Matt Bell & Charles Bateman United Autosports McLaren

Snetterton, England 6 August 2012United Autosports and Trackspeed took important victories this weekend at Norfolk’s Snetterton 300 circuit in round five of the 2012 Avon Tyres British GT Championship, whileGinetta teams, Optimum Motorsport and Team WFR rallied to GT4 class wins. FF Corse scored a double GTC class victory on their debut in the leading British series.

Race one – McLaren victory for Bell and Bateman as Optimum take GT4 win

United Autosports took only their second ever championship victory at Snetterton today, as Charles Bateman and Matt Bell won the first of two 60-minute races at the Norfolk Circuit.

Pole-manDavid Ashburn led the field onto the opening lap and immediately had a strong challenge from Motorbase’s Daniele Perfetti, the Swiss driver eventually running wide at Oggies, dropping to fourth, giving Ashburn a cushion between himself and Andrew Howard. The Beechdean driver then challenged Ashburn into Murrays to lead into lap two with his V12 Vantage GT3 Aston Martin.

Chargingthrough the field was Ecurie Ecosse’s Alasdair McCaig, who’s BMW Z4 GT3 was up to seventh from a ninth place grid slot and Jann Mardenborough in the RJN Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3; Duncan Cameron had a slow start and dropped to tenthfrom eighth.

Bateman, new to the McLaren this weekend acquitted himself well and soon passed Howard for the lead. United Autosports, who have run the car in the Blancpain Endurance Series all year, had clearly given the young Brit a car capable of winning, and he set about creating a lead for driving partner, Bell.

Mardenborough joined the tail of the battle between McCaig and Perfetti for fourth and all three were soon to benefit from Howard’s spin at Montreal which dropped the Aston Martin down to seventh and gave Bateman a eight second lead over Ashburn.

Before the pit window opened action was rife in the top ten; McCaig dropped to sixth from in an attempt to displace Ashburn from second place, having already passed Perfetti and Mardenborough’s Nissan made contact with Ashburn’s Porsche. The latter incident was more severe and both cars went off and re-joined in a poor state; Ashburn would continue, but Mardenborough retired in the pit lane shortly after with a fractured power steering circuit.

Post pitstops the lead battle was centred around two Matts, messieurs Bell and Griffin; the Ferrari driver was hot on the heels of the McLaren, which was reportingissues with brake pedal pressure. Caine, in for Perfetti, was joined by Ollie Millroy (Ecurie Ecosse) and the ever-rapid hunter, Adam (Beechdean).

With twenty minutes to go, race control declared a penalty for the #21 Ferrari of Griffin for too short a pit stop; Griffin pitted shortly after leaving two thick black tyres marks in his wake, re-joining in third. Elsewhere, Predator drivers Phil Burton and Adam Wilcox were having a renaissance moment in their Ferrari 430 Scuderia. Having changed teams to JMH Automotive, the ‘Scud’ was flying in the time traps and was up to tenth place; the final points position.

For the second race in a row, Adam was reeling in those ahead of him at a rapid rate. The Aston Martin driver was fourth and picking up half a second a lap. Bell’s lead up front had stabilised at sixteen seconds from Caine.

Westbrook, now in the #31 Trackspeed Porsche had begun to catch team-mates Joe Osborne and Tim Harvey; the Trackspeed cars that did so well in free practice were neutralised by the increased track temperature of the 300 circuit. Before the end of the race, both Osborne and Westbrook passed Harvey for fifth and sixth respectively. Millroy was now eighth in the BMW with Hari Prozcyk in the Rhinos Leipert Lamborghini LP600+ ninth after partner Marco Attard had held his own during the opening half an hour.

2004 British GT Champion, Wilcox was now under fierce competition from Aaron Scott (Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari 458 GT3), Piers Johnson (Speedworks Corvette Z06r) and therecovering Benji Hetherington (Motorbase Porsche). Scott eventually got thebetter of Wilcox for tenth, but Johnson held off the threat of Hetherington for twelfth, a result that shows a step forward on recent finishes.

