Oulton Park, Cheshire, 10th April 2012 – Monsoon like conditions hit Oulton Park on Bank Holiday Monday, but did little to dampen the on-track action. A win for series debutants Ecurie Ecosse in race one, a comprehensive victory for Trackspeed in race two and a dominant weekend in both GT4 classes by Team WFR rounded off some of the best racing the championship has seen in recent years.
Oliver Bryant took the flag for Ecurie Ecosse in a rain soaked sixty-minute race, but it was only on the last lap that the BMW Z4 driver actually led the race, inheriting the lead at the misfortune of United Autosports pair, Matt Bell and Charles Bateman, whose Audi R8 LMS suffered a fuel supply problem, preventing them from crossing the finishing line.
At the start of race one, Bateman, accelerated away from Andrew Howard’s Beechdean Aston Martin Vantage, Alasdair McCaig’s BMW and the RJN Motorsport Nissan GT-R of Jan Mardenborough. Phil Burton in the Predator Ferrari 430 Scuderia was the biggest mover in the opening lap, overtaking the entire GT4 and GTC field before entering Cascades.
By lap three, Bateman had built a 3.4 second lead and Howard had slipped into the clutches of the five cars behind him; McCaig, Mardenborough, Duncan Cameron (MTECH Ferrari 458), David Jones (Preci-Spark Mercedes AMG SLS) and David Ashburn (Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R) – the latter pair enjoying a series of side-by-side tussles in the opening laps.
Jody Fannin, made the most of his prime grid slot, taking the Team WFR Ginetta G50 into a ten second lead by lap three. Back in GT3, Jones and Ashburn soon caught Cameron, who was himself catching the Nissan of GT Academy graduate, Mardenborough, having set a fastest lap early on.
As the lead pack entered Hislop’s chicane, Howard went straight on down the escape road, conceding several places. The Beechdean driver wasn’t alone, Jordan Witt (Chevron Cars Chevron GT-3) and Freddie Hetherington in the other Nissan spun at the same chicane and Ian Stinton (Stark Racing by Hepworth) entered the pits with damage to his Ginetta G55.
Ashburn was now finding his feet, and the 2010 Champion put in the first sub 1:50 lap of the day, with a time of 1:49.926. By this point, Fannin was well into stretching his lead over his GT4 rivals; seventeen seconds was the size of his lead by lap eight.
With Mardenborough now catching McCaig, things were very close at the front of the field. Further back, Jon Minshaw (Trackspeed) had been hunted down by Rosso Verde’s Hector Lester (Ferrari 458) and on approach to Hislop’s went straight on, gifting Lester the position. Hislop’s would be the scene of many an error; Ginetta racer George Murrells also visited the escape road on the same lap.
Ron Johnson’s Speedworks prepared Corvette Z06r had made a steady start from fifteenth on the grid, but an error at Druids saw the safety car be deployed and it’s arrival eroded Bateman’s seven second lead. GT4 leader, Fannin gained from this; his nearest rival, Century’s Zoe Wenham (Ginetta G50) was in the lead pack of cars behind the Safety Car and this allowed Fannin to extend his lead significantly.
At the end of lap eleven, the safety car came into the pits and racing resumed. Bateman pulled away, McCaig, Mardenborough and Cameron scythed their way past the collection of GT4 cars that lay ahead of them on the restart. Johnson’s Corvette made its way to the pits unassisted and Minshaw snatched back his position with a bold overtake on Lester.
As Bateman completed the lap he had a lead of over four seconds, benefitting from the clear track ahead of him. Similarly in GT4, Fannin regained his rhythm and began mixing with the tail end of the GT3 cars.
When the pit lane opened, cars poured in; Cameron and Ashburn led a further thirteen cars in for their mandatory driver changeovers. The Jones’ Mercedes joined Bateman in remaining out of the pits and lit up the circuit with its raucous 6.3 litre v8 echoing around the woodland of Oulton Park.
Bateman posted a succession of quick laps before pitting on lap seventeen with a twelve second lead; in the pits, the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, now in the hands of Bryant, nipped ahead of Buncombe in the RJN Nissan and both returned to the track ahead of Griffin in the MTECH Ferrari.
Richard Westbrook now at the wheel of the #31 Trackspeed car set the timing screen alight with fast sector times, eventually completing a lap of 1:49.223 that would remain the fastest of the race until he later added a lap of 1:48.561.
Narrowly completing their stop before the pit window closed, the Jones brothers got out in third, just ahead of Buncombe and Griffin, with the charging Westbrook not far behind; the foursome would provide much entertainment over the coming laps.
Following the driver-changeover, GT4 became a lot closer; Phil Glew now in the #48 Lotus Evora was taking around 2 seconds a lap out of Warren Hughes in the leading Ginetta G50. Behind this pair, Alistair Mackinnon was battling with Mike Simpson (Century Motorsport – Ginetta G50), the pair inching closer lap by lap.
