A sunny Oulton Park saw the #5 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin of driver pairing Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine shine on its way to victory in the first race of the 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship, whilst GT4 honours went to the #407 Beechdean AMR of Ross Wylie and Jake Giddings.
Having qualified on pole, Al Harthy was able to take advantage of a clear track ahead to stretch out a lead at the front, with only the interference of the backmarkers and then a safety car to interrupt proceedings before he handed over the #4 Aston for Caine to continue the charge.
Al Harthy led reigning champion Andrew Howard’s Beechdean Aston at the start, but after the pit stop shuffle – which coincided with the race’s sole safety car period – it was Luke Hines in the Triple Eight #888 who took over second position after a strong first stint from team-mate Derek Johnston, with a hard charging Richard Lyons in the rear view mirror with the #29 AF Corse Ferrari.
Hines, however, would have to return to the pits for a stop and go penalty thanks to the team’s pit stop not adhering to the timing rules, and P7 was the result come the chequered flag for the lone Triple Eight car.
This left Lyons sitting pretty in second in the 458 Italia shared with Pasin Lathouras, whilst the last place on the podium was taken by the #1 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage of reigning champion Howard and Jonny Adam, closely pursued by the United Autosports Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Mark Patterson and Matt Bell.
While it was relatively clear sailing for Al Harthy and Caine, it was a challenging start for the Trackspeed twosome of the #12 and #33 Porsches. Whilst the #12 of Jody Firth and Warren Hughes had to start from the back of the grid due to a chassis change following Saturday’s practice accident, the #33 car found itself at the back at the end of the first lap with Jon Minshaw at the wheel, after contact from the #17 M-Sport Bentley.
Whilst the Porsche continued on track, the Bentley, with Rembert Berg at the wheel, would have to make a visit to the pits with a damaged front left wheel needing changing before it could continue on its way.
The two GT3 cars would soon have to work their way through a competitive GT4 field embroiled in their own fight, one which ultimately was won by the #407 Beechdean AMR Aston of Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie from the Issy Racing Lotus Evora of Oz Yusuf and factory Lotus development driver, Gavan Kershaw. Third spot in class went to TF Sport’s #49 Aston of Andrew Jarman and Devon Modell.
It was a short race for the race two pole car of the #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 with Marco Attard, who had been closing in on the race lead before smoke started billowing and he retired to the pits. It was a quick diagnosis as to the problem by the Barwell Motorsport crew, as a gaping crack was found in the gearbox casing, to leave a busy lunch break as the offending unit was swapped.
The #79 wasn’t the only car to suffer, as Steve Tandy’s #2 Generation Bentley Racing Bentley Continental made a couple of additional stops on its way to an eventual P18 finish.
Normal proceedings were interrupted on lap 15 with the safety car deployed due to the stranded #42 Century Motorsport Ginetta of Rick Parfitt and Tom Oliphant whose GT4 challenge was dealt a blow by a suspect fuel pump issue.
The safety car emerged just too late for Al Harthy but those behind him dived into the pits for their mandatory stops and driver changes, the #4 car coming in a lap later than most, but maintaining its overall lead, now in the hands of Caine.
The safety stayed out for three laps and on the restart Caine was off into the distance again in GT3, with Luke Hines in the Triple Eight#888 car in hot pursuit. Hines, however, would have to return to the pits for a stop and go penalty thanks to a pit stop timing indiscretion, leaving Richard Lyons in the #29 AF Corse Ferrari to persue P1.
GT4 saw Jake Giddings replace Wylie in the Beechdean car, but the class lead was maintained, albeit soon shorted by hard-charging factory Lotus development driver, Gavan Kershaw. In the Issy Racing #77 Lotus Evora GT4.
The epic battle of the race was to prove to be that between the #80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN GT-R driven by Alex Buncombe and the #33 Trackspeed Porsche 997 with Phil Keen at the wheel. Whilst admitting that the Nissan is not suited to the twisty nature of Oulton, Buncombe put in a valiant effort to defend what was to be P8 from the attentions of Keen as the clock ticked on in the latter quarter of the race.
Keen soon had to defend as Steven Kane was on a charge in the #17 M-Sport Racing Bentley Continental, with the Northern Irishman working his way past the Porsche and then Buncombe on the last lap as part of an impressive recovery from its first lap problems.
Whilst the P8 battle waged, it was a late setback for the FF Corse’s #18 Ferrari 458 Italia, which withdrew from the race on lap 31 from what was P7.
This meant that #18 driver Rob Barff was left a bystander as Caine crossed the line for the first British GT win of 2014 from the Lyons / Pathouras Ferrari and Howard / Adam Aston.
In GT4, the #407 Aston held on to the lead with Giddings at the wheel, with Kershaw unable to overturn the gap. Jarman and Modell took the final podium position in class.
