Trackspeed and Ecurie Ecosse took their second GT3 wins of the season whilst TF Sport and Beechdean AMR extended their GT4 win tallies after an exciting two races in the Spa Francorchamps round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship.
The Trackspeed Porsche combo of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen were victorious in the #63 car in the morning 60 minute race, which saw many teams caught out by fitting wet tyres to leave the pit lane for what turned out to be a predominantly dry circuit. Trackspeed – who changed the #63 car to dry tyres after the first formation lap – led home the Oman Racing Team Astons, with the #4 Ahmad Al Harthy / Michael Caine car taking second and the #5 Jeff Smith / Rory Butcher car taking third.
The afternoon 60 minute race started and finished dry with pole-sitter Alexander Sims and team-mate Marco Attard taking victory to propel Attard back to the lead of the drivers’ championship and the squad to the top of the teams’ championship. Attard led home Chris Hoy, who finished on his first British GT podium, partnered by Wolfgang Reip in the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R. Third place went to the #18 FF Corse Ferrari of Gary Eastwood and Adam Carroll.
As well as returning to the lead of the drivers’ championship, Attard was also a worthy winner of the Blancpain Gentleman Trophy for his efforts over the weekend.
The first race was particularly close in the GT4 class with a lengthy battle between eventual victors Andrew Jarman and Devon Modell in the #49 TF Sport Aston and the #407 Beechdean Aston of Ross Wylie and Jake Giddings. In a crowded penultimate corner, the #407 lost P2 to the late charging #77 Lotus Evora of Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw with Kershaw at the wheel, only for a post-race judgement to reverse the positions.
The second race was less contentious in GT4, with the Beechdean car taking honours from the Lotus with the #42 Century Motorsport Ginetta of Tom Oliphant and Rick Parfitt Junior taking third.
The Mobil 1 Service Centre Master of the Weekend award was given to Jake Giddings for his weekend-long strong and consistent performance in the #407 Beechdean AMR Aston.
Race One Report – Trackspeed Slick in Spa – bit.ly/TZg9X4
Trackspeed drivers Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen took their second win of the season after formation lap changes from wets to slicks mixed up the order in the first race of two in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Spa Francorchamps.
The Snetterton race winners finished ahead of a pair of Oman Racing Team Aston Martins with the front row qualifying #4 of Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine taking second and the #5 Jeff Smith / Rory Butcher car taking third.
GT4 saw a battle royal as the race winning #49 TF Sport Aston Martin GT4 Challenge of Andrew Jarman and Devon Modell enjoyed a long dive with the #407 Beechdean Aston, but this allowed the #77 ISSY Racing Lotus Evora of Gavan Kersaw and Oz Yusuf to close, with Kershaw seizing his opportunity to take second from the Beechdean car on the penultimate laps.
The day had started misty and damp with drizzle over the team garages shortly before the race start. The damp conditions at the pits weren’t, however, mirrored on the rest of the track which was discovered on the formation laps, meaning many pitted to change from wets to slicks.
Losing out in this was the pole sitting #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 of Marco Attard and Alexander Sims, but weren’t able to regain their lead, finishing just shy of the podium in the final reckoning.
While the loss of a potential podium was a blow, Attard believed the change was necessary.
“It was a big challenge,” said Attard. “To be honest it was needed, I just could not believe how dry the other side of the circuit was, considering what it was like at this side and the pits. I know it’s expected at Spa, but it was so dry after Eau Rouge.”
The early initiative was taken by the Oman cars, who’d started the day on slicks, making off early on, whilst further back in the order, the first corner saw a collision between Mark Patterson in the #23 United Autosports Audi R8 LMS Ultra and Gary Eastwood in the #18 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia.
At front of class, Al Harthy continued to lead the way in what seemed a well behaved race for many, before he handed over to Caine. With the pro drivers at the wheel, it was Keen in the Porsche who was demonstrating his pace and Caine was soon looking over his shoulder as the gap diminished.
With 15 minutes remaining, the two class leaders soon had a battle on their hands. Keen had closed to within a second of Caine, and was looking for the chance to overtake. With four laps remaining, Keen saw his chance and took Caine’s lead to make it a second victory in three races.
Minshaw believed their victory was aided by his vast experience of the Spa circuit.
“I’m very happy with the win,” said Minshaw. “Competing in the Spa 6 Hours every year for the last 15 years has certainly helped! I know the track here pretty much as well as I know my home circuit, Oulton Park, so it’s like my second home here.”
