British GT drivers battle at Snetterton

British GT action (photo by Marc Waller)Race one saw a superb race five of the 2013 Avon Tyres British GT Championship at the Snetterton 300 circuit was won by Oman Air Motorbase’s Michael Caine and Ahmad Al Harthy,

but it was Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen who were victorious for Trackspeed on the road; the result was later appealed and Oman Air Motorbase’s inherited the win, their first ever in the British GT Championship.

After the rain of Saturday conditions couldn’t have been more different for Sunday. The Snetterton circuit was basked in sunshine as the race got underway, with Rembert Berg’s M-Sport Audi R8 LMS ultra leading Steve Tandy’s 888 Optimum BMW Z4 GT3 across the line. With 28 cars vying for position there was contact at first corner Riches; Mark Poole in the #80 Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 tussled with Gary Eastwood’s FF Corse Ferrari 458 and the Aston Martin careered into the right rear of Minshaw’s Trackspeed before being collected by fellow Trackspeed driver, Gregor Fisken, who had taken to the grass on the left of the track to avoid contact.

Also attempting to avoid contact was 888 Optimum’s Lee Mowle. A race winner here last year in the GT4 class, Mowle British GT action (photo by Marc Waller)missed Fisken, but did get contact from the sideways Aston Martin and the BMW turned lawn mower as it collected grass before rejoining. A quick pitstop to clear grass dropped Mowle down the order but a fightback by both Mowle and team-mate Joe Osborne ensured they remained on the lead lap and also took the fastest lap of the race, setting a new lap record (1:51.988) in the process.

Berg led for the first six laps but was overcome by a charging Andrew Howard in the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3. Howard’s experience showed as he made his way up from fourth on the grid and avoided the first lap incident, progressing to build a comfortable lead of over two seconds that he maintained until pitting from the lead on lap fourteen.

During Howard’s stint on lap 3 of the race, the incident occurred which would determine the race result; Howard sighted a yellow flag on the start finish straight and backed out of a potential overtake on Tandy’s 888 Optimum BMW and braked to avoid a penalty, but Minshaw followed Tandy past the Aston Martin, overtaking Howard for third. Upon receipt of these details the race director awarded the #33 Trackspeed car a 30 second penalty for overtaking under yellow flags, plus three penalty points added to his race licence.

British GT action (photo by Marc Waller)British GT action (photo by Marc Waller)After the pit window had opened Motorbase’s Caine took over from Al Harthy and immediately got the jump on his rivals when the top five pitted together. Al Harthy’s stint was impressive, keeping within three seconds of the lead group and Caine benefited, leaving in the lead with M-Sport’s Warren Hughes nailed to his tail.

Howard pitted the Beechdean Aston from the lead to hand over to Jonny Adam and the pair took the ten second extra success adjustment for their podium three weeks ago in the Silverstone third round of the top national GT series; Adam left the pits fifth, a position he would hold until the flag.

Caine kept ahead of the M-Sport Audi, but was soon overcome by Trackspeed’s Keen at Williams before disappearing down the Bentley Straight, building a lead that would ensure he crossed the line first. Keen slowed as he approached the line much to the concern of onlookers, however the #33 Trackspeed Porsche had no issues, rather his team were eager for the driver to not complete a further lap before the clock stopped on the hour.

Von Ryan Racing’s Gregoire Demoustier produced a stunning opening stint that saw the Frenchman move from fifteenth on the grid to fourth on the road at the flag. Dave Ryan’s men were overjoyed to learn they had actually scooped a third place finish once the race director had reviewed the hot spots of the race.

Further back outside the four, Mark Patterson and Matt Bell battled hard to sixth on the track, fifth in the results, with Bell being particularly determined when overtaking FF Corse’s Rob Barff in the latter stages of his stint, a move which damaged Barff’s Ferrari 458 and enabled Trackspeed’s Tandy to sneak past too. Tandy would later retire after contact with the rear of Bell’s Audi ruptured the Porsche driver’s radiator.

Fortec Motorsports’ Benji Hetherington and Jason Minshaw finished sixth claiming a vital eight points, Keen and Minshaw were seventh, but the penalty points Minshaw received now affect championship standings following a new regulation that all teams agreed to on the Saturday morning of the Snetterton event, whereby a penalty point on a drivers licence is worth three championship points. Given he and Keen won six points for seventh, Minshaw finished the race with a minus three reward for his efforts.

