Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen took an impressive win from tenth on the grid after an inspired pit strategy from their Barwell team saw their Demon Tweeks Lamborghini in front by the end of the three hour race.
It was the duo’s second podium after a third place at Oulton Park. It was their first win since the 2014 season finale at Donington Park.
One of the events that helped the Demon Tweeks duo win came at the begining of the race which started with several laps under the safety car due to incredibly wet weather. Barwell pitted all three of their cars straight away which meant they got one of their mandatory three pitstops out the way early without losing much time due to the slow safety car running. The only downside was that they were now at the back of the pack and so would need to do a lot of passing. But they also swapped drivers meaning that Phil Keen was now behind the wheel of the Demon Tweeks car when most of their rivals had their amateur drivers on board. While it was wet, Keen was able to lap as much as ten seconds a lap quicker than some of the Amateur level drivers.
Jon Minshaw, was happy to win a race again; “I can’t remember the last time I was on the top of the podium! We knew if we could get in and out of the pits and rejoin the Safety Car crocodile without being lapped that we’d be ok. Race Control made the right call with the middle Safety Car because it was pretty treacherous. Without slowing the race down and clearing the track could have resulted in carnage.”
Phil Keen added; “Jon did all the hard work in the middle stints; I just had to cruise around and make sure the rest didn’t get too close. Liam [Griffin] going out with contact really helped because he and Alex [Sims] would have been our main competitors.”
Tolman Motorsport’s Ginetta of Ian Stinton and Mike Simpson looked like being a rival for the win for a while as they had also made an early stop in their G55 putting Mike Simpson behind the wheel. A second safety car period put the Tolman car into the lead. The sister car with Luke Davenport at the wheel also climbed up the order with the two running one-two for a while.
But the track was now drying and the Barwell team again made the right call with the Demon Tweeks car stopping for sticks very early on. Phil Keen now closed on the leading Ginettas with ease as they were still running wets.
Another team with a quick car in the conditions were AMD Tuning. Lee Mowle had driven exceptionally well in the opening stint to put them well up the field and when Joe Osbourne took over he was one of the quickest cars in the field. They made one slip up later in the race when they stopped for wets just when slicks were needed but Osbourne’s incredible pace saw him passing the Ginetta’s, the new for this race FF Corse Ferrari with Adam Carroll at the wheel and Matt Bell in the Ecurie Ecosse Mclaren. He now had the Optimum Motorsport Audi to catch with Ryan Rattcliffe at the wheel. The Audi was another car thriving in the wet conditons with first Will Moore and then Ryan Ratcliffe going well and even leading at one point. But now with a damp and drying track Osbourne was closing. With fourteen minutes to go the gap was still twenty seven seconds but Osbourne’s pace got quicker still and he set the fastest lap of the race; 2:04.374 winning the Sunoco fastest lap award. He passed the Audi with two laps to go leaving the AMD Tuning BMW with a brilliant second place.
“We probably lost a minute with the extra stop but I’ve always liked racing in wet conditions, right back to my time in karting. The track seemed to be changing on every lap and I could see the gap to Adam [Carroll], Rob [Bell] and Ryan [Ratcliffe] was diminishing. In those circumstances you just have to go for it. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Race Control got their Safety Car decisions spot on today. The conditions were dreadful at times.”
Adam Caroll and Rob Bell were battling for what was fourth and fifth in their FF Corse Ferrari and the Ecurie Ecosse Mclaren but unsually for two cars racing each other, they were still very quick with them both catching and passing the Optimum Motorsport Audi on the final lap. Caroll made it into third to get on the podium with team mate Marco Attard;a second ahead at the end leaving the Mclaren of Rob Bell and Alisdair McCaig in fourth.
Attard was thrilled to take a podium on his return to the championship with a new car and team; “It was great to be out there in the Ferrari. Adam drove a great race while I focused on staying safe in the tricky conditions. It’s been a great weekend with a great team and co-driver, so I’m really happy. But Adam was the star today!”
The Motorbase Aston Martin took sixth with Phil Dryburgh going well in the wet and Ross Wylie’s solid stint leaving them well in the top ten. Dryburgh’s opening stint earned him the Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend Award.
The first of the Tolman Motorsport Ginettas ended up in seventh with Simpson and Stinton disapointed that their efforts weren’t rewarded with a podium. Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes survived a scary moment on the pit straight as the car spun to take eighth place, their team mates Jonny Adam and Derek Johnston retired after a collision but still narrowly lead the championship. Eighth was the Beechdean Aston Martin of Ross Gunn and Andrew Howard, they made a late race gamble and pitted for wets when it appeared it was about to rain heavily again but it stopped and they lost loads of time having to return to the pits for more slicks. Had the weather gone their way, they may have been winners.
Tenth was the other Tolman Ginetta of Pattison and Davenport.
