Chaos reigns as Beechdean win British GT championship


TF Sport finished 2015 with a strong result (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)

Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard have claimed the Avon Tyres British GT Championship’s GT3 title as they kept a calm head while everyone else was enveloped by the red mist that had descended around Donington Park.

However, it is worth noting that the race was won by Derek Johnston and Matt Bell in a superb showing for TF Sport with team mates – and pole sitters – Andrew Jarman and Jody Fannin finishing second in an absolutely great race for the squad.

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Not to get ahead of ourselves we need to go back to the beginning and at the start of the 120 minute long race the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, piloted by Marco Attard, made a great start from 5th place and quickly found himself in third, with the Beechdean AMR Vantage driven by Andrew Howard falling the other way.

Near the end of the first lap and the biggest loser was Oz Yusuf in the ISSY Racing Lotus who was at the receiving end of a bump from Jamie Chadwick in the ‘Baby’ Beechdean and had to go into the garage to replace a broken right rear suspension part.

Another man going for a spin was Attard in the Ecurie Ecosse machine, going into Goddards he was clipped by eventual race winner Derek Johnston and dropped to 13th place – out of championship contention the way things stood.

In a good position to capitalise on any mistakes in the early stages was the Triple Eight BMW of Lee Mowle, starting the race in second he managed to gain a place in the opening minutes to stick himself right on Jarman’s bumper in the Eurostar liveried Aston.

However, he didn’t stay second for too long as Johnston performed another rather robust move at Goddards to see Mowle fall to third place.

It didn’t even get any better for the #888 as Liam Griffin rather overestimated the braking zone at the Melbourne Hairpin and harpooned into the rear of the BMW. Griffin had to retire the #6 Oman Racing Team car the very same lap with the #888 soldiering on – albeit with a bent exhaust.

That was one championship contender out of the battle and only a few laps later another contender bit the dust.

That contender was points leader coming into this race – Marco Attard. Going to overtake the new GT4 champion, Jamie Chadwick, at the Melbourne Hairpin (a hub of activity for the whole race) she turned in a bit too early and ended up clipping the rear of the BMW. Attard then hit the tyre wall at Melbourne.

He did manage to get it going again, but Alexander Sims confirmed to The Checkered Flag after the race that the steering had been bent in the shunt and that’s how Attard ended up hitting the barriers at Goddards sending the car into retirement.

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Sims added: It’s a bit of shame the way the whole race went really. To see Griffin go out and then for us to go out the way we did it was a just a bit of shame. It was an anti-climax really. I would have thought that Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard didn’t want to see it like that either. But fair play to them. They’ve been really good competitors all year long.

It’s a shame but equally the person who scores the most points at the end of the day is champion. If it happened in the first weekend of the year and we’d done well here we’d still be in the same position. It’s sport, it’s racing. You have ups and downs but it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable year – we just didn’t get the championship in the end.”

That calamity led to the safety car being deployed – not sure why though as the Ecurie Ecosse car was left where it was next to the barriers at Goddards – and saw the whole field close up.

After the safety car went back in, a big development in the title battle could have potentially developed after the righthand door in the #888 started flapping in the wind. With that distraction, the RAM Racing Mercedes – piloted by Bradley Ellis – stormed up and passed the BMW for third place.

With 80 minutes of the race left, the action left GT3 for a time as the GT4 battle sparked into life. The battle was for first place with Aleksander Schjerpen fighting leader Will Moore for the lead in the class. No matter how much he tried Schjerpen couldn’t make his way through and had to sit pretty in second.

With the halfway point rapidly approaching, Andrew Howard became the first of the front runners to pit. Having to wait an extra 20 seconds at their stop thanks to their success at Snetterton, the car now raced by Jonny Adam came out in tenth place and on track to lose the title by 0.5 points.

However, one thing you can’t say about Adam is that he lacks determination and lap after lap he cut out more from the gap Mike Simpson in the #32 Ginetta had built over him and made short work of moving up to ninth. Thanks to a twenty minute spell of consistently quick laps he found himself enjoying the luxury of fifth place.

