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British GT – 2017 Round 6 Review – Brands Hatch


Contrasts in fortune make all the difference

The 2017 season is now drawing to its close, and in a return to tradition, the penultimate round of this season took place on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, which is a fantastic venue for sports car racing of almost any kind. British GT knows how to put on a show here for better or worse, and with titles on the line by now, everyone was gunning hard for a shot at glory.

Going into the round, in GT3, Minshaw & Keen held the standings lead over Parfitt & Morris. Neither team had scored perfectly at Spa last time out, although the Barwell Lamborghini did take one race win away from the Ardennes. The gauntlet was laid down to the Team Parker Racing Bentley boys: “catch us if you dare”.

GT4 is no less challenging, with even the Optimum crew in with a mathematical but unlikely shot at the 2017 honours, however the strength of the two Silver driver pairings of Middleton/Tregurtha and Pittard/Reed in the HHC & Lanan Ginettas has meant that the fight stayed between them as Brands arrived.

Saturday morning dawned with cloudy spells, and rather sadly, in the first Free Practice session the #19 GT3 Ginetta G55 of Century Motorsport, this weekend piloted by Tom Hibbert and Ben Tuck, found the bare Armco at the exit of Stirlings Bend and damaged itself beyond a feasibly safe repair. Century are a fantastically well run team, but Nathan Freke has struggled with misfortune in ways that scriptwriters could not manage. On the plus side, they had hired Niall Murray, a Formula Ford hot shot to partner Jacob Mathaissen for the weekend in the #43 GT4 car, and Murray took to it like the proverbial duck to water.

Meanwhile, things looked rosy at the front for both GT3 championship leading crews, as the Bentley took the first free practice session, and Phil Keen’s hot lap put the #33 Lamborghini second behind Jonny Adam, who showed that he was hardly fatigued from his recent title winning exploits at the 24 Hours of Spa the previous weekend.

With everything settling in well, the fickle gods of weather cast their hand. A rather dramatically timed short and sharp thunderstorm settled in on Brands Hatch. It came and laid a lot of water over the Kent countryside, making a mess of everyone’s hard work in setting up the cars, and instantly changing the face of qualifying.

With the Pro-Am qualifying format taking place this weekend, with aggregate times deciding the grid for the 2 hour race, it was clear that the turbocharged teams would suddenly be at a disadvantage. Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Mercedes cars were the ones to have. Sure enough, Minshaw and Keen put their experience of low grip to good use and bagged the overall pole, with the MacMillan AMR #24 Aston with its Silver pairing of Jack Mitchell and James Littlejohn occupying second place on the grid. Not far behind were the #11 TF Sport Aston of Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes, with the #6 Lamborghini of Griffin & Tordoff also up high. But, for the Bentley, rain is the great enemy. As the big machine pulled out of the pit lane its traction control kicked in, it’s handling went to pot and the two Team Parker cars were nowhere near where they wanted to be for the Sunday afternoon start. Wet tracks, wet settings and the Bentley do not mix in any way, and the hope was that Sunday would be much improved. The #7 Bentley was already suffering this weekend as it was, after Callum MacLeod found the front brakes not working as he wished in free practice, narrowly avoiding a monster shunt at the fastest part of Brands.

By the time GT4 qualifying started, the rain had truly stopped, and a dry line began to appear. Pole in class went to the #62 Academy Motorsport car of Will Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones, whose slick tyre strategy decision in the second part of GT4 qualifying put them forward. Things were not so rosy however at Lanan, after David Pittard suffered the ignominy of falling off the road on the Grand Prix loop, and leaving Alex Reed a nervous wait to see that their #51 Ginetta would be allowed out for him to drive. The format of qualifying for GT4 showed the gap in quality between the Silver pairings and the Pro-Am ones. Joe Osborne’s time of 1:35 in the second half of the session was an excellent time, however the aggregate with his Bronze graded teammate David Pattison sadly wouldn’t see the Tolman car as high up as it could have been.

To the rescue of many teams, the sun came out on Sunday morning, and stayed out. Warm up went off without a hitch, and some teams even had the confidence to complete only one lap of the circuit. The sun beat down hotter, and everything was set.

As the lights changed, James Littlejohn sent out a warning shot to Jon Minshaw by attempting an audacious pass round the outside at the first entry to Paddock Bend, and Minshaw defended for his life. The game was afoot. Minshaw needed to break the field to extend his title lead, and having the hot pace of a Silver grade driver around wasn’t going to make matters easier. The big issue though wasn’t what was immediately behind him. Rick Parfitt had pushed the “go faster” button in the #31 Bentley, and he was making moves through the field. A dry track, a hot day and a point to prove, and Parfitt was off to prove it. He despatched Derek Johnston, Liam Griffin, Mark Farmer and eventually Jon Minshaw and set off in pursuit of the now leading James Littlejohn, who had cleared the Lamborghini and was trying to get away, knowing a pit stop penalty was coming for the #24 Aston for a podium finish in the last race at Spa.

