Triple Eight admit they have a tough task if they are to score a first Avon Tyres British GT Championship victory this weekend at Donington Park.
After the teams trio of BMW Z4 GT3 struggled for pace against the likes of Aston Martin and Porsche a fortnight ago at Brands Hatch Triple Eight and Ecurie Ecosse, the other team who field BMWs in the championship, had hoped for an alteration in the Balance of Performance (BoP) regulations before this weekend’s two hour race. However, with none forthcoming victory of any of Triple Eight’s trio of teams remains a long shot.
Despite this the drivers of Ian Harrison’s team are in positive mood with several able to look back on success at the track.
Among them are Joe Osborne, who won the pole position for British GT’s 2013 visit to Donington Park, heading a field that included Richard Westbrook and Nick Tandy. This year Osborne will share the #888 with Derek Johnston, but twelve months ago it was his then co-driver Lee Mowle who took a starring role in the race, beating the best of his fellow ‘amateur’ drivers to develop what should have been a winning position, if not for some controversial penalties.
This season Mowle will share the #88 entry with young Welshman Ryan Ratcliffe, who made his British GT debut with the team at Brands Hatch, scoring points at the first opportunity and Mowle believes Donington could bring more.
“Donington is a circuit that both Ryan and I enjoy,” he said, “and I feel we should be able to deliver a better qualifying performance together. That in turn should give us a better opportunity to take more points, that said the BOP does not favour us on this track.”
His co-driver adds; “I’m looking forward to Donington. If we can get the car hooked up for quail and get a good grid position, then I’m confident about a better result. I’ve always gone well at Donington, so I’m confident of a good performance again there. I know the competition this time is a lot tougher than previous years, but I’m still confident that Lee and I can get a strong result. The Triple Eight Driver Development programme has prepared me well for these races and we should be able to get some good points for the team.”
Arguably the best of Triple Eight’s teams at Brands Hatch were the newest men to the team. Mid-season arrivals Jody Firth and Warren Hughes were on course for a top five finish, Firth holding the orange and black machine in the top five for much of his stint before a mechanical problem dropped Hughes into retirement soon after he took over the car.
“I made my race debut at Donington Park; it was Formula Renault in 2005,” reveals Firth. “I qualified eleventh, but was a tenth and a half off pole, that’s how tight it was! I’m expecting similar this weekend! Post Brands, Warren and I have a better understanding of the car and expect to move up the grid. Had the BOP changed, I think a top six performance in qualifying would’ve been realistic, but now we’ll certainly be pushing for it. As for the race, well, I started tenth and got to fourth before the pit stops at Brands, it’d be great to be in a similar position at Donington.”
“Do I think we can win?” Hughes asks. “It’s definitely possible, I’d be utterly delighted to give the team their first British GT victory, but it will be hard; everything has to go right from the outset on Saturday. We have a highly capable team and good resource to make it happen, let’s see what happens.”
With nothing to lose, lying outside of the championship fight, Johnston’s outlook perhaps characterises that of the whole team.
“I’m not going to hold back,” he explains “It’s the final race of the year and I’ve not had a podium for a long time, too long in fact and I don’t intend to leave the last race of 2014 empty-handed.”