British GT wins for Demon Tweeks Barwell, Ecurie Ecosse, and Beachdean at Snetterton

Race one is go (Photo by Marc Waller)

Race one is go (Photo by Marc Waller)Last Sundays penultimate meeting saw the Barwell run Demon Tweeks car of Jon Minshaw winning both races, the first time anyone has done this since 2010.

The opening race of the day at Snetterton will be remembered for the battle between’s Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle against the DemonTweeks duo. AMD could have won but a collision and resulting penalty ultimately gave the win to Keen and Minshaw, with them also claiming the GT3 championship lead for the first time this season.

With pole-sitter and opening stint leader Mark Farmer, and Rick Parfitt Jnr, facing ten and seven second pit-stop success penalties for finishing first and second at Spa respectively, the fight was always going to come down to Keen’s Lamborghini and Osborne’s BMW over the second half of the race.

With no additional pitstop time to serve, their respective co-drivers Minshaw and Lee Mowle only had to remain near the sharp end over the opening part of the race. Pitting from second and third duly helped Keen and Osborne comfortably leapfrog Jon Barnes, whose co-driver Farmer had converted his pole position to a small two-second lead when the stops began.

Keen began his stint with what looked like a safe four-second advantage, but that didn’t account for an inspired Osborne whose consecutive fastest laps helped the BMW scythe into the Lamborghini’s lead. It wasn’t long before the pair – who shared a car and class podium at the previous weekend’s 24 Hours at Spa – were nearly touching through the GT4 traffic and, sensing his chance at the Bomb Hole, Osborne dived down the inside. But the move wasn’t completely clean, resulting in Keen spinning and slipping seven seconds behind.

Osborne continued but, with just four minutes of the race remaining, He was given a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact. His failure to pit saw him take the chequered flag first before Race Control added thirty seconds to his time post-race in lieu of the drive-through, thus promoting Keen and Minshaw to their second race victory of the season and the GT3 points lead. Phil Keen explained his race;

“They had the benefit of new tyres so caught us up really quickly. Then I ended up getting boxed in through the traffic when Joe was right with me; maybe he slightly misjudged the speed and tagged me. It was one of those things and he didn’t do it on purpose. He did a good enough job for the team last weekend [at the 24 Hours of Spa] so I’ll let him off. The team have done a great job to turn everything around since Spa. Jon’s stint was also great.”

Barnes’ strong run helped him finish just 0.4s behind Keen in what would become second place for he and TF Sport co-driver Farmer, who backed up their victory at Spa last time out with another podium to help keep their own title hopes alive.

Rick Parfitt Jnr took advantage of a first lap incident between Derek Johnston and Alasdair McCaig to run fourth in his stint right behind Mowle, but, like Barnes and Farmer, he lost time at his stop as a result of finishing second at Spa. Team Parker Racing co-driver Seb Morris therefore spent most of his stint just ahead of Jonny Adam, whose co-driver Johnston had earlier recovered to fifth after his altercation with McCaig. Both the Bentley and Aston Martin subsequently picked up a place post-race, while Osborne and Mowle’s penalty saw them drop to fifth.

GT4 start race one (Photo by Marc Waller) Abbie was the best of the females (Photo by Marc Waller) Johnston and Adam lose their points lead but remain contenders (Photo by Marc Waller) Historic first GT4 win for a Mclaren (Photo by Marc Waller) Dominant Demon Tweeks (Photo by Marc Waller)




Ian Stinton and Mike Simpson looked set for sixth thanks to strong stints from both drivers before a stop/go penalty for Tolman Motorsport’s pit time infringement and subsequent puncture dropped their Ginetta to eighth behind Phil Dryburgh and Ross Wylie’s Motorbase Performance Aston Martin and the similar PFL Motorsport-run V12 Vantage of Pete Littler and Jody Fannin.

Liam Griffin’s early unscheduled stop to replace a punctured tyre ended his and Alexander Sims’ hopes of bettering ninth, while Ultimate Speed’s Mike Brown and Matt Manderson completed the points scoring positions in tenth.

When race two got underway Keen’s pole lap offered them a chance to try and pull out a gap. He duly obliged by maintaining the lead into Turn one. Meanwhile Adam, who lost the championship lead for the first time this season after race one, gave chase but couldn’t get past the Huracan over the course of the opening stint as the pair traded fastest laps.

The sister Barwell Lamborghini driven by Alexander Sims didn’t quite have the pace of the top two, while Joe Osborne also dropped back to fifth behind Jon Barnes after moving ahead of the TF Sport Aston early on.

