Preview: Avon Tyres British GT Championship #DoningtonDecider


Donington Park is set to host a thrilling deciding round of the 2015 Avon Tyres British GT Championship this weekend as four of the bumper field of GT3 cars head into the two hour encounter with a chance at the top spot. The yearlong rivalry between BMW and Aston Martin puts a pair of each in with shot at the title while further down the order, there are still two Silver Cups to be decided, not to mention the Avon Tyres British GT Teams Championship in GT3.

Heading the quintet of championship hopefuls is the #1 Ecurie Ecosse by Barwell Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3. The car Pro driver Alexander Simms shares with his Am team mate Marco Attard has had a mixed year, with damage at Oulton and at Snetterton. For Attard the challenge is simple, score more points than the Beechdean Motorsport Aston Martin of Andrew Howard.

12 months ago, Attard denied Howard the chance to be the first winner of consecutive British GT titles in the history of the championship. This year it is up to Howard and his professional co-driver Jonny Adam to stop the #1 machine from going back to back.

Either way, Donington Park represents the last chance saloon for these two entries. Barwell Motorsport draw to an end a successful association with BMW in the championship at the finale this year, opting to take the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 over the new M6 GT3 for 2016. Andrew Howard on the other hand is moving up, heading to Le Mans and a probable FIA World Endurance Championship campaign.

While Andrew is moving on, #007 will stay in the championship and Howard and Adam would love to leave the #1 for next year’s drivers, whoever they may be. For these two the equation is easy. Get to the finish line ahead of the BMW. Then only if the #007 finishes ninth and the #1 gets 10th can Marco Attard be the first back to back champion in the series history. There is a catch though, Ecurie Ecosse come into the race unencumbered while victory in the wet race at Snetterton forces Beechdean to stay in the pits for a 20 second success penalty when the cars come to pit lane for fuel and driver change mid race.

From here on the numbers get a little brain twisting.

Damage at Oulton Park is just one of the incidents which has kept the super quick BMW of Attard from securing the title already. (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)
Damage at Oulton Park is just one of the incidents which has kept the super quick BMW of Attard from securing the title already. (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)

Aston Martin have a second dog in the fight in the form of the black and orange Oman Racing Team/Motorbase #6. Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher come into the final race with a 20 point deficit to the leaders. Had this been a normal round they wouldn’t have a chance, but Donington Park hosts a two hour race which means that 37.5 points are available to the race winner. A race win at Snetterton shows that the Motorbase machine favors a power circuit. Come Sunday evening the Griffin/Butcher duo will need to have taken the victory and commiserated the #007 on a fourth place finish and the #1 on fifth.

A gambling man may lay odds on the final hopeful for the title but take advice; only bet what you can afford to lose. The #888 BMW Z4 could take the victory if the #1 finished ninth, Howard and Adam took eighth and the Butcher/Griffin pairing placed third. Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne will not be letting any grass grow under the wheels of their Triple Eight BMW but an awful lot needs to go right.

A straight fight between Ahmad Al Harthy in the #2 Oman Racing Aston Martin and the Ross Wyle and Andrew Watson McLaren pairing will decide the GT3 Silver Cup. The Von Ryan pair in the 650S GT3 will be ruing the pit lane infringement at Snetterton, or even the fratricidal manoeuvres of Salih Yoluc at Rockingham if they can’t overhaul the 9.75 point deficit they face to last year’s Silver Cup winner. History tells us though that McLarens run well at Donington Park so don’t rule the Von Ryan machine out.

The GT3 teams battle is between the two-car outfits of Oman Racing Team and Barwell Motorsport. A steady performance throughout the year gives Oman the advantage here, 11 points to be precise, despite the drivers title deficit between the #6 and the #1. That’s mainly down to terrible luck on the part of the Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw who have spent in unenviable amount of time on the back of a flatbed this season.

The 2015 GT4 title has already been claimed by the #407 Aston Martin crew but the Silver Cup is still up for grabs. (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)
The 2015 GT4 title has already been claimed by the #407 Aston Martin crew but the Silver Cup is still up for grabs. (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)

At first glance GT4 looks resolved. After all, Beechdean have become the first team to win the same British GT title in consecutive years after the #407 did the job at Snetterton. Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn triumphed in the rain-shortened second race in Norfolk to seal the deal but still have work to do. Aleksander Schjerpen still has a mathematical hope of lifing the GT4 Silver cup if he can overturn a 26.5 point disadvantage.

The Ginetta G55 GT4 is a respectable weapon with which to hunt down the Beechdean AMR crew, though it is unlikely that either Ross or Jamie will be lying down at the wheel. Schjerpen and his team mate Fredrik Blomstedt will need to take maximum advantage out of the newly minted champions pit stop success penalty, and hope that they break the car.

There is more to watch in the lower class too as ISSY Racing’s Lotus Evora and both the Optimum Motorsport and Tolman Motorsport run Ginetta G55 GT4s battle it out for second place. Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw are in the pound seats though a poor showing in the red flagged second race at Snetterton put rivals Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson only 4 points in arrears. The David Pattison and Luke Davenport Tolman car is a long range hopeful though if tempers flare in GT4, or the not unheard of Redgate shunt happens the Motorsport Expo machine will no doubt be waiting to strike.

The battle for second in GT4 may get physical as three cars battle for the runner up spot. (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)
The battle for second in GT4 may get physical as three cars battle for the runner up spot. (Credit: Nick Smith/TheImageTeam.com)

Finally keep an eye out for two new cars to the championship. The somewhat known quantity is the Century Motorsport entry of Ian Stinton and Nathan Freke, Britcar regulars with a wealth of Ginetta G55 experience. Less well known is the officially Invitation class entry of a sole Porsche Cayman GT4. PROsport Performance are a lesser known team in the UK but in Germany they are big news. Over 100 VLN class wins, victory in the FIA GT4 European Championship and wins at the 24h Rennen at the Nurburgring all feature on the team’s CV. Henry Hassid is also a bit unknown in these parts but his co-driver, Adam Christodoulou is not only well known but very quick. This car could well be a cat amongst the GT4 class pigeons come race day.

All the Avon Tyres British GT Championship action, along with the Miltek Sport Volkswagen Racing Cup, Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge and Ginetta Racing Drivers Club + final rounds will be covered here on thecheckeredflag.co.uk. The Duo BRDC Formula 4 Championship‘s penultimate round also takes place at Donington Park. The hashtag for the weekend is #DoningtonDecider on social media.