Jody Firth and new team-mate Glynn Geddie got their McLaren MP4-12c home in eighth, FF Corse limped home in ninth, and United Autosports team boss, Zak Brown and Portuguese star, Alvaro Parente finished tenth, ensuring all three United cars finished in the top ten.

As teams can only score points for the first two cars home, this means CWS IDL score their first ever British GT GT3 points after Tom Sharp and Colin White kept it clean and took a well-deserved result for the Ginetta team.

PGF Kinfaun finished seven places up on their grid position, but Phil Dryburgh and John Gaw had little to write home about in their first race, finishing some four seconds ahead of the Jones brothers in their Preci-Spark McLaren.

Victims early on in the race were championship leaders Ecurie Ecosse by Barwell Motorsport. The BMW Z4 of Marco Attard and Olly Bryant which was again haunted by the brake issue that halted their efforts during qualifying the day before.

Optimum Motorsport got the jump on pole-sitter Steve Chaplin in the Complete Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 early on during the opening lap. Rick Parfitt Jnr galloped away at a rapid rate, building a sixteen second lead for team-mate Ryan Ratcliffe.

Chaplin had to take to the grass to avoid the melay of GT3s at Riches, the GT4 driver concede the class lead, to Optimum and also second place to the APO Sport Ginetta G50 of James May. A heavy impact between Chaplin and Century Motorsports Zoe Wenham also occurred on the opening lap, but Chaplin kept the championship leading car behind him for the remainder of his stint.

Race 2

David Ashburn and Nick Tandy clinched a thrilling second win in the 2013 Avon Tyres British GT Championship this afternoon at Snetterton when they steered their Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R to the flag with an advantage of just four tenths of a second over the #888 888 Optimum Racing BMW Z4 GT3.

British GT action (photo by Marc Waller)The race began in a very well-behaved fashion. Pole-sitter Stephen Jelley led into first corner Riches, but Joe Osborne starting third on the grid had the lead from the Trackspeed driver by the exit of second corner, Montreal. Osborne was driving well and broke the lap record he’d set in the earlier race, before Tandy took the honour away from him with a special tour of the Norfolk circuit, 1:51.361.

A fantastic cat and mouse battle played out for the large crowd between Tandy and Osborne over the next fifteen minutes. Prior to this the Porsche works driver had made his way up from fifth, claiming the scalps of Osborne’s 888 Optimum team-mate Dan Brown, United Autosports’ Matt Bell in the Audi and team-mate Jelley’s Porsche. Tandy closed on Osborne and actually made contact with his BMW Z4 as the braked for the first part of The Esses, now called Brundle.

Osborne spun as a result of the contact and Tandy carried on, but once Osborne had got going once again, Tandy waved the 888 Optimum driver through on the pit straight in a sincere moment of sportsmanship. Osborne duly accepted and led the pair into the infield, but Tandy would soon re-pass his rival in a clean and fair way before pulling away into a lead of almost five seconds before pitting to hand over to team-mate Ashburn, the 2010 Drivers Champion.

A number of the top ten pitted at the same time as Tandy and the tight pit lane at Snetterton was the hive of activity as teams refuelled their cars and changed drivers over. The only team to change tyres during this stop were the Ecurie Ecosse pair of Oliver Bryant and Marco Attard who were suffering troublesome bouts of oversteer in their Z4.

Ashburn left the pits in the lead and Steve Tandy, now in for Dan Brown in the #888 BMW, made it his mission to push for the win or at worst push the Serbian all the way to the flag. In third United Autosports’ Mark Patterson was a man in a hurry, he had Lee Mowle in other 888 Optimum BMW in hot pursuit and it became clear that this was no foregone conclusion.

British GT action (photo by Marc Waller)Avoiding the distraction of the Audi in his mirrors, Tandy pushed on and reeled in Ashburn’s Porsche until his nine second lead had all but disappeared. This is how it stayed until the flag with the foursome getting within two seconds of each other and Tandy following Ashburn home, just four tenths behind after 60-minutes of racing. 888 Optimum’s Brown would also take home the coveted Mobil Service Centre Master of the weekend trophy for an incredible performance throughout every session of the weekend.