Despite yet-another last lap charge from Adam, he couldn’t overcome the Porsche of Caine, and they finished just under half a second apart. Bell crossed the line to an ecstatic pit wall of crew, this victory was important for several reasons. Not only was this the first victory for the McLaren MP4-12c in British GT, but also it was only the second time United Autosports have won in British GT and the first time the pairing of Bateman and Bell had stood on the podium in 2012, despite much promise.

Over thecourse of the race, the GT4 class had numerous leaders, and the rate of attrition was high. Lee Mowle and George Murrells prevailed though and the Optimum Motorsport pair led home a Ginetta 1-2 as Zoe Wenham and Dom Evans took the runner-up sport of the podium despite a broken driveshaft almost endingtheir race on the last lap.

Long-time leaders of the GT4 battle were championship leaders, Jody Fannin and WarrenHughes. The Team WFR pairing had a six second lead over the Jota Sport-run Mazda MX-5 GT4 of Mark Ticehurst, but Zoe Wenham (Century) the nearest points rival to Fannin and Hughes was on a march up the order.

Come the pit stop window, Fannin entered early with a drive issue and a lack of power in his Ginetta. This caught out the team who weren’t expecting Fannin to pit for another few laps and the resultant three-minute stop handed the class lead to Century’s Wenham; in need of podiums this weekend to prevent Fannin and Hughes winning the title at Snetterton, Wenham pushed on and pitted later than therest of the GT4 class, handing over to Dom Evans with the class lead.

Also undergoing a lengthy pit stop was Steve Chaplin. The multiple VW Cup Champion, debuting in British GT with his Complete Racing team had an ongoing issue with a loose camber pin. Despite his team telling him to ‘get on with it’, Chaplin felt the car was un-driveable and handed over to rising sports car ace, Phil Keen.

Murrellsmade light work of Evans’ fellow Ginetta G50 and made off for the flag. Alex Osborne, now third in the APO Sport G50 was lower down than he’d have liked after team-mate James May had a tricky time in his opening stint. Osborne suffered a similar lack of luck when he had a big moment in the closing stages of the race and crashed hard into the waiting barrier at Riches. This promoted Keen to fourth, and a cheeky move at the last corner on the last lap saw the Aston Martin driver steel third from Hughes as he let GT3 cars pass his struggling Ginetta.

Drama continued in GT4 after Murrells had taken the win, a seemingly easy second place for Evans’s Century prepared Ginetta looked set to end their race a few corners from the end. Evans continued to the flag, despite flames now visible from the left rear wheel arch; Wenham later reported a broken driveshaft was the cause.

FF Corse had a solid start to their British GT campaign; Gary Eastwood and Ryan Hooker (Ferrari 458 Challenge) got in amongst the tail-end of the GT3 field and Eastwood in particular enjoyed battling with those around him, eventually finishing fifteenth overall.

Quotes:

Matt Bell, United Autosports, Race 1 GT3 Winner

“That was probably the most stressful lead of my entire life as we had some fairly severe brake issues which Charles reported from lap 4 or 5. We haven’t really tested though and with the heat and the new tyres it was new territory for us. Relieved to cross the line and a big release to get the win, but I have to say a big thank you to the team to get us to this point after the season we’ve had.”

George Murrells, Optimum Motorsport, Race 1 GT4 Winner

“It was quite eventful, the WFR car got away and Lee had a spin and we benefitted from not having a time adjustment in the pits. We nailed the pit stop and then it was just a case of chasing the Century car. I’ve driven the G50 before, albeit with a bit more bling aero on it, but it’s a great car and Optimum have prepared it well so we’re in good shape.”