Fate though, would intervene with plans once more. The fast starting Will Moore in the #62 GT4 Aston had done his best to hold the lead in class, before eventually Sandy Mitchell in the #100 Garage 59 McLaren had given the Aston a lesson in overtaking. But as Moore exited Surtees with about 25 minutes elapsed, the Aston suddenly slowed, rattled a little and ground to a halt. The black Aston was abandoned and retired necessitating a Safety Car period to rescue the Academy car.

A small respite ensued, and gave everyone a chance to take stock. GT4 was now back to its usual squabble between the #100 McLaren of Mitchell/Haggety, the #55 HHC Ginetta of Tregurtha/Middleton and the #51 Lanan Ginetta of Pittard/Reed. Nobody though, expected what was coming. What infact was coming was the #42 MacMillan Aston of Will Phillips and Jan Jønck. The Aston is usually a decent bet around Brands Hatch, and for whatever reason, it was all coming together for Will Phillips, who was having his best race of the year so far.

The theme of Brands Hatch was contrasts in fortune. Whilst one car was pushing up, another was struggling. Jon Minshaw had used up whatever the #33 Lamborghini had to give, and was now languishing in 6th place as the pit window approached. He was pushing no less hard than usual, but things wouldn’t work for him. He could see the Bentley disappearing, and could do little about it.

Just as the time ticked over for the pit window to open, the Bentley roared under the bridge at Clearways in what looked like a commanding lead. What had befallen James Littlejohn and the #24 MacMillan Aston which had led for so long? In it came to the pits, up it went onto the jacks. Back into the garage, and out of the race. A sticking throttle is a bad thing in itself, and sticking wide open is nothing short of terrifying. It was a sad end to a very commendable effort, and the Bentley was unchained to go on its way unopposed.

This is more or less what it did now. The pit stops saw Sam Tordoff, Jon Barnes, Jonny Adam and Phil Keen step into their respective cars behind Seb Morris in the Bentley, and this was the order to the finish of the race, with little hiccup or error. Tordoff put in a very solid drive holding off a pack which was little more than a couple of seconds away from his tail at any given time.

GT4 however, was still in the process of sorting itself out properly. David Pittard’s Ginetta suddenly found itself lacking the right kind of steering movement, and Alex Reed was not going to be taking over a fully fast machine. Sure enough, they fell by the wayside, and it was Will Tregurtha’s time to make hay while the sun shone. What he didn’t count on though, were three things. One was Ciaran Haggerty in the driver’s seat of the #100 McLaren. The second was Jan Jønck in the #42 Aston. And the third was Joe Osborne, in the #56 McLaren. Each one of them was on a real charge. Jønck had picked up where Phillips left off, and he began hassling Haggerty for all he was worth. Eventually, the pressure told, and the Aston went by. Haggerty then had Joe Osborne for company, and Joe went by as well, making the most of perfect conditions to push the #56 Tolman car harder and faster. Osborne would eventually get closest to the young Dane, but nobody would prevent MacMillan taking their first ever race win in British GT. Behind, Tregurtha had now got to Haggerty, whose tyres were suffering.

As the final lap approached, Tregurtha got a better run out of Stirlings, and passed Haggerty into Clearways. Haggerty wasn’t going to stand for this, and out came a flying dive up the inside at Paddock. The McLaren didn’t like this. The asphalt didn’t. The gravel trap at Paddock and the tyre wall did though, and they welcomed the unfortunate Scot with open arms. So close to a podium, and one moment changed it all. Tregurtha came home to extend a championship lead that will give him and Stuart Middleton a brief amount of breathing space going into Donington.

But even more elated were the Bentley boys. An unpromising start on Saturday had become a charge through the pack and a victory, and more significantly, a 10.5 point lead going into the final race at Donington, where titles are won and lost. It’s advantage to the Team Parker squad, but will fate be as kind to them this time round.

A few thoughts on the future of the British GT:

Whilst LITP took their summer holiday to Spa, the SRO announced its plans to separate the GT3 and GT4 classes of British GT. The GT4 class will now become the British GT4 Cup, and will have races at the usual GT rounds of the season, and an additional standalone race at Thruxton, which will see a return to GT racing for the first time in a long while after the horror shunt for Bradley Ellis on the approach to the chicane. GT3 would run its own races as well, encompassing the usual rounds, but with the addition of entries from one-make GT racing series such as the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, Porsche Carrera Cup and Ferrari Challenge to bolster grid numbers.

Those dreaded words. “Bolster grid numbers”. It really doesn’t take a mathematician to see that GT4 is the most popular class in the series at the moment, and to separate GT3 and GT4 will mean that teams will have to choose their destiny for the season ahead. At Brands Hatch, there were 10 GT3 entries. One of these was not a regular season entry. One of the regular teams, AmD were missing due to an accident in a different series that left their Mercedes bent and broken. A race cannot be appealing to spectators, or teams when there’s potential for the starting number to be only in the single figures.