Ferrari ace, Allan Simonsen got past Richard Westbrook and Matt Griffin in a single audacious manoeuvre, and soon got past Buncombe’s Nissan. Griffin followed his fellow Ferrari driver through, but Simonsen had already passed Godfrey Jones’ Mercedes AMG SLS.
Exiting Lodge corner on lap 23, Griffin had a run at Jones, but the pair made contact, Jones span on the sodden grass at the exit of Old Hall and re-joined in a lowly eighth place, which would later become seventh following the Audi’s retirement.
Out in front, Bell was now leading by six seconds, having delicately made his way through backmarkers. Further back, Jonny Adam (Beechdean Motorsport) was embroiled in a scrap with Benji Hetherington (JMH Automotive) which would last to the end of the race, the pair finishing behind the Jones’ Mercedes in eighth and ninth respectively.
Double Porsche Carrera Cup GB Champion, Tim Harvey, now in the #33 Trackspeed Porsche, was close behind Adam at the flag, taking a respectable tenth from a twelfth place start by team-mate Jon Minshaw after a late surge through the pack. Also up on their grid position at the flag were Motorbase duo Danielle Perfetti and Michael Caine. After an encouraging tenth place grid position, the Porsche pair kept out of the trouble around them and finished sixth, bagging eight vital points.
Westbrook and Griffin, two of sports car racing’s finest talents were engaged in a battle that would only relent at the chequered flag. Both drivers were on the ragged edge, trading sector times. If Griffin was quickest in sector one, Westbrook was quickest in sector two, and so it went on, the pair eventually finishing third and fourth, 1.3 seconds behind second-placed Simonsen.
Beginning the last lap it looked like Bell would deliver a comprehensive lights-to-flag victory for the United Autosports team, only the team’s second victory in British GT since joining in 2010. However, the young pairing were not to be victors, a lack of fuel cruelly robbing the pair on the approach to Druids, a kilometre short of the flag.
Oliver Bryant, Ecurie Ecosse (1st overall in race one):
“I thought maybe he’d taken the flag the lap and I’d got it wrong and there was another lap, but I carried on past him. Not great for them having led from the start, but good for us. Really looking forward to race two, mixing it with the other guys and dealing with the spray.”
Hector Lester, Rosso Verde (2nd overall in race one):
“For once we had the car well sorted for the wet, which gives you a lot of confidence. The restart was fine, I was three abreast at one point and it all got a bit mixed up. I had a good battle with Hetherington and Perfetti, which was fun before that. I hope the race is wet, I’ll even take a shower of sleet!”
Matt Griffin, MTECH (3rd overall in race one):
“It was very tense and hard out there. Myself, Allan and Richard were effectively all on the same piece of track. We’re all at the top of our game and factory drivers in various guises, so it was good. Westy got past me into Knickerbrook, and Simonsen made a very opportune move when a GT4 car baulked us both. It was then just qualifying laps in the rain. Westy was really putting a lot of pressure on me and I think he had more in his tyres than us. Duncan did a fantastic job. We’ve got a really good team at MTECH, a third place is a really good start to the season for us.”
Jody Fannin, Team WFR (1st in GT4 in race one):
“I had to guess my braking point for the first few corners and just paced myself. I saw that the gap was building, and got a bit lucky with the safety car. The others got caught behind it, which was a bit of a bonus. This gave us an extra cushion and I handed over to Warren, and he did a great job.”
Sailesh Boiletti, Lotus Sport UK (2nd in GT4)
“It was a massive learning curve for me. It was raining, it was a new track, I couldn’t see and was a bit confused. I could only see the blinking red lights in the distance. The rolling start was ok, I was quite comfortable and it will get better by the next race.”
Richard Westbrook and David Ashburn delivered a comprehensive lights to flag victory in the #31 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R in appalling conditions at Oulton Park, Cheshire on Monday; Jody Fannin and Warren Hughes in their Team WFR Ginetta G50 completed a double victory in the GT4 class with a classy win in was yet another thrilling race of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship.
Starting from pole-position, Westbrook stretched the pack as he crossed the line, losing Jonny Adam in the Beechdean Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage and the rest of the twenty-five strong pack behind into Old Hall.
With heavier rain than the race earlier in the day, Westbrook made the most of the lack of spray ahead of him and drove into the distance. A mistake by Adam on lap two saw Ferrari pair Allan Simonsen (Rosso Verde) and Matt Griffin (MTECH) get past the Aston driver.
Motorbase’s Nick Tandy, starting from the back of the grid after a broken radiator on his Porsche 997 GT3 R prevented him from qualifying, made a mesmerising start, and by the start of lap three he was up to fifteenth place. Further up the order, Godfrey Jones spun at Old Hall, only to spin again the following lap, re-joining the race in eighteenth place.
