Benji Hetherington and Ollie Hancock launched the Fortec Motorsports name on the Avon Tyres British GT Championship podium in the team’s first ever GT race.
The pairing – only publically confirmed the day before the race weekend at Oulton Park begun – claimed third place in the first of the weekend’s tow 60-minute races following strong individual drives from both men.
Hetherington had ensured that the #15 Mercedes SLS would start from pole position and converted that advantage into a lead he held for the full first half of the race, despite a spin for a rival car bringing out a brief safety car period soon after the race had begun. Handing over to Hancock the ain soon became defence as he came under increasing pressure from the more experienced GT drivers in the field led by Porsche works driver Nick Tandy for the Trackspeed squad.
Hancock, who competed in a single British GT round last year for the Ecurie Ecosse squad, made the already wide Mercedes even wider, forcing Tandy to take to the grass up Clay Hill in pursuit of the lead, a favour the Porsche repaid once ahead allowing teammate Phil Keen to push Hancock back to third.
Hancock would momentarily be demoted to fourth by Glynn Geddie, only for gearbox failure to halt Geddie United Autosports McLaren and promote Hancock – at the head of a fearsome battle that decided much of the top ten – to the lowest step of the podium.
“That was a seriously tricky race,” admitted Hancock, “the Mercedes is the widest car I’ve ever driven! It took me a few laps to understand how it was handling since we made some changes over night from qualifying, and then I was under pressure by Keen and Tandy which didn’t help. I struggled getting out of the corners which is where they both got me but in the end I found pace and held [Michael] Caine off in another Porsche for third but he never really got close enough to attack me. Fortec are a seriously professional race team and I owe all this to them for all the hard work and prep since they had the car…3 weeks ago!“
The duo could not repeat their feat in the second race of the Easter Monday meeting with it their turn to have their race curtailed by gearbox problems.
In their absence it was left to James Walker and Jason Minshaw to add to the team’s points haul for the weekend in a car repaired after Minshaw had been taken out at the opening corner in race one.
In a blessedly uneventful race for the pair. After starting in 15th Walker moved slowly up the order, with Minshaw taking over for the second half of the race and continuing the progress to break into the top ten – and so the points. Minshaw picked up three further positions on track, benefitting from a penalty for FF Corse’s Gary Eastwood and a crash between Andrew Howard and Jon Minshaw (Jason’s elder brother).
Unable to pick up any more spots in the two lap sprint that remained following the incendiary demise of Colin White’s Ginetta G55 Jason climbed a final place in the standings – up to sixth – when Jay Palmer was penalised ten seconds after the race.
“It’s been great fun. The second race was great as I actually got to race, I can do that!” said Minshaw, referring back to his early race one exit. “I was reeling the guys in steadily; it was just over too quickly for me. There was some crazy driving, I never go out to crash so I really had to take some serious avoiding action. The Fortec guys have been brilliant, to do what they did and turn the car around, get it out there, and be competitive, that is extraordinary. I’d really like to come back and race again, maybe even start a race too!”