GT4 Cup will be the most popular option next year. More races, more competitors, a more appealing entry for Bronze graded drivers. More manufacturers making more new cars. More options. More and more and more, compared to the rather uncertain and unsure footing provided by the future of GT3 racing.

The general feeling according to many in the paddock over the last few seasons was that SRO were looking to promote GT4 harder than GT3, and that the trend was showing that the class was growing. While there is the message that “16 to 18 cars are expected for GT3 in 2018” the reality is that the teams are not able to commit to that number now. So where does that leave it all?

Part of the appeal of the series for the spectator is the noise, size and power of the GT3 class. The class is popular for its variety, the talent of the drivers, and the fact that the SRO BoP has made the racing very very watchable. This isn’t to say the racing is bad in GT4, or that the category is uninteresting or undersubscribed. It just lacks that extra appeal that GT3 has to myself, and to many others.

From what I have heard inside the paddock, it is going to take a lot of effort to save GT3 in Britain now. Teams will look elsewhere to establish true competition. There are very successful series in other countries, which run full GT3 grids. Admittedly, these are run outside the full control of SRO, but nonetheless they are very well subscribed and popular for it. It may be too late to bring in a similar set of regulations to those series to make it work in Britain.

Time will tell. My gut feeling is that Donington Park will be the last time we see a dedicated GT3 class race in a UK national series. Come 2018, if the GT4 Cup is the premier event of a British GT weekend, it will be the acid test for the true future. We lost GT1, GT2, and GT3 is looking ominously close to loss now as well. It is my hope that the series cannot, and does not go into a state of ever decreasing spectacle.

British GT – 2017 Round 4 Review – Silverstone 500

 

All’s well that ends well.

 

At the beginning of June, the British GT paddock descends upon the longest race weekend of its year. Granted that 3 hours may not seem much, but it’s the blue riband event of each season and every team involved wants to prove their worth round Silverstone’s Grand Prix layout.

Saturday arrived and for once the anticipation in the air was for genuine contest. There wasn’t a hint of elbows out bodywork bashing, more expectation of a race which promised to showcase driver talent and ability.

One team however who were not best pleased about the arrival of the race were Barwell, whose Huracans had taken a hit under the Balance of Performance adjustments applied by SRO ahead of the weekend to rein in the Lamborghinis after what has been more or less a runaway start to the year. Although only the #6 car of Tordoff and Griffin would take a success penalty of additional pit stop seconds on Sunday, the team faced a mountain to climb to defend their championship points lead.

Ginetta’s GT4 entries also felt the pressure at Silverstone. The nimble G55 is excellent in twisting corners, but on Silverstone’s vast and fast expanses, there is little to enjoy for the Yorkshire built machines. The change of Optimum to switch the #501 car of Johnson/Robinson to the McLaren 570S from this weekend onwards showed the shifting sands in the class, although there’s much to be said for the exuberance of youth, with Lanan, HHC and Garage 59 fighting out the top 3 points spots in the GT4 standings with 3 young driver crews proving that raw talent can be measured carefully.

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There was another factor that made the weekend a very pleasurable one for both driver and spectator alike. This time of year and this race is usually plagued by a unseasonable downpour, spoiling everything formbook wise even more so than usual, and turning Silverstone into an unpleasant quagmire. 2017 broke away from this though, and the entirety of Saturday and Sunday, Silverstone stayed dry, albeit a bit windy. Teams put on their sunglasses and stored the rain tyres safely so that the gods of motor racing could not be tempted to blow some adverse weather their way.

Practice threw up a new name to the top of the timesheets, as Adam Christodolou climbed into the familiar cockpit of the Mercedes AMG GT3 of ABBA Rollcentre Racing and put in a stonking lap around the circuit to lead the way by over a second. Christodolou’s British GT bow could hardly have been better for morale and for excitement. Rollcentre were saying a fond farewell to team boss Martin Short (as a driver, for now), and a top spot in any session is enough to put a smile on the face of any team principal.

GT4 had two interlopers to contend with this weekend in the Invitation class as Stuart Hall and Gavan Kershaw employed their talents in pedalling the Stratton Lotus Evora, whilst Stefan Hodgetts and James Fletcher did the same in the GPRM Toyota. Neither of these cars was there for show and the Evora fairly looked like trumping the entirety of the field as it wailed around the course, making light work of the bends in true Lotus fashion.

10 minutes of qualifying around the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit isn’t a massive amount of time to get a good lap in, however needs must when there’s honour and points to be won. And each driver went around cleanly and admirably in each session. The pole position was eventually taken by the #24 MacMillan Racing Aston Martin of Jack Mitchell and James Littlejohn, with two consistent times seeing them steal pole from the #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley of Seb Morris and Rick Parfitt, who looked on course to make the most of a happily dry circuit.

