British GT 2015 is go with two exciting Easter Monday races at Oulton Park

Race one start (photo by Marc Waller)The British GT championship certainly returned with a bang on Easter Monday as two action packed races wowed the big crowds at Oulton Park in Cheshire.

As the first race got underway, it was Liam Griffin that lead into the first corner from pole, closely followed by the FF Corse Ferrari but by the next corner, three cars were already in the gravel, including the Von Ryan Racing Mclaren of Salih Yoluc. This incident was significant as later when Yoluc was being lapped he held up Liam Griffin, which Griffin blamed for then losing the lead of the race at the pitstops. Contact with rival Eastwood in the FF Corse Ferrari just before the pitstops can’t have helped either and the two cars close battling was to have a more significant impact on the race later on as it continued with the cars other drivers.

Yoluc’s Mclaren hadn’t stopped getting involved in controversy and he caused the Beachdean Aston Martin to spin while lapping him. He was then hit by Oman Racing’s Ahmad Al Harthy putting both cars out. The other Von Ryan Mclaren of Ross Wylie and Andrew Watson crashed out by itself putting the car out for the day.

Further carnage occurred at cascades mid-race as the TF Sport Aston Martin of Derek Johnston and Alistair Mackinnon’s Ram racing Mercedes clashed. The Ecurie Eccose BMW of Marco Attard slammed on the brakes to avoid the incident ahead but unsighted, the sister Team Russia by Barwell BMW ran into the back of them, putting both cars out and leaving the Barwell team with a race against time to fix both Z4’s before race two. But surprisingly after a pit visit, the Ecurie Ecosse car was sent out to finish race 1. The back was severely caved in but it ran. Incredibly, not only did Attard and Sims finish, but they did so in sixth place!

All these incidents inevitably caused a long safety car period. By now the FF Corse car was leading with Adam Carroll at the wheel with Joe Osbourne in the triple Eight BMW and Rory Butcher now at the wheel of the Oman Aston shared with Griffin.

Carroll managed to pull clear of the other two and it looked like Osbourne would take second but he got stuck behind a lapped car on the final lap, letting Butcher through to second.

After the race and the podium had taken place the stewards then ruled that the FF Corse Ferrari had blocked the Griffin/Butcher Aston and they were penalised dropping them to second and promoting Griffin and Butcher to the win. Lee Mowle and Joe Osbourne remained third. Mat Jackson finished his first ever British GT race in fourth in the car he’s sharing with Phil Dryburgh. Fifth was Hector Lestor and Benny Simonsen in their Ferrari ahead of the Ecurie Ecosse BMW after it’s incredible recovery from the earlier shunt.

Griffin (Speaking before the stewards decision) was pleased with how his race had gone;

“It went well. I think you expect it to be quite busy out there – the first one of the season, I think everyone got a bit excited. But we got away nicely, got a bit of clear air. Getting mixed up with some backmarkers held us up a bit. But, race-wise, the car was brilliant. The team has done a great job and Rory set it up perfectly for me, so we had a good run at it.”

GT4 had been initially lead by Issy Racing’s Gavan Kershaw and Oz Yusuf in their Lotus Evora GT4 but a safety car and a mis-timed pitstop saw them end up sixth. Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson’s Ginetta G55 GT4 took the honours on their British GT debut ahead of Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn in the Beachdean Aston Martin GT4. Chadwick, having her first senior race after competing in Ginetta Juniors did an incredible job considering her lack of experience beating many drivers who’ve been racing for years. Third were Terry Langley and Mike Hart in another Aston Martin Vantage GT4. BTCC team boss, Shaun Hollamby was another driver having a good debut, finishing fourth in the AMD Tuning.com Porsche 911 Gt4. Fifth were Aleksander Schjerpen and James Birch who lost out when they received a stop go penalty for making too short of a pitstop. The all sister team of Jade and Chloe Edwards had an eventful first race but finished further down the order than they’d hoped. It was still a finish though and a positive start to their British GT season.

The GT4 winners were happy with their race but hadn’t been so pleased with their qualifying session;

Graham Johnson;
“I think before qualifying we thought we might get a win, but neither Mike or I had a great session and we were where we were. We’ve both been racing a long time and that experience showed today. We had good pace, and although I didn’t know we’d get a win, we looked strong when I pitted and it looked promising for a podium. I think when we saw we jumped a place in the pit stops we knew then that Mike could win because he was quicker than the guy in front. As it happened, he got a penalty, which made it even easier, but I think we would’ve done it anyway.”

Mike Robinson added his thoughts;
“In qualifying we weren’t where we wanted to be. I think Graham and I were both aiming higher than that; pole might have been out of reach this weekend, but we were certainly targeting a top five. Graham did a fantastic first stint and did a lot of the hard work for me, then Optimum did such a great stop for us. I looked in the mirror as I left the pit and saw we’d just got the jump on the Beechdean Aston; I knew they’d done a fantastic job and I couldn’t let them down with any mistakes. Thankfully the car was good, it felt nice and consistent and I got my head down and built up a lead. Really pleased with the result, more of the same hopefully in race two.”

