The Spirit of Race Ferrari driven by Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin had taken the chequered flag but they were later penalised for gaining an unfair advantage, handing the race to Rick Parfitt Jr and Seb Morris in the Bentley.
Macmillan AMR’s James Littlejohn and Jack Mitchell took the final sport on the podium in what was an exciting and dramatic race.
It was the pole sitting Derek Johnston in the first of the TF Sport Astons who led from pole with Jon Minshaw slotting into second after passing Mark Farmer. Littlejohn also slotted into an early third past Farmer after making an incredible start from ninth.
Harry Gottsacker’s Century Motorsport Ginetta got stuck in the gravel at the third corner of the third lap bringing out the safety car and bringing the pack back in close formation. When racing resumed, Farmer dropped further back as did the second Barwell car of Liam Griffin which fell from fourth to eighth. The second TF Sport Aston then also appeared to strike trouble as Minshaw and Littlejohn passed by. Littlejohn and Minshaw then started battling each other.
Minshaw eventually could not stop the flying Littlejohn and he took the lead at the Deene Hairpin.
Further down the field, a seemingly insignificant incident happened which would have a big impact later on. After several track limits violations, the Spirit of Race Ferrari with Duncan Cameron at the wheel, received a five second penalty added to it’s race time, meaning it was always five seconds further back than it’s actual track position.
By now Littlejohn was running ahead of Rick Parfitt in the Bentley. When they stopped after an hour, Mitchell took over from Little John and remained ahead of the Bentley now with Morris at the wheel.
Matt Griffin in the Ferrari rejoined in fourth after his stop but quickly made it third after passing the AMD Tuning Mercedes with Ryan Ratcliffe at the wheel. AMD had made a flawless stop to put their car in third but it’s pace couldn’t keep Ratcliffe there. By now the Ferrari was right behind the Morris driven Bentley with them both behind the Macmillan Aston now driven by Mitchell.
Morris was first past but with the Aston unsettled by the move, the Ferrari wasn’t far behind. Shortly after Griffin’s Ferrari then passed Morris but not without making contact whilst doing so. This was significant as it was what the Ferrari would ultimately be penalised for.
Griffin now needed to pull away from the Bentley to overcome his five-second deficit but this plan was cut short by the third safety car period of the weekend with just twenty four minutes left of the race.
But the Safety car regulations mean the safety car must pick up the leading car of the race and needs to wave the cars in front through in order to do so. Of course as the Ferrari wasn’t five seconds in front of the Bentley, it was shown in fifth with the field bunched up. So race control and the Safety car officials had no choice but to wave the Ferrari through. This gained the duo not only the five seconds they needed but a much bigger gap and they now had a huge 25 second lead! Morris crossed the line in second as Mitchell held off Phil Keen in the Demon Tweeks Barwell Lamborghini for the final podium spot.
The Bentley team were furious with the apparent advantage handed to the Ferrari from the safety car period but as this was fully in compliance with the rules there was nothing that could be done. But, remember that contact as the Ferrari passed the Bentley? That was also investigated by the stewards and judged to have been an unfair pass by the Ferrari. A penalty was issued dropping the Ferrari behind the Bentley, handing the win to Rick, Seb and Team Parker Racing.
Championship manager Benjamin Franassovici explained the safety car issue;
“What happened today with the Safety Car procedure was very unfortunate but, given the letter of the regulations, not something we could have controlled. We follow the MSA’s regulations which state the Safety Car must pick up the race leader, which in official timing was not the #21 Spirit of Race Ferrari. Race Control therefore had no choice but to wave it by. Applying in-race time penalties contributed to this but these are the rules by which we and others race under the MSA’s jurisdiction. Today we found an annomally, which will be investigated fully. One way or another there must be changes to avoid this situation from arising again.”
The Barwell Lamborghinis took fourth and fifth, Minshaw and Keen ahead of Griffin and Tordoff. Sixth was the AMD Tuning Mercedes of Lee Mowle and Ryan Ratcliffe with the ailing Astons of TF Sport taking seventh and eighth, both suffering minor issues during the race with the Farmer/Barnes car ahead of Johnston/Adam.
The second Team Parker Bentley had been struck by a puncture but still took ninth of Ian Loggie and Callum Mcloed ahead of Team Abba’s Martin Short and Richard Neary in their Mercedes.
Phil Keen won the Sunoco fastest race lap award and Lee Mowle won the Blancpain Gentleman driver of the day award.
Barwell won the team of the weekend award for their quick engine change between the end of first practice and the beginning of qualifying.
In GT4 it was pole-sitters HHC that took the win, the Ginetta driven by Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton. Tregurtha explains;
“That was probably the most exciting, frustrating and hardest race I’ve ever been a part of! Trying to get past the McLaren is so difficult – it’s very quick in a straight line. We were quicker through the corners and then lost it all down the straights. But that just made it even more fun and actually helped our strategy because I couldn’t push as hard through the corners when I was behind so saved the tyres. That meant I could stay out for longer and give Stuart fresher rubber at the end, which he used to drive away from everyone during the second stint. That made the difference today.”
Second was the Black Bull Mclaren of Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell. Haggerty spoke about their race;
“I was a bit annoyed with myself after qualifying yesterday when I felt there was more in the car, so I was determined to make up for that at the start of the race. It was really important to get to the front quickly and prevent the Ginettas from pulling away, and that seemed to work. It got a bit tougher towards the middle and end but it was important to hang on and kickstart our season. We didn’t really have the pace to finish P2 so it’s a really good result for us.”
Third in GT4 was the PMW Motorsport Expo/Optimum Ginetta of Graham Johnson and Martin Robinson, who spoke afterwards;
“The Safety Car helped to bring us back into play a little but I was surprised by HHC’s pace. I know Graham was relieved after making contact with them on lap one, which bent our car’s exhaust and made it really slow in a straight line. So we’re delighted with another third – consistency is key in this championship. I hoped to race the McLaren at the end but we just didn’t have the pace.”
The championships sole female driver Anna Walewska had a new co-driver for the weekend in the form of young ace, George Gamble. Gamble was a temporary replacement for Mike Simpson, Walewksa’s usual team-mate who was racing in Europe. The duo looked set for a good result in GT4 before a puncture put them out of contention for a podium finish and down in twenty fourth overall.
The next rounds at on the May Bank Holiday weekend at the end of the month (27th and 28th May) at the Norfolk circuit of Snetterton. The popular track usually produces some great racing. By Marc Waller