Behind them, the #21 Spirit of Race Ferrari driven by Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin just pipped the sister #7 Bentley of Ian Loggie and Callum MacLeod from having Team Parker concerns in 2nd and 3rd on the grid. Christodolou once again topped the pro session times in the #88 Mercedes, but sadly the averages didn’t favour the team on this occasion.

HHC Motorsport didn’t let the balance of performance smother their GT4 drivers in qualifying as the young hotshots Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton put in a fine average timeset to get them to the top in their Ginetta. They were only pipped by the invitation class Lotus, as Hall and Kershaw put in times nearly a second faster than the rest of the field.

Sunday arrived bringing scores of spectators to the ticket gates, as the sunshine settled in for the day, allowing a sense of rude health and optimism to boost the support for this 3 hour race. A lot of teams sat out the warm up, not feeling the need to make adjustments or to seek any further improvement on their capabilities for the race.

The field duly formed up and rolled round to take the start, at which point, the two snarling Bentleys ganged up on the pole sitting Aston and pushed it backwards down the order. After last year’s disappointment it was time for Team Parker Racing to make up with a victory, and Rick Parfitt set off at an electric pace to try and establish the #31 at the head of the field. Behind him, Derek Johnston in the #1 Aston Martin suddenly found himself spinning off the road, but thankfully without damage to be able to rejoin the race, albeit dead last with work to do to catch up. In truth, TF Sport had a rather lacklustre weekend, and neither the #1 car of Johnston/Adam nor the #11 of Farmer/Barnes would make a heavy dent in the end results, although it would never be for the want of trying.

Richard Neary was having a good go in the #88 Mercedes from the start as well, and found himself making good pace up in the top 5 before he too dropped back after leaving the circuit, again, thankfully without damage to the car.

In GT4, the field had been joined by Will Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones in the #62 Academy Motorsport Aston Martin, who were made to start from the back as their penalty for missing qualifying on Saturday in favour of going racing in the GT4 European Series at the Red Bull Ring. They would need a charge from the back of the field to have any effect on the final race results. There was no question that GT4 would be where the best battles would be fought this weekend, as the small cars revelled in the wide open spaces of Silverstone.

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Sure enough, as the race went on, there developed a fantastic battle for the lead of the class, which kept people on their toes. Academy had made the climb up the order, and was now dicing with the #29 In2Racing (Hoggarth/Graham) and #72 track-club (Balon/Mackay) McLarens, and the only other GT4 Aston, the #42 MacMillan car of Jonck/Phillips. These four conspired to swap places around the circuit, with the strongest looking like the #72 track-club car. Whilst the Silver class has hogged the limelight pointswise this season, the track-club team have arrived without pomp and ceremony and raced hard. Adam Balon and Adam Mackay were pushing the little white McLaren with the experience of two men who knew how to coax the most out of a lightweight rear engine sportscar.

Drama befell the HHC Motorsport team though, as a driveshaft in the #55 Ginetta decided to break under the strain of the high speed. Tregurtha and Middleton’s race was more or less over without affecting the scoresheets, but the team would rally, replace and repair parts, and send the car back out for a fine flourish towards the end.

Another strong performance came from Kelvin Fletcher in the #54 Nissan 370Z. Fletcher, to date had hardly set the world alight, but suddenly, he was making progress up the order in the baby Godzilla, and turning a few heads as he passed some well capable drivers (including Ciaran Haggerty in one of the title contending machines)! With Struan Moore stepping into the hotseat later, it would have been prime time to see how the car would fare, but unfortunately, a puncture halted their charge.

GT3 though was becoming the Parfitt and Morris show. Parfitt’s driving was cool, calm and calculated, and no matter how much Mitchell and Littlejohn pushed in the #24 Aston behind them, they couldn’t stop the #31 Bentley from going further into the distance. The big V8 powered beast barely missed a step or a beat at the front. Unfortunately, its stablemate #7 in the hands of Ian Loggie and Callum MacLeod suddenly ended up exiting the track at speed and shunting, ruining a solid race for the team.

The two teams who gambled with longer driving stints, Spirit of Race and Barwell, endured the waiting game to see if gambling on a true endurance stint would pay off. Barwell’s gamble was to be the biggest one as they would have the most to lose at this weekend. In truth, 4th place at the flag for the #33 Minshaw/Keen Lamborghini would be enough to keep their title challenge rolling, although a podium finish (which eventually fell the way of the #21 Ferrari of Cameron & Griffin) would have been a nice little addition to the weekend.

As the race drew towards its close, the lead Bentley tangled with the #11 TF Sport car of Farmer/Barnes, but was found not to have been guilty of any indiscretion in terms of conduct, despite a spin for the Aston. Team Parker Racing celebrated 2 victories in the 2 longer races of the season so far, and another collection of 37.5 points to their total for the season, propelling Parfitt and Morris closer to Minshaw and Keen at the top of the standings. Second for the #24 MacMillan Aston gave plenty for Jack Mitchell and James Littlejohn to smile about, with another podium to add to their driving CVs. The Ferrari rounded out the podium, and pushed Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin up the order in the championship standings too, behind the Barwell & Team Parker pairings. Still plenty to play for in that respect.

