A pass in the closing stages gave Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen their second win of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship season, the Trackspeed pair victorious in the first of the series’ two races at Spa-Francorchamps.
It was Keen, taking the second half of the race at the wheel of the #63 Porsche, who turned a race long chase of the #4 Oman Racing Team Aston into a charge to the line at the end of the 23 laps of the hour long race. At the end of the race Keen held just a 1.3 second lead over the Michael Caine piloted Aston.
The two teams had been first and second since the third lap of the race, though they were briefly deposed during the mid-race pitstops. Ahmad Al Harthy had inherited the pole position for the race as the unpredictable Spa weather became a factor with the early race start time. Several teams, including pole winners Ecurie Ecosse, arrived on the grid on wet tyres but found that the conditions at the start line, at the bottom of the valley were not matched by those around the rest of the 7km track. Thus, they pitted to change to slick tyres before the start of the race. Having been due to take the start first and third respectively the Ecurie Ecosse and Beechdean AMR teams finished the opening lap in 16th and 28th places.
At the start it was the pair of Oman Racing Team Astons that led the way, Al Harthy holding the lead ahead of Jeff Smith in the sister car. However, second place would change hands a number of times. The second time around Smith lost out to both AF Corse’s Yannick Mallegol and Chris Hoy. Both, however would end the third lap not only once more behind Smith but also Minshaw as he moved the Porsche up to second.
Minshaw had moved up from twelfth since the opening lap, carving through the field on the track he refers to as his ‘second home’, having raced in the Spa 6 Hours historic race for several years. Through the first stint the times of Al Harthy and Minshaw were relatively similar, and so the gap between them remained stable after Al Harthy built a nine second lead in the opening laps.
The lead was cut in half through the pit stop sequence, Keen starting his stint with 4.5 seconds worth of arrears. That gap came steadily down until lap 19 when he made him move to the lead.
Rory Butcher completed the podium places in the second Oman Racing Team Aston, started by Smith. He had become detached from the lead duo during his stint, but remained safe in third 19 seconds ahead of the Ecurie Ecosse pairing of Marco Attard and Alexander Sims who rallied back to fourth place.
Mark Patterson and Matt Bell similarly fought back to take sixth in the United Autosports Audi after Patterson spun with FF Corse’s Gary Eastwood in the opening laps. AF Corse Ferraris finished sixth and seventh, visiting pair Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard ahead of the full season entry of Pasin Lathouras and Richard Lyons.
HorsePower Racing and Beechdean AMR’s Vantage GT4 finished eighth and ninth with Generation Bentley Racing taking the final point on offer.
Andrew Jarman and Devon Modell narrowly held off the ISSY Racing combination for GT4 victory.
Just as in GT3 the GT4 pole sitter had surrendered their position in the changing weather, Jarman the immediate beneficiary in the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT4. He remained largely unchallenged throughout his stint, the gap opening up to over ten seconds before erstwhile pole man Oli Basey-Fisher picked up second place and, with the same pace that had helped the Academy Motorsports team to take both GT4 poles, began to close the gap up until he only trailed Jarman by five seconds when the Aston driver made his mid-race pit visit.
Basey-Fisher extended his stint by a lap, briefly rising to tenth overall. However, the strategy move failed to pay off with co-driver Matt Nicoll-Jones rejoining the race fourth in class behing the TF Sport and Beechdean AMR Astons and the Century Motorsports Ginetta driven by Aleksander Schjerpen.
Fifth in class lay Gavan Kershaw in the ISSY Racing Lotus Evora. He would climb to third after passing Schjerpen and Nicoll-Jones in the same lap, the latter man’s race soon further delayed by a drive through penalty before retirement four laps from the end.
Kershaw galloped up onto the back of the duo of Astons which had run near nose-to-tail for much of the stint with the trio starting their final lap just 1.5 seconds apart. Kershaw was able to pass Jake Giddings in the Beechdean car to take second on the final lap but could only watch Modell cross the line half a second ahead at the end of the lap.