Jakob Ebrey Photography

United Autosports secured its maiden victory in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship following a dramatic two-hour race on the new Snetterton 300 circuit.

Despite two pit lane penalties, Matt Bell brought the #23 Audi R8 LMS to the finish in top spot after long-time leader Glynn Geddie was forced to bring his CRS Racing Ferrari 458 Italia into the pits with just seconds remaining after being shown a black and orange flag for damage to the front of the car.

Geddie took the flag in second place with Allan Simonsen third in the Rosso Verde Ferrari 430 Scuderia, while GT4 honours went to Marcus Clutton’s KTM, which also had to overcome a pit penalty before taking victory.

Light rain prior to the start ensured a slippery circuit greeted the drivers for the start of the two hour race, with Stuart Hall getting the jump at the start to climb from fourth to first in a matter of corners in the Vantage Racing Aston Martin DBRS9; building a lead of more than two seconds over Michael Guasch’s Audi and Charles Bateman’s Ferrari 458 Italia on the opening lap alone.

As Guasch and Bateman battled for position, Hall was able to pull away through the opening laps and maintained a gap even after Bateman had got ahead of the second placed Audi heading into Riches on lap four.

Behind the top three, pole sitter Jim Geddie found himself in fourth place ahead of the Porsche of defending champion David Ashburn and Hector Lester’s Ferrari; the Rosso Verde driver finding himself under increasing pressure from David Jones’ Mercedes, Duncan Cameron’s Ferrari and Gregor Fisken’s Porsche in a heated fight for sixth place.

As the top four remained static through the opening quarter of an hour, Jones was making up places in the Mercedes to climb into fifth ahead of Ashburn, Cameron, Fisken, Lester and Andrew Howard by the end of the eighth lap.

On lap nine however, that all changed as Ashburn got out of shape with a suspected puncture exiting Williams and left team-mate Fisken with nowhere to go; the resulting contact put both cars out on the spot and led to a lengthy safety car period as the two Porsches were recovered.

“David was struggling with what we think was a rear puncture,” Fisken said. “I was behind and as we came on to the back straight he speared right and I had nowhere to go. He hit me and I went off into the barriers three different ways.”

The race would eventually resume on the 19th lap, with Hall staying out as long as possible in the lead before pitting to hand the Aston Martin over to Tom Black for the run to the flag. By contrast, Guasch battled back ahead of Bateman into second place and was then quick to dive in and hand the Audi over to team-mate Matt Bell at the first opportunity. Geddie and Cameron were also among the early stoppers and it appeared the Audi was going to emerge at the head of the field when the pit stops had cycled through, only for a six second stop-go penalty to be handed out for the stop being completed too quickly.

That meant Glynn Geddie found himself at the head of the field with Matt Griffin giving chase; Bell having dropped behind Michael Lyons into fourth place once his penalty was completed. Two separate battles then started to develop on track as Cameron closed on to the rear of Geddie in the fight for the lead and Lyons found himself under increasing pressure from Bell for the final place on the podium.

The fight for third would come to an end on the 43rd lap when Bell managed to get alongside Lyons on the infield only for side-by-side contact between the pair to cause damage to the suspension of the Ferrari that would see the Oulton Park winners forced into retirement.

Just three laps later, the fight for the lead between Geddie and Griffin would also end in tears as the pair came up to lap the Vantage Aston Martin, now in the hands of Black and running down in seventh place. While Geddie managed to clear Black going into Riches, Griffin was left with nowhere to go when the Aston Martin suffered a spin. Although contact between the cars was light as Griffin jumped on the brakes, damage to the radiator meant he was forced to park up without making it back to the pits.

Griffin’s retirement left Geddie with a lead of nearly 30 seconds over Bell’s Audi but damage to the front of the leading Ferrari was becoming more visible with loose bodywork meaning the Scot wasn’t able to relax. That was until a second penalty was given to the Audi for a yellow flag infringement, which saw Bell forced to take a drive through that dropped him further back from the lead.

Geddie looked comfortable despite his problem until being handed a black and orange flag with minutes to go. Diving into the pits as he prepared to start the final lap, Geddie’s car was quickly repaired but he exited the pits just as Bell flashed past and it was the Audi that took the chequered flag first having led just the final tour of the new Snetterton layout.

“Five minutes to go and 40 seconds behind, I was just looking after the car,” Bell said. “I was keeping it tidy and then it was a surprise to me when I saw the Ferrari coming out of the pits and I was able to get him into the first corner. I managed to put some space between us and bring it home.

“There is a long way to go in the championship and I’m not thinking about that at the moment. I’m just focusing on arriving at each circuit and doing the best job we can. Then we’ll see where we are at the end of the year.”

Having led for the second half of the race, Geddie was left to bemoan the decision to call the Ferrari in for its repairs as he crossed the line 2.946s down on the Audi.

“It’s the most disappointed I’ve been with second,” he said. “To be fair, I’m more disappointed with whoever made the decision to call us into the pits. We got second when it clearly should have been a win, and its disappointing not to get it when it was right there in front of us.”