Sims, who like Adam had no success penalty to serve, was the first of the leaders to stop but fell out of contention soon after when co-driver Liam Griffin retired the Lamborghini with a damaged front wishbone after colliding with the AMD BMW, the second time the BMW had made contact with a Barwell Lamborghini! That should have made TF Sport’s life a little easier over the final stint but that was without reckoning on a tangled seatbelt at the pitstop, which essentially cost Johnston the lead.

Barwell’s slick pit-stop helped Minshaw emerge three seconds clear of AMD’s Lee Mowle, who’d taken over from Osborne, and the delayed Johnston.

Although the gap between the top-two remained fairly constant for most of the stint, Minshaw was able to ease away from Mowle over the final third as the BMW slipped into Johnston’s clutches. And, in what could be crucial to this year’s title race, the Aston Martin eventually found a way past Mowle to limit the damage in the drivers’ standings.

Minshaw was happy after what was close to a perfect day;

Race two (Photo by Marc Waller) The Demon Tweeks barwell car wins (Photo by Marc Waller) The GT4 leaders saw their lead slashed (Photo by Marc Waller) Ross Gunn has helped Jack Bartholomew become a GT4 title contender (Photo by Marc Waller) Race two podium (Photo by Marc Waller)




“I came here hoping to have a great first race after working hard on my qualifying, which obviously went well and allowed us to fight at the front in race one. But what I didn’t expect was to win the second, which I have to say was down to the team and Phil. We came in knowing we had the 10 seconds to serve and nailed it. Ok, we were a bit lucky with Derek being delayed but everyone still had to do their jobs.”

Johnston was disappointed to lose after the seat belt issue in the pitstop;

“It doesn’t feel good, to be honest. We’ve had some issues this weekend and would have left the pits leading race two had the seatbelt not got tangled up. We just panicked a bit and lost too much time. Then it was hard work following and trying to pass Lee. I maintained the pressure hoping for him to make a mistake or run wide, which he did. It’s just a pity we weren’t a bit closer to Jon. But the pit-stop cost us victory today. At least there are still plenty of points on offer at Donington.”

Barnes’ co-driver Farmer brought the second TF Sport Aston home fourth after their seven-second success penalty for finishing second in race one restricted their chances. The result also means the pair have lost the chance to fight for the title at Donington by just half a point.

However, Team Parker Racing’s Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris added fifth to their opening race podium to remain the third and final crew in title contention. Parfitt Jnr spent the first half of his stint harrying Farmer for fourth before eventually finishing two seconds behind the Aston, while Ian Stinton picked up the Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend Award for taking the Tolman Motorsport Ginetta he shared with Mike Simpson to sixth overall.

Phil Dryburgh and Ross Wylie were the last of the GT3 finishers in seventh.

As well as taking the GT3 points lead, Keen left Snetterton with his second Sunoco Fastest Lap of the Race Award of the season after recording a new British GT3 best of 1m48.579s in his battle with Adam.

And Tolman Motorsport can be proud of their hard work after picking up the PMW Expo Team of the Weekend prize for rebuilding the #56 Ginetta G55 in time for qualifying after it suffered substantial damage in first practice.

8.5 points behind before the weekend, Minshaw and Keen leave Snetterton with an 11.5-point advantage over Johnston and Adam who had been top since the opening round at Brands Hatch. Parfitt Jnr and Morris are the only other crew who can now win the crown, although they’ll need to overturn a 27.5-point deficit.

The teams’ title will also go down to the wire with TF Sport leading reigning champions Barwell by 14.5 points.

The GT4 races saw a first win for Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell take the win in the first race with the GT4 class drivers’ title will also going down to the wire at Donington Park next month after Beechdean AMR’s Jack Bartholomew and Ross Gunn claimed victory in race two to close the gap on Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson, who finished second.

A congested start as race one got under way combined with a brave move around the outside of Turn one helped Jack Mitchell leap from fourth on the grid to first by the end of lap one ahead of Jack Bartholomew, who’d performed similar heroics from fifth. But the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin would be back down to fourth at the end of its first stint after both pole-sitter Alex Reed and Sandy Mitchell repassed.

Jack Mitchell’s excellent work aboard the Macmillan Racing V8 Vantage helped him to pit with a comfortable lead. However, his and Matthew Graham’s five second pit stop success penalty for finishing third at Spa saw the McLaren, (which was now in the hands of Haggerty) move to the front.