In GT4 Jarman had made a similarly strong start to hold off the challenge of Yusuf and Jade Edwards in the #41 Optimum G55 Ginetta GT4.
Jarman was able to control the pace, but the places behind him remained a hard fought battle as the #55 Academy Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 of Matt Nicoll-Jones and driver at the time, Oli Basey-Fisher moved into second to see off Wylie’s Aston fellow Ginetta driver Aleksander Schjerpen of the #43 Century Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4.
When the pit window opened however, the #55 car suffered a slow pitstop, before a penalty hindered their race. Jarman’s team-mate Modell had to defend resolutely from Giddings for almost the entirety of his stint.
There was to be late drama as Gavan Kershaw used the chicane to his full advantage on the final lap, taking not only second from Giddings, but coming close to the class lead. Modell however hung on to claim victory.
Modell handled the challenge of the Aston Martin, but admitted it was a constant battle.
“We’re very happy with the win,” said the driver. It was a hard race, Andrew helped by doing a great stint. It was a really close fight at the front and it was a very tough battle between me and the Beechdean Aston Martin for most of my stint. I just got the car in the right places and held him off.”
Post race, the Lotus was given a ten second penalty that demoted it to third place, with Giddings explaining the cause was contact with the #407 Aston.
“On the second to last corner the Lotus came up the inside and hit us in the side, we spun half round but managed to regain it and keep third,” said Giddings. “It was disappointing as we were having such a strong race till then. The gearbox was smoking a bit, but it was changing fine, so hopefully it’s something we can fix.”
Several cars have work to do ahead of the second race, as the #69 APO / Alex Osborne car of James May and Osborne were unable to race due to a qualifying incident that damaged their car.
Race incidents saw the #6 PGF – Kinfaun AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of John Gaw and Phil Dryburgh retire with a damaged clutch, while Steven Kane and Humaid Al Masaoud retired with a damaged splitter.
Race Two Report – Ecurie Ecosse Bounce Back – bit.ly/1kOrEIe
The second race at Spa-Francorchamps in the 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship saw Marco Attard and Alexander Sims bounce back from a podium-less race one in the #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 to win a race disrupted by two safety cars.
The #79 BMW successfully beat Chris Hoy and Wolfgang Reip’s #80 Nissan Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R GT3 to first, but the duo did secure Hoy and Reip’s first British GT podium.
The last podium place fell to Gary Eastwood and Adam Carroll in the FF Corse #18 Ferrari 458 Italia, after the Triple Eight #88 BMW Z4 GT3 of Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle fell two places on the final lap.
In GT4, it was Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie of the #407 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin GT4 Challenge that took victory.
In second, Gavan Kershaw and Oz Yusuf made it two podiums in the last two races with the #77 ISSY Racing Lotus Evora GT4 beating late movers Tom Oliphant and Rick Parfitt in the #42 Century Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4.
The incident filled race set the tone right from the off, the tight first corner proving to be a battleground as both GT3 and GT4 cars rubbed shoulders looking for the corner exit. Several cars then ran wide before returning to the track.
In the case of the #79 BMW and #80 Nissan, their strong starts meant they were able to avoid the drama and push ahead. By Eau Rouge however, Reip had moved past Sims for the race lead, leaving the #21 Strata21 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Tom Onslow-Cole a distant third.
With the GT3 midfield proving to be a tense affair, the next incident was higher up the field. In fourth place, Tom Sharp and Colin White looked GT3 podium contenders, but the #40 IDL CWS Racing / Tom Sharp G55 Ginetta GT4 went off the track at the top of Eau Rouge signalling the first safety car of the race.
The return to racing coincided with the opening of the pit window. Unlike the first race, there was no instant pitting.
Luke Hines was the first to pit, several minutes into the window, and handed over to Derek Johnston in the only early pitstop. Their next race action, however, acted as the cue for the rest of the field to pit.
On a fast outlap, Johnston struggled for grip, and sent the #888 BMW off track and out of the race, ushering in the second safety car of the race.
The safety car brought on a lengthy delay to the race, meaning that only the last four or five laps of the race would be done in racing conditions.
The restart saw Chris Hoy leading the race ahead of Sims and Mowle, before Sims soon retook the lead and held it for victory.
