The defending champion team Beechdean AMR has taken its first win of 2014 in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship during the second race at Snetterton. The shortened final clash saw Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard romp away from the field to claim victory by 13.799 seconds over a fifty-five minute test on the 300 layout of the Norfolk circuit.
The big story of the race though came at the original start. As the field piled into the first corner, John Gaw in the PGF-Kinfaun AMR V12 Vantage GT3 misjudged a move which resulted in carnage. He collected not only the #28 Horsepower Racing with TF Sport Aston Martin, driven by Andy Schultz but the #888 Triple Eight Race Engineering BMW Z4 GT3 of Luke Hines All three cars were out of the race immediately.
The #28 bore the brunt of the damage, after submarining under the tyres on the outside of the circuit and causing significant damage to the triple layer Armco behind. Of course further damage was done extracting the car from this position but there was little chance of it continuing with the extensive damage to the front end steering, engine and bodywork. The Triple Eight machine looked to have taken little damage in the incident though spectator reports say that at least one of the Aston Martins flew over and contacted the car on the roof! According to the team it was drive shaft damage which ended their day.
The PGF-Kinfaun AMR car was brought in through the paddock and dropped out of sight but we understand the damage to have been extensive.
None of the drivers were harmed in the incident though all were taken to the circuit’s medical centre for precautionary checks. The main impact on the race was to throw a safety car which became a red flag before Jonny Adam had completed the first lap. A delay of fifty-five minutes while the marshals dealt with the cars and the damage to the barrier caused the cancellation of the final support race of the weekend, the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge.
Once the grid had re-formed, the damaged cars removed and the fences mended, the race got underway under safety car. An initial plan for two laps under the control of the Volkswagen Golf R pace car was extended to three laps when the #17 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 hit problems on the run away from the grid. The marshals and the team jumped immediately to action and had the circuit cleared again and ready to go racing with only around 45 minutes left on the clock.
The race director didn’t move the pit window either which left the professionals with little time to ply their trade. Adam jumped straight to it, immediately gapping the #18 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Adam Carroll. Carroll had been called in to replace Rob Barff who raced at the Nurburgring 24 Hours and while he made a good showing, not he nor any other driver on the grid was a match for the man Fife.
By the end of the 20 minutes run to the pit window the #1 Aston Martin was the better part of ten seconds down the road. Carroll was forced to look to the rear and defend from the #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW of Jonny Cocker, yet another driver called into sub for factory pilots dispatched to the Eiffel Mountains for the weekend.
Even a yellow flag zone for the demise of the #40 IDL CWS 4×4 Spares Ginetta of Tom Sharp, which went off at Corum and impacted the tyres heavily, couldn’t slow the advance of the Beechdean car significantly. As with the first start, Tom Sharp’s off ended the cars involvement but the driver was unharmed.
Of course the front running drivers left their pit stops late when the window opened. The format of the weekend meant that the faster of the two drivers in each car started the second race and teams were eager to make use of the pace in the car early on. On the first time round the takers were few but the #5 Aston Martin of Oman Racing Team and Rory Butcher took the chance to try something a little different. Rory handed over to Jeff Smith but the gamble failed, the car placed 13th overall, outside the points and two and a half seconds behind the team car of Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine.
The escape from the scheduled pit stops of the #17 couldn’t have helped much as the Aston was stuck behind the Bentley on the way out of the pits. There may have been seven laps between the two cars but there is only one line out of the pits.
When Adam finally came to the pit lane to hand over the leading car to Andrew Howard the car was in an enviable position. A quick stop helped no end and once the #1 and #18, driven in the second stint by Gary Eastwood, had completed their out laps the separation was over sixteen seconds. Eastwood would spend much of the final twenty minutes of the race chipping away at that lead but a combination of consistency and accuracy from the reigning champion and traffic on the circuit would prevent the Ferrari from bringing the gap below ten seconds.
The #18 did take the second step of the podium ahead of a fantastic run from the Strata 21 entered Aston Martin of Paul White and Tom Onslow-Cole. The former Britcar team pulled a blinder to take third overall, four seconds clear of the demonically fast Porsche of Trackspeed and Jon Minshaw, our winners in race 1.
Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne would take fifth place in the sole remaining BMW from the Triple Eight garage with Iain Dockerill bringing the United Autosports Audi home in an impressive sixth place. Dockerill shares the R8 LMS Ultra with Matt Bell who had the car dancing around the edges of the top four in the opening stint.
MP Motorsport took seventh for Mark Poole and Richard Abra after initially failing to make the grid. The car was brought back to pit lane after the out lap to the grid by Abra to have a minor issue resolved and failed to make it out of the pit lane and into the 5th place grid spot. The first race carnage however wiped that particular slate clean and Abra was able to take his grid spot for the restart.
Generation Bentley Racing, encumbered by a five second penalty for repeatedly violating the track limits, took eighth place for Steve Tandy and James Appleby ahead of AF Corse’s Pasin Lathouras and Richard Lyons. The quick pace of Jonny Cocker wasn’t matched by Marco Attard in the #79 BMW, which rounded out the points scorers in the top ten.
In GT4 the question was, ‘who wants to win this class?’ Initially after the aborted start it was the #77 ISSY Racing Lotus Evora which held the lead, as a result of the pole position netted by Gavan Kershaw in the second qualifying session. That was surrendered when the car was called to take a drive through for the incorrect start procedure. We were never properly informed of the situation which caused the penalty but Gavan had brought the Evora to pit lane as the first attempt at the race was red flagged.
We can only assume that both the team and the marshals erred in allowing the #77 to return to its grid spot for the second start.
With the race 1 winning car out of it the next car in contention was Rick Parfitt and Tom Oliphant in the Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4. Racing rocker Rick Parfitt dropped the car through Riches however surrendering the chance at the lead and putting him in close contact with the #43 Century entry driven by Morten Dons.
Problems for the ever-present Porsche 996 GT4 of Dan Cammish and Barrie Baxter knocked Team Parker Racing out of the picture. A short pit stop for the #407 Beechdean AMR Vantage GT4 was the straw that broke that particular camel’s back. Ross Wylie would bring the car home in fourth in class.
In the end of the race it was the #46 Twisted Team Parker Ginetta G55 which took the win, earning Adrian Barwick and Bradley Ellis a trip to the top step of the podium. Parfitt held off the advances of the team car to recover second after his off with Dons in a respectable third.
The Academy Motorsport car of Oli Basey-Fisher would have been right on the back bumper of the #407 Beechdean machine if not for a massively punitive penalty which added 35 seconds to their time. Having been warned the mandated two times for track limits, once for Basey-Fisher and once for co-driver Matt Nicoll-Jones, the more pro driver of the pairing continued to take liberties with the white lines. Nicoll-Jones first netted five seconds of penalty time, then continued to exceed the track limits and was handed a further 30 seconds of additional time at the end of the race.
That result made the Academy Motorsport car the last machine to be classified on the lead lap, with just the Bentley of Humaid Al Masood and the stricken Fox Motorsport Ginetta of James Stanley and Paul McNelly, which stopped in the infield nine laps from the end, behind them.
Attention now turns to the annual summer holiday for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship field. The cars will soon be packed up and shipped off to Spa-Francorchamps for the first time since 2011. Two more sixty minute sprint races in Belgium complete the quick fire segment of the season before the cars return to the UK for endurance rounds at Brands Hatch and Donington Park.