Ahmad Al Harthy, #4 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3
“It was a perfect start and I made a nice gap between me and the other cars. It was a matter of putting my head down and carrying on. I gave the car to Michael with a healthy lead. There were no mistakes and it was going very well to the point that I was checking my radio to see if the connection was working as it was too quiet in there! Unfortunately the safety car came out and our lead was really reduced. Luckily we stayed in front and obviously for the last 25 minutes watching Michael was very stressful, but there’s no one better you’d want in the car. You know his consistency is strong and he is reliable. The team did a great job everywhere, and everything. We’re happy with the car, we’re happy with the team and it is a team win.”
Ross Wylie, #407 Beechdean Racing AMR Aston Martin GT4 Challenge
“I don’t think it comes much better than that, after qualifying pole too and then leading from start to finish. By all means, it wasn’t easy. Rick Parfitt Jnr kept me on my toes throughout my stint. I don’t know what happened to him, but it certainly took the pressure off when he stopped! The safety car worked perfectly for us and Jake brought the car home fantastically. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going for race two.”
Results: 2014 Round 1 – Oulton Park
|Race 1 Result|
|1||4||GT3||Oman Racing Team:||Aston Martin Vantage GT3||1:00:25.207||35||99.4|
|2||29||GT3||AF Corse:||Ferrari 458 Italia||1:00:28.768||35||3.561||99.2|
|3||1||GT3||Beechdean AMR:||Aston Martin Vantage GT3||1:00:32.982||35||7.775||99.19|
|4||23||GT3||United Autosports:||Audi R8 LMS Ultra||1:00:33.288||35||8.081||99.21|
|5||6||GT3||PGF – Kinfaun AMR:||Aston Martin Vantage GT3||1:00:44.844||35||19.637||99.15|
|6||38||GT3||MP Motorsport AMR:||Aston Martin Vantage GT3||1:00:45.051||35||19.844||99.11|
|7||888||GT3||Triple 8:||BMW Z4 GT3||1:00:57.538||35||32.331||99.43|
|8||17||GT3||M-Sport:||Bentley Continental GT3||1:01:57.050||35||01:31.8||100.02|
|9||80||GT3||Nissan GT Academy Team RJN:||Nissan GT-R GT3||1:01:58.262||35||01:33.1||98.88|
|10||33||GT3||Trackspeed:||Porsche 997 GT3 R||1:01:59.884||35||01:34.7||99.53|
|11||13||GT3||AF Corse:||Ferrari 458 Italia||1:02:00.562||35||01:35.4||98.95|
|12||40||GT3||CWS 4×4 Spares:||G55 Ginetta GT3||1:02:01.076||35||01:35.9||99.24|
|13||5||GT3||Oman Racing Team:||Aston Martin Vantage GT3||1:02:01.193||35||01:36.0||100.09|
|14||3||GT3||Rosso Verde / Hector Lester:||Ferrari 458 Italia||1:02:02.914||35||01:37.7||99.13|
|15||28||GT3||HorsePower Racing:||Aston Martin Vantage GT3||1:02:25.691||35||02:00.5||99.64|
|16||21||GT3||Strata 21:||Nissan GT-R||1:00:47.227||34||1 Lap||99.11|
|17||407||GT4||Beechdean AMR:||Aston Martin GT4 Challenge||1:01:17.488||33||2 Laps||91.04|
|18||2||GT3||Generation Bentley Racing:||Bentley Continental GT3||1:00:32.510||32||3 Laps||98.95|
|19||77||GT4||ISSY Racing / Oz Yusuf:||Lotus Evora GT4||1:00:48.965||32||3 Laps||91.65|
|20||49||GT4||TF Sport:||Aston Martin GT4 Challenge||1:00:50.968||32||3 Laps||91.18|
|21||41||GT4||Optimum:||G55 Ginetta GT4||1:01:12.142||32||3 Laps||90.4|
|22||45||GT4||ABG Motorsport:||BMW M3 GT4||1:01:14.893||32||3 Laps||90.56|
|23||43||GT4||Century Motorsport:||G55 Ginetta GT4||1:01:29.548||32||3 Laps||89.71|
|24||18||GT3||FF Corse:||Ferrari 458 Italia||0:54:19.492||31||4 Laps||99.23|
|25||55||GT4||Academy Motorsport:||G55 Ginetta GT4||1:01:03.017||31||4 Laps||89.71|
|26||44||GT4||Team Parker Racing:||Porsche 911 GT4||1:01:03.129||31||4 Laps||90.9|
|—||12||GT3||Trackspeed:||Porsche 997 GT3 R||0:17:22.059||10||25 Laps||97.29|
|—||22||GT3||Preci -Spark:||McLaren MP4 12C||0:15:22.721||9||26 Laps||96.55|
|—||42||GT4||Century Motorsport:||G55 Ginetta GT4||0:19:48.977||11||24 Laps||90.96|
|—||46||GT4||Twisted Team Parker:||Ginetta G55||0:16:55.846||9||26 Laps||88.6|
|—||48||GT4||Fox Motorsport / Paul McNeilly:||G55 Ginetta GT4||0:26:01.108||14||21 Laps||89.55|
|—||79||GT3||Ecurie Ecosse:||BMW Z4 GT3||0:16:42.994||10||25 Laps||98.25|