A trouble free run through the Dunlop 24 Hour at Silverstone ensured a comfortable victory for the Beechdean AMR team, the squad’s Aston Martin Vantage GT4 reaching the checkered flag five laps ahead of their nearest rivals.
For team owner Andrew Howard the victory came after several attempts to win the race, which he had finished as runner-up in under its previous guise as the Britcar 24 Hours. Alongside he and Jonny Adam, the pair regular partners in GT competition, were Harry Whale, Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn, the final pair two of the drivers taken into Aston Martin’s academy program over the winter.
They were one of a number of drivers making their 24 hour race debut in the event with few taking more pre-race interest than Sir Chris Hoy. Only weeks after claiming his first lass win the LMP3 competition in the new Ginetta-Nissan machine the Scot was back as both his career progression and the car’s development took a giant leap with entry into the race. However, it was one of Hoy’s teammates in the car who made the early running.
Charlie Robertson, another in his first 24 hours, took the Ginetta from pole for the first stint and galloped out to a lead of nearly a minute in the ten laps before the safety car was scrambled in what would become a very busy race for those waving the yellow flags (that became yellow lights during the hours of darkness). The LMP3’s speed was no surprise, but the step up from four to 24 hours of racing was always likely to test the car to destruction.
The mechanical failure came in the closing stages, forcing the team to scramble in order to replace a driveshaft to make sure the car was on track at the end of the race, but crossing the line only made sure of 13th overall, 100 laps behind the winner.
The Ginetta’s lead lasted through the first quarter of the race before the rain precipitated the first problems for the team with the combination of the car’s lights on the spray and the lingering steam on the inside of the windscreen reduced driver Mike Simpson’s visibility to the extent that he made several pitstops for the squad to try and effect a repair.
Their place in the lead of the race were taken by some of the cars more usually seen in 24s at Silverstone of old – the MJC Ltd Ferrari, Simpson Motorsport’s Audi and the Marco Schelp entered Porsche, featuring perennial Britcar 24 race Michael Tischner. The trio of GT cars swapped the lead, the Porsche holding the prime spot, the team – Willie Moore and former British GT champions Jim and Glynn Geddie completing the team alongside Schelp and Tischner – holding a lap’s lead for several hours. But, despite their standing all was not well with their 997 GT3 Cup.
The team had been managing a gearbox problem for most of their time in the lead, but the issue spread, taking out the clutch and forcing them to retire from the lead of the race.
They were followed into the lead – and then quickly into retirement – by the MJC Ltd team. The venerable 430 GT2 was the second fastest car in the early stages – Rory Butcher helping the 2010 Britcar 24 winning team to lap times only the Ginetta could match. And, when gearbox failure put the Ferrari out of the race just short of the 4am half way marker, it was the Ginetta that was in position to retake the lead, briefly holding an advantage of four laps before contact with Speedworks Motorsport GT4 Aston put them in the pits for repairs.
The contact would come back to bite the team harder later in the race. Broken bodywork from the side to side contact with the Vantage led to a fire in the right rear corner of the car, burning through the wiring and causing the throttle to hang open. In the cockpit Robertson was unaware of the chain-reaction unfolding until the final effect left him without control. He took the sensible option, surrendering to a gravel trap for the Silverstone marshals to extinguish the fire and recover the race back to the pits.
That bout of drama left the Beechdean AMR team in the lead.
Having led Class 3 for all but the earliest of exchanges they had been able to silently glide up the order, securing fifth when the Class 2 leading MARC Cars Australia Focus V8 found problems in the race, then fourth and third with the retirements of Porsche and Ferrari and then into a lead battle with Simpson Motorsport as the Ginetta team went to work on repairs as the light – and dry – of Sunday warmed Silverstone.
The Aston and the Audi team swapped the lead back and forth as each made their scheduled pitstops. In the dry conditions – the Aston squad admitted – they couldn’t match the Audi on pace, though they contended they were a little faster in the pits. In short they needed Simpson Motorsport to have problems to give them a chance at overall victory. And that’s what they got.
Gear selection problems brought the Audi in for an unscheduled stop, allowing the Aston into an unchallenged lead. The R8 LMS was returned to the race, the team hoping they had identified and solved the problem. They had not. The car ground to a halt just onto the start of its 389th lap after 18-and-a-half hours of the race.
Beechdean now had a lead they never looked like losing as their faultless run continued to the end of the race, Adam given the task of bringing the car home and putting the winning five drivers on top of the podium. Also enjoying a trouble free run through the entire race were the St Bas Koeten Racing team whose SEAT Leon Cup dominated Class 4, especially after Ashley Woodman had crashed SICL.com’s similar car heavily shortly before half way. They won their class by 34 laps over the Saxon Motorsport BMW that failed to reach the checkered flag.
The overall podium was completed by Cor Euser Racing, competing without their namesake, taking second in Class 3. Speedworks rounded out that class’ podium despite their clash with the Ginetta and contact with one of the Topcats Racing Marcos Mantis that sent the latter into the pit wall and led to exclusion of one of Speedworks’ drivers as well as a stop for repairs.
The factory entered Vantage GT4 made it three Astons in the top five, the trio crossing the line in perfect formation.
Another factory entry – Radical Sportscars’ fielding of one of their RXC coupes won a depleted Class 1, 37 laps off the ultimate pace. The MARC Cars Australia entry rebounded from their rain-based problems to claim Class 2, though they finished behind the endurance racing stalwarts in the Red Camel-Jordans.nl team who won Class 5 by 135 laps from the Mensley Motorsport Ford Fiesta, Paul Mensley picking up the Sunoco driver of the day honour on the podium.