The #31 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R of David Ashburn and Nick Tandy made a perfect return in the penultimate round of the 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship with victory in GT3 whilst Beechdean AMR enjoyed a strong GT4 victory for Ross Wylie and Jake Giddings in the #407 Aston after a tense and fast-paced two-hour race at Brands Hatch.
A crisp final day of August saw a mix of blue skies and clouds to frame a well-attended event at the Kent circuit, which looked set for a Trackspeed 1-2 with the #63 Porsche of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen leading late on till a puncture curtailed their charge.
The #31 had been playing a faithful support act for the championship aspirations of Minshaw and Keen with the return of Porsche factory driver Tandy and Ashburn – who turns 67 later this week – drafted in to the vacated car previously inhabited by now Triple Eight ensconced Jody Firth and Warren Hughes. With the sister #63 out of contention – and finishing an eventual ninth – Tandy was unleashed for the win.
Behind the Tandy/Ashburn combo the Motorbase Aston Martins took a close race finish at their home circuit, with the #4 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine edging second ahead of the #5 Aston of Rory Butcher and Jeff Smith. For his stint in the car Smith was awarded the prestigious Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend Award.
In GT4, the #407 Aston Martin GT4 Challenge of Wylie and Giddings fared much better than the sister #1 car – which had brake issues – with the #407 duo taking a comfortable class victory ahead of GT4 Championship rivals Devon Modell and Andrew Jarman of the TF Sport #49 Aston Martin GT4 Challenge.
Third place in GT4 class went to late movers Jamie Stanley and Paul McNeilly of the #48 Fox Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4, delivering McNeilly a home race podium following the late expiration of the #43 Century Motorsport Ginetta’s charge of Aleksander Schjerpen and Morten Dons. Fourth was taken by an impressive drive from the #44 Team Parker Porsche of Barrie Baxter and Dan Cammish.
In was a tough race day for the #1 Aston of reigning champions Beechdean which saw race starter Andrew Howard drop down the order from the off, with brake issues having forced the squad to miss the morning warm-up session still blighting the Beechdean car such that Howard was falling fast through the order, his potential for a back-to-back title evaporating in front of him. Team-mate Jonny Adam was unable to arrest the rot with the car crossing the finish line out of the points in P16 and subsequently receiving a drop of three places for Donington as well as the loss of nine championship points for both drivers for contact Howard made with the Triple Eight car of Derek Johnston. Howard also received three penalty points on his licence.
Elsewhere, the combination of Colin White and Tom Sharp seemed rejuvenated in their new Aston Martin berth with White running strongly at the upper end of the top ten at the start of the race until making contact when lapping Jeff Wyatt in the Geoff Steel / Declan Jones BMW M3 GT4 the result of which was retirement for both cars.
The solo Bentley at Brands Hatch, the #17 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 of Humaid Al Masaoud and Steven Kane also had a tough race, with Kane coming to a stop in the third sector due to a gearbox problem.
A new look Triple Eight came to Brands Hatch with three BMW Z4 GT3s, and while the #88 BMW Z4 GT3 of Ryan Ratcliffe and Lee Mowle took a strong top ten finish on their first outing together, the #888 of Derek Johnston and Joe Osborne were involved in contact that ended their race, with the #8 of Jody Firth and Warren Hughes succumbing to an issue on their out lap following the mandatory pit stop.
Heading to the season finale at Donington Park on September 13-14, #79 Ecurie Ecosse driver Marco Attard enjoys a commanding lead in the GT3 Drivers Championship with 148.5 points from team-mate Alexander Sims on 129.5, with only the driver combo of the #4 Oman Racing Team Aston of Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine able to beat him.
In the GT4 Drivers Championship it’s a straight title battle between the #407 driver combo of Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie and the #49 TF Sport pairing of Andrew Jarman and Devon Modell. Teams-wise, in both classes it’s a three-way fight; in GT3 between Oman Racing Team (160.5), Ecurie Ecosse (148.5) and Trackspeed (133.5) and in GT4 Beechdean AMR (192.5), Century Motorsport (179) and TF Sport (163) are slogging it out.
In the prestigious Blancpain Gentleman Driver Trophy, Marco Attard has stretched his lead to 163.5 points from Andrew Howard’s 133.5 with Jon Minshaw on 95.
The season finale of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship plays out at Leicestershire’s Donington Park circuit with on the weekend of September 13-14, with qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.
