Triple Eight Racing took another healthy haul of points in round three of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship this weekend (2-3 May) at Rockingham, claiming a sixth place finish with a strong display, despite sustaining significant damage on the opening lap.

The teams intrepid racing duo, Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne were a prominent force throughout practice, but in qualifying an issue with tyre pressures resulted in a poor handling BMW Z4 GT3, and neither driver was able to get anywhere near their best time. It should be noted though that Mowle did better his 2014 qualifying time by 0.4s with his lap of 1:25.455.

Torrential rain over night rolled into the morning on Sunday at Rockingham and it looked like it might just stick around for the lunchtime race start. Having gone quickest by over 1.5s in the wet warm-up, the team were relaxed about the conditions and not surprised when the circuit dried out and enabled a dry race to play out.

Having started ninth on the grid, Lee Mowle got off to a great start and immediately secured eighth place after passing Alistair Mackinnon’s RAM Racing Mercedes SLS GT3 at the Deene Hairpin.

On the approach to the Brook chicane for the first time, Mowle sustained damage to the left hand-side of the car, following a hefty whack from the Von Ryan Racing McLaren of Salih Yoluc. While the damage received didn’t plague the Triple Eight-run BMW and put it out of the race, it hampered the overall performance of the car, with aerodynamics compromised at the rear, and the exhaust pipe bent out of shape, affecting the top speed of the V8-powered Z4 GT3.

Seventh place was gained with the exit of Rick Parfitt Jnr’s Ginetta on lap eight, before sixth place was inherited when Jon Minshaw’s BMW had an off track excursion at the Deene Hairpin some eight laps later. What followed was one of the most enjoyable fights in Mowle’s race career, as the BMW driver duked it out lap after lap with the resurgent Mercedes of Mackinnon.

As his stint neared its end, Mowle got onto the tail of Andrew Howard’s Beechdean Aston Martin, but the BMW racer was unable to do anything about the 2013 British GT Champion, pitting on lap 33 to hand over to Osborne.

Time was conceded in the mandatory stop after the team patched up the damaged Z4 GT3, before a fuelling issue that the team believe resulted from the earlier contact, compounded a longer-than-usual stop, costing Osborne 15s in total.

Re-joining in seventh, just ahead of old sparring partner Jonny Adam, Osborne quickly got onto the race leaders pace and edged out a gap over his Aston Martin-powered rival. It was a strategic race and the duo traded fast times as they sought to get the better of each other over almost 25 minutes of the two-hour race.

With around half an hour left on the clock a Safety Car period for a stranded GT4 compacted the field, and as the GT4 cars mixed in amongst the GT3s didn’t receive a wave-by from the Safety Car, it afforded Osborne a brief breather before the green flag saw the 31-car field resume racing.

While Osborne was unable to get close to Adam Carroll’s Ferrari on the restart, the 26-year-old soon got ahead of the Northern Irishman when he was black-flagged for a move on a GT4 racer. Now sixth, Osborne hustled and got onto the tail of Matt Bell, driving with former Triple Eight racer, Derek Johnston.

Osborne tried to find a way past the TF Sport Aston Martin of Bell, but with a beaten up BMW and tyres worn out after the sizeable battle with Adam, the best he could do was narrow the gap. At the flag the pair finished just 0.7s apart, with Adam 2s further back.

Post Rockingham the team maintain their third place (37 pts) in the points, but can take comfort in the fact they are the first of the single-car teams, with the two-car entries of Oman Racing Team (99.5 pts) and Barwell Motorsport (66.5 pts), now ahead.

While reigning champions Marco Attard and Alexander Sims (60.5 pts) lead the Driver’s Standings from Rory Butcher and Liam Griffin (59.5 pts) by just one point, third-placed Osborne and Mowle (37 pts) now hold a three-point lead over Beechdean’s Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam (34 pts).

Triple Eight now head to Silverstone for the first of two races at the home of British motorsport, the first being the Blancpain Endurance Series 3-hour meeting (22-24 May), with the third weekend of the British GT Championship (30-31 May) seven days later.

Quotes from the Triple Eight drivers ahead of Rockingham:

Joe Osborne:
“We had a difficult qualifying session and ninth wasn’t where we wanted to start from; it’s right in the danger zone. We had a battle plan to get through the opening laps, which Lee stuck to really well. He did really well not to get completely mullered by the McLaren with some evasive driving, and got his head down. We didn’t really gain much position wise, and he was catching (Andrew) Howard, so it was a really good stint. A perfect amateur stint I’d say. We lost a lot of time in the pits; we think the system on the car was damaged by the McLaren impact, so we lost a few places there. Jonny (Adam) was tucked up behind me for most of the race, it was 70-minutes of cat and mouse, and thankfully today I was the pussycat and he was the mouse. The safety car allowed us to get onto the back of the hour, Matt (Bell) looked like he had a drift car going on, but we had a nice fair fight and that’s the positive aspect of decent GT driving that everyone has respect for each other. Hopefully I provided a decent spectacle for live television and made for an interesting race.

Lee Mowle: “To be fair, having had such a downpour the track was pretty good and dry. On the first lap I got past Salih (Yoluc), which was the main pass for me. The plan was then to sit back and start to pick some people off. Instead we literally got three-quarters of the way around the circuit and then got rear-ended. It was really good fun fighting with (Alistair) Mackinnon, we were struggling with brake wear into turn two and turn six, and that’s where he was strongest, so he’d catch me there but then I could gap him from Gracelands all the way round. He was really fair; it was good fun. I think together we were clawing our way back to (Andrew) Howard, which sadly never materialised. The car handled really well, which is surprising following the hit. We’ve had two mediocre quails and still managed to get reasonable points on the board. You hope that when we have a decent qualifying session, we’ll now be able to capitalise on it and make the most of it. Silverstone, Spa and Brands should all suit us, we’ll aim for more there.”