Marco Attard and Alexander Sims dominated their way to victory in the two hour Avon Tyres British GT Championship race at Rockingham, taking their first victory of the season by over ten seconds.
The Ecurie Ecosse duo, who started from pole position, were only briefly headed, but unrelenting pressure from Sims forced a mistake from Oman Racing Team driver Daniel Lloyd with 40 minutes to go. Lloyd had taken over the #2 Aston Martin Vantage from Ahmad Al Harthy soon after the mid-race pit window opened.
With only a second between them after 50 minutes Attard and Al Harthy pitted together. However, with additional time added to the Ecurie Ecosse penalty on the back of their result in the second race at Oulton Park it was Lloyd who emerged with a four second lead that BMW factory driver Sims set about bringing down.
Within laps the two cars were nose to tail, Lloyd keeping the #1 entry just far enough behind to prevent Sims from mounting an attack. But the pressure on Lloyd would tell. Anxious not to spend too long negotiating GT4 traffic he misjudged his braking point into the Deene hairpin, running wide.
Fortunately he escaped damage, using the extra tarmac provided by Rockingham’s trademark oval but by the time he returned to the circuit Sims was five seconds down the road. He was then able to use the extra speed he had kept in hand while chasing to pull further away, seemingly on his way to comfortable win when with half an hour to go the safety car removed all but a sliver of a ten second lead. Again though GT4 traffic would come into play in the GT3 lead battle.
“My job is just to try and overtake,” said Sims of his fight to retake the lead, “[Lloyd’s] pace was very strong so it was difficult to get past him but you just have to keep pushing and eventually you’ll get through. After the safety car, I had a completely clear track ahead of me for the final laps so I just put in qualifying laps until the end.”
On the restart Sims was able to bolt exciting the hairpin at Tarzan but Lloyd was third in line, pinned behind the #53 GT4 Lotus of James Nash. While the leader began reaffirming his place at the front Lloyd had to follow the Evora through the Brook chicane and over the line before he could clear the road ahead of him.
“It might be slightly big headed of me to say, but I never have any doubts when Alexander is in the car, his pace is phenomenal,” Attard told www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk. “I think to myself if I make a slight mistake in my stint, Alexander will be able to make up for it when he gets in the car.”
In the lead Sims simply picked up where he left off, building a lead that would stand at 10.4 seconds at the end of two hours and 78 laps. Driving without first gear to exit the slow corners Lloyd increasingly fell away in the closing laps, coming under pressure from Rory Butcher in the sister Motorbase prepared Vantage GT3. The teammates finished second and third, just a second apart with the RAM Racing Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 of Lewis Plato another car length behind after the battle for the podium spots came alive in the final minutes.
The #17 TF Sport Aston of Derek Johnston and Matt Bell finished fifth, Bell leading another battling group over the line with Joe Osborne in the Triple Eight BMW, Beechdean AMR’s Jonny Adam and the Barwell Motorsport BMW of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen line astern behind. Like the fight for the podium though – and the lead before Lloyd’s error – the technical Rockingham layout left overtaking opportunities at a premium.
The Astons of Jody Fannin and Andrew Jarman (TF Sport) and Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes (22GT Racing) completed the top ten despite both incurring post pitstop penalties and Barnes spinning luridly out of Gracelands.
Adam’s co-driver Andrew Howard had led the very early stages, passing Attard at Deene on the opening lap.
The field would complete only a single racing lap before the safety car was scrambled after contact between Salih Yoluc and Ross Wylie. Yoluc outbraked himself into the Brook chicane, jinking out from behind Lee Mowle in the #888 (though not without leaving a mark on the BMW) clean past Liam Griffin in the #6 Oman Racing Team Aston, across the grass and into the side of Wylie in the sister VonRyan Racing McLaren 650S. Both cars, heavily damaged, were out on the spot.
VonRyan were joined by Team LNT in having both cars taken from the action, the two Ginettas forced to pit, the #44 with gearbox problems and the #32 with damage after contact between Steve Tandy and Mark Farmer.
Howard would lose the lead to Attard on lap 11, falling back to fifth before pitting to hand over the car to Adam. Like the Ecurie Ecosse pair the Oulton Park result mandated a longer pitstop, dropping them further down the order.
The second safety car was triggered when Adam Carroll muscled James Harrison into the Tarzan gravel in the #62 Academy Motorsport GT4 Aston.
Carroll was black flagged for causing the incident but came in only after pulling off perhaps move of the race, driving around the outside of both Matt Bell and Lewis Plato on the oval circuit turn one to briefly put the FF Corse Ferrari in fourth place.
Beechdean’s junior pairing dominated GT4. From pole position Jamie Chadwick ran out to a lead of 22 seconds over the GPRM Toyota GT86 before the pitstop window opened. The Toyota ten found problems, Stefan Hodgetts stopping at the end of pitlane having taken over from Richard Williams before returning to the pits with a puncture. Their dramas obviously increased the Beechdean squad’s lead over the chasing pack with the Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 moving into second place.
The safety car with 30 minutes to go allowed Ross Gunn to take a lead of nearly a lap over Mike Robinson in the Optimum entry, but it also put Dennis Strandberg in the #61 Academy Motorsport Aston right on Robinson’s tail in search of second.
Former Ginetta racer Will Moore had started the #61 and was running in third place behind Beechdean and GPRM cars when he ran wide at Deene, tumbling – albeit temporarily – down the order.
Strandberg took second shortly after the restart with Robinson falling back behind Jamie Stanley in the Fox Motorsport Ginetta. However as the fight for second, third and fourth in GT3 weaved through the knot of slower cars Stanley ran wide at Kirby, rejoining behind the Optimum car and chasing it over the line running sixth in class behind Robinson, Luke Davenport in the Tolman Motorsport Ginetta and JWB Motorsport’s Jake Giddings who completed an all-Aston podium.
The Avon Tyres British GT Championship continues with the next round at Silverstone on May 31.