After narrowly missing out last year Beechdean teammates Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard went one better by taking victory in the two hour Avon Tyres British GT Championship race at Brands Hatch, taking the championship lead in the process.
After missing out in the series’ closest finish in the corresponding 2012 race Adam gave a dominant performance in the second half of the race to win by ten seconds, a gap that could have been far larger had the Scot not have eased back in the closing minutes of the race. He made the pass that would decide the race soon after he took over the car during the mid-race pitstop window, passing a similarly fresh Duncan Tappy in the VonRyan Racing McLaren MP4-12C.
Tappy effectively took over in the leading car, Gregoire Demoustier having fought his way up the order in an action packed first half of the race after starting 19th. The Frenchman had completed his charge to the front just before the pit window opened after 50 minutes of racing by passing Andrew Howard, Mark Poole in the Barwell Motorsport run Aston demoting the Beechdean driver to third – albeit briefly.
Howard had taken the lead from polesitter Steve Tandy at Graham Hill Bend on the opening and held the position by a narrow margin for much of his stint. Early in the race the battle for the lead was a six car affair, Howard heading the BMWs of Tandy, Marco Attard, Lee Mowle as well as the Trackspeed Porsches of Jon Minshaw and David Ashburn.
The battle was gradually thinned. Phil Dryburgh fell from third after the opening lap with a mistake at Westfield. Mowle and Minshaw would be spun in separate incidents by Gary Eastwood and Mark Poole, the contact with the BMW ending with Eastwood’s FF Corse Ferrari in the Hawthorn’s gravel.
At various stages through the battle came Mike Simpson, Colin White and then – finally – Demoustier. Team LNT had been the only team to start with their stronger driver, hoping Mike Simpson would be able to minimise the damage to be done by a long pitstop after a change in driver line-up with Rob Smith replacing regular Richard Sykes. The plan seemed to be working, Simpson knifing up the order to fourth before hitting a door shed by the Blendini Motorsport GT4 Ginetta, smashing his windscreen and damaging the radiator, prompting retirement. Colin White was one of the main beneficiaries of the problems for Eastwood, Mowle and Simpson, moving into fourth before passing Attard, Tandy and Howard in turn to take the lead.
However, just two laps later he ran wide at Surtees, falling back to sixth with Demoustier and Poole able to make a up a place. There were to be further problems for the team of White and Tom Sharp, a puncture forcing them into a pitstop just minutes before the window for mandatory stops opened. Later in the race they incurred a penalty and had to make a fourth visit to the pits to close a door that had come open.
Demoustier led into the pit window, before his stop allowed Poole to lead, Ron Johnson leading a single lap after being the last to stop in the Barwell/Ecurie Ecosse BMW. Behind Adam had made the pass on Tappy, catching a napping Tappy as he concentrated on lapping the GT4 leading Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G40.
Rick Parfitt Jr led the class from the start – despite a slow start due to being told to expect a second formation lap, handing over to Ryan Ratcliffe for the second half of the race with a 25 second lead over the APO Sport Ginetta G40, driven by Alex Osborne in the second half of the race. Osborne managed to take the lead down to 16 seconds, the team pushing him on from the pit wall as they sensed a late charge to victory. However, they ended with very different encouragement, willing the car over the line on the final puffs of petrol vapour to take second in class. Redgate/Lifetime Racing pairing Dan Eagling and Matt Smith completed the GT4 podium. Smith started the race and survived a brush with disaster as Zak Brown’s United Autosports McLaren speared across him after blowing a right-rear tyre on the approach to Hawthorns.
Eagling took third from the Complete Racing Aston Martin that was later involved in an incident at Clearways that also ended Richard Abra’s race in the Barwell Aston while he was on course to score points.
After losing a position to Adam Tappy vowed not be caught out again, beginning a defensive drive that made him every part the co-star to the winners.
Olly Bryant, then Dan Brown, then Bryant again tried to find a way past the defiant McLaren, the battle allowing Adam’s lead to swell and others – in Fortec Motorsports’ Benji Hetherington and United Autosports’ Matt Bell – to join the fight.
Phil Keen – in the #33 Trackspeed car started by Minshaw – also looked likely to join the battle but a flat tyre dropped them down the order. They would eventually finish 13th, rounding off another sorry weekend for Trackspeed.
Gregor Fisken had been turned around at Graham Hill Bend in the early lap, the slight contact with the wall damaging the exhaust which, with Stephen Jelley at the wheel, eventually started to melt the rear tyre. After his minor role in the lead battle Ashburn slipped back to the edge of the top ten before pitting with Nick Tandy waiting to take over. However, Ashburn missed his pit box, instead continuing to the far end of the pitlane and pitting among the FF Corse and Aston Martin garages as other teams completed their own stops – John Gaw showing his displeasure with Ashburn, hitting the rear of the polka-dot Porsche as he waited to take over from Phil Dryburgh.
Ashburn revisited the pits on the next lap, completing the hand over to Tandy, though it would be in vain as gear selection issues ended their race before they could serve a stop-go penalty for Ashburn’s indiscretion. Another no score meant they lost the points lead with three races – two and Zandvoort next month and the Donington Park finale remaining in the season.
Tappy’s fine defensive work yielded second place ahead of the Ecurie Ecosse and 888Optimum cars that had tried to find a way past. Hetherington finished fifth in the Fortec Mercedes started by Jason Minshaw with Matt Bell in the UA Audi sixth to keep up his and Mark Patterson’s own championship challenge.
Oman Air Motorbase, John Dhillon and Aaron Scott for AF Corse, Dryburgh and Gaw’s PGF–Kinfaun Aston and the second 888Optimum BMW completed the top ten.