This weekend’s Avon Tyres British GT Championship finale at Donington Park begins with just two teams of drivers capable of lifting the 2014 title after a season long battle. Ecurie Ecosse’s Marco Attard leads the points into the two hour race at the Midlands track with co-driver Alexander Sims second, the pair separated in the points due to spending one race weekend apart earlier in the season.
Their rivals, the Oman Racing Team’s Michael Caine and Ahmad Al Harthy need to win to stand any chance of snatching the championship away from Attard and, even if it their turquoise and white Aston Martin Vantage GT3 that takes the checkered flag this weekend they will need Sims and Attard to finish no better than seventh.
True. This season will not end with the same ear-shredding crescendo of a five or six way battle for glory that has become the norm during the series rise and rise under the stewardship of the SRO.
However, just as in the last two seasons it is consistency that has brought the title combatants to this points.
Both teams have only failed to score once during the nine races of the 2014 campaign to date, the best record of any of the teams on the grid.
Both have two wins and two second places, yet Caine, champion in 2012, and Al Harthy trail Attard by 28.5 points, the gulf meaning only the 37.5 points on offer for a win will be good enough to depose Attard. An Ecurie Ecosse finish of eighth, ninth or tenth would see the title swing to the Motorbase Performance run team, a seventh place finish for the points leaders would end with the title being decided on a tie break, the third victory necessary for Caine and Al Harthy would then prove all the more important.
Sims lies 19 points behind his teammate so presents an easier target for the Aston duo, a top six for the good enough to take second in the points as long as Ecurie Ecosse finish only tenth. A race win for 2013 champion Andrew Howard, eliminated from title contention by a disastrous Brands Hatch outing a fortnight ago, would move he and co-driver Jonny Adam above Sims. Again, though, Sims and Attard would have to finish in the very lowest reaches of the top ten.
The discrepancy in points between the two Ecurie Ecosse drivers can be traced back to the pair of one hour races at Snetterton in June when former series champion Jonny Cocker was drafted in to share the #79 BMW Z4 GT3 with Attard while BMW factory driver Sims was representing the marque at the Nurburgring 24 Hours. The same weekend is, largely, responsible for the gap between the two team vying for the title, Attard and Cocker taking 19 points away from the Norfolk weekend while Caine and Al Harthy had to content themselves with just four points.
Attard and Sims also heavily outscored their rivals at the second race at Spa-Francorchamps where a win moved them back to the top of championship they had led for much of the first half of the year.
However, the one blemish on the early part of the season came at the very first race of the season when Attard was the first retirement of the season from a race that Caine and Al Harthy dominated on their way to victory and an early championship lead.
The events of Easter Monday show that while Attard may have what appears to be a commanding lead at the top of points he is by no means a champion in all but name.
Aside from their winning records this season one other thing that both Ecurie Ecosse and Motorbase have in common is that they have both been part of the championship battle coming into the final round of the last two seasons. Though there are only teams capable of claiming the #1 plate for 2015 this season has been just as competitive as the last two years, with six teams having already taken victories with several more very much capable of taking a first win of the year to close out their seasons. One misstep from Attard or Sims could end in a drop down the order that allows the title to slip through the team’s fingers.
Previous years have seen the identity of champions change lap-on-lap in wheel-to-wheel dices and near certain winners removed from the race by freak failures. Perhaps the most apt of all the events of past season finales is that when Caine, then driving alongside Daniele Perfetti, took the 2012 title he did so only after a penalty had pushed Ecurie Ecosse’s entry out of the points lead in the closing laps.
You can follow every twist of the final round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship with www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk with session reports and a live blog covering the full two hour race.