Seven different cars could deliver one or both of their drivers to the 2012 Avon Tyres British GT Championship at this weekend’s season finale at Donington Park. The top five are covered by less than ten points – a margin so slender that a win of any of them will clinch the title regardless of any other teams’ finishing positions.
The only two team to have won twice this season – including the form team coming to Donington after winning two of the last three races – lie in sixth and seventh in the knowledge that a third win for either of them could give them the title. However, starting the weekend further behind (respectively 19.5 and 21.5 points) current points leaders MTECH even a win may not be enough for them to snatch the title away.
Of course, with a total of 20 GT3 cars expected in the premier class for the two hour race a victory for any of the championship contenders is by no means assured, bringing into place as many as 100 permutations that could deliver the title in any one direction.
Ahead of the weekend The Checkered Flag runs through the championship hopefuls and tries to shed some light towards the different scenarios that need to play out for each to leave Donington Park as 2012 champions.
Despite being arguably the least headline-grabbing of Trackspeed’s three-pronged assault at the start of the season the combination of former British GT4 champion Osborne and historic racer Tandy sprung the surprise of being the first double winners of the 2012 season. In both their endurance race win at Rockingham and in their Snetterton success they led home a 1-2 finish for the Porsche – both without team orders. Whether that changes with team leader Ashburn in the title hunt remains to be seen, but the #32 team need more than a little help from their rivals if they are to take the championship.
High Point: Rockingham Win – After a shrewd early pitstop after a safety car period Osborne moved up the order to take the lead with half an hour to go. Held off Trackspeed teammate Phil Keen to kick start their season.
Low Point: Slow Start – Osborne and Tandy gained just six points from the first four races of the season, making their rise up the standings all the more surprising.
Will be champions if….They win, while MTECH and Ecurie Ecosse finish eighth or worse, RJN finish seventh, Trackspeed stablemate Ashburn sixth and Caine and Perfetti fifth. A second place would still secure the title as long as MTECH, Ecurie Ecosse and RJN fail to score and both of the other Porsche driving hopefuls miss the top eith, plus would need United Autosports not to win.
United Autosports pairing of silver graded drivers were among the pre-season favourites, but the performance balancing working to counteract both the quality of Bell and Bateman (race winners for different teams in 2011) and the Audi R8 LMS they began the season with seemed to have nulled their threat. A one-off outing in the 2012 R8 ultra failed to bring immediate results at Brands Hatch, but a switch to the McLarens previously campaigned by the team in the Blancpain Endurance Series has yielded two wins in three races making them undeniably the form team going into the final round.
High Point: Storming Away at Snetterton – the McLaren’s full British GT debut Bell and Bateman dominated the first of the two Snetterton races winning by seventeen seconds despite the first manifestations of a brake problem which forced them to retire from the later race.
Low Point: Denied at Oulton Park – Driving a an Audi R8 LMS the pair were denied a certain and much deserved win in the torrential rain which heralded the start of the season. Less than half a lap from the first checkered flag of the year a fuel pick-up halted, stranding Bell at the trackside.
Will be champions if….They win and MTECH and Ecurie Ecosse finish no better than eighth, RJN sixth, Ashburn and the Perfetti/Caine car fifth. Can still win the title from the second step of the podium as long as MTECH and Ecurie Ecosse both miss the points while RJN only finish tenth and the fourth and fifth placed Porsches only manage eighth. Would still Tandy and Osborne not to win.
David Bartrum bringing his team’s Porsche knowledge – not to mention drivers – from the Carrera Cup to the British GT paddock was always likely to result in a championship challenging team and Caine and Perfetti have quietly kept in contention all season. Though they have not won – not forgetting that the 2011 went to Glynn and Jim Geddie without them winning a race – but have been the most frequent visitors to the podium this season.
High Point: On form in the Eifels – Perfetti and Caine were the only team to step onto the podium twice during the weekend the British GT boys supported the Nurburgring 24 Hours, taking away a points haul from the ‘ring eclipsed only by race two winners and current points leaders MTECH.
Low Point: Missing out on big points – the pair’s two scoreless races came back to back in the two hour races at first Rockingham, then Brands Hatch when Perfetti was unceremoniously bundled into the Druids gravel by David Jones’ Preci-Spark Mercedes SLS.
Will be champions if….They win. From even the lowest step on the podium they will take the title if MTECH and Ecurie Ecosse miss the top five, RJN finish only fifth and Ashburn only fourth. Finishing elsewhere in the top ten they need to beat both MTECH and Ecurie Ecosse by four positions, RJN by two and Ashburn by a single place, providing both Trackspeed’s #32 and United Autosports miss out on a podium finish.
The 2010 champion Ashburn has endured a roller-coaster season with a variety of co-drivers – Richard Westbrook at Oulton Park and Nurburgring, Phil Keen at Rockingham, Nicolas Armindo at Brands Hatch, Westbrook and Keen again for Snetterton and Silverstone respectively. Championship leader until a second retirement of the season at Silverstone, when driving with Keen – his co-driver again for the finale – Ashburn now faces a much tougher test if he is to reclaim the title.
