It was a case of second-time lucky at Brands Hatch, as Beechdean AMR pair Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard took a dominant victory in an exhilarating two-hour Avon Tyres British GT Championship race at the famous Kent circuit.
Ryan Ratcliffe and Rick Parfitt Jnr took a third GT4 win in as many races and extended their class lead.
A brief rain shower an hour before the race threatened to meddle with proceedings, instead the 2.613 mile circuit was basked in a mini-heatwave, and after the one minute ‘roar’ in remembrance of Allan Simonsen was complete, a thrilling race got underway.
Steve Tandy started the 888Optimum BMW Z4 he shares with Dan Brown from pole-position and led the field into the treacherous Paddock Hill Bend, but come Graham Hill Bend it was different story and Howard’s Aston slipped inside before powering away to build his lead.
Several drivers came to grief early on; Mtech’s Derek Johnston was a victim of early contact on the Grand Prix loop, Gary Eastwood made contact with Lee Mowle, the FF Corse driver retired, Mowle dropped down the order. Phil Dryburgh spun the PGF-Kinfaun AMR Aston Martin Vantage after making a good start and was unable to rejoin, and Gregor Fisken was a spinner after two bouts of contact, firstly with Mark Patterson’s United Autosports Audi, the second with the Preci-Spark McLaren of David Jones.
With Howard beginning to build a lead, fellow BMW racer, Marco Attard in the Ecurie Ecosse car, prepared by former British GT Champions Barwell Motorsport, joined Tandy. Colin White was up to fourth in the CWS 4×4 Spares and IDL liveried Ginetta G55, he and co-driver Tom Sharp making some wholesale changes to the car over the weekend had found a race setup that suited the demanding high-speed GP circuit. The Ginetta stalwart stalked the two BMWs before making a suitably opportunistic move at Graham Hill for third on Attard, and a similarly successful manoeuvre on Tandy’s Z4 two laps later.
Mark Poole in the Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage was excelling, despite only haven driven the GP circuit a handful of times. Indeed, Poole set the fastest lap of the first half of the race, but not before an adventurous move on Jon Minshaw’s Trackspeed Porsche for fifth at Druids saw the 997 GT3 R driver drop to eleventh.
Up front, White’s Ginetta took the lead of the race from Howard, but shortly after overshot at Surtees, handing the lead straight back to the Aston Martin racer. Just behind them was Demoustier, who was in sensational form today. The Von Ryan Racing driver who started nineteenth on the grid made light work of those ahead, eventually leading the race.
Elsewhere, a recovering drive by Minshaw saw him do battle with brother Jason in the Fortec Mercedes AMG SLS; the Fortec driver would emerge victorious on this occasion.
A huge accident for United Autosports’ Zak Brown saw the American’s McLaren pitch violently off the circuit at Hawthorn following a puncture. Brown emerged unscathed, the same couldn’t be said for the McLaren which had heavy rear-end damage.
Championship leader David Ashburn had a torrid start to the race and slid backwards through the field. When the pit window opened after 50 minutes, the Trackspeed boss caused chaos by driving past the Trackspeed garages, pitting between the PGF-Kinfaun and FF Corse pit boxes, then getting boxed in when those team’s cars pitted.
The 2010 British GT Champion later blamed the error, which cost him three laps on his age and announced he didn’t think he had won too many friends with the move. He returned a lap later to handover to team-mate Nick Tandy, but the Porsche Factory hardly got into his groove before a transmission issue saw him retire. Ashburn received a fine of £500 and a licence endorsement for his misdemeanour.
It was a tough weekend for the multiple British GT Champions, Trackspeed. Coming into the weekend the Surrey-based team had taken four wins in six races, but there wouldn’t be any further wins this weekend. Fisken and Jelley pushed on with their battered Porsche, eventually succumbing in the second half of the race when the rear tyres melted due to bent bodywork forcing hot exhaust gases directly onto them.
With pit stops complete, Adam, now in for Howard, was leading the race after a close dice with Tappy, in for Demoustier, at Paddock Hill Bend as the Von Ryan Racing driver exited the pits. From there the Aston Martin driver disappeared into the distance and the race was his to lose, and after coming so close last season, you couldn’t imagine the Scottish driver putting a win in danger.
The battle for second place however was anything but over. Tappy soaked up immense pressure in his stint and looked drained after the race. His race consisted of defending from the ominous threat of Olly Bryant and Dan Brown who proceeded to switch places.
