But a combination of some bad luck with safety car timing and some brilliant race strategy by the FF Corse team saw Rob Barff and Gary Eastwood snatch the victory from the BMW pairing.
Attard had got a great start from pole and had raced off into quite a big lead. With the pitstop window about to open, everything seemed fully under control for the Barwell run Ecurie Ecosse team. But at just the wrong time for the team the safety car was scrambled meaning Attards comfortable six second lead was now nothing. Most teams now brought their cars in for their mandatory pitstops and driver changes straight away but the FF Corse team gambled leaving Gary Eastwood out. This put the Ferrari at the end of the field and with the Gaw/Dryburgh getting beached there was a second safety car. The Ferrari had a two lap lead so when he now came in to swap with Barff, there was plenty of time to stop and resume in the lead as the field were held by the safety car.
Things nearly fell apart for Barff and FF Corse as they were given a drive through penalty for ignoring a red light in the pitlane during their stop but such was their advantage that they remained ahead. Alexander Sims was now at the wheel of the Ecosse BMW which had dropped to fifth during the pitstops but Sims was clearly in no mood to hang around as he sliced through the field to go from fifth to second in a few laps. He then tried to catch Barff but it was a hopeless task. As the time ran out and the FF Corse Ferrari crossed the line, Barff had won by just over eighteen seconds.
The Ecosse BMW took an easy second having pulled away from the competition. The similar Triple 8 run BMW of Derek Johnston and Luke Hines was eventually classified third but things were far from straight forward during the race. They had a battle with four Astons, The Beachdean car of Andrew Howard and Johnny Adam, Mark Poole and Richard Abra in the MP Motorsport car, the Oman racing team car of Ahmed Al Harthy and Michael Caine and a third Aston from the Strata 21 team.
Paul White’s team had changed to the Aston since Oulton park where they had run a Nissan GTR. The team had decided that although the Nissan was fast at the hands of white and former BTCC star Onslow Cole, it had problems and an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 was a better car to challenge for the title. There was also another change with the other Oman racing Aston with Rory Bryant getting a new team mate. John Hartshorne was replaced for Rockingham by another former BTCC driver, Liam Griffin. Because of the late change of entry, the team were made to start from the back and Liam Griffin also had to miss one of the practice sessions.
One of the Aston’s was put out of contention during it’s pitstop through no fault of the team. The safety car had come out during it’s stop and they were then wrongly held at the end of the pitlane. By the time they rejoined they were out of contention, Caine managing to fight back up the order and take tenth place by the chequered flag.
At this point Richard Lyons was also in contention with the Ferrari 458 he shares with Pathin Lathouras and actually finished third at the end of the race but they were then hit by a ten second penalty as Lyons was judged to be at fault for an incident with John Minshaw and they dropped to seventh. Also suffering from post race penalties were the Tiple 8 car of Lee Mowle and Joe Osbourne.
So fighting for what would eventually be fourth were Strata 21, Beachdean and Mp Motorsport. Tom Onslow Cole proved why he is so highly rated getting to the head of the Astons with the Beachdean car hanging on behind while also fending off the Poole/Abra Mp motorsport car.
This was how they were eventually classified. Eighth and ninth were the Dhillon/Scott Ferrari 458 just ahead of the Bailey/Schulz Aston.
Sir Chris Hoy and his team mate Alex Buncombe had looked set for a top ten result early in the race but a collision with one of the Trackspeed Porsches of Keen and Minshaw pushed them down the order. They eventually finished in thirteenth place.
In Gt4 things were just as eventful. Parfit jr andOlliphants Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 had lead from the class pole before a broken driveshaft put them out of contention. Ross Wylie and Jake Giddings then took over the class lead in their Beachdean Aston Vantage Gt4.
They too then struck problems. Wylie got a drive through penalty for over taking under yellows. They fought back from this only to have to make a second pitstop for fuel when a technical fault had left them short in their first stop. They held on to second place but their lead and the win was then taken by Oli Basey-Fisher and Matt Nicholl-Jones in the Academy Motorsport Ginetta G55. The Devon Modell and Andrew Jarman Vantage GT4 avoided trouble to claim the final podium spot in the class.
The championship now heads to Silverstone at the end of May/beginning of June for a three hour race. Attard and Sims lead the GT3 championship and Giddings and Wylie lead GT4. By Marc Waller