That is where the 570S would remain until the chequered flag despite the rapidly advancing Gunn, who used all of his experience to first pass Graham and then to close to within half a second of Haggerty. His best chance of passing the Ecurie Ecosse entry might have come on the final lap, but when he ran wide at Turn one it was all but over. Although just 0.360 seconds separated them at the finish. Haggerty was pleased to pull it off;

“I thought I’d be able to get away at the start of my stint when I pulled a little gap over the two chasing Astons but the tyres started going off quite a bit so it became harder and harder to maintain the gap as it was. But finally getting ours and the car’s first victory, after all the issues we’ve had, feels even sweeter. We’ve come so close and been on pole position enough. It was probably the toughest race I’ve ever had with Ross closing me down, but the bit of breathing space he gave me on the final lap by running wide brought my heart rate down a bit!”

Mitchell was nervous watching his team mate’s stint from the pits;

“It feels amazing! I was so nervous watching in the garage at the end because the Beechdean car looked very fast. I think it was four tenths going on to the final lap, so it was incredibly close.

But I need to say a huge thanks to the team because collectively we’ve really worked at it this weekend. The ultimate pace hasn’t been there like it was at Spa, so it didn’t come easily.”

Graham and Mitchell made it two British GT podiums on the bounce in third, while Joey Foster and Reed’s 10-second pit-stop success penalty for winning at Spa relegated them from second to fourth in the final classification. Championship leader Graham Johnson started on the front row but was a victim of the congested opening lap and, along with Mike Robinson, eventually completed the top five.

William Thompson and Jordan Stilp finished where their RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta started in sixth, ahead of Abbie Eaton and Marcus Hoggarth’s Ebor GT Maserati and Rob Barrable and Aaron Mason’s Ginetta, which completed the top-eight.

Century Motorsport’s Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke’s title aspirations took a hit after finishing ninth (See separate story for more on their weekend), while Bradley Ellis and Ade Barwick completed the points scoring positions on their British GT return with Simpson Motorsport.

Beechdean AMR’s victory in race two came despite the best efforts of Matthew George who refused to let reigning class champion Gunn escape over the opening stint. Split qualifying had allowed the Generation AMR SuperRacing driver a chance to shine, and he duly obliged by remaining within a second – and setting a new GT4 lap record in the process (1m58.704s) – before the pit-stops.

His co-driver James Holder slipped back thereafter, leaving Bartholomew to reel off an untroubled final stint en route to his first victory since Rockingham.

“It’s amazing to win again, especially as we’ve still got a few issues to iron out before Donington. I didn’t have the qualifying I wanted for race one but I’m glad we were able to make the best of it in the races. Ross has been a great help in coaching and bringing me on, so a big thanks to him and everyone at Beechdean AMR for continuing to plug away and get the result we needed.” Said Bartholomew afterwards

Behind, Johnson and Robinson’s lack of a success penalty helped them limit the damage to their championship lead by finishing second. It sets up an enthralling encounter at Donington Park in September when their main rival Bartholomew must remain stationary for five seconds longer during his mandatory driver change.

The PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport crew could have won the title this weekend but instead leave Snetterton with their advantage cut from 17.5 to just 2.5 points ahead of the title decider at Donington Park next month with a close battle now to look forward to. Graham Johnson explains what went wrong;

“This weekend was about damage limitation for us because the Ginetta simply wasn’t fast enough in a straight line. Had it been I think this would have been a different story because we had good speed. Mike and I were consistently the fastest G55 runners all weekend but it was very difficult to race the Astons and McLaren here. It’s just not a Ginetta circuit.”

Sadly no female drivers are now in contention for the GT4 title this season after Anna Walewska’s difficult weekend.

The podium was completed by Foster and Reed who started third and pitted earlier than their rivals to avoid congestion. However, a subsequent drive-through penalty for being under their minimum time gave Reed plenty of work to do during his stint. But yesterday’s race one pole winner delivered to give the crew their second British GT podium in three outings and elevate them to third in the class standings.

A stunning recovery drive from race one winners Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell helped them overcome an unscheduled early pit-stop with bodywork damage to bring the Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S home fourth. Contact between Haggerty and a Ginetta on the formation lap almost ended their race before it had even started, before fine performances from both secured an unlikely result.

Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton were another pairing to salvage a good result after climbing from 11th to finish fifth in their Ebor GT Maserati, while assured stints from both Paul Hollywood and Jamie Chadwick – returning to the scene of her GT4 title triumph 12 months ago – helped the second Beechdean AMR Aston Martin complete the top-six.

A heavily damaged RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta driven by Jordan Stilp and William Phillips took seventh ahead of Ade Barwick and Bradley Ellis’ Simpson Motorsport-run G55, while Kieran Griffin and Jake Giddings, and Sean Byrne and Aleksander Schjerpen completed the top ten.

Full results are available from TSL timing

The championship heads to Donington on the 10th and 11th September for the finale where, after a single three hour race, the 2016 GT3 and GT4 champions will be crowned. By Marc Waller

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