Jonny Adam, Derek Johnston and TF Sport have won a heavily disrupted first race of the British GT Championship season which ended 20 minutes early because of a car fire, and featured a 40 minute full course caution because of a massive crash involving numerous cars.
Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson would take GT4 victory in their PMW World Expo Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 after dominating the race.
The start of the race saw Rick Parfitt Jnr in the Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 pace the field as Derek Johnston in the TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage tried his best to make a move on the big Crewe machine but didn’t have the pace to make anything happen.
Parfitt used the clear air ahead of him to start stretching the car’s legs and lap-after-lap he stuck another decent chunk of time on his lead over Johnston and in only a handful of laps the lead was up and over five seconds and he was sitting pretty at the front of the race.
In GT4, Anna Walewska’s lead sadly didn’t last as long as Century Motorsport would have hoped as Graham Johnson in the PMW World Expo Racing Ginetta used the busyness of the opening lap field to get past Walewska and into the lead of the race.
Johnson would be followed through by Jack Bartholomew in the Baby Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V8 Vantage who would have to settle for second place as Bartholomew couldn’t break down the one second cushion Johnson had gained at the front of the class.
While all this was going on, Liam Griffin in the Irish TV sponsored Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini was closing in on the back of second placed Johnston having gained a handful of places since the race start and used the pace of the Huracan GT3 to try and make something happen for him.
In the second Lamborghini, Jon Minshaw had to finish his race early as a collision with a GT4 Ginetta at Clark Curve saw the Demon Tweeks liveried Huracan come in for urgent repairs on the rear suspension.
However, no incidents befell the Griffin car and he made a sweet move going down to Graham Hill bend to relegate Johnston into third place.
Freed from the shackles of the TF Sport Aston, Griffin did his best to claw back a gap to Parfitt which had grown to almost 15 seconds with 18 laps completed. He managed to knock off a couple of seconds in a handful of laps but his progress was stunted by a full course yellow.
The caution period came out because of a collision involving Phil Dryburgh in the Motorbase Performance Aston Martin GT3, Matty Graham in the Generation AMR MacMillan Racing Aston Martin GT4 and Nick Jones in the Simpson Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 at Pilgrims Drop on the run up to Hawthorns.
Jones managed to limp back into the pits but Graham and Dryburgh both retired on the spot.
Before the caution came out, Walewska lost another place with William Phillips in the #45 RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta getting the best of the University of Bolton branded car and claimed fourth place.
Moving ahead a touch, and during the caution period – which would end up lasting more than 40 minutes to fix badly damaged barriers just before the bridge which marks the run from Pilgrims Drop to Hawthorns – teams took advantage of the pit stop window opening during the slow period to do their mandatory driver changes.
The biggest winner in the pit stops was Jonny Adam who took over the #17 TF Sport Aston from Derek Johnston. The car came in in third place, but congestion in the pit lane benefitted Adam who came out in first. Parfitt was the biggest loser in the pit stop pandemonium who would come out 4th due to his pit box being blocked by another car losing the Team Parker squad time.
As the race restarted, Adam led from Fabio Babini in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini, with Joe Osborne sitting in third and Seb Morris taking over the Bentley and coming out in fourth.
When the track went green again, Joe Osborne took no prisoners in moving up to second overtaking Fabio Babini in the first few seconds after the racing got back underway.
Also making good progress was Nathan Freke in the Century Motorsport Ginetta, taking over from Walewska he wasted no time in getting up to second place with a few handy moves to put himself within shouting distance of Mike Robinson who had taken over the PMW World Expo Racing Ginetta.
Staying in GT4 for a minute, and Jordan Albert sacrificed what would have been a decent finish as he took a trip through the gravel at Paddock Hill Bend and let Jordan Stilp & Matthew George up into third and fourth place. Albert would finish fifth in what was a decent first result in the Baby Beechdean.
Back into GT3 and it was clear that Joe Osborne had his dander up, at one point he was less than 1.5s away from Adam at the head of the field. However, Adam must have been told to get a shift on and set the fastest lap of the race – a 1:24.695 – to make sure the gap didn’t stay that short.
It did help though, that Seb Morris dispatched Babini to climb to third place and take the charge to the AmDTuning.com BMW Z4. He closed in to within half a car length at points but the BMW was just a bit too nimble through the corners to allow the Bentley a chance to recover the positions it lost during the pit window.
A few cars behind Ross Gunn, who showed all weekend he is more than capable of becoming a champion GT3 racer, kept on the recovery job Andrew Howard had begun and found himself in fifth place with the Barwell Lamborghini just ahead. At one point the gap was just 0.077 but Babini – a Lamborghini Factory Driver – was too canny to let young Gunn get past.
It also helped his cause that the race was red flagged with 20 minutes left on the clock after the #56 Tolman Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT3 capped off what was a poor race for the squad generally by setting on fire at Graham Hill Bend. Due to the need for a fire tender to put out the flames, race control thought it best to cut the race short, meaning a two-hour race got just over one hour completed.
The red flag cut short many battles up-and-down the order but it meant Jonny Adam could claim his first win for TF Sport in his first start for the team, with Osborne second and the Team Parker Racing Bentley in third.
In GT4 the red flag came a bit too early for Jordan Stilp in the RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta who was two seconds behind Freke and closing in, he would have to settle for third in his first GT race alongside team mate and fellow debutant Williams Phillips with Freke and Walewska second. The PMW World Expo Racing car took the first win of the year after blasting off into the distance and not being disturbed again.
After the race Johnston – who is in his second year of racing with TF Sport – said: “We were quick, simple as that! We had a good start, on the opening lap the car felt good on a full tank of fuel, it got a bit snatchy after half a dozen laps and I was losing the back end a bit but then five or six laps later it came back to me.”
The second round of the British GT Championship takes place on the last weekend of this month at Rockingham with another two-hour blast.