, Abbie Eaton, impressed us with her dedication not only to the racing cause but with her endurance capabilities by admitting to taking on the insane physical challenge of the Tough Mudder, one of the most gruelling and painful obstacle courses in Britain. Driving a GT car will seem much less worrying than that, in our eyes anyway…

We asked a few of the drivers we spoke to about what their current road car was. The PitCrew Online found out that the most popular choice is the BMW 1M Sport, although Will Phillips pleased our Editor-in-Chief by admitting to owning the same car as him. Rick Parfitt Jnr admitted to moving from his BMW to the “practical” Range Rover (to accommodate more stuff in the boot, apparently).

The new McLaren 570S GT4 was keenly showed off by McLaren GT’s employees present in the Ecurie Ecosse garage, and the baby McLaren was packed with exciting gadgets as you would expect from the big factory. However what we enjoyed most when looking inside the cockpit of the new racer was the sight of the spanking new tan leather covering the dashboard. McLaren were keen to point out that this was only an optional extra and would not necessarily appear in all customer cars.

We have severe envy of Joe Osborne. Osborne is not only racing with AmD Tuning this season in British GT, but he is also racing for Optimum Motorsport in the 24H Series in their new Audi R8 LMS (to be seen in British GT with Will Moore and Ryan Ratcliffe) and with Barwell’s Lamborghini in the Blancpain GT. He’s also been helping McLaren with development of their road cars. Hard life for a professional driver, eh?

British GT- GT4, Not Just A Sideshow

One of the relatively unique features of the British GT Championship is the inclusion of a GT4 class in every race of the season. Whilst GT3 has the spectacular sight of full aero and pounding engines, the GT4 class presents a fantastic opportunity to go racing in an international level series, again with the Pro/Am driver format providing an added zest to each race.

What’s the deal with GT4, I hear many of you cry. Well, GT4 relies on some excellent sports cars with less aerodynamic aids and a little less power output than their bigger GT3 brothers. In British GT, you can see the link between the two classes, where manufacturers like Aston Martin and Ginetta put out GT3 and GT4 versions of their machinery out to race in both classes.

Over the last couple of seasons, the spotlight has been on the Beechdean Aston Martin GT4 entry. Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie took a fine championship in 2014 driving the V8 Vantage GT4, whilst the incredibly young talented pairing of Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn swept the GT4 Silver Cup with ease in 2015. Since then, Wylie and Gunn have both stepped up to GT3 drives, and both will return to Aston Martin machinery in the GT3 class with the Motorbase Performance and Beechdean squads respectively.

It was a fine year last year for Aston as Academy Motorsport, running cars for Will Moore and Dennis Strandberg alongside Chris Webster and a myriad of drivers including at one time team principal Matt Nicoll-Jones, took the team title with their pair of Vantages showing consistent and often exciting performances. Academy sadly have moved away from British GT for 2016, but Will Moore’s blistering drives from the start line saw him signed up to Optimum Motorsport’s new Audi R8 GT3 machine for 2016.

Ginetta were never far behind, and while the G55 GT4 may look more “out of the box” racer than the Aston Martin, it proved to be a fine fighter in the title race. The G55 has been developed from the success of the G50, which was a winner in 2012 and 2013 in the hands of Jody Fannin and Warren Hughes, and Rick Parfitt Jnr and Ryan Ratcliffe. Again, Fannin, Parfitt Jnr and Ratcliffe have all stepped up to GT3 from their successes.

But why is GT4 so important? Well, first of all, it guarantees an excellent race of its own. Last season there were battles all the way to the chequered flag, and the balance of Pro/Am drivers was almost spot on. Moore’s blistering starts meant the field would often be burning fuel and tyres hard to keep up with the flying Aston man, and this meant that the pro drivers had their work cut out to make the podium.

With such hefty driving ability on show, the talent pool in GT4 is a fine place for the GT3 teams to discover drivers for the future. From the 2015 season, Ross Gunn, Will Moore, David Pattison and Luke Davenport have all made the step up to the bigger class, following in the footsteps of Fannin, Parfitt Jnr, Ratcliffe, Wylie, Andrew Jarman, Lee Mowle and Phil Keen (to name but a few)! Let’s also not forget Joe Osborne, who proved his GT potential by winning one of the first GT4 series in 2009!

It’s also a fine place to debut new machinery in the sports car world. For 2016, there are debuts for the Porsche Cayman GT4 with Lanan Racing and Simpson Racing, while Ebor Racing are stepping up with the Maserati Gransport GT4. It’s not often we see brand new manufacturers in the British GT series, but the GT4 with lower individual car costs is a fine place to introduce a new machine to the cut and thrust world of tin top racing. Plus with the standard of driving and the growing interest in GT racing as a means to expand and grow a racing career means there is all kinds of reason to grow what is already a popular class.