Phil Glew in his Lotus Sport UK Lotus Evora was leading the GT4 class by some three and a half seconds from Warren Hughes’ Team WFR Ginetta G50 and Simpson was ahead of Alistair Mackinnon’s #49 Evora after a brief spin.
Tandy wasn’t alone in pushing through the field. Adam Wilcox (Predator CCTV Ferrari 430 Scuderia) and Matt Bell (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS) both had come through and worked together to overtake those ahead of them, that was until Wilcox, having his best race in several years, tried to get past Bell.
Behind the squabbling Griffin and Simonsen, Joe Osborne in the #32 Trackspeed Porsche was hustling Adam into Old Hall, eventually getting past the Aston Martin down Cascades. Adam now had his hands full with Scuderia Vittoria’s Aaron Scott and race one winner, Oliver Bryant.
Overtaking was rife; Simonsen passed Griffin and Hetherington passed Bryant before moving on to Scuderia Vittoria’s Scott. Tandy lost three seconds to Wilcox, and Westbrook, now over six seconds ahead of Simonsen bettered his earlier fastest lap with a 1:50.136.
The arrival of the pit lane window unsurprisingly brought little action, but when Westbrook hit traffic and his lead reduced to below five seconds, Trackspeed brought him in to handover the #31 car to David Ashburn. This spurred Simonsen and Griffin to pit, and once they’d handed over to Lester and Cameron, the order remained the same.
A combination of the pit stop success adjustments from race one and poor out laps from the two Ferrari drivers saw Ashburn own a 27 second lead over Lester, this would soon increase to above 30 seconds and Jon Minshaw in the #33 Trackspeed Porsche joined their tail.
Debutant, Sailesh Bolisetti, now behind the wheel of the #48 Lotus had little fight for the rapid Jody Fannin in the Team WFR Ginetta and soon succumbed to the G50 driver, but did well to hold off the Chevron GT-3 of Jordan Witt. Century Motorsport’s Zoe Wenham chased Lotus driver, Bolisetti’s times hard, but couldn’t get close, try as she might.
A brief off for McCaig saw John Dhillon (Scuderia Vittoria) and David Jones (Preci-Spark) get past, the Ecurie Ecosse driver in only his third ever-wet race. Jones soon passed Dhillon and further back in eighth place Osborne’s driving partner Steve Tandy was being reeled in by Steve Parish’s #10 Motorbase Porsche.
Cameron was growing impatient with the defensive work of Lester and made a move on the Rosso Verde Ferrari at Hislop’s chicane. Lester defended, but only until the start of the next lap where Cameron, seeing a gap went for the inside of Old Hall and the pair clashed. Lester spun off and took over a minute to recover, requiring some assistance from marshals to get going again.
Elsewhere, Parish took Tandy who was struggling with a lack of traction control, and then beat Freddie Hetherington (JMH Automotive) to sixth at the flag, the second points finish the Hetherington brothers in a car they’d only done a handful of laps in since Thursday.
The Jones’ recovered well from their spins, taking ninth, and race one victors, Oliver Bryant and Alasdair McCaig finished tenth to take the final points for Ecurie Ecosse.
Having taken third after Lester’s demise, Minshaw, who is more accustomed to racing E-Type Jaguars than modern GT3 machines, held a five second gap to Danielle Perfetti’s Motorbase Porsche, taking a convincing podium place in only his second race in the championship.
Cameron took MTECH to their second podium of the day, albeit some 27 seconds behind Ashburn’s Porsche.
Richard Westbrook, Trackspeed (1st overall in race two)
“It was really good. Race one was frustrating, the car was better in the first race but we had a clear track in race two. The rain started coming down and I kept catching the water into Cascades; the Avon’s dispersed the water brilliantly and are a real improvement. My team-mate did another fantastic job too. I knew Allan had a ten second penalty and we’d be okay at the handover. It’s not easy running three competitive cars, so well done to Keith, Trackspeed and my new engineer Taka on his first-ever race weekend!”
Tim Harvey, Trackspeed (3rd overall in race two)
“We were disappointed after the first race, had it not been for the debris we hit, we could’ve been seventh. I enjoyed my first stint when the track was really at its wettest. We got held up a bit by the Aston, which had I got in front of, might have put Jon infront of the two Ferrari. Jon just impressed me enormously and for that to be his first ever modern car race, it was a dream start really.”
Phil Glew, Lotus Sport UK (2nd in GT4 class in race two)
“Race two was very similar to race one, apart from the fact I got a fairly good lead; it wasn’t enough though. There was much more water on the track than this morning and I was just trying to push-on and keep ahead of Warren (Hughes). I’m sure Sailesh will continue to get better, he’s learnt a lot this weekend and to get two second place finishes is a great result.”
