Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen scored their second win of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship season, the Trackspeed duo coming out on top of a fine battle for the lead to win the first of two 60-minute races at Snetterton.
Minshaw, taking the first stint in the race was part of a five way scrap for the lead with Rembert Berg, Steve Tandy, Ahmad Al Harthy and Andrew Howard. Initially, having started on the from row Berg and Tandy took the top two spots, Berg keeping the advantage of pole position to lead the early laps in the M-Sport Audi.
Minshaw rose as high as third behind the lead duo before he was pushed back to fourth by a rising Andrew Howard in the Beechdean Aston Martin. On consecutive laps Howard took second as Tandy’s 888Optimum BMW was shuffled back to fifth then moved past Berg at Murrays to take the lead. Where Berg had been unable to break away into any meaningful lead Howard had little trouble, quickly taking a two second lead after only a lap at the head of the field. His lead would grow out to over three seconds before being cut back as the mandatory pitstops shuffled the order.
The top five – the VonRyan Racing McLaren Gregoire Demoustier having replaced Tandy at the rear of the group – past the pits fractions too soon to pit at the end of lap 13, instead pitting as one a lap later. There the ten second extra Howard and the Beechdean team had to serve in the pits proved too great of an obstacle. Howard would come in leading, but Adam would lead fifth of the lead five and ultimately begin the bulk of his stint in sixth having also lost a place to the United Autosports of Jody Firth and Glynn Geddie which stayed out an extra lap with Firth in the lead.
In Adam’s absence the lead passed to Michael Caine, Having taken over from Ahmad Al-Harthy with Warren Hughes in the Audi second and Keen in third. However, Keen made quick progress in passing both rivals, taking the lead through Williams and onto the back straight before setting off into a lead he would keep to the end of the race.
The official margin of victory was 5.4 seconds, though that owed much to Keen’s following orders to slow to avoid adding an extra lap to the 31 completed in the hour. Caine kept second to put he and Motorbase teammate Al Harthy on the podium for the first time this season with Hughes and Berg completing the podium for M-Sport.
While they remained close through the second half of the race but didn’t change position the best action of the homeward leg came in the lower half of the top ten. Duncan Tappy preserved the fourth place won by Demoustier’s first stint work and Jonny Adam climbed back to fifth in the Beechdean Aston.
Adam had been part of the main battle with Dan Brown, Benji Hetherington, Rob Barff and Matt Bell. Through the entire pack scythed Nick Tandy having started his stint in 13th after taking over the driving of the #31 Trackspeed Porsche from David Ashburn.
Once he had eaten up the three second gap between he and Bell on the rear of the train he progressed up the order with predictable ease, moving from tenth to fifth in six laps with ten minutes to go. On that pace he should have been able to pass Tappy for fourth but the race was, instead to end with another DNF for the Trackspeed pairing after a holed radiator resulting from contact with Bell as Tandy began his forward progress.
Their problems were added to those of Gregor Fisken. His race ended at the exit of Riches on the opening lap, one victim of a turn one spin for Mark Poole in the Barwell Motorsport Aston. He spun and slid across the path of Fisken and Richard Sykes in the Team LNT Ginetta. All three were out of the race – though Fisken was able to limp a severely damaged car back to the pits – with Lee Mowle and Ron Johnson also delayed as the took to the grass in avoidance.
Another early race retirement was the championship leading Ecurie Ecosse BMW of Marco Attard and Olly Bryant which was struck by a repeat of a brake issue that slowed them in qualifying.
With Tandy’s retirement Adam regained fifth place with Matt Bell sixth in the United Autosports Aud started by Mark Patterson. All three of the UA cars finished the race in the top ten, Glynn Geddie taking eighth place behind the Fortec Motorsports Mercedes of Hetherington and Jason Minshaw. Zak Brown and Alvaro Parente, in the repaired #23 McLaren completed the points behind Barff and Gary Eastwood’s Ferrari.
Rick Parfitt Jr. took the GT4 lead on the opening lap and he and Optimum Motorsport co-driver Ryan Ratcliffe led every lap of the race to take their first victory of the year. Having lost the lead from pole on the opening lap – falling to third – Steve Chaplin and Tom Wilson finished second in their Complete Racing Aston Martin with Century Motorsport’s Zoe Wenham and Declan Jones third in class despite a drive through penalty for a mid-race pitstop less than the minimum duration.
UPDATE: Following the race Keen and Minshaw were given a 30 second penalty, dropping them from the victory to seventh, the win instead going to Caine and Al Harthy. Read more here.