Eagling and Smith scoop a first British GT4 win at Dutch seaside circuit
Oman Air Motorbase’s Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine took their second win of the season today at Zandvoort and the first race of the weekend proved to be a thriller at all ends of the grid. In GT4 it was the Las Moras Chevrolet Camaro SS GT4 of Luc Braams and Duncan Huisman that took the GT4 class win, and Dan Eagling and Matt Smith who took their maiden British GT4 win.
Omani ace Al Harthy made the most of his front row start to lead the field into Tarzan for the first time. Unfortunately the Motorbase driver spent the majority of his 30-minute stint behind a safety car following an accident lower down the order, but kept a cool head upon the restart to build a two second lead over Ecurie Ecosse’s Marco Attard. The BMW driver was promoted up the order after the Trackspeed Porsche of 2010 British GT Champion, David Ashburn spun and crashed at Hugenholz on the second lap, damaging the radiator of his 997 GT3 R.
Ashburn’s demise assisted the rise of Gary Eastwood in the FF Corse Ferrari to third with PGF Kinfaun’s Dryburgh fourth and Derek Johnston in the Mtech Ginetta G55 GT3 completing the early top five before the accident which brought out the Safety Car. Upon the restart, Al Harthy was unlucky to miss the pit window opening by a handful of seconds. This threatened to change the order drastically as Lee Mowle in seventh was the first driver able to take advantage of the pit opening and the 888Optimum racer seized advantage. An incident at the other end of the pit lane removed the benefit, a faulty lighting system showed red and backed up not just Osborne (in for Mowle), but also the Trackspeed Porsche of Stephen Jelley and the United Autosports Audi R8 LMS ultra of championship frontrunner, Matt Bell.
Back on track, reigning British GT Champion Caine showed his worth and the win was a hard earned affair. Brown zoned in on the Porsche driver who was some six seconds up the road, picking him off quickly, sometimes at a rate of half a second a lap, until the gap got to around 0.3s which is when Rob Barff in the FF Corse Ferrari 458 joined in the action; this made it a three-way fight for the lead.
The final laps saw Brown briefly pass the Motorbase driver at Tarzan only to run deep and allow Caine to re-pass. The move also invited Barff to take a closer look at Brown and the Ferrari man took second.
Barff found out just how wide the Porsche’s rear was and struggled to make headway, just like Brown. The FF Corse driver made a bold move on Caine on the final lap and the pair briefly touched at the Masterbocht corner, allowing Brown an opportunity to take second. As Barff and Brown squabbled, Caine pulled away and finished half a second ahead of fellow title rival Brown in the BMW; the entire top six was covered by just 2.3 seconds. The victory fires Caine and Al Harthy up to third in the points standings and continues their superb run of scoring in every race.
Behind Caine and Brown, a dejected Barff took the flag next for a deserved podium finish. John Gaw and Phil Dryburgh were fourth in the PGF Kinfaun-AMR Aston Martin; both drivers pushed hard when possible, with Gaw sensibly putting up little fight to the hard charging Brown and Barff early in his stint, instead concentrating on sealing a result that gives the pair an impressive points haul and their best finish of the season.
In close proximity though were Oliver Bryant and Trackspeed’s Phil Keen, and the fifth place finish Bryant secured for Ecurie Ecosse sees he and team-mate Attard go top of the standings by 3.5 points; all the more impressive considering the Ecurie Ecosse BMW had a five second success penalty in the mandatory pitstop too. Keen and team-mate Jon Minshaw worked hard to overcome a five grid place drop on the grid after an error in free practice.
United Autosports were given some cheer when Bell recovered from the pit exit issue to take seventh and the honour of fastest lap of the race. The finish keeps the young Geordie and South African team-mate Mark Patterson in contention for the title, albeit 13.5 points adrift. A composed drive by Joe Osborne to eighth gave the #8 888Optimum BMW its third points score this season, impressively, its third on the bounce.
Ninth place was the Team WRT Audi of Rembert Berg and Warren Hughes. Hughes overcame an issue that had hampered Berg early on and began setting the timing screen alight with purple, fastest of anyone, times. The ninth place finish means that Hughes and his Dutch co-driver need a big result in tomorrows 60-minute race to get them back into the title chase. Rounding out the top ten were Ron and Piers Johnson in the Barwell Motorsports BMW Z4. After a difficult first season in the BMW, the point was a big reward for a year of effort and comes fresh off Ron Johnson receiving the prized Blancpain Driver of the Weekend trophy last time out at Brands Hatch.
The Championship leader heading into the Zandvoort weekender was Andrew Howard. The Beechdean-AMR boss was caught out by changeable weather conditions this morning and started the Aston Martin Vantage he shares with Jonny Adam from a lowly eighteenth. Coupled with a fifteen second success addition to the mandatory stop for winning at Brands, the size of the task in hand was huge, but Howard and Adam were unfazed and pushed hard to overcome the deficit, missing out on the points by just one place.
Elsewhere Johnston and Hines took a twelfth place finish on their debut in the Ginetta G55, coming home the best G55 finisher after both the Team LNT and CWS 4×4 entries were caught up in contact with the AF Corse Ferrari and the Fortec Mercedes respectively. The Horsepower Racing team, making a British GT debut here this weekend took the GTC class win, but Paul Bailey and Andy Schulz had their own drama, the pair were caught speeding in the pit lane and were awarded a thirteen second stop/go penalty. This dropped the duo down the order and into the realms of GT4 racers, when in reality they were extremely close to their GT3 counterparts.