In the latter half of the race Tappy’s mirrors became filled solely with Bryant’s BMW as the 888Optimum driver made a rare error, and then got weigh laid with Team WRT’s Warren Hughes who was in this race a back marker following issues earlier in the race for team-mate Rembert Berg.
Oman Air Motorbase’s Michael Caine, the reigning British Champion held fifth from Phil Keen in the #33 Trackspeed Porsche. Ben Hetherington excelled once more in the Fortec Mercedes SLS and put in a dogged display from an equally determined Richard Abra in the Barwell Aston Martin that Poole had used to great effect an hour earlier.
A late clash between Abra and the GT4 Aston Martin of Steve Chaplin saw both head to the gravel trap at Clearways; the GT4 driver rejoined, but Abra, now behind United Autosports’ Bell after a great move by the Geordie on lap 54, retired with significant damage to the GT3 Vantage.
Tappy held onto second at the flag and Bryant did enough to beat Brown who had overturned the fifteen second success penalty in the mandatory pitstop, the #888 888Optimum car again in the points, unlucky to miss out on a third podium in four races. Hetherington finished fifth and had one of his strongest British GT performances today, but a podium wasn’t going to be on offer despite the Cheshire-born youngster reeling in the BMWs ahead by the flag.
Another driver who got baulked by the WRT Audi was Bell, the United Autosports racer finished sixth, some two seconds off the Fortec Mercedes ahead. Twelve seconds up the road was Caine, continuing a sensational run of points scoring in every race this season, he and co-driver Ahmad Al Harthy continue to be a force to be reckoned with despite the additional weight they carry for their Silver/Gold graded partnership.
AF Corse’s John Dhillon and Aaron Scott finished an impressive eighth, whilst John Gaw and Phil Dryburgh’s PGF-Kinfaun AMR Aston was ninth and the beaten-up 888Optimum of Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle staged a huge fight back to finish tenth, albeit a lap down.
Today’s results make for a fascinating change in the points standings, and it’s Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard who leads the way with 95.5 points from team-mate Jonny Adam who has 89.5. Adam dropped six points at the beginning of the meeting when the Race Director deemed his collision at the previous meeting avoidable, giving the Beechdean driver two points on his licence, which equates to six points removed from the standings. Behind the Beechdean pair it’s Ecurie Ecosse’s Bryant and Attard (89 points) in third with United Autosports’ Patterson and Bell next up with 79.5 points.
GTC entrants Jacques Duyver and Charlie Hollings just about made it to the flag after running as high as fourteenth. The FF Corse Ferrari had hydraulic issues and the team decided to sit out the final eight minutes, but did make it out to take part in the last lap.
In GT4, Rick Parfitt Jnr and Ryan Ratcliffe were victorious for the third race in succession, taking a commanding win from APO Sport’s James May and Alex Osborne. Parfitt Jnr made a customary electric start and took APO’s May with him, as Matt Smith in the Redgate Lifetime Ginetta fell prey to Century Motorsport’s Zoe Wenham, Blendini’s Rory Bryant and Tom Wilson in the Complete Racing Aston Martin.
Bryant’s Blendini car looked fast and the Scotsman quite literally blew the doors off his car as he made his way up the order; a freak accident saw his G50 shed it’s right-hand door at speed, with it landing square in the middle of the faltering Team LNT GT3 car of Mike Simpson, smashing the G55’s windscreen and other debris gauging a whole in the radiator. Needless to say, both cars retired almost instantly.
Wenham had a tough opening hour with her Ginetta visibly sliding out of some of the corners; this did cause the top female GT driver to go off track on more than one occasion.
Parfitt Jnr, with a taste for victory after two hard-fought finishes on the top step last time out at Snetterton, handed team-mate Ratcliffe a healthy lead. The Welshman built on this further and at its biggest the gap to APO Sport was some thirty seconds.
Following Chaplin’s altercation with Abra, third place was safely Eagling’s and the Redgate Lifetime driver crossed the line one lap down on Osborne, but two laps ahead of the Aston.
The win puts Ratcliffe and Parfitt Jr 27.5 points ahead of their closest rivals, Declan Jones and Zoe Wenham who took fifth, despite enduring their trickiest weekend of the season.
The next round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship is in four weeks when the teams and drivers head to Holland for a maiden visit to the historic coastal circuit, Zandvoort (6-8 Aug). Photos by Marc Waller