Jonny Adam, #1 Beechdean Aston Martin Vantage GT3
“We had a problem in warm up with the brakes and we reckon that cost us pace and we dropped from first to sixteenth. It was purely straight line speed so maybe the brakes jammed on, which is something we’re investigating. We struggled throughout the race with a lack of balance and pace. We kept the car out and you never know if we could’ve snuck into the points. We lost the power steering and there were other issues too. We’ll regroup and find the problems, likely to be minor things with a car as bulletproof as the Aston. We’ll try and finish the year on a high, a win would be lovely.”
Michael Caine, #4 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3
“It was good, it’s a brand new car for this race. Obviously we had a big accident at Spa in the 24-hour race, so the guys have worked a miracle to get the car here. It was tough for Ahmad on the opening stint, we had a great gap and that’s what we were hoping for. The safety car and the driver changes then meant we were second on the road. At the end the sister car was catching, it was close at the end, but we knew what was happening. It was all about not taking risk with the back markers, and not killing the tyres. We had a conversation and it all worked out fine, so second and third for Motorbase is great. If we can’t win, it’s good that Tandy did.”
Rory Butcher, #5 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3
“I’m absolutely delighted with today’s result. We started fourth and Jeff put in a really good stint at the start, but then the safety car made it a little bit harder. It closed everybody back up, and once I got in the car it took me a couple of laps to get into the rhythm, and get a feel for how the car was, and a feel for the fuel load.
“It felt much better at the end of the race, and to come home with Michael Caine and Ahmad Al Harthy, our team-mates, only just in front of us was really, really good. The team are absolutely delighted. Our sister car is looking good for the championship, so I’m happy to settle for third, and see the team do well. For me it’s a good team performance, we’re now leading the team championship, so it wasn’t worth taking any risks. I’m just really happy for everybody, and as long as we’re on the podium we get to celebrate and get our name up there.”
Jeff Smith, #5 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3
“I’m really pleased with today’s result, we’ve made a lot of changes over the last month or so, and things are really starting to come together with the car, and our understanding of it.”
Jody Firth, #8 Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT4
“Overall we had a good race car underneath us today, despite the weight penalty. I got a good start and quickly made up some places, it was really good fun. I don’t think we had the car completely dialled in here this weekend, but it was a promising debut and we’ll go to Donington with every intention of getting a podium.”
Warren Hughes, #8 Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT4
“It’s really unfortunate. I left the pits and when I got to Druids I felt the rear was a bit loose, but thought it could’ve been the new tyres. When I got to Hawthorns I realised it was affecting the power, so naturally considered it could be driveshaft related. Ian (Harrison – Team Principal) was on the radio and said it was a puncture, but it didn’t feel like it. The wheel broke loose and well, we know the rest. It’s disappointing for several reasons, but Jody put in a fantastic drive and I think that could’ve been a podium for us today.”
Matt Bell, #23 United Autosport Audi R8 LMS Ultra
“It was a tough race, John had a cracking start he went from 21st to 16th in a lap, he settled and the lap times got better. Then there was contact, and John thought he had a puncture and steering issues. Unfortunately, he hadn’t, but the pit put us down a lap. It transpired I had the pace to compete for a podium, but that’s just how it is.”
David Ashburn, #31 Trackspeed Porsche 911 GT3 R
“What a crazy race! At the start, I just tried to stay out of trouble, because I knew it would be tight with the number of cars we have around this track. I kept up with the car ahead and held my position – I knew that if I handed over in a good place we had a chance with Nick to take over. It’s nice to come back and feel so at home again! I’m upset for Jon and Phil, though, because they earned the win but were robbed by some cruel luck.”
Nick Tandy, #31 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R
“It was a great comeback. We had the fastest lap in qualifying, and we won the race, but we were all set for a one-two finish for the team, but as soon as we got past the two Motorbase cars I radioed through and said ‘Yep, no problem we’ll just finish in formation’, stay behind obviously as they need the championship points. But with their retirement it’s a big downer for the team. The team love winning races, yes, but Trackspeed are here to win a championship.
“It’s sweet for now, and it’s sweet for our car, but it’s a bittersweet victory. But we won the race, so obviously from my point of view it’s very good and it’s good to be back. David was amazing, he’s been faster in the car than he was last year. He drove a perfect stint. We were fortunate with the safety car coming out, towards the end, it was perfect.”