While Beechdean had the ability to look after the car and not push as hard, the top two – with Matt Bell sitting in first spot in the #17 over Jody Fannin in the #27 thanks to speedier pit stops – had to be wary of what was lurking behind them as Joe Osborne was not happy to just settle for third and set about chasing down Fannin and making something happen.

And that it did. Going onto the last lap of the race Fannin was slowed by a lot of GT4 traffic going round the Old Hairpin and that allowed Osborne to close up right behind him and after a slightly mistimed move by the BMW, both cars ended up making a trip through the gravel at McLeans. Thankfully both could continue but the #888 would end up finishing off the podium in fourth place with the #63 Team Russia By Barwell Racing with Demon Tweeks car sneaking onto the podium.

On the podium, Fannin explained the incident and battle with Triple Eight to TCF: “The gap to Joe was being monitored every lap and we were trading a tenth here and a tenth there and maybe if we caught traffic in the wrong place he would gain a bit more and we just had to countdown the laps and we were maintaining the gap so I though ‘sweet’.

“On the final lap I caught four GT4 cars battling with themselves going down through Hollywood and I went up the inside of two of them and then one of them obviously didn’t see me and I had a big moment and then I had one more car in front and couldn’t get into the left and then at the Old Hairpin he turned in so I had to back out of that. That meant Joe was right on my bumper and I just thought ‘This is all I need!’ I went into McLean’s defending and then he just tapped me round, but we both spun and I managed to continue.

“He’s been up to apologise, there was no malice in it – he was just trying to get the cutback.”

That level of excitement and calamity also took in GT4 as well where the battle for the lead was reaching boiling point. The battle for the lead, between the two Academy Motorsport cars was fierce and going into the final five minutes, Dan Lloyd pulled a great move on Dennis Strandberg to claim the lead at the Melbourne Hairpin. However, in a slightly misjudged bit of braking, Strandberg tried to late brake up the inside of Lloyd and ended up hitting him at Goddards.

They both continued but the wheel lining would end up ripping off Strandberg’s Aston Martin and he would fall to third place allowing the one time entry of Nathan Freke and Ian Stinton in the #73 Century Motorsport car to claim second.

After the race, Freke told TCF of his disappointment in only getting second as he though the team could well have been on for first place if it hadn’t been for a stop/go penalty because of a too fast pit stop.

Back in the GT3 class the TF Sport team claimed a one-two finish, with Matt Bell explaining that he had to fuel save for much of the second half of the race, ignoring most of his racing driver instincts in the process.

In the championship battle, fifth place was enough to see Beechdean take a clean sweep of titles this year and its second GT3 title in three years.

Andrew Howard said: We didn’t come here thinking we were going to win. I think in 2013 we came here saying that if we drove well we could win the championship but no matter what we did today we always felt like we weren’t going to win. It’s bizarre.

“In ’13 we had this momentum for the last four rounds when we were driving well, doing well but this year it was all stop start – Snetterton was unbelievable, I’d never driven in conditions like that – so it’s weird.

There were no radio comms. They just left me to get on with it. We agreed that no matter what I did, no matter what anyone else did I just had to drive and, literally, that’s all I did. All I said was with a lap to go was say “radio comms check” and they said “continue”. During the safety car I’d seen Marco had gone off but I didn’t know where Liam was or what had happened. I knew there’d been an incident because he had been in front of me, so I knew roughly what was going one but you can’t let it get into your head.”

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Jonny Adam credited the whole team in their victory, saying the cards fell their way this weekend: “The cards definitely fell right today, that’s the nice thing about it because sometimes we’ve had bad luck like the first round at Oulton Park and we’ve had a few bad races through the year but today everything that could have gone our way did go our way – you can’t plan those things they just go your way through luck and we’ve had that.

“All credit to the team for the massive effort as much as it’s a driver’s championship it’s not it’s a team championship and to claim both the GT3 and GT4 championship this year I don’t think has ever been done before so that’s nice for Beechdean and nice for Aston Martin Racing.”

(All photos courtesy of Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)