 

Race Two – Trackspeed 1-2 at Snetterton, but Nissan fight back to third

Steve Tandy and Joe Osborne became the first drivers to win two races in the 2012 Avon Tyres British GT Championship today at Snetterton, leading home Trackspeed team-mates Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey, while RJN Motorsport’s Jann Mardenborough and Alex Buncombe completed the GT3 podium. GT4 was again full of action, but it was championship leaders Jody Fannin and Warren Hughes who held on for the class win from Jota’s Mark Ticehurst and Owen Mildenhall and new boys, Steve Chaplin and Phil Keen in the Complete Racing Aston Martin Vantage.

Pole-sitter Harvey battled hard in the opening laps, firmly shutting the door on Osborne, who in turn had pressure from Motorbase’s Michael Caine and fellow Trackspeed driver, Richard Westbrook, up from sixth on the grid.

Retirements were aplenty in the opening laps; first to exit the race was Beechdean’s Aston Martin in the hands of Jonny Adam who was involved in an opening lap skirmish with MTECH’s Matt Griffin. Next up was Matt Bell in the United Autosports McLaren MP4-12c who suffered what he described as ‘the scariest moment in his career’; coming down the Bentley straight for the third time, the brakes failed and Bell left the road still doing in excess of 100 mph. After bouncing across the grass and exit road, Bell re-joined but pitted immediately and parked the McLaren in the pits. Caine, third on-track and fending off the intentions of the chasing Westbrook spun at Agostini and the Motorbase driver re-joined in a lowly ninth.

After anincident curtailed its appearance in the day’s earlier race, RJN Nissan were determined to get on the podium in race two. Unfortunately this goal was dealt a blow when the team were handed a drive-through penalty for a start procedure error.

ScuderiaVittoria’s Aaron Scott was rapid in the first half of the race and took several places on his way up the order from eighth, not least Benji Hetherington’s Motorbase Porsche for fourth; Hetherington would later retire with a brokendriveshaft. Scott was gifted third when Westbrook pulled off the circuit with smoke pouring from his car.

Making their way up through the field at a handsome rate were two British GT debutants, Ecurie Ecosse’s Ollie Millroy, and Hari Prozcyk in the Rhinos LeipertLamborghini LP600+. Millroy, in a car that was rebuilt following his accident in free practice yesterday morning, capitalised on the misfortune of those ahead.

With the pit stops complete, the race was Minshaw’s to lose. All was going well for the #33 Demon Tweeks backed Porsche until the final quarter of the race when a fuelpressure problem saw Minshaw gift team-mate Tandy an armful of time, which eventually led to the Trackspeed pair swapping positions.

Going in to the Snetterton weekend, Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin (MTECH Ferrari 458) had only not finished one race outside of the top four, but contact earlier in the race and a later issue with their brakes saw the MTECH pair finish a lowly tenth, albeit eight in class – securing enough points to ensure they closed the gap on Ashburn to just half a point.

Having an improved weekend were Speedworks pair, Ron and Piers Johnson. Yet to score a point in the 2012 championship, the Johnsons managed to be in the right place at the right time and their Corvette Z06r held strong while others around them faltered. Eighth place overall, and seventh in class was a handsome result for their efforts so far this season.

At the front of the field, Minshaw switched on the reserve fuel pump and managed to hold off the intentions of the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4, now with the more than capable Alasdair McCaig driving.

Attempting to recover a time deficit caused by the earlier penalty, Mardenborough cut through the pack at a rapid rate; two seconds a lap here, three seconds a lap there. With ten minutes to go it looked like a nail biting finish, but much to RJN’s no doubt frustration, Minshaw held off the charging Mardenborough and followed home Tandy, just 1.4 seconds between the two Trackspeed drivers.

ScuderiaVittoria finished sixth after an impressive drive by both Scott and Dhillon, and Daniele Perfetti did well to fight back to fifth in the Motorbase Porsche after the contact suffered by partner, Caine. Chevron’s Anthony Reid and Jordan Witt were seventh on track, which shows the pace of the under development GT3 which races in the invitation class.

