Nick Tandy and David Ashburn inherited victory from their Trackspeed teammates after late drama at Brands Hatch for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship field.
With only a handful of minutes to go the win looked likely to go Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw, Keen having led much of the second half of the two hour race aboard the Demon Tweeks sponsored #63. However, a left-rear puncture left Keen limping back to the pits, allowing Tandy – making his first British GT start of the year – to ease to victory to cap a fine stint.
Ashburn – unusually – was one of the later drivers to pit during the 20 minute mid-race pit window. While his on track rivals made way for their more experienced co-drivers Ashburn was able to rise from sixth to second before pitting, Tandy returning to the race in sixth. That, however, quickly became fourth as Gary Eastwood and David Jones completed the cycle of pitstops.
From there Tandy’s charge was on. The Porsche works driver, who has plied his trade in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship this season, made quick work of the six seconds of tarmac between he and Rory Butcher in the #5 Oman Racing Team Aston started by Jeff Smith, taking third place with 40 minutes to go. Nine more seconds lay ahead before he would reach the rear of Michael Caine’s #4, but the pass was completed with 25 minutes remaining.
His passage into second, and the early gains he made into Keen’s five second lead, presented Tandy with an awkward situation. Catch and pass his teammates, entered for the full season and chasing a top two finish in the championship, or remain behind them and seal a 1-2 finish for the team. His quick progress up to the rear of the sister car did little to give away what his choice would be, but the decision was taken out of his hands as Keen pulled into the pits, returning to the race to salvage ninth place.
As well as promoting Tandy to the lead it gave the Oman Racing Team Aston’s second and third.
Starting the #4 car Ahmad Al Harthy had taken the lead of the race through the opening corners as Andrew Howard fell back from pole at the start of an afternoon for the reigning champion and co-driver Jonny Adam to forget. While Howard fell back through the order suffering with brake issues and an associated spin Al Harthy was able to move into a seven second lead over Jon Minshaw with Jeff Smith third having gotten ahead of Colin White’s MP Motorsport Aston.
Moving into the Vantage after racing the rest of the year in the Ginetta G55 GT3 White’s race was derailed when he had contact with Jeff Wyatt’s GT4 BMW at Sheene Curve, each driver pointing the finger of blame at the other. Jody Firth was another among the lead group early on. However, shortly after Warren Hughes took over the #8 Triple 8 BMW the left-rear wheel parted company with the car, leading to retirement.
That advantage disappeared when Andrew Howard’s day got a little worse, involved in contact with Derek Johnston in the #888 BMW that left the latter stranded on the outside of Clearways and forced Howard into an unscheduled pitstop, losing a lap to the leaders in the process.
While the arrival of the safety car may have helped the likes of Tandy to make easier progress through the second half of the race it had an even greater impact upon on the GT4. The polesitter and leader Ross Wylie was one of those waved past the safety car while Andrew Jarman in the second placed TF Sport entry was caught behind the leader.
As a result Wylie was given the better part of a lap lead, and though they lost some of their advantage serving a longer mandatory pitstop thanks to their win at Spa-Francorchamps, Jake Giddings was still able win the class by nearly a minute over their title rivals, though TF Sport’s Jarman and Devon Modell need to win the Donington Park finale while the Beechdean duo fail to score.
Fox Motorsport’s Jamie Stanley and Paul McNeilly completed the class podium after Century Motorsport’s Morten Dons dropped two places in the closing laps as he struggled with the steering on his Ginetta G55 GT4.
The championship picture in GT3 ended the race in a similar hue.
Following a mid-race stop prolonged after their win in Belgium Alexander Sims picked up from Marco Attard in eighth once the pitstops were all completed. A pass on Alex MacDowall, drafted into the PGF-Kinfaun AMR team for the weekend, gave the Ecurie Ecosse man seventh and when the Strata 21 Aston faltered beneath Tom Onslow-Cole Sims snatched at the opportunity to take up residence in the position trying to find a way past Matt Griffin’s AF Corse Ferrari.
Onslow-Cole had found the Irishman a tough opponent and Sims struggled to find a way past for several laps until he was able to find a gap on the inside of the ever-curving pit straight to take fifth place, which became fourth when Keen pitted.
The combination of fourth place and the Beechdean duo only finishing 16th saw Howard and Adam knocked out of the championship battle. However, second place kept Al Harthy and Caine in contention, though they need to win to stand any chance of snatching the title away from Attard.
Griffin, taking over the #29 from Pasin Lathouras, finished fifth ahead of MacDowall the FF Corse combination of Gary Eastwood and Adam Carroll. Behind the recovering Keen Ryan Ratcliffe secured the final points on his first race in the premier class of British GT, sharing the #88 Triple 8 entry with Lee Mowle.
The 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship concludes with a two hour race at Donington Park on September 14. www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have full coverage of the all-important weekend.