“It was a straight forward race, it was a shame the Nissan got us with its straight line speed,” said the race winner. “We couldn’t get past him, so the two safety cars mixed it up for us. It wasn’t the most eventful race, but it was a straight-forward weekend and results have been great.”
Hoy may well have been denied his first British GT win, but he did claim his first British GT podium. However, the former Olympian was quick to deflect the praise.
“Being in second was a new experience for me,” said Hoy. “You don’t think about what’s behind you and the less excited you are, the easier it becomes. I kept it simple, as I’m still learning and it’s not second nature to me yet. I finished off the end of the race, as Wolfgang did the work, and he deserves the credit.”
Behind Hoy on the restart, Mowle lost his potential podium late on, which allowed Gary Eastwood through to take third, while Jody Firth took fourth as Mowle dropped to fifth.
“The #88 BMW was losing time and had used up a lot of their tyres,” explained Eastwood. “They’re too quick for us early on in races, but late on we can catch up, and after he defended well, I was able to take the gap and grab third.”
The GT4 battle saw the #407 Beechdean Aston Martin pick up its first win since Oulton Park, but their race began in the most difficult of circumstances.
The Aston had developed an issue before it even made the grid, before the team were able to restart the car and allow them to take their place for the race.
Early on, it was Kershaw who led the way, closely followed by Bradley Ellis in the Twisted Team Parker #46 G55 Ginetta GT4 and the #44 Team Parker Racing Porsche 911 GT4 of Dan Cammish.
A few laps later, and Cammish was able to progress into second, before Giddings moved into the gap for third.
It took a safety car and the pit window closure before the GT4 order changed, Barrie Baxter took over from Dan Cammish and fell down the order as Wylie moved ahead of Kershaw and James May of the APO / Alex Osborne #69 Porsche 911 GT4 moved into third.
May’s third place was short lived, as the driver spun, opening the door to Parfitt, who took third position.
“We inherited third,” said Parfitt. “However, we had to be close to get that bit of luck. Tom did a great stint too.”
With few laps remaining, Wylie was able to hold onto the lead ahead of Yusuf as Parfitt maintained third.
Race One Quotes
Devon Modell, TF Sport #49 Aston Martin GT4 Challenge:
“We’re very happy with the win. It was a hard race, Andrew helped by doing a great stint. It was a really close fight at the front and it was a very tough battle between me and the Beechdean Aston Martin for most of my stint. I just got the car in the right places and held him off. The Lotus passed the Aston on the final lap, and had a look in on the final chicane. I defended and kept him behind, but I’m not sure how long we could have done that for.”
Jon Minshaw, #63 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R:
“I’m very happy with the win. Competing in the Spa 6 Hours every year for the last 15 years has certainly helped! I know the track here pretty much as well as I know my home circuit, Oulton Park, so it’s like my second home here. We went out on wets for the out lap but straight away I realised we needed slicks. We made the call to change and as we’d gone early to the formation lap we could stop and come out leading the train behind the wet shod cars ahead. That made it pretty easy to move forwards as we were on dry tyres on what was a pretty much bone dry circuit except for La Source – if you just trickled around La Source everywhere else was pretty much flat out.”
Phil Keen, #63 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R:
“We had a puncture yesterday so I had that in the back of my mind just to look after the car, but I caught Michael Caine and had plenty of time to find a way past. John gave me a good car, I just brought it home.”
Oz Yusuf, #77 ISSY Racing / Oz Yusuf Lotus Evora GT4:
“We should have won but I drove terribly! I thought it was a lot wetter than it was so I drove very cautiously so if it wasn’t for Gavan’s great stint we wouldn’t have taken second. I thought I had a bigger comfort zone than I did with the cars which had to stop, but when I realised they were coming through I certainly had to put my foot down!”
Gavan Kershaw, #77 ISSY Racing / Oz Yusuf Lotus Evora GT4:
“The two Astons ahead were holding each other up and defending which meant I could catch up with them. On the last lap I could see the Beechdean Aston go for the lead around the outside, so I went to the inside. There was a three into one moment and I emerged in second. We came to Spa wanting two podiums so we’ve got what we wanted so far this weekend.”
Marco Attard, Ecurie Ecosse #79 BMW Z4 GT3:
“It was a big challenge, but to be honest it was needed, I just could not believe how dry the other side of the circuit was, considering what it was like at this side and the pits. I know it’s expected at Spa, but it was so dry after Eau Rouge. We all had to make the change, so there’s no point looking back on it. I was happy with fourth, but I would have liked to be higher. Fourth is a good start, and thankfully getting double pole has helped us. With a bit of luck, Alexander can make the most of that in his stint and I can take it easy for mine!”