A controversial incident in GT4 dominated the overall race. Championship leader Rick Parfitt Jnr passed title rival Declan Jones on the pit straight on the second lap and as the Optimum Motorsport driver moved across to take his line for the first corner, Tarzan, he received a nudge from Jones behind. The decision was judged by the Race Director to be a racing incident with no penalty for either driver.
However, a lap later, Parfitt Jnr crashed heavily into the barriers at the exit of final turn, the Arie Luyendijk corner, and his Ginetta G50 spun wildly mid-air, spraying debris across the circuit. Upon further inspection after the race the car was deemed to have too much damage to race tomorrow, ruling out Parfitt Jnr and Ryan Ratcliffe from race two tomorrow and opening up the title race to Jones and APO Sport’s James May and Alex Osborne. Parfitt Jnr escaped unhurt from the crash that sent a stray rear tyre across the track into the side of the APO car driven at the time by May.
Up front the Dutch contingent of Pieter Christiaan van Oranje (Ekris BMW M3 GT4), Frank Wilschut (Las Moras Chevrolet Camaro SS GT4) and Marcel Nooren’s impressive sounding Chevrolet Corvette C6 GT4 duked it out, eventually being joined by the class winning Duncan Huisman driven Las Moras Camaro too.
The Dutch GT contenders don’t score British GT points this weekend, so the battle behind them between Jones and May was important for the points standings. Jones’s G50 led the British GT teams under the safety car, but a mechanical gearbox gremlin on the team’s new paddle-shift system caused a problem that would prevent team-mate and team boss Nathan Freke from challenging for more than third later on.
Dan Eagling took over the lead of the class after the pitstops were complete and the Blendini / Triple R G50 of Rory Bryant and British debutant David Barker had ground to a halt with a sheared alternator cable. Eagling is a more than able racer and raced in British GT in 2004, the Suffolk-based driver delivered on the opportunity and gave Redgate Lifetime Racing a maiden British GT4 class win, much to the delight of team-mate Matt Smith who is growing in stature with every race.
APO Sport kept their fellow Ginetta rivals at bay throughout the second-half of the race and took a British GT second place by over eighteen seconds. A win tomorrow and some good fortune with other results could see the battling duo of Osborne and May take on Declan Jones for the GT4 title.
The second race of the weekend begins at 11:00 BST / 12:00 CET, with a brief ten-minute warm-up at 9am. Coverage of the race will be shown ‘as live’ at 18:00 BST / 19:00 CET on the Motors TV network.
#1 Ahmad Al Harthy – Oman Air Motorbase Porsche 997 GT3 R (first in GT3):
“It’s a great result. I knew when I walked the track that I would like this circuit, but I didn’t think we’d be able to win the race. I had a relatively simple race and Michael did a superb job to hold off the others at the end of the race. It is important to win on the track and we’re very happy ahead of the race tomorrow.”
#50 Dan Eagling – Redgate Lifetime Racing Ginetta G50 (first in GT4):
“That was a good victory. We came here not expecting a big result; so to come away with a win is fantastic. Matt did a really good job to keep us in it early on and when I came out of the pits it was just a case of keeping the APO and Century car at bay. We’re really chuffed to win a British GT4 race and hope we can do it again soon!”
Full Provisional Race Results – Race 1 Zandvoort
Avon Tyres British GT Championship: Round #6 of 7 – Zandvoort
September 6th – September 8th, 2013
Circuit Park Zandvoort, Burgemeester van Alphenstraat 108, Zandvoort
2.676-mile / 13-turn race circuit
Race Duration: 2 x 60 minutes
British GT TV Broadcast (All times local to broadcaster):
Motors TV UK: Race 2, Sunday September 8, 18:00
Motors TV Europe: Race 2, Sunday September 8, 19:00
Channel 4: Highlights, Saturday September 14, 07:00
Motors TV: Highlights, Saturday September 14, 23:05
More listings here: http://www.britishgt.com/television.php
British GT Online Race Coverage:
Live text commentary – www.twitter.com/britishgt
Live timing – https://livetiming.raceresults.nu/zandvoort#screen-results
Schedule (Please note all times are BST [CET -1]):
Sunday, Sept 8, 2013:
Warm-up: 08:00 – 08:10 (10 mins)
Race 2: 11:00 – 12:00 (60 mins)
Championship points after race 8 of 10:
GT3: 1 Attard/Bryant 99pts; 2 Howard 95.5pts; 3 Al Harthy/Caine 95pts; 4 Adam 89.5pts; 5 Tandy/Brown 86.5pts; 6 Patterson/Bell 85.5pts; 7 Tandy 68pts; 8 Hetherington 64 pts
GT4: 1 Parfitt Jnr/Ratcliffe 146pts; 2 Jones 133.5pts 3 Wenham 118.5pts; 4 Osborne/May 118pts; 5 Smith/Eagling 106pts
Full standings after race 8: http://ow.ly/m5iU1
Blancpain Gentleman Driver Championship after race 8 of 10:
1 Attard 109.5pts; 2 Howard 105.5pts; 3 Patterson 99.5pts; 4 Tandy 98pts; 5 JaMinshaw 64pts
Full BGDT standings after race 8: http://ow.ly/m5iU1