Whilst British GT is the only series to have a dedicated GT4 class as part of its main races, there is scope for the grid and the excitement to grow further. We are still awaiting confirmation if there will be return entries for Lotus for the 2016 season at the time of publishing this article, which would only serve to increase interest and competition. Paying a visit to the championship at the Silverstone 500 round will be the GT4 European Series, and it will be a fine time to compare the machinery in both series. With an advertisement for different cars from the European Series like the SIN R1, the Arrinera Hussarya GT and (the potentially slightly more tangible) BMW M4 and Chevrolet Camaro machines, it could provide food for thought for those seeking future entry.

Q&A With TeamBrit

 

Motorsport has many teams whose aim is to race, race hard and win. But sometimes you get teams that are aiming for more than winning. TeamBRIT, run by ex-serviceman Dave Player, has a noble goal and is almost unique in the racing world – to help injured British Army troops to recover from their injuries by introducing them to the adrenalin fuelled world of motor racing and to inspire those who have suffered life changing physical and mental injuries to what can be achieved with ambition, dedication and teamwork.

Born out of the KartForce programme, which lets injured troops get a taste for racing action, TeamBRIT stepped into the Britcar and Endurance Racing Series in the UK this season to great success with their drivers Martyn Compton and Mark Allen, themselves ex-servicemen who have had life changing injuries whilst on a tour of duty. Driving their Newbridge Motorsport prepared VW Golf racer the team has not just inspired people, it has positively flown up the racing order! A great start for the British team with aspirations to eventually compete with a team of injured troops in the most famous endurance race of all – the Le Mans 24 Hours. We took the chance to ask Dave Player a few questions about the team, their season and more besides.

Q: How exciting has it been for the team to make the leap into the world of tin-top racing from karting?

This has been lots and lots of Christmases rolled into one for the lads.  They never imagined it would be possible but their hard work has paid off and they’ve earned their places on the grid.

 

Q: What do you think it is about racing that makes it a good place for injured troops to be involved with?

Racing isn’t for everyone but it definitely offers injured troops that are highly driven, highly motivated and highly competitive the opportunity to compete against drivers of sorts of levels of ability and experience, on a totally level playing field.

 

Q: The VW Golf is fitted with hand controls in place of the regular pedals. Was this a big challenge in the development of the car for racing?

It can be driven with pedal or hand controls. It’s vital that we give the lads the tools to be able to compete on equal terms, regardless of their injuries. A double amputee needs to be able to go into a chicane – and with 2 hands – steer, throttle brake and change gears. This is our hand controls allows our drivers to do – no other hand controls offer this. The concept was easy to come up – getting to engineers to come up with workable solutions was the challenge.

 

Q: Can you explain to us the system you have in place for driver changes during a race?

We actually have an advantage as Mark Allen, our double amputee driver, can get in and out of a car faster than an able-bodied driver.  We’re going to put this challenge to some drivers!

 

There’s no special system.  Martyn Compton will come in, jump out and Mark will wheel up in his wheelchair and get in. We switch the car from foot to hand controls, and strap him in – like any other driver. Slap him round the face a few times to get the adrenalin flowing and send him on his way.

 

Q: What has been the toughest problem you have faced this year, and what would you say is the biggest success?

The toughest challenge by far has been convincing sponsoring these lads are more than capable for success.

 

The biggest success is the lads proving they are well worthy of support as they pulled off an amazing winning streak for 6 race and 6 wins – in a 6hr race they were 42 laps ahead of 2nd place.

 

In their debut race season, these Rookies have achieved 8 x P1’s out of 11 races, and an amazing 12th place out of 68 teams in the Birkett 6hr Relay at Silverstone. What Rookie team has achieved that, after stepping up from karting, by passing a year of Club Level racing and going straight into National Level racing? And no DNF’s… and no crashes…

 

Q: Do you find you get a lot of attention in the paddock during a race weekend?

The lads don’t like the extra attention they get and really enjoy getting all the fuss out of the way so they can be treated like any other driver.  They love the banter with competitors and really enjoy the fantastic camaraderie that comes with racing.

 

We tend to get more media interest as our team is unique.  This has been very positive and helpful.

 

Q: You recently signed a sponsorship deal with Coldplay. How did that come about, and do you catch any of the team singing their songs?

