After an FIA GT1 World Championship Qualifying Race which was all but decided by drive through penalties, Sunday’s Championship Race continued the theme, Jamie Campbell-Walter and Warren Hughes handed the race win after penalties were handed down on both the Young Driver AMR effort of Darren Turner and Tomas Enge and the Hexis Aston Martin of Thomas Accary and Fred Makowiecki.
Turner and Enge had crossed the line first, believing they had won the RAC Tourist Trophy, but were later excluded as post-race scrutineering found excessive wear on the car’s skidblock.
The post-race twist in the tale adds even more meaning to Turner’s comment that he has always had “a bit of a problem” with the Tourist Trophy, after falling foul of bad luck in 2005.
On track it was an action packed race which, despite the 'sprint' race nature of the event turned into a race of attrition – only 14 cars finishing without suffering some major delay.
From the rolling start the pair of Hexis AMR cars had swapped positions after starting on the front row, Jonathan Hirschi leading Fred Makowiecki around the first lap, only for the pole sitter to slip back past at Stowe on the second.
But, behind the damage began even before the first corner the Matech Competition squad ending a weekend they are certain to want to forget, Romain Grosjean starting the car from 21st in the 23 car field having the car turn right on the run down to Copse, the Frenchman only able to over-correct into the door of the no.8 Young Driver AMR car of Stefan Mucke, which was attacking on his outside. The end result was the blue Ford GT spinning into the Copse gravel recovering to retire in the pits, while Mucke limped the DB9 back to the pits with a possibly related puncture a few laps later.
In most other races that would have been the end of their points challenge, but their race was reignited by the no.14 Phoenix/Carpsort Corvette, its rear engulfed in flame, the car (and driver Mike Hezemans) pointing the wrong way on the inside of Stowe. The Dutchman reported that the he had several warning lights in the car from the start of race, tentatively suggesting some sort of leak may have been the cause of the blaze.
Even with the Safety car called out and marshalls with the car the fire was fierce enough to melt much of the rear of the car, including the iconic round rear lights, charring what was left as marshalls spent much of the first quarter of the 60 minutes race extinguishing the fire, then recovering the car.
When the Nissan GT-R Safety Car was called in with 43 minutes remaining, Makowiecki quickly pulled away, stretching his lead to nearly two-and-a-half seconds with teammate Hirschi, whether accidentally or deliberately holing up Turner in the no.7 behind him.
With the field bunched up once more it was only a matter of time before more contact ensued. Michael Krumm in the Sumo Power GT Nissan forced Andy Zuber wide at the far side of the circuit, the ever aggressive Peter Kox and Oliver Gavin forcing their way into the newly formed gap. However, as they continued to push Krumm and Gavin’s fates would collide, literally, a few laps later.
Krumm searched down the outside of Andrea Bertolini through Stowe, the Italian's Vitaphone Maserati drifting wide after taking a defensive line. That allowed Krumm to range up alongside the Maserati under braking for the left hander at Vale. But as the Nissan was on the outside Gavin was looking to overtake both cars on the inside. When the Nissan turned in the end was inevitable, forcing Bertolini into Gavin, the Corvette was far enough alongside to spin across the nose of both MC12 and GT-R and into the mud on the outside of the corner. Krumm would join him in the Silverstone run-offs a few corners later, retiring with only a visit to the race director to look forward to, a rather harsh punishment for an accident bourne as much of Gavin's aggression as the German's.
With the pit window open the race started to fall into to Turner and Enge's hands, pitting early – the team's 'plan A' according to Turner post-race – and very carefully to avoid yet another penalty put them on fresh tyres before either of the French Astons that had led them. Then the Hexis team's began to fall apart – the no.10 car had a pair of setbacks, coming into the pits for its driver change with a flat right front tyre before Clivio Piccione took an excursion into the Vale run-off.
But worse to strike the no.9 car, the team being called in for a drive-through penalty, Thomas Accary making the “simple” mistake of starting the car while it was still lifted by the air jack – not the sort of offence you can argue about. Tomas Enge surged up on the young Frenchman, closing to within half a second, knowing his target had to take a penalty.
Lap after lap Accary went through without pulling in, even a message calling the Hexis team director to the race director didn't bring him in, Enge beginning to doubt the penalty the team had told him about. Whether the Czech driver could have past Accary is a matter for discussion, the Young Driver car once again setting the fastest lap of the race.
Accary did eventually pull in, nearly 20 minutes after the penalty originally appeared, dropping back into the 25 second gap between Enge and third place – the same place they would have emerged had they come in earlier, raising further questions as to their motives for holding out. They would eventually finish 12.020 seconds behind the winning Aston on the track and 13 seconds ahead of the podium completing Sumo Power GT Nissan of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Warren Hughes.
Campbell-Walter's drive through the second half of the race earned the podium on its own fighting back from outside the top ten, starting with the no.1 Vitaphone Maserati just after the pitstops and ending with an aggressive move down the inside of Frank Kechele in the Reiter Lamborghini. It was the move, that in hindsight handed the British duo, driving for the only British team in the field a home victory once the Young Driver car was disqualified and Hexis were slapped with a 15 second penalty for not taking their drive through within the customary three laps. Makowiecki and Accary were dropped behind the Nissan, keeping second place.
The two Triple H Maserati's took fourth and sixth, benefitting from the late fading of both the Vitaphone cars, with the second Young Driver AMR car in an unpenalised fifth, after another brilliant recovery drive after their very early woes.
The no.1 Vitaphone Racing car took seventh with the MarcVDS Ford of Maxime Martin (who was fastest in the morning's wet warm-up) and Bas Leinders, and the no.4 Swiss Racing Team Nissan completing the points scoring position, Henri Moser having destroyed the sister car in a heavy shunt at Stowe. The loss of the Turner/Enge Aston from the top of results saw the second MarcVDS car take the final point for tenth