Race one provisional GT3 results and overall top ten:
1. Alasdair McCaig/Oliver Bryant Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 32 laps 1:01:49.975 / 83.59 mph
2. Hector Lester/Allan Simonsen Rosso Verde Ferrari 458 + 7.096 secs
3. Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin MTECH Ferrari 458 +8.399 secs
4. David Ashburn/Richard Westbrook Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R +8.925 secs
5. Jann Mardenborough/Alex Buncombe RJN Motorsports Nissan GT-R GT3 +20.144 secs
6. Danielle Perfetti/Michael Caine Motorbase Porsche 997 GT3 R +28.132 secs
7. David Jones/Godfrey Jones Preci-Spark Mercedes AMG SLS +33.372 secs
8. Freddie Hetherington/Benji Hetherington JMH Automotive Nissan GT-R +35.578 secs
9. Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam Beechdean Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 +35.897 secs
10. Jon Minshaw/Tim Harvey Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R +36.482 secs
Race one provisional GT4 results:
1. Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes Team WFR Ginetta G50 30 laps
2. Sailesh Bolisetti/Phil Glew Lotus Sport UK Lotus Evora GT4 30 laps
3. Marco Attard/Alistair Mackinnon Lotus Sport UK Lotus Evora GT4 29 laps
Race one provisional Invitation Class results:
1. Anthony Reid/Jordan Witt Chevron Cars Chevron GT-3 14 laps
Race one provisional GTC results:
1. David Witt/Ray Grimes Chevron Cars Chevron GR 8 29 laps
Race two provisional GT3 results and overall top ten:
1. David Ashburn/Richard Westbrook Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R 32 laps 1hr 00mins 47 secs / 85.03 mph
2. Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin MTECH Ferrari 458 +27.667 secs
3. Jon Minshaw/Tim Harvey Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R +28.630 secs
4. Danielle Perfetti/Michael Caine Motorbase Porsche 997 GT3 R +33.813 secs
5. Charles Bateman/Matt Bell United Autosports Audi R8 LMS +1:20.146 secs
6. Steve Parish/Nick Tandy Motorbase Porsche 997 GT3 R +1:22.178 secs
7. Freddie Hetherington/Benji Hetherington JMH Automotive Nissan GT-R +1:27.918 secs
8. Steve Tandy/Joe Osborne Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R +1:34.864 secs
9. David Jones/Godfrey Jones Preci-Spark Mercedes AMG SLS +1:35.848 secs
10. Alasdair McCaig/Oliver Bryant Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 +1:40.312 secs
Race two provisional GT4 results:
1. Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes Team WFR Ginetta G50 30 laps
2. Sailesh Bolisetti/Phil Glew Lotus Sport UK Lotus Evora GT4 30 laps
3. Zoe Wenham/Mike Simpson Century Motorsport Ginetta G50 29 laps
Race two provisional Invitation Class results:
1. Anthony Reid/Jordan Witt Chevron Cars Chevron GT-3 29 laps
Race two provisional GTC results:
1. David Witt/Ray Grimes Chevron Cars Chevron GR 8 29 laps
Full results can be obtained from TSL Timing.
Provisional championship standings:
GT3 and overall:
=1 David Ashburn/Richard Westbrook, Trackspeed – 37 points
=2 Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin, MTECH – 33 points
=3 Alasdair McCaig/Oliver Bryant, Ecurie Ecosse – 27 points
=4 Danielle Perfetti/Michael Caine, Motorbase – 20 points
=5 Hector Lester/Allan Simonsen, Rosso Verde – 18 points
=6 Jon Minshaw/Tim Harvey, Trackspeed – 16 points
=7 Jan Mardenborough/Alex Buncombe, RJN Motorsports – 10 points
=7 Charles Bateman/Matt Bell, United Autosports – 10 points
=7 Freddie/Benji Hetherington, JMH – 10 points
=8 Steve Parish/Nick Tandy, Motorbase – 8 points
=8 David Jones/Godfrey Jones, Preci-Spark – 10 points
=9 Steve Tandy/Joe Osborne, Trackspeed – 4 points
=10 Andrew Howard/Jonathan Adam, Beechdean – 2 points
=1 Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes, Century Motorsport – 50 points
=2 Sailesh Bolisetti/Phil Glew, Lotus Sport UK – 36 points
=3 Zoe Wenham/Mike Simpson, Century Motorsport UK – 27 points
=3 Marco Attard/Alistair Mackinnon, Lotus Sport UK – 27 points
=1 David Witt/Ray Grimes, Chevron Cars – 50 points
Television coverage of this weekend’s round can be viewed on Channel 4 at 7am on Saturday 21st April, and on Motors TV at 18:00 on the same day.