United Autosports Win Finale, But Title Goes To Beechdean


United Autosports won the race but came up short in the championship fight (Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

Matt Bell and Mark Patterson won the Avon Tyres British GT Championship finale at Donington Park. However, their championship challenge failed at the final hurdle, fourth place for Beechdean AMR driver Jonny Adam and was enough for co-driver Andrew Howard to scoop the title by 1.5 points.

In the second half of the two-hour Howard could only watch on as Adam was in, out and then back in a position that would give him the championship. The race for the title hinged on two battles in the second half of the race Bell fought towards the lead while Adam was sandwiched between Duncan Tappy’s Von Ryan Racing McLaren and the Ecurie Ecosse BMW of Oliver Bryant, another of those in contention for the title.

Howard made a crucial pass for position, passing Marco Attard to move himself into a championship winning position but fine first stint from American Mark Patterson moved the United Autosports Audi from seventh to third having passed David Ashburn, Marco Attard  and Andrew Howard as well as taking advantage of Gregor Fisken’s spin on oil at Roberts – the final corner on the Grand Prix track – that dropped the Trackspeed driver from an early second place down to eighth.

Patterson then held off Gregoire Demoustier in the Von Ryan McLaren, the Frenchman powering up from seventeenth as he had the measure over the rest of the less experienced drivers starting the race. Bell took over car, and helped by delays from the top two was quickly absorbed into the lead battle involving Joe Osborne and Rob Barff.

Lee Mowle had held the lead from the pole position Osborne had earned the day before, but though Eastwood fell away to nearly five seconds he took the lead at the Melbourne Hairpin as the pit window opened after 50 minutes. However, both the 888Optimum Racing and FF Corse teams would lose time in the pits.

Eastwood, handing over to Barff had a longer stop as a result of the pair’s double podium appearance at Zandvoort. Osborne, meanwhile, was forced to take a drive through penalty as punishment of Mowle having overtaken under yellow flags at the Old Hairpin after James May had spun into the gravel. That was to be the beginnings of Osborne’s problems. He was handed a further penalty as he was deemed to have been speeding in pitlane during his previous penalty. That dropped him to third, but a further stop in the pits proved too greater stress for the driveshaft as it finally cried no more and Mowle and Osborne joined their 888Optimum teammates Steve Tandy and Dan Brown in retirement.

Tandy and Brown’s early exit was the result of one of a succession of incidents in the early going that thinned the field of title contenders from six teams to just three.

Nick Tandy’s championship hopes were the first to end when David Ashburn spun and stalled at Coppice after contact with a GT4 car. Ashburn – a former champion himself – left the car stranded on the track, prompting a brief safety car period. Following the restart Steve Tandy and Ahmad Al Harthy in the Oman Air Motorbase Porsche were both victims of an accident triggered by David Jones in the PreciSpark Mercedes SLS. Tandy bought a battered #888 BMW into the pits to retire while Al Harthy continued after a spin, his and co-driver Michael Caine’s championship hopes never materialising as they eventually finished out of the points in 12th.

David Jones was also involved in the accident that broke the rear suspension on the Mtech Ginetta G55, and Jones would eventually be black flagged, their season ending slightly earlier than they had hoped.

Penalties proved pivotal in the championship in the second half of the race. Bell fought past both Osborne and Barff to the lead while Jonny Adam was still only fifth, Duncan Tappy’s defensive driving coming to the fore as it had done at Brands Hatch in August. Adam was unable to find a way past, passing up several opportunities to force his way into a gap as he kept the importance of the race in mind.

Credit: Chris Gurton Photography
Howard’s End: An intelligent driver from Jonny Adam gave Andrew Howard the title (Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

Especially as Richard Westbrook – recovering back up the order in the #32 Porsche spun by Fisken – closed in other trio of Tappy, Adam and Bryant the championship seemed to be ebbing out Howard’s grasp. However, just in time Tappy became another to cop a penalty, dropping into sixth and giving Adam fifth place, but with Westbrook searching for a way past. At that point the #8 car broke beneath Osborne in the pits, allowing Adam to let a flying Westbrook by into third.

There his charge finished in third, completing the podium behind Bell’s Audi and the Ferrari of Rob Barff who almost silently took second place, his race caught between the two battles that decided the title.

Oliver Bryant and Marco Attard finished fifth, Aaron Scott and John Dhillon sixth for AF Corse and the Von Ryan McLaren seventh. The CWS Spares Ginetta G55 GT3 of Tom Sharp and Colin White eighth to reward a strong showing by the Ginetta teams in the race, Mike Simpson having stopped the Team LNT example with overheating problems while running in seventh.

Trackspeed pairing Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw and AF Corse debutants Jacques Duyver and Charlie Hollings completed the top ten.

Third on the track was enough for Optimum Motorsport in GT4 (Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)
Third on the track was enough for Optimum Motorsport in GT4 (Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

In GT4 also the race win and the championship went to different teams.

Nathan Freke and Declan Jones won the race for Century Motorsport from the Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4 of Richie Stanaway and Harry Whale. However, as Optimum Motorsport drivers Ryan Ratcliffe and Rick Parfitt Jr. took points for second it was they who collected the championship.

That was despite Ratcliffe being another to serve a drive through penalty and running slowly towards the end of the race. The drop in pace allowed Stanaway to take second in the #54, but as they were ineligible for points and Dan Eagling was more than a lap adrift in fourth in class Ratcliffe and Parfitt Jr. held onto the championship.

Eagling and Matt Smith moved up to third in final class points courtesy of Zoe Wenham’s Blendini Motorsport Ginetta running out of fuel in the closing stages.