Behind the GT3 field, the GT4 class tried its best to keep up the excitement. After having its battle with its rivals, the #72 track-club car kept the momentum to the flag, as Balon and Mackay revelled in having no pit stop penalties, a quick and nimble car, and reason to drive it as fast as possible. Although Matt Nicoll-Jones and Will Moore would try their hardest to keep chase, they would fall short of a charge from last to first, and would have to settle with second place ahead of Marcus Hoggarth and Matty Graham, who were making gains on the #62 Aston in the #29 In2Racing McLaren, making both teams and fans sweat in anticipation of an exciting close finish. There was no appearance on the podium for any of the top 3 in the GT4 championship standings, and the closest finishers frm that group to the top were David Pittard and Alex Reed in the #51 Lanan Ginetta. Their lead was now shrinking to single digits, closed in heavily by Balon and Mackay, who were looking a very strong pairing in what is in truth, not a very large or heavily sponsored team. Talent will out in motor racing!

The Silverstone 500 had one extra piece of excitement in store for the winners this year, as Rick Parfitt and Seb Morris collected the RAC Trophy for winning the blue riband event of the year. If there were ever a gloss to put on a race weekend, this was it. Tradition is a rare thing in racing, a sport which doesn’t stand still, and it is nice to have a championship like this share in an old and respected piece of silverware for its latest winners. The champagne flowed faster and higher than usual. Perhaps it was relief at completion of 3 hours. Perhaps it was the sunshine. Perhaps though, it was just that the best job had been done by everyone to make this an excellent race.

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Surmises from Silverstone:

One of the features of the weekend from a non-racing point of view was the Supercar display on the Sunday, which included everything from a Chevrolet Camaro, to a Dodge Viper GTS, several McLaren 675LTs, almost every Ferrari possible, and even a Jaguar XJR-12, as seen at Le Mans in 1990. A very impressive companion to an exciting weekend for the spectator.

On track, one thing missed from the entire weekend in terms of British GT and that was the often expected and much lamented Safety Car. There was no cause for it! Although there were incidents that required marshal attention and car retrieval, no need for a full course caution period was required. This ruined the caution to the wind strategies of some teams, but there’s nothing like the spectacle of drivers being allowed to run flat out for the full duration of a race. And that’s perhaps something that was needed after the last couple of years of this race!

The weekend welcomed a new championship as a supporting series this weekend, and it was one of the best we’ve seen yet. The Caterham 420R Championship turned a wheel at Silverstone, and during the afternoons of Saturday and Sunday, people were treated to a fine spectacle of racing. Up to 14 cars were nose to tail at one point during the race on Sunday following the leader, with barely an incident to report, but plenty of shuffling for position. We’d quite like to see these racers return to the timetables in future – after all, there’s only so many Ginetta G40s that can race during one weekend!

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Academy Motorsport, Moore & Strandberg reunite for European GT4 Finale

Dennis Strandberg comes full circle and back to a team and team mate he knows well from the 2015 season.
This weekend in Zandvoort, Dennis and Will Moore reunite and also with the team they drove together at, Academy Motorsport to take on the European GT4’s
The Aston Martin Vantage GT4 is a proven car and brought them together the team championship in British GT last year.
The pairing of Will and Dennis will please many of their fans who followed the 2015 season which brought them 5th in the driver championship and a nail biting finale, a season that saw them consistently qualify high in the GT4 order for the grid, unfortunately Lady Luck had other plans and the win that was owed eluded them. 
This also opens up a potential for the 2017 season, we await to see if this weekend may lead to more from the two men. 
Dennis Strandberg has been without a full season seat this year but this hasn’t stopped the “Slick Swede” from racing as a guest in many different series over the year.
He has shown his outstanding race craft in the VW cup and VW funcup at Spa in July, taking home trophies for both and most recently last weekend in Hockenheim for the Italian TCR outfit Target Competition, managing P2 in both his races.
2016 has been a great year for Dennis, he’s consistently shone in every race he’s competed in and shown he is a very versatile yet skilled racer.


Photo courtesy of Alex Denham Photography

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.

McLaren In GT Racing

Back in the 1960s, Bruce McLaren had set up a team that would be able to compete on many fronts. Formula 1 was only a part of the story for the McLaren team. In fact, Bruce McLaren had set down a marker for the future successes of the grand prix cars that the team would build by kicking off with an excellent campaign in sports cars. Ask any true McLaren fan where they won their first titles, and they will tell you it was in Can-Am – the North American series for Group 7 sports prototypes. Between 1967 and 1971, the championship winning car was a McLaren.