As we’re always winding each other up, we thought it was one of the lads pulling a prank. It took us 3 weeks to work out it was genuine! Chris Martin called Martyn after he read an article about us in his local paper.  Chris said he was so impressed about how Martyn and the lads had turned their lives around and were achieving so much, against all the odds.

 

We had lunch with the band in their studio in London where they recorded 2 of their albums.  Instead of us fans firing questions at them, it was the lads answering all the questions the band had. Coldplay are going to support Team BRIT long-term so some exciting news to come.

 

Q: What’s been the funniest thing you’ve seen this season?

Mark has missing fingers, half missing fingers, missing thumb etc. so when he gives hand signals no one can work out what he’s trying to say.  Martyn wanted to know what position we were in during a pit stop so Mark puts up his hands to show him and Martyn just slowly and very sarcastically rolled his eyes and shook his head like a very disappointed father.  We fell about laughing…

 

Q: How hard is it to control your emotions when the team performs really well?

Martyn is like a kid for about 2 days before a race.  He’s like one of those mental puppies that never run out of energy.  And as the race gets closers, he starts to go quiet.

 

Mark rabbit-rabbits and doesn’t shut up!  And worst of all, he needs to “give birth” before race so will always rush to the loo at the last minute, adding to everyone’s stress.

 

We now expect them to do well so when something goes wrong with the car, we feel like we’re letting the lads down. Telling people how proud we are of the lads and talking about their amazing achievements is the hard part.  It always brings a big lump to the throat.

 

Q: Injured ex-servicemen must bring some great qualities to the team as drivers. What would you say these are?

Most – but not all – injured troops are those that were on the front line.  To be a front line soldier you need to be a certain type of character – one that is prepared to face danger, thrive on it, and keep pushing the boundaries.

 

Being accustomed to following instructions to the letter without questioning them every time has also proved extremely valuable.  This is what we attribute to their rapid progression. Instructors tell them what to do, how to do it and when to do it – and the lads do exactly as they ask. They go faster and come back gagging to receive more instructions.

 

Q: You have been competing in Britcar Endurance this year alongside some well-established racing teams. Are you considering entry into a 24 hour race in 2016?

Most definitely – it’s the longer endurance races the lads are most keen to compete in. We wanted to make their first ever race in a car the 24hr Britcar race last April. What better way to announce the lad’s arrival to team endurance car racing? After buying the car, we only had 3 weeks to get the car and lads prepped for a 24hr race, and it just wasn’t possible.

 

But we’re most certainly entering the 24hr race in April at Silverstone in 2016.  We already have the new engine.

 

Q: Your long term goal is to get to race at the Le Mans 24 Hours. What do you make of the changes to the LMP2 rules coming in 2017?

The LMP rules change from one season to the next so we’re not too concerned at the moment.  We’ll address whatever rules are put in place when we’re at that hurdle.

Q: What do the team do to wind down once the chequered flag falls on a busy weekend?

The lads are big family guys.  Their lives are mostly about racing and family, so when they finish racing, they head home.

 

If we staying at a hotel after a race… be warned… do not end up in a bar with them! We met a WWII Navy veteran after a race who was at the same hotel for a wedding.  Old Joe insisted on buying us a round of drinks, so Jaeger Bombs were ordered – including one for this 85 to 90 year old sailor. There’s never just one round of Jaeger Bombs… As much as we discouraged Old Joe from having any more, he insisted – something to do with sailors and soldiers…. The next morning Old Joe was at breakfast, shirt tie, blazer…  the lads were in bed dying!

 

Q: Do you have any motorsport heroes that you look up to?

Mark is a massive Valentino Rossi fan.  If he’s not watching car racing, he’ll be watching The Doc on his bike.

 

Martyn’s a huge fan of a driver called Marko Alleno and is constantly trying to beat his times.

 

Q: If you weren’t in racing, what would you be doing in its place?

Hard question as there’s very little that offers what motorsport does to participants with such a wide range of injuries and disabilities.  Maybe off-roading…

 

Q: Who’s the team joker?

Mark Allen – we thought it was him that was calling Martyn pretending to be Chris Martyn.

 

Q: Who’s the least likely to buy a round after the race?

Martyn Ebenezer Compton has such short arms he can never reach his wallet in his pocket.

 

Q: If you could pick any driver to join the team for a weekend who would it be?

Alex Zanardi

 

Q: Do any members of your team have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?

Mark needs to “give birth”!

 

We’d like to thank Dave Player for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’d like to learn more about TeamBRIT’s aims and their racing vision, visit their website at www.teambrit.co.uk.

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