The Triple Eight Race Engineering squad recorded a second consecutive double-finish in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship in the 180-minute blue riband Silverstone 500 round earlier today. Derek Johnston and Luke Hines finished sixth, with Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne taking eleventh in an action-packed endurance race on the 3.66 mile Towcester circuit.
Mixed fortunes in qualifying, where Lee and Joe qualified fifth and Derek and Luke were fifteenth, were flipped in the three-hour race, and the #8 BMW Z4 GT3 of Lee was again a target on the first lap when the #6 PGF Kinfaun-AMR Aston Martin sent Lee forcibly flying onto the grass at the exit of Copse.
A quick pit stop at the end of the first lap was required to remove grass from the air intakes, allowing the 4-litre V8 BMW to breathe again but relegating Lee to dead last.
On lap thirteen a three-lap safety car period brought the field together; Derek was thirteenth at this point, having made light work of his fellow competitors and risen to eleventh, but progressive understeer saw him drop back two places on lap eight. Fired up and with a point to prove, Lee was up to seventeenth already.
The Safety Car period was exploited by a number of fellow competitors making their first mandatory pit stop; Derek pitted and handed over to Luke, but Lee stayed out and soon climbed up to second place. Luke rejoined from the pits in eighth, but was overcome by a rapid Bentley Continental GT3 in search of a second win in as many weekends.
Lee pitted after an hour and Joe immediately set off at an electrifying pace; managing the tyres through his stint and maintaining front-running pace saw the #8 Z4 GT3 rise up the order, overcoming a 47s gap to race leader Ahmad Al Harthy’s Aston Martin in just shy of 20 minutes. Shortly after this Joe took the second mandatory stop and Lee would need to complete a handful of laps before giving the BMW back to Joe to finish the race.
Another rallying stint from Derek after a solid earlier effort from Luke saw the former GT Cup Champion pit #888 from fifth place. With Lee in #8 and just one mandatory stop remaining, things were looking better for both cars. The strategy for #8 was working well, but a safety car was required to ensure the field was suitably bunched-up for when Joe took over.
Disaster for #8 struck when Race Control spotted Joe had gone just a tenth quicker in a sector under yellow flags, a heavy drive-through punishment was delivered to the team and Lee duly complied, giving #8 its fourth visit to the pit lane. Lee came in again next time around and handed over to Joe to finish the race, rejoining in twelfth with around 20 minutes left on the clock.
The penalty to #8 assisted the #888 Z4 and Luke rose to sixth place, but in the remaining laps he couldn’t pass the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia a few seconds up the road. Joe made the most of the final minutes, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 73, a blistering 2:03.885, on his way to reeling in tenth-placed Tom Onslow-Cole in another Aston Martin.
Motorbase took the win with Al Harthy and 2012 British GT Champion Michael Caine, with Luke a positive sixth and up nine places from the start. Joe came home eleventh, a spin on the final lap dropping the #8 outside the points.
Today’s results see Derek and Luke drop a place to fourth in the standings, 24 points off the leaders but with six races still to go in the 2014 season. Lee and Joe remain on a score of -9 with good opportunities over the remaining four weekends to get wins and points on the board.
Joe Osborne, Driver #8
“We knew Silverstone suited the BMW so we had to make this round pay us some points after bad luck at the first two events. Qualifying was good. We made a radical setup change, which was the right thing to do, but with only one fast lap on the tyres it was hard for me to get the best out of the new setup in a short window like that. Similar to last year our race was ruined by another competitor at turn one, lap one, of a three-hour race. We potentially could’ve got back into contention after pitting to clear the grass out from our subsequent off, but we had radio issues and couldn’t pit under the safety car. When I got into the car for the first time I just had to push as hard as possible to see where we could get to. I was pleased to get into the race lead and the fastest lap is more of a reward for the team to display how good they’ve made our car.”
Lee Mowle, Driver #8
“There’s definitely not a magnet in the car, we’re just unbelievably unlucky this year. We should’ve come out of turn one in second and hopefully I could’ve handed the car over to Joe and he’d have gone and done the business as he was phenomenally quick this weekend. What’s nice is he was quicker than the BMW factory driver, and the team had done a cracking job with the car to give it that pace and for me I’d have had to just keep it in the zone to help give us a podium. It’s really frustrating for the entire team that we didn’t even get close to that result. Our luck has got to change at some point and I’d love to get some podiums with Joe before the season is out; he’s brought me along so far, I really want us to win together.”
Derek Johnston, Driver #888
“It was a difficult race, I had understeer from early on in my first stint and while the car felt good, I was having to come off the power earlier to get the apexes. It’s good to get points in the bag though, we’ve now scored in every race this year and we’re very much in contention for the championship. The Triple Eight BMWs went well at Snetterton last year so we’ll hopefully be challenging for a win there.”
Luke Hines, Driver #888
“Saturday was a struggle with a steering-related issue, but Derek had a good opening stint before the safety car and moved us up the order. I enjoyed the race and got into my stints, but got stuck behind the AF Ferrari that held me up at Rockingham – it’s a very wide car. We’re very much in the hunt for the title and I’m looking forward to Snetterton.”