Four teams fight for the British GT title

TF Sport take pole (Photo by Marc Waller)

TF Sport take pole (Photo by Marc Waller)There are four teams in contention for the drivers title this weekend,

(Ecurie Eccosse, Beechdean, Oman Racing [Griffin and Butcher] and Triple Eight) but it was the TF Sport Aston Martin that was on pole at the end of Saturday’s qualifying session as Andrew Jarmin and Jody Fanin came out on top.

Andrew Jarman had put them on top in the amateur session and Jody Fanin then extended their gap from the rest of the field in the professional’s session to put them very firmly on pole.

Andrew Jarman thought he’d got the maximum out of himself and the car;

“It was a good lap and there wasn’t much left out there. I only managed one lap in the dry on old tyres this morning but the team said to go out and banzai it, which I did! We’ve found and developed a really good set-up over the last three or four races, which gave me a chance to set a very good lap that, this time, was fortunately good enough for pole. Jody also did a great job to make sure of it. There’s a title scrap going on behind us tomorrow so hopefully they can worry about battling each other while we get away at the front.”

Jody Fanin was surprised at his pace especially considering he hadn’t raced on the circuit for a while;

“It was a little bit of a surprise, to be honest, because I didn’t do a dry lap earlier today and haven’t raced on the GP layout since 2012. Obviously Andrew did a fantastic job in his session but I didn’t feel like mine was amazing. Every corner was an adventure because I didn’t know where the braking points were; there was some guess work involved! But I went purple on my last lap before the red flags came out so it went about as well as could have been expected. It’s taken a while but, as a team, we feel like it’s come together over the last few races.”

Beechdean were their closest rivals with Andrew Howard just 0.5 seconds off in the amateur session with an excellent time that would have been quick enough for eighth amongst the professionals and on any other day it probably would have gained him pole if it hadn’t been for TF Sport’s pace. Still Howard was pleased to be the first of the title contenders on the grid
“We’ve done a good job but the reality is that the 20-second success penalty will be a killer. We need a clean first 50 minutes and then, I hate to say it, a Safety Car to have a chance. It would be nice if the last 15 minutes were Sims and Jonny showing everyone why they’re some of the top Pro drivers in the country, albeit with Jonny coming out on top! I’d also be happy if it rains, but don’t think we’ll get it. With the way Sims is driving at the moment it’s still definitely his and Attard’s title to lose.”

The new GT4 champions were third (Photo by Marc Waller) Triple Eight are third (Photo by Marc Waller) Pro Sport Cyman is a guest entry (Photo by Marc Waller) One of the LNT Ginettas made it inside the top ten (Photo by Marc Waller)

It was title outsiders Triple Eight next up on the grid with both drivers laps contributing to a strong performance but with Beechdean ahead of them and their other rivals not far behind, they probably remain outsiders. Still, Lee Mowle is feeling very positive about their race and possibly title chances;

“Third’s not bad and we can definitely race from there. Howard’s got what, 20 seconds? So yeah, we’ll just get past him at Turn 1…! Hats off to Andrew Jarman for that lap; he’s done really well the last two weekends. I love this circuit and we seem really quick through the first part in particular so it’ll be interesting, especially as the other title contenders are either starting behind us or will be after the pit-stops. It’s tough to overtake safely around here, too, so that’s in our favour.”

Next up were the two Barwell cars with the Team Russia car ahead of the title chasing Ecurie Eccose car. Both Barwell cars had their pro drivers to thanks for their grid positions with both cars moving up considerably after the pro session. Alexander Sims moved the Ecurie Eccose car up to fifth from eleventh. Barwell have regularly sprung surprises from starting positions a bit further back so they are still very much in with a strong chance of a good result and the championship victory in Sunday’s race.

The morning’s practice sessions had seen a wet track in both, the first due to overnight rain and then the second session was interrupted by a heavy rain shower. This had made the track very slippery and although it was dry by the start of qualifying, the grip levels were still catching drivers out. Liam Griffin was one such driver but fortunately for him, his co driver Rory Butcher salvaged their grid slot with a great lap in his session putting them eighth overall but behind all their title rivals.

Academy took the fight to Issy in Gt4 (Photo by Marc Waller) Beechdean were the fastest title contenders (Photo by Marc Waller) Ecurie Ecosse have given themselves more work to do (Photo by Marc Waller) Issy take GT4 pole (Photo by Marc Waller) Griffin and Butcher are further back than theyd like (Photo by Marc Waller)

Onto the rest of the grid and TF Sport put their second car in sixth with a strong performance from the drivers. Derek Johnston set a very competitive lap time and then Matt Bell backed it up with the second fastest lap of his session boosting them up the field.

The Von Ryan Mclaren of Ross Wylie and Andrew Watson is seventh. Wylie, who was last year’s GT4 champion, has had a difficult year often through no fault of his own and they were taken out twice by their team mate early in the season. Seventh was a solid performance and comfortably ahead of their Von Ryan team mates Yoluc and Euan Hankey who had just missed out on the top ten in eleventh.