The podium was completed by Allan Simonsen after the traditional storming stint from the Danish driver at the wheel of the Rosso Verde Ferrari 430 Scuderia. Having taken over behind the wheel in eighth place, Simonsen gradually worked his way up the order and secured a place on the podium in the closing minutes when he got ahead of Godfrey Jones in the Preci-Spark Mercedes AMG SLS GT3. It meant the Jones brothers had to settle for fourth place, although that was still a strong result for the pair on a circuit they admitted wasn’t well suited to the big German machine.

Jay Palmer and John Bintcliffe clinched fifth place in the second of the United Autosports Audis while the top six was completed by the Chad Racing Ferrari in the hands of Steven Kane. The former touring car star had taken over the green 430 Scuderia after a strong opening stint from team-mate Iain Dockerill although time was lost in the pit stops with a starter motor problem.

Andrew Howard and Jonathan Adam took seventh in the Beechdean Aston Martin having been forced into an additional stop when Howard suffered a puncture during the opening stint of the race, while the top eight was completed by the GT3B class winning Ferrari of John Dhillon and Aaron Scott. Dhillon’s performance through the opening stint of the race was good enough to secure the Sunoco Driver of the Day award.

Ninth place went to the GT4 class victor, although – like United Autosports out front – ABG didn’t make things easy for itself as Peter Belshaw and Marcus Clutton took their second win of the season.

Belshaw had moved to the head of the class through the opening stint of the race after battling ahead of the Lotus of Leyton Clarke and following the demise of the Ginettas of Dan Denis and Josh Wakefield. However, pulling away at the head of the class, Belshaw stayed out too long before being called in to hand the car over to team-mate Clutton; which meant Clutton was unable to complete the mandatory 50 minutes of running.

The team was handed a stop-go penalty of 71 seconds, which Clutton then took while leading the class; dropping him behind Freddy Nordstrom’s Lotus into second place. Lapping consistently quicker, however, Clutton was able to reel in the Evora GT4 before retaking the lead near the end.

“We need to recalibrate our stop watches as we were out too long and that was why we got the penalty,” Belshaw said, “although it made the race quite exciting! Despite the penalty, we never gave up hope and we did think it was possible to catch the Lotus again. Marcus did a sterling job and pulled him back in. All things ended up in our favour.”

Nordstrom brought the Lotus home in second place, the second successive race in which the car had finished in the runner-up position after a similar result at Oulton Park, while Jack Drinkall was third in the sister car.

“When you’re leading the race and they are catching you, you always do your best,” Nordstrom said. “I did all I could to stay ahead but when the car behind is so much quicker, they will inevitably get past and I couldn’t stop it. Second is still a good result and even though the pace of the KTM may have masked our performance, we’ve made good progress this weekend.” The sister KTM of Athanasios Ladas and Michael Mallock took fourth in class.

The GTC class Chevron of Jordan Witt and Anthony Reid pulled off the circuit early with a throttle issue although the Safety Car period allowed the car to be recovered to the pits where the team worked to put it back on track to complete the race. A trouble free run from that point onwards saw the team running at the finish, albeit some 18 laps behind the overall winner, in 19th.

The British GT Championship is sponsored by UK tyre manufacturer Avon Tyres and is further supported by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and OAMPS.

Avon Tyres British GT Championship
Provisional results, Round 3
Snetterton 15/5/2011
58 laps/172.20 miles

GT3
1  United Autosports Audi  Mike Guasch (USA)/Matt Bell  2h 01m 48.407s / 84.82mph
2  CRS Racing Ferrari  Jim Geddie/Glynn Geddie  +2.946s
3  Rosso Verde Ferrari  Hector Lester/Allan Simonsen (DEN)  +14.761s
4  Preci-Spark Mercedes  David Jones/Godfrey Jones  +19.518s
5  United Autosports Audi  John Bintcliffe/Jay Palmer  +1m 11.666s
6  Chad Racing Ferrari  Iain Dockerill/Steven Kane  +1m 32.177s
7  Beechdean Aston Martin  Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam  +1m 49.674s
8  MTECH Ferrari (GT3B)  John Dhillon/Aaron Scott  57 laps
9  Century Team LNT  Florian Renauer (AUT)/Michael Drabing (AUT)  55 laps
10  Predator CCTV Ferrari  Phil Burton/Adam Wilcox  53 laps etc

Fastest lap MTech Ferrari  Matt Griffin  1m 51.640s

GT4
1  ABG Motorsport KTM  Peter Belshaw/Marcus Clutton  56 laps
2  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Leyton Clarke/Freddy Nordstrom  56 laps
3  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Ollie Jackson/Jack Drinkall  55 laps
4  ABG Motorsport KTM  Athanasios Ladas (GRE)/Michael Mallock  53 laps

GT Cup
1  Chevron Racing Chevron  Jordan Witt/Anthony Reid  40 laps

Full TSL timesheets http://bit.ly/jA2bym

Provisional championship standings
GT3 & overall
1= Guasch & Bell 70.5 points; 3= Jones & Jones 46; 5= Geddie & Geddie 41; 7= Lester & Simonsen 40.5; 9= David Ashburn & Richard Westbrook 37 etc
GT3B
1= Dhillon & Scott 43.75.
GT4
1= Belshaw & Clutton 62.5; 3= Nordstrom & Clarke 55; 5= Ladas & Mallock 45 etc
GT Cup
1= Witt & Reid 43.75

TV schedule 28 May, 0700 Channel 4 & 1721 Motors TV + repeats

Next round 19 June Brands Hatch