Phil Keen, #63 Trackspeed Porsche 911 GT3 R
“I’m absolutely gutted, to be honest. The car had been running perfectly, and Jon had done a fantastic job. We were running one and two, a great result for the whole team, and then a puncture right at the end. Sometimes luck doesn’t go your way, and today that was the case. I’m sure we’ll be back with a vengeance at Donington.”
Alexander Sims, #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3
“I’m very happy with this weekend as we didn’t have the pace in qualifying. I then got the fastest lap of the race, which I put down to having a completely clear track on my first timed lap. It was really tough out there, I was battling my whole stint. I had a great battle with Matt Griffin, and it was satisfying to overtake him as it was tough enough to keep up. I wouldn’t have believed we could have got fourth at the race start. Onslow-Cole was an odd overtake; coming out of Graham Hill he was going very slowly, so that was an easy overtake! Alex MacDowall was also a tough one, I was able to take advantage of some yellow flags and he was stuck in traffic, so I took him as the session went green.”
Ryan Ratcliffe, #88 Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT3
“I’m chuffed to bits, it’s been a really special few weeks. I spoke to Adam Carroll after the race and he said, ‘that was the hardest I’ve ever seen anyone defend ninth place!’ For me, it didn’t matter if that was for first or tenth, I would’ve driven the same way. It was a great battle and to finish in the points on my debut is a dream really. The level of competition in the series is so high; I knew that, but that race really brought it home. I really want to thank Lee for the opportunity and for giving me a chance to show what I can do. Triple Eight have been fantastic and this year I’ve really gone on a big journey with them. I can’t believe how far I’ve gone since winning GT4 last October. Bring on Donington, I think we can push for more there.”
Joe Osborne, #888 Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT3
“It was a frustrating end to the weekend, but I’m happy to move on and go to Donington. Derek did a good job all weekend and we could’ve really got him some more points here.”
Rick Parfitt, #42 Century Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4
“I can’t believe our start, perfect start as I’m in second and looked to be quicker than the Aston. I wanted to build a gap over Ross Wylie and I felt we were quicker as they struggled on high speed corners. I was waiting to make a move at Paddock Hill and on loading the left tyre went. To get it back to the pits was a challenge, but we got it back and I was comfortably the quickest GT4 car out there. It’s great I can prove I have pace, but it’s a shame we had too much of a deficit. Tom drove great but it was too much. This run of horrific luck plagues us.”
Barrie Baxter, #44 Team Parker Racing Porsche 911 GT4
“The race went well for me thanks to the safety car and it put Dan into contention even though I’d lost some time. I never came to terms with the back of the circuit as it’s new for me so I had to learn the circuit with a full field of cars and I could have done with starting the race weekend now!”
Paul McNeilly, #48 Fox Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4
“Today was absolutely brilliant, at my home track and getting the first podium for the year, so I’m really, really pleased with that result. We worked hard for that. Being a home race, the pressure was on this weekend, the team really upped their game. The car was spot on and we just worked as hard as we could”
Jamie Stanley, #48 Fox Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4
“Today was eventful, I didn’t think I was going to do it in the end, and then catching the Morten Dons and Schjerpen car, and literally the gap wasn’t coming down, and every time I made a bit of a dent, we’d lose a little bit more time.
“Then with about seven or eight minutes to go, I don’t know what happened whether they had a problem or if their tyres went off a cliff. But all credit to Paul, because he did all the hard work at the start of the race to keep us in contention.”
Andrew Jarman, #49 TF Sport Aston Martin GT4 Challenge
“We had a good start to the race, and made up some places, got into second place and then started to catch the Beechdeen. I knew that’s what we needed to do today, to catch them and stay ahead, but unfortunately we’ve missed out with the safety car.”
Jake Giddings, #407 Aston Martin GT4 Challenge
“That wasn’t too bad, Ross kept a good gap, so couldn’t ask for a lot more really when I got in the car. Also, the safety car helped us, so that gave us a good lead. It was really just about bringing it home, and not making any mistakes. It’s been a pretty good weekend. It was a pretty straightforward racing, just driving round, and bringing it home.”
Ross Wylie, #407 Aston Martin GT4 Challenge
“It was good, it was a clean start, we pulled a little bit of a gap, and then we were lucky with the safety car. So that took a little bit of the pressure off, but we knew we were going to have to capitalise on that with the 20-second penalty. Jake did a great job in bringing the car home, really happy with that.”