The first of two Avon Tyres British GT Championship races at Snetterton was won by the #63 Trackspeed Porsche of Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw. The victory in the one hour sprint on the 300 layout at Snetterton is the first for the team in 2014 and the first Porsche win in the series since Zandvoort in September last year.
The initial running was headed by the #79 BMW Z4 GT3 of Ecurie Ecosse, driven by Marco Attard but in a field of gentlemen drivers the #63 was cutting a swathe early on. Jon Minshaw who started the DemonTweeks sponsored 997 GT3 R took fourth by Agostini after starting fifth. His onward march took him into a fight with the #29 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Pasin Lathouras and the #12 team car of Jody Firth.
Firth took the battle to the leading BMW while Minshaw explored the options to get past the Ferrari which had started on the outside of the front row. Eventually the #79 BMW would make good it’s escape from the clutches of the black and orange Porsche building a lead of two and a half seconds, a fleeting advantage which would last only four minutes. Firth put the hammer down and brought himself back into range of the race leader.
It all stayed fairly stable at the head of the field, with gaps changing only in hundredths and occasionally tenths of a second. With battles up and down the order there was plenty to entertain the crowds though, including the tail end of the top ten.
A fight between the #38 MP Motorsport Aston Martin of Mark Poole and the #18 Ferrari 458 of FF Corse and Gary Eastwood was great while it lasted, though at only six laps it didn’t last anywhere near long enough. The resolution to the challenge, which got physical at Montreal on lap six, prompting the Ferrari to limp back to the pits and retire, would land Poole in the steward’s room to explain his actions.
The #38 and #18 weren’t the only cars to catch the attention of Bernard Cottrell and his team. Having passed the defending champion, Andrew Howard of Beechdean AMR, the #888 Z4 of Derek Johnston was accused of an overly optimistic move on Lathouras at turn 2. That allowed the chasing pack to close up, making at one point a six car train for third place.
It was almost a relief when the pit stops came to give us a break.
With the pro drivers on board the race took on a new look. Fastest laps were being set left right and centre with the #63 among the quicker cars. The #1 Aston Martin looked to have the out and out lap speed but the Trackspeed Porsches together and the #63 in particular were by far the fastest cars in a straight line.
Phil Keen used that straight line speed advantage to his favour over the 35ish minutes of his stint, climbing his way through pit strategy and through pace to the top of the pile. The big move was made in the stops, Keen passed the #79 BMW while it was still stationary in the pits and after that he stood a much greater chance of success.
Once the pit stop cycle had shaken itself out the picture was fairly clear. Keen had the advantage but a very determined Jonny Cocker on his tail. In the GT4 class the stops had also handed over the lead from the so far dominant Porsche 996 GT4 of Dan Cammish, who had taken over from Barrie Baxter, to the ISSY Racing Lotus Evora.
Other punctuation to the tail end of the race came mainly in the regular off track excursions and optimistic interpretations of the limits of the track and by the end of the race penalties had been assessed and various cars had fallen by the wayside.
The final result offered the win to Keen and Minshaw with Jonny Cocker, a former British GT Champion, taking a podium place on his return to the series with Marco Attard. Attard’s regular co-driver Alexander Sims had been called up to serve in his factory BMW driver role during the ADAC Zurich 24 Hours Race at the Nurburgring. An impressive stint from the former ELMS GTE champion put the BMW just 0.583 behind the winner at the end of an hours racing.
Triple Eight celebrated a podium finish for Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne in the #88 BMW Z4 making the podium in terms of manufacturer an all-German affair, a very rare turn of events in the British GT Championship.
MP Motorsport took fourth place after an amazingly consistent and quick stint from the team’s pro driver Richard Abra with PGF-Kinfaun AMR’s John Gaw and Phil Dryburgh driven Aston Martin Vantage in fifth. Beechdean pairing Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam took sixth ahead of the United Autosports Audi R8 LMS of Iain Dockerill and Matt Bell with the #4 Aston Martin of the Oman Racing Team in eighth.
Strata 21’s Tom Onslow-Cole and Paul White driven Aston Martin made it five Vantages in the top ten with the Generation Bentley Racing Continental rounding out the points scorers.
GT4 went to the home town heroes of the ISSY Racing squad. Not only are the team local but the car is of course the product of nearby Hethel and long overdue some success. Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw’s victory in the Lotus Evora GT4 is icing on the cake for the team. Second in the class went to the #407 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage of Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie with Century Motorsport six seconds behind.
With only ten entries into the class it was a case of all must have prizes in terms of points. Fourth went to the second Century entered car of Morton Dons and Aleksander Schjerpen with the TF Sport Aston Martin in fifth, Twisted Team Parker’s Ginetta of Adrian Barwick and Bradley Ellis in sixth and the Fox Motorsport Ginetta in seventh. Academy Motorsport classified 25th overall and eighth in the class with their Ginetta thanks to repeated use of a bit too much run off by Matt Nicoll-Jones. Team Parker Racing’s Porsche and the Optimum Racing Ginetta of Jade Edwards and Matt Draper rounded out the class runners.
That Ginetta #41 was also part of another story of the race, reliability. The car drove out of the pits to the grid but ground to a halt on the circuit, victim to a drive shaft failure. The team labored mightily to rectify the situation and in no more than fifteen minutes the white and green G55 GT4 was out on track immediately following the rolling start. Late in the race the car would again drop out of action with an engine failure. The #41 would take no part at all in the rest of the weekend.
Accident damage affected the Bentley Continental GT3 of M-Sport, putting the car out of the race before Steven Kane had even had a go in the car. Humaid Al Masood had the wheel when the incident happened, he looped the car un-aided and clouted the tyres, leaving the #17 stranded on track side for twenty laps of the race. The #888 BMW of Luke Hines and Derek Johnston crashed out on the opening lap.