British GT Finale: In It To Win It


How can 12÷120=1?

If it’s twelve drivers divided from the Avon Tyres British GT Championship by 120 minutes of racing at Donington Park.

This weekend the series arrives back at the Midlands track – the scene of last season’s topsy turvy climax – to decide who will add their names to the list of those to win one of the UK’s most competitive championships.

At the top just half a point splits the top two in the championship, with three teams able to secure the title with a win – regardless of what happens around them. Another three, however, require slip-ups from those who start ahead in the standings, but in a season that has featured several incidents involving those who have emerged as title hopefuls there is always time for another twist in the tail.

Ahead of the final race of the year www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk takes you through the teams fighting for the title and tries to explain the dozens of permutations that can deliver each of them the 2013 title.

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Matt Bell/Mark Patterson

finale25United Autosports – Audi R8 LMS
Pre-Donington Park points: 86.5
Wins: 0
Podiums: 3
No-Scores: 1

This time last year United Autosports’ McLarens were sweeping to victories in the British championship, and there was the feeling that this season was going to be about stopping the Anglo-American team. However, a seemingly cursed season ended with their pair of McLarens being shelved before last month’s Zandvoort meeting, leaving the Audi men as their lone representatives in the series. A single point from the second Zandvoort race – gifted them by a post-race penalty ahead of them – has moved them level with the 888Optimum car on points but they remain in the weakest position of all the title chasers.

High Point: Sort of on the Rockingham podium – Bell and Patterson’s best single race score of the year came at Rockingham. Bell actually crossed the line in fourth, but a penalty for Andrew Howard dropped him out of third, Bell and Patterson taking his and Jonny Adam’s place (though only after the podium celebrations). The result made the UA pair the only one of the championship contenders to finish in the top five that day.

Low Point: Missing out at Silverstone – Having gained a points boost at Rockingham the Audi men logged their sole pointless race in the three hour race on the Grand Prix track. While they languished down in 17th the podium places were all taken by teams that start the Donington Park weekend better placed in the points than the Audi pairing.

Will be champions if….They win with both the Beechdean and Ecurie Ecosse teams no better than fifth and Motorbase’s Porsche no better than third. A title from second is possible if both the top two finish outside of the top eight, Motorbase of the top four and Nick Tandy and the #31 off the podium. A third place finish would require the Aston not to score and Ecurie Ecosse to only finish 10th. They would also need to beat the Motorbase and Trackspeed Porsches by four and two places respectively and beat Brown and Tandy’s 888Optimum BMW.

Dan Brown/Steve Tandy

finale888888Optimum Racing – BMW Z4 GT3
Pre Donington-Park points: 86.5
Wins: 0
Podiums: 3
No-Scores: 4

With the United Autosports team Brown and Tandy are one of the two teams capable of continuing the disconcerting streak of British GT champions not to have won a race during the season, though the odds are stacked against them if that is to be the case.  With the new for 2013 888Optimum coalition and Ecurie Ecosse the BMW has proved to a potent machine this year, Brown and Tandy able to keep in contention despite a number of problems and retirements during the year.

High Point: Podium at Silverstone – After a slow start to the season the championship arrived at Silverstone, the fast sweeping corners suiting the downforce rich Z4 GT3. A third place finish begun a stealthy run into title contention – apt given then the car’s matt black paint job.

Low Point: Misjudgement in the Dunes – After playing a role in the fantastic first race at Zandvoort Brown misjudged a pass on a GT4 car on the sweeps towards the far reaches of the track. The result was a DNF that stalled their points’ total at the least convenient time:

Will be champions if….Tied on points with the Audi it’s the same story as for Bell and Patterson. They need to win with both the Beechdean and Ecurie Ecosse teams no better than fifth and Motorbase’s Porsche no better than third. A title from second is possible if both the top two finish outside of the top eight, Motorbase of the top four and Nick Tandy and the #31 off the podium. A third place finish would require the Aston not to score and Ecurie Ecosse to only finish 10th. They would also need to beat the Motorbase and Trackspeed Porsches by four and two places respectively and beat the Audi pairing.