After the death of Bruce McLaren, the focus of manufacturing switched to the single seater market with F1 and Indycars. In the early 1990s though, design genius Gordon Murray came up with a concept for a new and exciting car. Powered by a massive BMW V12 engine (which sounded as good as any sports car V12 engine should) it was meant to become the ultimate road car, manufactured with the expertise of the Formula One team. The McLaren F1. This was the first McLaren sports car for the road, but it wasn’t going to be unnoticed by racing teams. Such a brilliant car would be welcomed on the tracks, where GT racing was going through a rebirth.

1995, kicked off and the McLaren F1 GTR arrived and stormed the world of GT racing, which at that time still relied on the Porsche 911 and Ferrari F40. It had taken some arm twisting, as Murray’s original concept was never that of racing, but of the perfect road machine. The car proved to be magnificent. The engine had been perfectly produced, and was even overpowered for the GT rules of the time! The highlight of the season though was a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, on debut, which was stunning against a field of seasoned prototype specialists!

1996, brought more of the same, especially seeing as BMW suddenly sat up and took their engine seriously! The famous sight of the Schnitzer liveried McLaren tearing around the great circuits of the world brought joy to many racing fans. However, GT1 was becoming endangered. At the end of 1997, the McLaren F1 GTR stopped production, and the McLaren sports car business went into hiatus.

The late 2000s, it was decided by McLaren, would be a great time to release a new production sports car. The car would be of the highest specification. There would be a new engine which had input from Ilmor and Ricardo, two experts in engine manufacturer. The twin-turbo M838T was born. Whilst the roadcar would have fewer restrictions, the GT version would be restricted to just under 500bhp to correspond with homologation rules for GT3, where it would come up to face the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes, old compatriots BMW, and Aston Martin. The 12C’s lowline bodywork made it an attractive car to look at, and the addition of aggressive aerodynamics on the front and rear of the car made it look the perfect part for racing.

CRS Racing entered the MP4-12C into a GT race for the first time in the 2011 British GT championship round at Spa Francorchamps. The thing that made it stand out though was the paint. McLaren were back, and the heritage of the years shone through as the traditionally liveried orange machine stormed to pole position at Spa in the hands of Andrew Kirkaldy and Chris Goodwin. The two races at Spa proved to be a mixed bag, but a 4th place in the second race showed what was capable from this new machine. It had caught the eye of teams around Europe, and 2012 was going to show an absolute wealth of McLarens on the GT3 grid. Teams like Von Ryan (run by Dave Ryan, who was the sporting director for McLaren F1), United Autosports, ART Grand Prix and HEXIS Racing would show up on the Blancpain and FIA GT Championships in 2012.

The first taste of glory for the MP4-12C came at Navarra in Spain, where Fred Makowiecki and Step Dusseldorp pedalled their car to top spot in race 1 of the weekend. The first international GT win for McLaren since 1997 had been long coming, but it would be backed up in the FIA GT Championship by wins at Moscow Raceway, Donington Park and the Baku Challenge. There were also wins in the FFSA GT and British GT Championships for the 12C in GT3 form.

2013 bought changes to the aerodynamics of the car, with a taller rear wing adding improved downforce and a sharper look to the vehicle. The car took wins in French GT, GT Open, and once again at Navarra in FIA GT, this time in the hands of legendary driver Sebastien Loeb, who had bought the McLaren for his entry into international GT3 events, alongside long serving McLaren GT driver, Alvaro Parente. 2013 was also the second year for Von Ryan’s partnership with the MP4-12C, and with entries into the Blancpain Endurance Series and the British GT championship. Being able to witness the storming drive from French ace Gregoire Demoustier and Duncan Tappy at Brands Hatch 2013 was a personal highlight of mine, as it showed exactly what the car could achieve in the right hands.

2014 was the MP4-12C’s swansong year at the top level of GT3 racing, but the year started with a bang. The opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Series, the 3 Hours of Monza fell to the ART Grand Prix car driven by Demoustier, Alex Premat and Parente. One of the highlight drives of the year for the McLaren came in a race on the famous Mount Panorama circuit, at Bathurst in Australia. The 12H of Bathurst is the premier long distance GT race in Australia. Darrell Lea Racing had taken purchase of a McLaren, and the Kiwi hotshot Shane van Gisbergen went out and shot around the circuit to record the fastest ever lap of the course at a hair-raising 2:03.850. This was something truly awesome to behold, and van Gisbergen found himself called up to races for McLaren in Europe.

But, there was a new machine in development at McLaren. The 650S was coming. A leaner, meaner looking bodyshell that enhanced the aerodynamic grip of the GT competitor, whilst retaining the M838T engine. The 650S GT3 certainly took the prize of the best looking new GT3 machine in 2015, with Von Ryan leading the way for the team in the Blancpain Endurance Series and in the frantically fought British GT series, and the debut international win came at the 3 Hours of Silverstone. Shane Van Gisbergen returned to Europe to partner Rob Bell and rising star Kevin Estre to victory in a fantastic strategic race round the British track. A second victory at the season ending 3 Hours Nurburgring for the same driver combination led to Von Ryan’s most successful season in the Blancpain GT Series. A further win at Silverstone in British GT, along with victories in GT Open for stalwart Alvaro Parente, means that the 650S has been one of the best performers in GT3 of the year.