GT4 was again full of action, but it was championship leaders Jody Fannin and Warren Hughes who held on for the class win despite receiving several dents to their Team WFR prepared Ginetta G50.

APO Sport’s James May and Alex Osborne had a tough race. After sustaining damage in theearlier race, the pair drove most of the race with just third and fifth gear, and a fifth in class finish keeps them in a strong position to challenge for third in the class points.

Jota Sport’s Mazda MX-5 GT4 gave Mark Ticehurst and Owen Mildenhall their best ever finish in British GT, second in race two and more miles on the MX-5 will prove valuable. The Mazda got roughed up by a number of its fellow GT4 competitors, not least Century Motorsport’s Dom Evans who was vying to help give team-mate Zoe Wenham a much-needed podium. Evans and Wenham would however finish the day fourth, having sustained damage to their Ginetta G50 earlier in the race.

Rounding out the GT4 podium were those boys, Steve Chaplin and Phil Keen; a storming opening stint by Keen gave Chaplin the class lead, and the multiple Volkswagen Cup driver held on for his second podium in as many races.

Following the withdrawal of the GTC Chevron entry, FF Corse decided to mix it with the GT3s and battled hard over the hour to finish ninth overall. Drivers Gary Eastwood and Ryan Hooker will be back for more action at Silverstone in early September as the championship looks to grow the class further before 2013.

Quotes:

Steve Tandy, Trackspeed, Race 2 GT3 Winner

“Let’s hope they don’t call us the unlikely lads as we’re the first to win twice. I know what I have to do and to be honest it was a surprisingly quiet race; I really expected someone to be coming at me from the back. I didn’t think Jon would get such a lead on me, but he did and that was that. The Aston and the McLaren broke and ultimately you’ve got to be there at the end, that’s what counts.”

Joe Osborne, Trackspeed, Race 2 GT3 Winner

“At the start I had an opportunity to get by Harvey and he shut the door pretty firmly, which is more than fair as I put a move on him in the first race pretty firmly. Westy got past Caine which made it 1-2-3 Trackspeed, but with the fastest driver probably at the back, so it got a bit tight. I looked to make a move on Tim again, but couldn’t and when Westy dropped off it allowed us a chance to look after our tyres, but put enough pressure on Tim to work his tyres thatlittle bit more so that Steve had the best opportunity at the changeover, which worked and Steve did a faultless job.”

Warren Hughes, Team WFR, Race 2 GT4 Winner

“It was fraught to say the least. I got his twice on the opening lap and I didn’t realise it had damaged the car. I ran a bit wide out of Hamilton, and also hit the pit lane speed limiter at one point and it took me a couple of seconds to work out, then later on I went to pass Osborne at the Esses and found it was rather wet so went off down the escape road, so all of those things lost us time to the leader, but I knew just to keep calm and that Jody might have a clearerrun. It looks like some other people had issues, so Jody had a clearer run, but it was tougher than I’d have liked.”

Full results: http://bit.ly/R2LLpJ

Championship points after round five:

GT3

1. David Ashburn Trackspeed 104.5pts

2. Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin MTECH 104pts

3. Jann Mardenborough/Alex Buncombe RJN Motorsport 102.5pts

4. Alasdair McCaig Ecurie Ecosse 85.5pts

5. Danielle Perfetti/Michael Caine Motorbase 81pts

6. Steve Tandy/Joe Osborne Trackspeed 78.5pts

7. Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam Beechdean 75pts

8. Oliver Bryant Ecurie Ecosse 69.5pts

9. Richard Westbrook Trackspeed 64pts

10. Jon Minshaw/Tim Harvey Trackspeed 59pts

GT4

1. Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes Team WFR 187pts

2. Zoe Wenham Century Motorsport 127.5pts

3. Dominic Evans Century Motorsport 100.5pts

4. James May/Alex Osborne APOSport 82pts

5. Sailesh Bolisetti/Phil Glew Lotus Sport UK 71pts

Full points: http://bit.ly/Mi5AsA