Behind Oman Racing’s title contenders in eighth were Team LNT. Rick Parfitt Jr and Tom Olliphant have had a difficult season and they’ll be hoping to finally get a good result but they had a much better time than the other LNT Ginetta which spun off during the session with Steve Tandy at the wheel. This meant Mike Simpson never even got to drive putting them in sixteenth at the rear of the GT3 portion of the grid.

22GT Racing took the final slot in the top ten in their Aston Martin, Jon Barnes and Mark Farmer at the controls. Farmer, the amateur driver hadn’t ever done a dry lap on the Donington GP circuit before qualifying so tenth was a good result in the circumstances.

There is one Notable driver change this weekend with Bradley Ellis replacing Alistair Mackinnon in the RAM Racing Mercedes. Ellis had been racing for Twisted Team Parker in GT4 earlier in the season. He was drafted in at the last minute to replace Mckinnon who has business commitments. Plato (No relation to the BTCC star) was pleased to welcome his new team mate;
“It has been a difficult season. Despite our best efforts, we have never been able to achieve the optimum-qualifying set-up on the car. This has hurt us in the races and made the job on track difficult. Having Bradley join us for the final round is great, and I am looking forward to seeing what we can do in the race.”

They ended up thirteenth so it appears they still were unable to find the optimum qualifying set up!

With Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn already crowned as GT4 champions, there is no title show down here but all the drivers are as eager as ever to get a good result.

It was Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw in the Issy Racing Lotus Evora that emerged on top by the end of the session, taking their sixth pole of the season and the third in a row.

Yusuf was happy to take another pole and wants to turn it into something more;

“I managed a late 1m36s in practice but didn’t get the lap I wanted in qualifying. Yeah, it’s great to secure another pole, but I take a lot of pride in my racing. Gavan’s my benchmark and I like to be as close to him as I can. It’s a personal thing because I want to improve all the time. So just over a second’s difference between us here is disappointing. I should be half of that at most. I really want to get the win tomorrow to secure Pro/Am and prove that we’ve only lost the overall GT4 title through bad luck rather than speed.”

Kershaw explained their consistency;

“The Evora GT4’s effectively four years old and we’ve not changed much since day one. It’s just been a case of evolving what we have. I think the Avon tyres have been a bigger bonus for us this year than any other car, especially in qualifying when we use the rears hard, although that can count against us in race trim over two hours. This run of poles is no accident; it’s only possible because of the effort we put in. We were here last week testing everything from tyres to dampers to wing settings. And that’s why we can go out and do one lap that’s good enough for pole.”

Surprisingly their closest rivals for pole were the Academy Motorsport duo of Will Moore and Dennis Strandberg rather than the newly crowned champions of Chadwick and Gunn, who line up third.

It was Moore and Strandberg’s best qualifying of the season with the duo finding extra pace during the Brands Hatch round, they’ve kept getting stronger ever since and look set to be title contenders if they return to GT4 in 2016. Strandberg felt he could have gone faster;

“The track had completely dried from earlier in the day and there was a lot of grip, actually. But the best lap is usually your first and I didn’t get 100% out of it. We’re pretty happy regardless because at the last couple of rounds we’ve been two seconds behind the ISSY Racing Lotus and here we were only five tenths, so that’s a big achievement for us. We’re also the fastest [GT4] Aston here, which means something. Donington suits the Vantage so we’ll be going all out to end our season on a high. I think we’re due a good result.”

The Amateur GT4 session had to be stopped when both Graham Coomes AMD Tuning Porsche and Ian Stinton’s Century Motorsport Ginetta ened up in the gravel in separate incidents. This badly affected both their qualifying sessions although Coomes was rescued by Jake Hill in his session bossting the pair up to eighth on the grid overall.

Fourth is a guest entry, a Porsche Cayman from German Team ProSport driven by Henry Hassid and British driver Adam Christadolou. It was Christadolou who boosted the car to it’s excellent fourth place on the grid. Fifth was the Century Motorsport Ginetta of Aleksander Schjerpen and Fredrik Blomstedt. Sixth was the similar Ginetta of Jamie Stanley and Paul McNeilly. Mcnielly is rejoining the team after missing Snetterton where Fulvio Mussi stood in.

Another Ginetta was next in seventh, the Optimum Motorsport car of Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson who had been title rivals to Chadwick and Gunn.

Eighth as already mentioned, are AMD Tuning with the Stratton/Ultratek Lotus of Tim Eakin and Jamie Wall ninth.

Tenth spot was another Aston, the JWB machine of Kieran Griffin and Jake Giddings.

The championship’s other female racer, Anna Walewska found herself down in fourteenth with team mate Rob Garofall. They had been as high as third in practice and so they’ll be looking to fight back up the field in the race behind the wheel of their Bolton University RLR Ginetta.

The race tomorrow will be broadcast live on Motors TV (Freeview 71 & 240, Sky 447 and Virgin Media 545). Tickets are available on the gate if you want to see the dramatic title conclusion in person.

One of the four teams will tomorrow evening be crowned British GT3 champions and with a tough battle for the final GT4 race victory also going on, it’s sure to be an exciting race.

Full results from today are available from the official British GT timers, TSL Timing By Marc Waller

 

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