GT racing might not have been Bruce McLaren’s original goal when he raced the M1, M6 and M8 machines in Can-Am, but the performance of the latest breed of McLaren GT machinery certainly live up to his visions of improvement, innovation and excitement. And yes, that famous winning McLaren orange certainly isn’t disappearing from these cars any time soon…

Strandberg On Pole For The Aston Martin Festival Le Mans 2015

While all the attention is on the main 24 hour race at Le Mans, a new star is beginning to shine.

In racing how can we tell when one driver is naturally uber talented over a learned skill set?

For me it is when a driver can do something extraordinary, when they can make a car do something that they shouldn’t have been able to and for the last 2 days thats exactly what Dennis Strandberg has been doing at the Aston Martin Festival at Le Mans.

This 21 year old naturally gifted driver arrived at Le Mans with the job of assisting his team Academy Motorsport who are there with both their Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 cars that are usually seen in the British GT Championship.

Dennis was not planning on driving but very last minute, late Wednesday morning the opportunity arose to race in the 2nd Academy Motorsport car and he signed up to drive with his team boss Matt Nicoll-Jones in the number 42 car.

This is the car that is usually number 62 in British GT’s so NOT his usual car and therefore is a different feeling car to usual.

Later that day it was time to take to the track in free practise and with just 4 laps in the simulator Dennis topped the time sheets. Impressive given that he has never driven the Le Mans circuit before and also that its a different car he hasn’t driven before and that only 4 laps had been driven in the sim, yet still being able to get the very best from his machine.

Qualification was the following day and just 23 hours after finishing free practise the fastest, the car finished quali in pole position for Tomorrow’s race.

This alone surely shows how talented this young man is but there is a little more to this yet as qualification took place with no downshift for Dennis as it had been used to replace a broken one in the team’s sister car.

Again showing his gift in racing in even being able to get the car around the circuit with no downshift. Could any of us ‘normal folk’ drive the socks of a car with no clutch? Let alone drive it on its limits in an the middle of somewhere we have never driven before and in the shadows of the greatest race on the planet?!

This naturally able Swede is now out from the shadows for all to see as he prepares to race tomorrow from the front in the 45 minute support race to the main Le Mans 24 hrs and I for one hope that all of those in Aston Martin Racing and especially the Evolution Academy are watching him tomorrow and taking notes.

Dennis Strandberg is found currently racing in British GT for Academy Motorsport and is 1 of 10 young racers under the wing of the newly formed Aston Martin Evolution Academy, in my opinion a very bright star of the future and one to watch, I think by the end of tomorrow he will have shown all of those at Le Mans that he will be back in the not too distant future as a competitor in the main race.

 

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#BPDriveInDineOut Free Meal At Pizza Express With BP

Hey Motorsport fans,

I have found something that may interest all of you that spend a lot of the racing season up and down motorways and in and out of service stations as well as endless weekends at race circuits throughout the UK.
BP have a new promotion in conjunction with Pizza Express, all you do is fill up with at least 35 litres of fuel, three times and  collect three voucher codes, then validate these online at bp.co.uk/driveindineout (full t’s & c’s there too) and you will receive a free main meal code to be used at Pizza Express.

The offer starts today June 2nd and runs until June 29th and all you have to do is fill up a minimum of 35 litres each time to receive a voucher with a code. Come on, with the amount of time we all spend on the road and all weekends at circuits, how great is that? A main meal for FREE!!! and who doesn’t like pizza!!

Just think you can go and get a nice sit down meal instead of a grabbed fast meal on your way home from a circuit, what a way to top off a racing weekend, I know I will definitely be doing this for the summer, the offer is redeemable between June 2nd and August 9th and with a family in tow most weekends it will definitely make my weekends of travelling that bit easier.

The free meal entitles you to choose from Classic or Leggera Pizza, Pasta dishes or Main salad and is available all day Sunday to Friday, absolutely perfect driving home on a Sunday evening or to enjoy during the week after. All my Twitter followers you can keep up with the Twitter hashtag of #BPDriveInDineOut.

I hope all of you will enjoy this promotion as much as we will.

Take Care Sandra

We’ve Been Nominated….How Amazing..

We found out yesterday that we’ve been nominated in the very first F1 Fan Awards. These are meant to be a light hearted nod from the fans, who we all know don’t get much of a say in anything F1 so what a welcome relief they are!
FullSizeRender-28To even be nominated is simply amazing, considering we have only been blogging since the start of the year and only been able to take our followers and fans to races with us since the Spanish GP.