But what of the other two Barwell Lamborghinis? All three had made the same early pit stop but both were taken out by other cars. Griffin and Sims car was hit by a European GT4 car putting that out with broken suspension and the Abra/Poole entry which had joined the championship for this race was hit by a GT3 rival causing it to retire with significant rear end damage. Barwell may well have filled all three podium slots without these incidents
The Pole sitters, Rick Parfitt Jr and Seb Morris had a nightmare race. Parfitt Jr struggled early on in the wet conditions and then when Seb Morris took over, he had a run in with a GT4 car causing him to go wide. He hit a bump in the grass causing terminal damage to the Bentley. Team Parker had a lot of work to do all weekend with both Bentleys needing repair work, Parfitt Jr had a crash in warm up and the other team car had mechanical issues. Their hard work earned them the PMW Expo Team of the weekend award.
In GT4 things were just as fraught as the front runners. A thirty three car GT4 field started the race with European GT4 championship cars joining the championship for this race.
The early battle for the lead was between the Ecurie Ecosse Mclaren with Sandy Mitchell at the wheel and the Beechdean Junior Aston driven by Jack Bartholomew. Bartholomew took the lead going around the outside of a wet Copse corner. Behind in third was the Ebor GT Maserati of Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton. Hoggarth was behind the wheel for the first stint with Eaton taking over later.
The first safety car period of the race was to prove important as the RCIB Insurance Ginetta of Robert Barrable and Aron Mason made up half a lap with a good pit stop during which Barrable took over from Mason.
Barrable is a former rally driver and his expertise in low grip conditions was a huge advantage putting the car into a comfortable lead. They made their final stop when they changed drivers back to Mason at just the right time giving them the win by eighteen seconds.
Barrable wasn’t expecting to win; “When you look at the entry list you think ‘Jesus!’. Just being in the mix would have been nice so did we honestly expect to win? No. But we had a good strategy and worked hard on the car yesterday to find a consistent set-up. The pit-stops were perfect and we took the right tyres at the right time. I managed to get down to a good dry time pretty quickly, which really helped over the final stint.”
Mason was similarly surprised to win; “I look back and can’t think where we found the time! After I pitted and Rob jumped in the car we gained some time on the leaders, which we managed to maintain throughout the race, dropping back and then jumping forwards again as the other pit-stop strategies played out. The team did a great job.”
In second place was Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke in the Century Motorsport Ginetta. They had a trouble free race and fought through the field to equal their best result of the season after some bad luck in recent races.
Walewska spoke afterwards; “We knew from Rockingham that we were capable of coming through from a lowly grid slot, so we didn’t have anything to lose today. I haven’t done much wet weather testing in the car but the set-up was great and that gave me confidence. Nathan was absolutely ballistic and the team knew exactly when to call us in and what tyres we needed to be on. Hats off to the team for that and Nathan’s storming drive at the end.”
The Beechdean Aston ended up third but that result gives the duo of Bartholomew and Jordan the championship lead back from Robinson and Johnson.
Batholomew spoke about his early move to take the lead; “I saw Sandy [Mitchell] was a little compromised by the GT3s so had a go around the outside of Copse, which has more grip in the wet, and then lead the first stint from then onwards. I was really happy with that given we’ve had so little time in the wet this year. I’m honestly not sure where the other guys managed to get past, though!”
Robinson and Johnson had a nightmare race when the Abba GT3 BMW rammed their PMW Expo car into the gravel causing massive damage to the rear of the Ginetta.
Fourth was the Academy Motorsport Aston Martin of Dennis Strandberg and Matt Nicoll-Jones making a one off return to British GT. Fifth was the second Century Motorsport Ginetta of Aleksander Schjerpen and Sean Bryne had an uneventful race but keeping it on the track saw them move up the field.
Abbie Eaton and Marcus Hoggarth were unlucky to only finish sixth. Hoggarth had handed over the car to Eaton in third and she got the car to the GT4 lead but Hoggarth then spun into the tyre wall in his second stint. Although the damage was minor, it lost them a lot of time. Hoggarth had a reason to not be at his best as he’d spent most of the previous night in hospital after a severe allergic reaction. He was lucky to be racing at all so in those circumstances sixth was a good result. Eaton had shown what might have been if both drivers had been at full strength.
The Mclaren of Haggerty and Mitchell which had led early on was forced into retirement by an engine problem.
Jake Giddings took the Sunoco fastest lap award with a lap of 2:15.206, a new GT4 lap record. Despite this though he and his team mate Griffin were only thirteenth overall.
So Beechdeen’s Bartholomew and Jordan have re-taken the championship lead, but by only three and a half points from Johnson and Robinson who still enjoy a twenty one and a half point gap over Walewska and Freke in third.
The next round of the British GT championship takes place out of the country as the championship makes it’s annual trip abroad to Spa Francochamps in Belgium.
Full results from the weekend are available from TSL timing By Marc Waller