Eleven seconds down the road from the top four was Andrew Howard in the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage. He and team-mate Jonny Adam drove hard to improve on their row five start and the Scotsman hustled his way up the ranks before the pitstops.

Behind the Aston in sixth was the Fortec Motorsports Mercedes AMG SLS GT3 of Benji Hetherington and Jason Minshaw, again in the points after an earlier haul. The rest of the top ten was covered by less than three seconds, and Ecurie Ecosse’s Bryant and Attard climbed up the order from the fifth row to finish seventh.

with race one victors Michael Caine and Ahmad Al Harthy continuing an enviable run of points scoring, six successive races – the only car to do so, in eighth, AF Corse’s John Dhillon and Aaron Scott kept their noses clean and finished up ninth, M-Sport’s Warren Hughes and Rembert Berg completed a double points scoring weekend by stealing the last available championship point by crossing the line in tenth place.

British GT action (photo by Marc Waller)British GT action (photo by Marc Waller)Elsewhere United Autosports McLaren contingent had a disappointing race, both cars pitted within a lap of each other with front right punctures, and the #23 car of Alvaro Parente and Zak Brown was also subject to an eighteen seconds stop/go penalty for pitting outside of the mandatory pitstop window. A tough end to the weekend after managing to get all three cars home in the points in the day’s earlier race.

After losing their earlier victory, things didn’t improve for the drivers of the #33 Trackspeed Porsche, Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen. A rare mistake by Keen saw him run off track at Riches amidst a battle with Caine’s Motorbase Porsche. Despite starting from pole position, Stephen Jelley’s weekend saw him leave Norfolk empty-handed after a damaged front splitter and cracked exhaust, remnants of the earlier incident, prevented the Porsche dubbed the ‘Tartan Terror’ from featuring in a meaningful way, with Fisken retiring the car after 21 laps.

Having given CWS IDL their first GT3 points in race one (only the first two United Autosports cars scores counted towards the Teams points standings), Tom Sharp and Colin White were looking to open their personal points accounts. However a serious accident for Tom Sharp occurred through Coram when his Ginetta G55 sheared a wheel and catapulted the young British driver into the barriers on lap 16.

Richard Abra started the #80 Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for race two having missed out on any track time after team-mate Mark Poole’s altercations at turn one in the earlier race. A combination of problems caused Abra to retire the car after four laps, the most serious being a power steering fluid leak making the Aston undriveable.

The GT4 class again created arguably some of the best action on track during the 60-minute race. A fantastic battle in the class emerged during the second half of the race as Optimum Motorsport’s Rick Parfitt Jnr overcame a 20 second deficit to race leaders Matt Smith and Dan Eagling’s Redgate Lifetime Racing Ginetta G50.

Parfitt Jnr’s team-mate Ryan Ratcliffe had a battling early stint which saw the Welshman’s Ginetta stop on track and require two re-starts before it fired back into life, losing a minute to the lead car of Declan Jones and Zoe Wenham in the process.

Jones and Wenham were experiencing a tougher weekend by their standards and an unfortunate incident while being lapped by Rob Barff in the FF Corse Ferrari saw the two cars collide. Barff’s race was run but he and Eastwood laboured to a fifteenth place finish, Jones and Wenham could only must a fifth place finish in class which saw them concede their championship lead to Parfitt Jnr and Ratcliffe, albeit by just five minutes.

Local driver Dan Eagling had made the most of his experience and set up team-mate Matt Smith with a golden opportunity to take a class win, but what the GT4 class lacks in depth it has by abundance in quality, and the Optimum and APO Sport Ginettas pushed the Redgate Lifetime Racing driver hard, with James May first passing him and Parfitt Jnr getting the better of them both with two laps to spare.

The Aston Martin GT4 of Complete Racing built on its win at Rockingham and points score at Silverstone, netting twelve points for a fourth place finish in race two. This now means the Gloucestershire-based team are just 29 points off new class leaders Parfitt Jnr and Ratcliffe (108.5 pts) and 24 adrift of second-placed Wenham and Jones (103.5 pts).

The Avon Tyres British GT Championship now has a summer break, returning to action at the legendary Brands Hatch GP circuit in Kent on the second weekend in August (10 – 11 Aug), where the format changes back to a two-hour endurance race weekend.

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