High Point: Oulton Park Victory – Always one of the favourites for the title Ashburn staked his claim to the title early, he and Westbrook winning the second race on Easter Monday at Oulton Park to take a very early points lead.
Low Point: Late season double DNF: Winning the championship at Snetterton subsequent mechanical retirements in both the second race at the Norfolk track and at Silverstone went a long way to setting up the seven way title battle that will descend upon Donington Park
Will be champion if….He and Phil Keen win. A second place will require the MTECH and Ecurie Ecosse duos to finish off the podium and RJN to only finish third. To clinch from third Ashburn needs the current to two to finish no better than sixth and simply to beat RJN. If he finishes elsewhere in the points he needs to beat both MTECH and Ecurie Ecosse by three places and RJN by two spots. Also needs to stay ahead of Caine and Perfetti while top four finish is good enough to stop either his Trackspeed teammates or United Autosport from taking the title regardless of where they finish.
This team was never meant to be a title contender, Bob Neville’s team only committing to a full season campaign mid-season after a promising, if slightly frustrating start to the season. Tyre problems at Oulton Park and a pitstop penalty at Nurburgring whilst on course for the race win hid the true potential of the car, Buncombe and Mardenborough, the 2011 GT Academy winner who has been a revelation in the championship, with his Brands Hatch and second Snetterton race drives superb for very, very different reasons.
High Point: That finish – Just 0.022 seconds decided the winners of the two hour race at Brands Hatch, Mardenborough crossing the line ahead of Jonny Adam’s Aston Martin in the closest finish in championship history. Mardenborough had resisted long term pressure from Oliver Bryant in changing conditions and just – just – kept ahead of Adam after a getting sideways through the final corner.
Low Point – Silly Error at Snetterton – The other side to Mardenborough’s inexperience, when an over zealous move on David Ashburn at the Montreal hairpin knocked the Nissan out of the race with damage from the resulting contact. Suitably sheepish Mardenborough went on to charge to third place in race two.
Will be champions if….They win. They finish anywhere else on the podium so long as those ahead in the points finish behind on track (though MTECH finishing just behind would result in a tie). Otherwise need to beat both Ferrari and BMW team by two places, but still need to be just one place behind Ashburn and the Motorbase Porsche and at least seventh to prevent Osborne and Tandy or Bell and Bateman from stealing the title.
McCaig – and the Barwell Motorsport run Ecurie Ecosse squad – have the honour of being the only GT3 team to have scored points in each of the nine races leading up to the finale this weekend. Though they have not always been big scorers the hauls were enough to mean that, coupled with problems for the erstwhile top three second place in the three hour Silverstone race alongside GT3 newcomer Ollie Hancock catapulted McCaig right into the championship battle at the end of the famous team’s full season return to the track.
High Point: Winning Start – It was McCaig and Oliver Bryant who took advantage of Matt Bell’s late problem at Oulton Park to win the first race of the year on the British GT debut for the BMW Z4.
Low Point: Trouble at Snetterton – With Bryant injured in a track day crash before the early August return from the summer break Ollie Millroy was drafted in. An off in practice for the late call-up sent the team scrambling (to Holland) for replacement parts for the BMW. That they salvaged an eighth and fourth places from the weekend is a microcosm of the consistency that has led to McCaig’s championship contention.
Will be champion if…He and Oliver Bryant (back in the car this weekend) win. Will win the title if they best the MTECH duo anywhere in the top ten but need to stay close behind (one and two places respectively) RJN’s Nissan and the Ashburn and Motorbase Porsches. A top seven result would stop a champion coming from outside the current top five.
The nearly men of British in recent years, they were runners-up in 2010 a David Ashburn and Glynn Geddie piloted Porsche and came out on the wrong end of a five way fight for the championship at the end of last season. Is this finally their year? The Anglo-Irish pair salvaged points from the Silverstone weekend after damage to the front of the car caused problems at the end of a race they had started from pole position. They kept the championship lead but by only half a point when the opportunity was there to romp into the finale further ahead.
High Point: Surprise win – According to Duncan Cameron he didn’t know he was going to win the second race at the Nurburgring with no communication from the team he simply passed the race leading Porsches in a quest to finish as high as he could. He succeeded.
Low Point: No points at Brands – in damp condition to start the race Cameron spun away into the midfield melee behind Hector Lester’s Rosso Verde 458. When Lester spun on the exit of Druids it left Cameron with no escape route, the contact breaking an oil line in the front of the MTECH machine and causing their sole DNF this season.
Will be champions if…They win, or they beat Ecurie Ecosse. However, they would still need to finish just one place behind Buncome and Mardenborough, two behind David Ashburn’s Porsche and three behind the Motorbase entry, provided they too miss the podium spots. Need only finish seventh to end the title hopes of double winners United Autosports and the Tandy/Osborne #32.
Confused? Have no fear. The Checkered Flag will have live coverage of the final race of the season, including updates on the points battle. The race will also enjoy same day TV coverage for the first time in British GT history with Motors TV showing a 90-minute program starting a 6pm, just hours after the champions have been crowned and the celebrations started.