David Ashburn survived a two lap sprint under pressure from Mark Patterson to add a race win to his first race second place on a successful weekend of Avon Tyres British GT racing at Oulton Park.
Ashburn, a past champion in British is ebbing into retirement but entered the opening weekend of the season with Nick Tandy, the Porsche works driver similarly not running a full season in the championship, though they will still take points from the weekend.
Having led throughout his stint, his lead increasingly comfortable as first Jay Palmer, then Andrew Howard spun out of second place to leave Ashburn eight second out ahead of Mark Patterson in United Autosports’ Audi. Both Palmer, who spun out almost from under Ashburn’s rear wing, and Howard in turn fell to fifth, but Howard to head to the pits after being punted off the track by Jon Minshaw. The Trackspeed man – race one winner with co-driver Phil Keen – flew across the Knickerbrook chicane and the front of Ecurie Ecosse driver Marco Attard smashing into the right-rear corner of the Aston after being launched by the kerbs for the first element of the chicane. Minshaw retired a heavily damaged Porsche on the spot, but was still excluded from the final results as punishment for causing the accident.
Minshaw’s Porsche – abandoned on inside of the chicane could have triggered a late safety car – but the officials had was forced by a second aflame Ginetta G55 in as many races. Team LNT’s example was an absentee from the grid after an engine failure caused a fire in the opening race and flames from the exhaust of the Colin White piloted IDL–CWS entry quickly developed into a conflagration once the car stopped and White bailed out (though not necessarily in that order) at Deer Leap.
The marshals hard – and eventually successful – work to put out the fire resulted in a two lap sprint at the end of the hour long race to decide the winner.
A lap down overall, but between the leaders on track, Mark Cole moved aside to allow American Patterson to chase down and challenge Ashburn for the victory. A gap briefly opened between the two leaders by Patterson was back on the rear of the leading Porsche half way round the final lap and while he challenged Ashburn used his experience perfectly to defend hard but fair to keep Patterson behind, falling into line exiting Lodge for the climb up to the checkered flag.
“The Nissan in front of me separating me from P1 was not for position and he was kind enough to let me through but the only place I could get through was in turn one so I was parked on the apex and the lead car took off – he was 80 metres plus ahead so we had one lap to catch him and pass him.” Patterson related his view on the final few laps to theCheckeredFlag.co.uk. “I caught him by Druids, I was right up behind him because he seemed to brake earlier and our brakes are very good in the Audi so I was able to really push it and catch right up to him. It was good. He knew I was there so he just went into full defence mode and we got through Druids [on the final lap] and I was right on his bumper. We got to the last corner and I bluffed him on the brakes but it wasn’t going to work so I got in behind him and then went to the left to surprise him and he drove it like a T-junction right up to the edge which was the right thing for him to do. Anybody with half a brain would have tried to do roughly the same thing.
I was just hoping to get round the outside though there’s not grip there and get a little bit round there so I was level with him and ride down [Deer Leap] with him. But when I wasn’t equal with him I just checked up and we finished close.
There was more drama behind. A second spin of the race from Jay Palmer undid his recovery from his earlier incident, dropping out of third as Steve Tandy, Hector Lester and Marco Attard moved up a position, Attard taking third in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW started by Olly Bryant.
Obviously the late safety car also bunched up the GT4 order, Rick Parfitt Jr. instantly making up a better part of half a minute on Zoe Wenham to set up two laps in which Wenham battled cold tyres – having expected the safety car to stay out till the end of the race – to keep the Optimum Motorsport driver at bay by just three tenths of a second.
“The safety car came in and I wasn’t really expecting it to, I was expecting to,” said a drenched Wenham after being the victim of a champagne soaking on the podium. “I’d sillyly let myself think that it was going to run to the end so the tyres were stone cold on the front so when I turned in I was like ‘oh I’m just not turning’ and most corners for that second last lap. The last lap I was really feeling the pressure from Rick, he was so close. He kept teeing me up and I was just sitting right on the apex of every corner trying not let him past and fortunately it paid off. We had a bit of a side by side moment coming out of Knickerbrook where I really messed up but apart from that IM managed to just get the edge round the last bit of the track to the end.”
Declan Jones – Wenham’s co-driver in the Century Motorsport Ginetta G50 – had dominated the first half of the race in class. He led comfortably from James May into the pitstop window but a slow stop in handing over to Wenham – the delay far, far more than the 15 extra seconds to be added as success penalty after their earlier win – dropped them down to second, Alex Osborne – in for May at APO Sport – now leading.
Osborne held his leadinto the final quarter of the race, but was assaulted off the track at Britten’s chicane by Derek Johnston’s MTECH Ferrari in an impact that cracked the Ginetta’s chassis in no less than half a dozen places. Osborne made it back to the pits – if only to retire. He and May would still finish third in class by virtue of the Complete Racing Aston Martin not having taken the start of the race.
Just as in GT4 the GT3 polesitter converted the advantage into the a lead, though Allan Simonsen’s was not quite as healthy, Nick Tandy remaining within a second of the Dane at all times as the pair pulled away from Jonny Adam in the Beechdean Aston Martin who held third ahead of Matt Griffin.
Griffin would retire in the first half of the race, pitting after several laps of his MTECH Ferrari smoking slightly. Also out of the race early was John Gaw. Like Griffin his car – the PGR–Kinfaun Aston Martin Vantage – was smoking around the lap, the problem eventually becoming terminal. Theirs were the only major problems of a controlled, quiet – at least by the standards of the morning’s offering – opening stint before the race exploded in the second half of the race.
Simonsen, having led the entire first half of the race, lost the lead in the pits, the Rosso Verde squad only sending Hector Lester out in fifth. After the drama of the second half of the race Lester came home a creditable fourth.
Steve Tandy and Dan Brown combined of 888Optimum in fifth. After crossing the line in sixth Jay Palmer was demoted down to 15th by a ten second penalty – extremely costly given the late safety car. That promoted race one casualties James Walker and Jason Minshaw finished sixth for Fortec Motorsport with Rob Barff and Gary Eastwood seventh for FF Corse. The Jones brothers finished eighth, Motorbase’s Porsche ninth and Glynn Geddie and Zak Brown tenth to take the final point for United Autosports.