Nick Tandy

finale31Trackspeed – Porsche 997 GT3 R
Pre-Donington Park points: 93
Wins: 3
Podiums: 4
No-Scores: 5

It’s been boom or bust for Porsche works driver Tandy, though almost entirely down to co-driver David Ashburn who has bounced erratically from being one of the series best gentleman drivers to being alarmingly accident prone from race to race. Having finished on the podium every time he’s finished Tandy is a definite threat for victory, but even with that he would need other team’s results to fall nicely for him to take the title.

High Point: On form at Oulton – When Tandy and Ashburn arrived at Oulton Park it was intended to be a final race for Ashburn before he entered retirement. However, a second and a win (only not two wins as the apparent one-off starters gave way in the late laps) gave them a huge margin in the points that help guarantee the start of a full season campaign.

Low Point: Pit Problems – David Ashburn’s season has included two incidents in the pits that have kept he and Tandy from scoring. At Silverstone he tore a corner from the car when he crashed while finding the pit lane limiter and at Brands Hatch he missed Trackspeed’s pits only to stop further along, an offence that drew a penalty, though mechanical problems had ended their race.

Will be champion if….He wins, but both Beechdean and Ecurie Ecosse’s challengers have to finish third or worse. Tandy can also clinch by finishing second as long as he beats the Motorbase team of Michael Caine and Ahmad Al Harthy with both of the top two teams finish outside the top five and neither 888Optimum’s of United Autosports’ title contenders win . A third place finish will have to be accompanied by the same two teams out of the top seven and – again – wins for neither 888Optimum or UA. Beechdean and Ecurie Ecosse will have to place no better than ninth for Tandy to win from fourth so long as he is just one place Brown/Tandy and Bell/Patterson. A championship win from fifth is possible but he will need the pre-Donington leaders not score, be just one place behind 888Optimum and United Autosports and to beat the Motorbase pairing.

Michael Caine/Ahmad Al Harthy

finale1Oman Air Motorbase – Porsche 997 GT3 R
Pre-Donington Park points: 97
Wins: 2
Podiums: 2
No-Scores: 0

The title fight heavyweights, not just because of their role as defending champions but due to the ballast they have had to carry by virtue of both men being classed as Silver in the series’ driver gradings. Despite the penalty Caine and Al Harthy have been the only team to score points in every single race and have taken two victories this season compared to last season when Caine and co-driver Daniele Perfetti took the title without a race win. They were underdogs entering last year’s finale, but start this year’s showdown in a better points position.

High Point: Fighting on the beach – A penalty for Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw at Snetterton gave Caine and Al Harthy their first win of the season, but their win in the first race at Zandvoort was by far the better. A rapid opening stint from Al Harthy gave Caine a healthy lead, but he still needed to defend hard in the final laps from a Dan Brown and Rob Barff to win one of the season’s best races so far.

Low Point: Slow starters – Though they have taken points in every race the Motorbase Performance run team’s title credentials only truly showed with the Snetterton win. A fourth place at the very first race of the season was their best result from the first three meetings of the year while those they are now fighting for the championship all had at least one podium.

Will be champions if….They win. Alternatively they can finish on the podium as long as both Beechdean Aston and Ecurie Ecosse BMW are at least three places behind and 888Optimum nor United Autosports win the race. The top two starting the weekend would have to be four places behind for Motorbase to repeat as champions while finishing fourth, fifth of sixth. They would also have to be no more than two places behind the #888 BMW and Audi. They need to beat the Porsche of Nick Tandy in every scenario.