Race two saw several cars missing from the gird after the race one shunts but also several cars were seemingly back from the dead including Andrew Howard and Johnny Adam’s Beachdean Aston Martin Vantage GT3. This led away from pole with Adam at the wheel but had huge pressure from Adam Carroll in the FF Corse Ferrari. The two, joined by the rebuilt Team Russia by Barwell BMW driven by Phil Keen pulled away from the rest of the field. Caroll then made a move through Old Hall as they started the tenth lap to take the lead. But when the pit stops came the Ferrari lost the lead, not helped by their extra 15 second stop time, a penalty for their win in race one. (At this stage they were still officially the winners!)

The team Russia BMW crashed out again, leaving the Barwell team with little over 24 hours to rebuild the car before it has to leave to take part in the European Blancpain championship in Italy the following weekend. So the Beachdean car re-took the lead and despite receiving a stop-go penalty for making a pit stop that was too short, they took the win. The Griffin/Butcher and Osbourne/Mowle cars also received stop go penalties for the same offences leaving second palce to the works Ginetta G55 GT3 of Mike Simpson and Steve Tandy. Third was the Ecurie Ecosse BMW of Attard and Sims, giving some reward to the hard working Barwell mechanics who had repaired two heavily damaged cars in the gap between the races. Fourth were Griffin and Butcher with Mowle and Osbourne fifth. The FF Corse car ended up sixth.

Beachdean Boss Howard was delighted;
“I think today sums up motor racing in a way! You have good and bad luck. There was some fantastic teamwork from the guys today; goodness only knows how they got the car back on track! Jonny had a nightmare at the pit-stop, we changed all four tyres and still got a penalty for being too fast, so an impressive performance all round, I think!”

Team mate Adam was also positive after coming back from their race one disaster

“It was good to win after the disaster from race one! The car wasn’t 100% but a really impressive effort from the team meant it was ready in an hour-and-a-half. I struggled with the rear of the car a bit and had a little moment, but it was good enough and a great result.”

The Gt4 battle was this time taken by the Issy Racing Lotus, Yusuf and Kershaw making a much better call on strategy this time. Second initially were Chadwick and Gunn, but Jamie was sadly excluded for a driving infringement, something which she felt was harsh as she described it as unintentional. This put race one Gt4 winners Johnson and Robinson in second with Fox Motorsport’s Jamie Stanley and Paul Mcneilly in third.

Shaun Hollamby didn’t have such a good race this time and in the early stages he had a collision with Jade Edwards going into Cascades which sent the Porsche bouncing through the gravel. Hollamby rejoined but it soon became clear the car was too damage to continue. Jade survived the encounter but the car may have had hidden problems from it as her and later sister Chloe dropped down the order. They managed to finish though, giving them valuable experience to take to the next round.

The second meeting of the championship is at Rockingham near Corby in Northhamptonshire. Advance tickets are available.

FF Corse won there last year but the Aston Martin’s and BMW’s go well there too. In GT4 Jamie Chadwick will be looking for more podiums and the Edwards Sisters will be looking to build on their double finishes at Oulton.

There’ll be a third team featuring a female driver as Anna Walewska joins the championship in the Bolton Universtity Ginetta G55. The car is brand new having been delivered to the team on the Thursday after Oulton. Her co-driver is the experienced and quick Rob Garofall and the pairing will be looking for success as soon as possible. They won’t have chance for testing though so will have to set up the car as they go. Rockingham is a tough track to make your debut on so it will be interesting to see where they slot in among the GT4 field and who comes out on top among the championships Girl racers.

Full results for Oulton are available on TSL timing.  By Marc Waller
Race 1
 
Race 2

The Team Russia by Barwell car needed rebuilding. twice (photo by Marc Waller) The Edwards sisters didn't get the result they wanted but they did get two finishes (photo by Marc Waller) The Battered Barwell BMW heads to sixth and even managed a podium in race two (photo by Marc Waller) Never a good thing in a race (photo by Marc Waller) Race two start (photo by Marc Waller) Mat Jackson had a strong debut (photo by Marc Waller) Just before the team mates collided (photo by Marc Waller) Jamie has her pitstop - she had a great weekend (photo by Marc Waller) Hollamby and Edwards have just collided and Hollamby is headed for the gravel (photo by Marc Waller) GT4 race two winners Issy racing (photo by Marc Waller) Race one winners or not as it turned out (photo by Marc Waller) Race one GT4 winners (photo by Marc Waller) Race one winners after post race judgements (photo by Marc Waller)

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