Jake Giddings, #407 Beechdean Aston Martin Challenge:
“The Aston’s a bit sorry for itself after that race. Myself and Devon Modell have the same power so we were bumping and rubbing each other through our stints – but we’ve both come from Clios so we’re used to that! On the second to last corner the Lotus came up the inside and hit us in the side, we spun half round but managed to regain it and keep third. It was disappointing as we were having such a strong race till then. The gearbox was smoking a bit, but it was changing fine, so hopefully it’s something we can fix.”
Race Two Quotes
Jody Firth, #12 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R
“In the last four of five laps I went from tenth to fourth. There was some good, clean racing. We needed that after the season we’ve had. Everyone has done well here and luck has let us down.”
Gary Eastwood, #18 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia
“The #88 BMW was losing time and had used up a lot of their tyres. They’re too quick for us early on, but afterwards, late on we can catch up and after he defended well, I was able to take the gap and grab third.”
Adam Carroll, #18 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia
“We work well as a team, we’ve done great here today. The Ferrari doesn’t have the outright pace, but we did well to keep up with the others and get a podium finish. Basically have to work twice as hard! The race start was manic, it’ll make for great TV, it was full on and everyone was going for it. I picked off places and handed it over to Eastwood who did a great job.”
Rick Parfitt, #42 Century Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4
“We knew we couldn’t win with outright pace. The competitors are quite far ahead in that respect, so we had to stay with the top five and use our strengths to keep up. I had a difficult stint that involved a lot of defending, but the TF Sport Aston’s desperation to get ahead meant I was in control. We inherited third, but we had to be close to get that bit of luck. Tom did a great stint too.”
Gavan Kershaw, #77 ISSY Racing Lotus Evora GT4
“I got my head down and got a bit of lead, got a good restart, but then I saw Oz was behind the safety car when I took my helmet off! In the end it was a comfortable second. Oz kept his own in his stint to bring it home.”
Marco Attard, #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3
“It’s fantastic to win the race and get the award. I’m a lot less stressed after that, end of the weekend and it’s gone well. We had the rub of the green, Sims did great and so did the team. They’re always that one step ahead.”
Alexander Sims, #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3
“It was a straight forward race, it was a shame the Nissan got us with its straight line speed. We couldn’t get past him, so the two safety cars mixed it up for us. It wasn’t the most eventful race, but it was a straight-forward weekend and results have been great.”
Wolfgang Reip, #80 Nissan Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R GT3
“I knew I had to push, the team told me, so I did. The Nissan’s straight line speed meant I have the advantage over Alexander Sims. After I had the clear track, I built up the gap, but it was annoying that the safety car stopped that. We did a good pit stop for Chris to take over. The second safety car was a little more in our favour. It’s my second race in Spa, and my second podium here, it’s amazing.”
Jake Giddings, #407 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3
“It was interesting, we had problems before the race, but the team got the car going. We always struggle at the starts compared to the likes of the Lotus but we hung on. Then we got used to the tyres and picked off the Ginetta before battling on. We just missed the pit window, but we still managed to stay ahead. We knew Ross was quick and he managed to do well on the last few laps.”
Chris Hoy, #80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R GT3
“It was a tense wait to get out there, the car had a good gap, but after the safety car it became a different challenge. When I went out, there was the potential for GT4 traffic, but thankfully it wasn’t there. I had to let the BMW through, but to be fair he was quicker than me too. Being in second was a new experience for me, you don’t think about what’s behind you, the less excited you are, the easier it becomes. I kept it simple, as I’m still learning and it’s not second nature to me yet. I finished off the end of the race, as Wolfgang did the work, and he deserves the credit. This is an amazing venue to get a podium.”
#77 ISSY Racing / Oz Yusuf Lotus Evora GT4 – 10 seconds penalty – caused an avoidable collision
#40 IDL CWS Racing / Tom Sharp Ginetta G55 GT3 – 30 seconds penalty – caused an avoidable collision
#38 MP Motorsport Aston Martin vantage GT3 – Formal Written Repremand, 2 penalty points on licence and 6 championship points – causing an avoidable collision during safety car period.