Oliver Bryant/Marco Attard

finale79Ecurie Ecosse – BMW Z4 GT3
Pre-Donington Park points: 107
Wins: 1
Podiums: 3
No-Scores: 1

It’s de ja vu for Ecurie Ecosse. Last season they started the Donington Park race second in the standings by just half a point, and in a in the space of a few minutes as the season came to a head their driver Alasdair McCaig was out, in to and back out of a championship winning position. Bryant will be aiming not a revisit the ill-judged passing move that set that roller coaster of events in motion this season. To do so would jeopardise a championship capping another consistent season.

High Point: Winning the 500 – Results-wise the Ecurie Ecosse pairing dominated the three hour race at Silverstone in May. Bryant used the BMW’s speed through the sweeping corners to take pole then he and Attard kept their heads during a race of incident, accident and wild strategies to emerge as comfortable winners.

Low Point: Rock bottom – Driving standards, or the lack of them, have the talk of the British GT paddock too often this season and Attard was one to penalised as officials fought to restrain some of the more combative driving. At Rockingham Attard tried to pass David Ashburn on the inside of a corner under yellow flags. He was unsuccessful and contact between them pushed the Porsche into a spin. Attard would be excluded for the move while Andrew Howard would be penalised for passing Attard in the immediate aftermath.

Will be champions if….They win. They can finish second as long as Caine and Al Harthy don’t win or third of fourth if neither they nor Tandy and Ashburn win the race. A fourth place would also end the title chances of the 888Optimum and United Autosports teams in contention. The need to finish in the top five and top seven repsectively if Motorbase or Tandy’s Trackspeed car are on the podium. If the Porsches miss the podium they need to no more than five places behind Tandy and no more than three behind the Motorbase entry. They have to beat Andrew Howard and the Beechdean Aston in every scenario.

Andrew Howard

finale007Beechdean AMR – Aston Martin Vantage GT3
Pre-Donington Park points: 107.5
Wins: 1
Podiums: 2
No-Scores: 3

12 points salvaged from a difficult Zandvoort weekend have kept Andrew Howard in the championship lead – just. Like David Ashburn a penalty has split Jonny Adam from his co-driver in the points, leaving Howard in sole possession of points lead. However, Adam, like Ashburn, remains mathematically capable of taking the title himself should more penalties be handed out. Now in its second year of racing the GT3 Vantage has avoided the technical issues that blunted a title bit in 2012 while strong results in the longer races have been crucial in bringing Howard to Donington Park in the lead.

High Point: Making up for last time – in 2012 at Brands Hatch Howard and Adam were on the wrong end of the tightest finish in series history. This season the Aston duo proved to be the class of the field, Adam leading the entire second of the race on his way to winning, a result tempered by the news of his penalty delivered earlier in the weekend.

Low Point: Porsche punching bag – The Beechdean team left Oulton Park at the start of the year with as many points as they had arrived with. First Howard was a victim of an accident on the first corner of the season triggered by Gregor Fisken. In the second race it was Howard again as he and the repaired car were savaged by another Trackspeed Porsche at the Knickerbrook chicane in the second race.

Will be champion if….He and Jonny Adam win. A second place finish would require neither Ecurie Ecosse or Motorbase to win, and a third or fourth place would need Bryant and Attard to miss the podium and neither title chasing Porsche to win.  Howard can finish fifth if Motorbase are no better than third and Nick Tandy, the #888 BMW or the United Autosports Audi doesn’t win. Sixth would be good enough with Motorbase off the podium and none of the Tandy, #888, UA group victorious. The Aston Martin in seventh would allow Tandy to potentially take the title in second and eighth place or lower (but still in the points) would be enough if they are no more three places behind Motorbase, four behind Tandy’s Porsche and six behind the #888 and Audi teams.

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Confused? You should be. Fortunately for you www.theCheckeredFlag .co.uk will have full coverage of the finale weekend, including keeping track of the points standings during the race. The race will also be broadcast live on MotorsTV, giving you the option of watching every change of hands the title goes through in the two hour race.