The #11 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage of Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes have taken their first win of the season after an action-packed British GT Championship race at Spa-Francorchamps.
At the start the 60 car grid managed to make it round La Source relatively unscathed but a badly timed lunge down the inside from a Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 as the GT3 field made their was to Eau Rouge saw chaos on the track as the pole-sitting Team Parker Racing Bentley and the second placed Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 650S lose positions. It would get worse for the McLaren as Alasdair McCaig would be forced into the pits with mechanical damage which would see the team lose a huge chunk of time and a lot of positions.
Also coming off badly in the domino-effect of a collision was the #1 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Andrew Howard who became a victim of the crunch and lost a rear-wheel forcing him to park the car at the bottom of Eau Rouge.
That meant at the end of the first lap the #11 TF Sport machine was in the lead because, as Farmer told #TeamTCF after the race: “I avoided the chaos and made the most of the open road ahead.”
The Bentley would fall down to P3 and Hunter Abbott’s GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini would climb up to second.
One car that got through unscathed was the British GT4 pole-sitter Sandy Mitchell in the McLaren 570S who held off the advances of the Competition102 GT4 European Series cars and completed a number of laps relatively undisturbed.
A quarter of the race completed and one GT4 entry not having such a good time was Paul Hollywood in the #408 Beechdean AMR who looked to have been an incident of some rather big nature as he came back in with rear-end damage and into a disappointing retirement.
At the front end of GT3 Farmer lost his lead and slipped to third in the TF Sport car as both Hunter Abbott and Abdulaziz Al Faisal in the Black Falcon Mercedes AMG managed to get past the Aston on the same lap.
In GT4 there was even bigger drama as the lead car of Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse pulled off at Pouhon with a distinct lack of power and had to be pulled off track. For rivals behind, the upshot of that retirement was the fact that Lanan Racing inherited the lead with Graham Johnson’s PMW World Expo Racing Ginetta close behind in second.
As the second half of the race got underway, Grasser still led with Rolf Ineichen taking over from BTCC regular Hunter Abbott. However, he was being rapidly chased down by Jon Barnes who used pitstop strategy well to leap ahead of the Black Falcon car which was now under the control of DTM regular Dani Juncadella.
Picking up pace though was Seb Morris who had taken over the Team Parker Bentley and quickly climbed up to third place before quickly passing Ineichen for second.
He set about the charge for Jon Barnes but as Barnes told TCF, the car was set up for top speed: “We had it trimmed out, and we were very fast in a straight line. In the middle sector we suffered but that isn’t really an overtaking opportunity anyway so we managed to stay ahead.”
Behind, Juncadella had dispatched Ineichen to make sure there was Mercedes representation on the podium but couldn’t match the pace of Morris and settled into a comfortable third place – especially because the sister Black Falcon car was 30 seconds behind.
The British GT4 battle had the makings of being intense with Mike Robinson taking chunks of time from Joey Foster at the head of the class, but the Lanan driver was doing just enough to stay ahead and as the flag fell he had a four second lead over Robinson.
Taking a brilliant, but lonely, third place was the Generation AMR MacMillan Racing Aston Martin of Matthew Graham and Jack Mitchell who had kept their nose clean for the whole race and used the incidents of others to help them take a solid podium.
However, that meant that – rather unluckily – the Ebor GT Maserati of Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton, who had charged from seventh to fourth, couldn’t make it any further up the grid and were denied what would have been a great podium.
Also ending up with a pair of good results was RCIB Insurance Racing whose cars finished fifth and sixth in class for the #45 and #75 respectively – a brilliant result considering the #45 of Jordan Stilp and William Phillips started 19th in combined GT4 and the #75 of Aaron Mason and Robert Barrable started 14th on the grid.
But in the end, the day belonged to TF Sport, Jon Barnes and Mark Farmer, the latter of whom told TCF after the race: “I’m exhausted! I thought we’d be caught before the end of the final stint, but Jon managed the race really well even with the Bentley going so fast.”
The next round of the British GT Championship is back in the UK and a visit to Norfolk with two one-hour races at Snetterton for the grid to enjoy.
UPDATE: After the race Oliver Morley and Dani Juncadella were given a 30 second penalty for overtaking under a yellow flag and were relegated down to fourth place by one second. That means Miguel Toril and Abdulaziz Al Faisal took their place on the podium in the second Black Falcon Mercedes. Also given penalties were the #19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini and the #73 Century Motorsport Ginetta but neither of them lost positions because of penalties.