British GT

Audi Problems Gift Ecurie Ecosse British GT Debut Win

4 Mins read
The Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 rounds Lodge Corner (Photo Credit: Chris Enion)

The Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 rounds Lodge Corner (Photo Credit: Chris Enion)

After leading the entire race – surrendering the point only during the mid-race pitstops – United Autosports pairing Charles Bateman and Matt Bell lost the win at Oulton Park on the final lap.

Bateman and Bell's misfortune gifted the victory – on their Avon Tyres British GT Championship debut to the Ecurie Ecosse/Barwell Motorsports BMW Z4 of Alasdair McCaig and Oliver Bryant.

The BMW – started by McCaig from third on the grid race in second for most of the race – just as the United Autosports' Audi R8 had led. McCaig needed only three laps to take second from the ill-handling Aston Martin of Andrew Howard. In the early laps Howard  appeared to holding up those behind – as many as five cars bottled up behind the Beechdean car before two mistakes in quick succession dropped him down the order.

The first mistake let McCaig and Jann Mardenborough through into second and third respectively, the second mistake – on lap six – ended in a spin, the new Vantage GT3 dropping to 12th place before Howard could get back up to speed.

With Howard removed from the lead battle those previously compacted behind began to spread out, only David Ashburn and David Jones – starting the PreciSpark Mercedes SLS – remained close, Ashburn threatening his namesake but never so much as pulling alongside.

At the head of the field Bateman – who moved from the Ferrari of Scuderia Vittoria to the Audi of UA of the winter – sprinted away. He had a lead of over five seconds before McCaig had risen into second, only pulling away by a further two tenths over the next six laps before the safety car was scrambled when Ron Johnson span the Speedworks Motorsport Corvette into the Druids gravel.

The safety car presented a problem in each of the classes. Jody Fannin had pulled out a commanding lead in GT4 over the opening laps over Zoe Wenham who had held onto the second place in class he had claimed in qualifying. However, such was the gap that when the safety car appeared Bateman was midway through lapping the GT4 cars, the neutral period giving Fannin the better part of lap's lead over Wenham.

United Autosports Audi R8 (Photo Credit: Chris Enion)

United Autosports' Audi looked like the winner - until the fiinal lap (Photo Credit: Chris Enion)

For Bateman the safety car snuffed out his lead just eight minutes before the pit window opened for the mandatory driver changes. As part of the 2012 regulations driver pairings featuring two 'silver' grade drivers have had their minimum pitstop time extended by four seconds.

Such a disadvantage compared to the BMW and Mardenborough's RJN Motorsport Nissan GT-R could have cost Bateman the lead if not for a good restart that quickly gave Bateman enough of a cushion to absorb that extra four stationary seconds.

Furthermore Bateman was among the last man to come into for his stop to hand over to Matt Bell. Whether it was Bateman's two quick laps in succession, including a 1:49.420 (the race's fastest lap at the time) or avoiding the potentially costly problems of the cramped, crowded Oulton pitlane but when Bell completed his first flying lap he did so with a five lap lead over Oliver Bryant in the Ecurie Ecosse Z4.

The big winners of the pitstop exchange were another team to leave their pitstop late in the ten minute window. Godfrey Jones replaced his twin brother in the Mercedes a lap after Bell had replaced Bateman and exited the pits in third place – trailing the Audi and BMW, but ahead of RJN Nissan, now with Alex Buncombe at the wheel.

As Andrew Howard had briefly had a line of cars build up behind him in the first stint Jones became the tractor pulling along an ever growing line of car – Buncombe, Matt Griffin's MTECH Ferrari and Richard Westbrook in the Ashburn started Trackspeed no.31 Porsche.

With the quartet in lock step Allan Simonsen – making his first start in Hector Lester's Rosso Verde Ferrari 458 – latched onto the tail of the train and started slicing though those ahead having their own battle.

In less than three laps – from catching Westbrook to passing Jones – Simonsen climbed into third and began to pull away. Behind the battle continued. First Buncombe was shuffled back to seventh in the fading Nissan then an attach from Griffin on Jones at Old Hall sent the silver Mercedes spinning through the sodden grass. Jones fell to eighth but was able to continue despite damage to the right rear corner of the car.

Warren Hughes, Jody Fannin Ginetta G50 (Photo Credit: Chris Enion)

Jody Fannin and Warren Hughes combined to easily win GT4 (Photo Credit: Chris Enion)

Though the GT4 race win had been all but decided in favour of Fannin, Warren Hughes and Team WFR by the time of the safety car the battle for second was still to be decided between the class' remaining three entrants.

The no.49 Lotus Evora of Marco Attard and Alistair Mackinnon had taken second from Zoe Wenham before the stops and maintained that position once Mike Simpson had moved into the Century Motorsports Ginetta.

Past both of them moved Phil Glew in the other Evora to take second place – setting the fastest lap in class in the process. The sister can completed the class podium.

As the hour came to a close the race had one final twist. Bell started the final lap with just nine second remaining in the hour but the Audi spluttered to halt a third of the way around the lap with a suspected fuel problem.

The problem left Bell stationary at the side of track as Bryant took the lead, Simonsen second and Griffin – surviving the contact with Jones and pressure from Westbrook – third.

Alex Buncombe crossed the line a distant fifth, eleven seconds in arrears to Westbrook. Michael Caine and Daniele Perfetti's Motorbase Porsche was sixth, Godfrey Jones recovered to seventh with the battling trio of Freddie Hetherington, Jonny Adam and Tim Harvey rounding out the top ten.

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James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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