Minshaw/Keen and Leonard/Meadows complete podium

Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam became the first multiple Avon Tyres British GT Championship overall race winners of the season at Spa-Francorchamps today (July 11) thanks to a flawless performance aboard their Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3.

Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen scored a long awaited first podium of the season behind the wheel of their BMW Z4 GT3, while a one-off appearance for the Leonard AMR squad resulted in a third place finish for Stuart Leonard and Michael Meadows.

The two-hour, points-and-a-half race provided much entertainment and unpredictability from the off. Indeed, Liam Griffin’s jump-start initially gifted the #6 Oman Racing Team entry the lead before his serving of the subsequent drive-through penalty promoted poleman Howard back into first.

He’d be overtaken before the end of his stint, however, by the fast-charging Leonard who’d carved his way through from eighth on the grid before the second of two Safety Car periods in quick succession hastened the teams’ mandatory driver changes with just over an hour remaining.

The first was to remove Lee Mowle’s stricken Triple Eight BMW, which had come to a halt on-track with a suspected fuel pump issue. It was a desperate blow to the title contenders’ hopes following Mowle’s rapid opening stint in which he’d climbed from seventh to second.

But no sooner had racing resumed than two separate incidents on the same lap involving the TrackGroup Lotus Evora and Twisted Team Parker Ginetta GT4 entries necessitated a lengthy Safety Car period that offered teams a chance to pit.

While Meadows – who’d taken over from Leonard – initially retained the lead once racing resumed, he was soon under enormous pressure from Adam who duly pinched top-spot at La Source soon after the restart. From there the Scot proved untouchable en route to his and Howard’s second victory of the season following their race two success at Oulton Park.

Keen crossed the line 18 seconds later following a welcome quiet afternoon for the BMW he shares with Minshaw. It had been a frontrunner throughout after starting third but didn’t quite have the pace over the final stint to trouble Adam’s Aston once Keen had also passed Meadows.

With the Leonard Aston safe in third, all eyes were on the chasing pack to see who would come through in fourth. Several candidates emerged throughout the race, most notably the #27 TF Sport entry of Andrew Jarman and Jody Fannin. But the pair were ultimately denied their best finish of the season late in the encounter after coming together with Lewis Plato’s rapidly advancing RAM Racing Mercedes SLS AMG GT3. Both would retire in the pits.

With the Ross Wylie/Andrew Watson Von Ryan Racing McLaren also falling out of contention, the way was left clear for Rory Butcher and the recovering #6 Oman Racing Team Aston to take fourth. However, overtaking Alexander Sims before the Safety Car line at the second restart would lead to a post-race 20-second penalty that ultimately handed the Ecurie Ecosse crew an unlikely fourth place.

Butcher and Griffin were therefore classified fifth ahead of Steve Tandy and Mike Simpson’s Ginetta GT3, Johnston/Bell’s sole surviving TF Sport Aston Martin, the Wylie/Watson McLaren, 22GT Racing Vantage of Farmer/Barnes, and Eastwood/Hancock’s FF Corse Ferrari.

There was disappointment for a number of drivers, not least Team LNT’s Rick Parfitt Jnr whose strong opening stint saw him climb from 11th to seventh before contact with reigning champion Marco Attard necessitated a lengthy pit-stop for repairs.

All of that means Attard and Sims have extended their Drivers’ Championship lead to 14.5 points over Griffin and Butcher, who are now tied for second with Howard and Adam. In the Teams’ standings Barwell Motorsport’s second and fourth places have helped them close the gap to Oman Racing Team to just 10.5 points.

Elsewhere there was at least some consolation for Butcher who picked up the Sunoco Fastest Lap of the Weekend Award, while the Silver Cup spoils went Leonard and Meadows’ way. And Minshaw’s efforts were recognised with the Blancpain Driver of the Weekend prize.

Jonny Adam, #007 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “The car was great, nice and consistent; it was more a case of watching the track limits because it’s so easy to make a mistake here. Obviously you want to push but not to the point where you’re off the road. As for the championship, it’s been going backwards and forwards as the season’s gone on but Brands is a good circuit for us, we won at Snetterton last year and it always goes down to Donington, so we’ve got a couple of good rounds coming up.”

Jon Minshaw, #63 Barwell Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3: “For once everyone kept away from us! I had a trouble-free run and showed the genuine pace that we have. Silverstone was a disaster after we were taken out but this is a place we know well and, if the season had gone our way, I think we’d be right up there in the points. It’s where we should be.”

Stuart Leonard, #87 Leonard AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “It went pretty well considering it was a one-off and we were conscious of saving the car for the Spa 24 Hours in a couple of weeks. Our pace looked solid, which is great. My stint went well but I didn’t want any contact. The Safety Car periods were a bit annoying but what can you do? Mike was in a more difficult situation with Jonny Adam bearing down on him! But it’s a great overall result.”