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who enjoys what we do and understands that we do it because we know its what fans want.

Fans want that little bit more, to know that little extra piece of info, to feel included in the team and that they matter!!

Of course fans matter, without fans there in no Motorsport!!

We’d appreciate a vote, although these are not meant to be take too seriously we like you love our sport, so we are in it to win it!!

Thank you

Sandra & Ben

 >> Please vote here <<

Lotus F1 Team Filming Day At Brands Hatch

Today we all got involved at our home circuit Brands Hatch at the Lotus F1 team  filming day. The track was open to the general public, Ben is still here till Friday when he flies to Barcelona so it was a family affair, we took both our girls with us too!

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Brands Hatch to me is the home of the British Grand Prix so to have some bona fide F1 cars driving around it again was something I was not prepared to miss out on. It’s also a 10 minute drive from where we lived until 18 months ago and during the 7 years I spent in the Wrotham area it was pretty regular that weekends were spent at Brands. Since moving further out and having the baby I’ve hardly been, so it was a great excuse to all go for the day together for one of the final times till the European season is over in September.

We’d planned to meet up with a few people, our friend Mark who lives close by and Simon the editor in chief of ThePitCrewOnline and Nigel who we’ve met through twitter, great to have people to converse with inbetween car outings and great to meet up with likeminded people and maybe see a few faces recognisable from Twitter, and so onto the day…

We set up camp on the grassy bank opposite the pit garages so we could see the nose of the Lotus E23 sticking out of the garage waiting patiently to blast round the Indy circuit as the team and film crew worked together to set up the shots they needed. Then with the loud sound of the starter probe the car was fired up and a lap or two was completed with a custom made Mercedes ML500 AMG fitted with a roof top boom camera did its best to keep up and get those dynamic shots we come to expect from modern film making.  Although Romain Grosjean was driving the E23 was crawling round, playing with the ML like a lion with a mouse. It was a great demonstration of the power, speed and acceleration an F1 car is capable of. On normal roads a ML AMG would have the ability to disappear from view in seconds but against the E23 its speed was just enough to get the F1 car out of 2nd gear! Having completed several runs like that the car then went out with a fixed camera fitted to the top of the air box. This gave Romain a chance to drive a little faster but the E23 was not going flat out.

Lunch time called for the pit lane walkabout and the team laid out the E23 and a 1970’s Lotus 72 side by side for a photo opportunity with the complete Lotus F1 driver line up along side.

After lunch we were lucky enough to see the circuit from a different view as we were kindly invited to have a coffee in one of the hospitality suites. (To be covered in another post). Romain took a Lotus Europa round the circuit giving people a hot lap and then came a very special moment. The Lotus 72 was fired up and driven round. It was in 1986 that Brands Hatch last held a championship F1 race and seeing a car from that era driving around evoked the imagination and made me and many others wish we were there 40 years earlier watching a complete field of cars like that. A little later on both the E23 and the 72 went around together. This was another special moment and probably the only time i will see 2 different generations of Lotus F1 car together on track.

So to conclude, the day was a very unique and special opportunity and i would like to thank the Lotus F1 team and Brands Hatch for putting together the day. One day in my lifetime i may get to attend  an F1 race at Brands Hatch but for the time being this was a day that will keep me happy for many a year.

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Graham And Leigh Single Circuit Review

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Hello again friends, I know its been a little while since my last post, lots going on recently  but that’s for another post.

A little while ago Ben won a competition with Graham and Leigh through their twitter, this involved 56 circuit maps and naming all of them, actually there was 57 as the other 56 were in fact contained within the 57th circuit.

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Ben in the end was the only person to get all 57, yes his job at European circuits was a minor help, some of them were obscure with only a handful F1 tracks so really we had no more an advantage than anyone else.

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The prize was this amazing single circuit of Spa in Belgium, which i must say now before I even go into the piece itself is absolutely stunning! When i say that I truly mean it, the quality is out of this world and worth every single penny of their price tag.

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There is nothing on this piece that does not scream quality, craftsmanship & care, from the beautiful yet robust and thick frame to the  expertly and intricately carved track layout which sits floating above so is in 3D, its such a beautiful item that words fail me in searching for ones that can adequately describe this beautiful piece that would enhance any motorsport lovers wall.

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We have a friend that came round and saw it the other week, I passed it to him to take a closer look and he was blown away by it, he quite literally said ‘wow that’s amazing’ and then as I passed it and he saw how lovely a piece it is he said ‘oh wow!’ That’s really how stunning these pieces are, even writing this i feel like I’m failing to convey the beauty of it however much I try and also this is true of pictures, though I’ve tried my hardest to take pictures that can help show how magnificent it is.

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I will be completely honest in that when I first saw the prices I wondered if they weren’t a tad expensive but now being a proud owner I can hand on heart say they are worth more than they cost and evoke a need to own another, we will surely be adding to our Graham and Leigh collection again really soon!