GT3 & 4 titles all to play for after opening hour-long race

Both Avon Tyres British GT Championship class titles remain very much alive following the first of Snetterton’s one-hour races today. Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher’s GT3 victory aboard their Oman Racing Team-run Aston Martin V12 Vantage helped close the gap on Ecurie Ecosse, while a dominant GT4 win for Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw sees them cut Beechdean AMR’s advantage.

GT3: GRIFFIN AND BUTCHER PREVAIL IN NIP-AND-TUCK ASTON BATTLE

Griffin and Butcher scored their second victory of the season in round seven earlier today after a number of crews saw their challenges come to naught in an action packed Snetterton opener.

The Oman Racing Team pair headed home an Aston Martin one-two-three-four featuring both TF Sport entries of Andrew Jarman and Jody Fannin, and Derek Johnston and Matt Bell, as well as Beechdean AMR championship chasers Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam.

Pole-sitter Jarman maintained his lead for much of the opening stint ahead of Griffin, who passed team-mate Ahmad Al Harthy early on the first lap. The trio continued to circulate in that close formation over the first 30 minutes before an opportunistic move from Griffin around the outside of Jarman’s baulked V12 Vantage at Coram moved him into the lead. Al Harthy immediately followed suit exiting Murrays, and then saw second become first thanks to swift pit work from his Motorbase Performance mechanics.

Indeed, co-driver Alex MacDowall emerged with a one-second advantage but later saw his victory chances evaporate following a clash between him and GT4 runner Mike Hart.

That elevated Butcher into the lead after he’d dispensed with the fast-stopping Von Ryan Racing McLaren of Andrew Watson that had run fifth in the hands of Ross Wylie prior to the driver changes. The pair looked odds-on to score their first British GT podium thereafter before race stewards handed the #10 650S a three-second stop/go penalty for a short pit-stop.

That left Jarman’s co-driver Fannin at the head of a close fight for second featuring TF Sport’s Bell and Jonny Adam, whose respective team-mates – Johnston and Howard – had run sixth and fourth before the stops. They remained nose-to-tail throughout the final half-hour as each looked for a way through.

Triple Eight Racing’s Joe Osborne came home fifth after co-driver Lee Mowle had fought back up to seventh in his opening stint after running wide on the opening lap. He was followed home on the road by Alexander Sims, who was later handed a 30-second penalty that resulted in a loss of two places following his part in a clash with Mike Simpson’s Ginetta, which later retired due to a related-issue and won’t start the second race as a result.

Watson and Wylie’s McLaren was therefore classified sixth ahead of the Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes’ 22GT Racing Aston, which had earlier been involved in a clash with Alistair MacKinnon’s RAM Racing Mercedes.

MacDowall somehow scored valuable Teams’ points for Oman Racing by bringing his limping V12 Vantage home ninth, while the second Von Ryan Racing 650S of Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey completed the top-10 before being excluded from the race.

FF Corse’s opener was compromised early in the first stint when Gary Eastwood was tipped into a spin by Yoluc, who was subsequently excluded for his part in the incident, while Barwell Motorsport’s second BMW of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen spent much of the hour battling back from a lap one puncture caused by Eastwood. The Ferrari will be docked five places on the Race 2 grid as a result.

All of that means Sims and Marco Attard head into this afternoon’s second one-hour race with a reduced championship lead of 19 points over Griffin and Butcher, although the Ecurie Ecosse BMW does line up on pole position.

Liam Griffin, #6 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin V12 Vantage: “Andrew [Jarman] had driven really well and not given me any opportunities but I could see the way it was going to work out with the GT4 car and had tried something similar in practice, so just thought ‘you know what, let’s go for it!’. I didn’t know what the grip was like but really enjoyed it. No-one wants to see our championship rivals get a penalty but it has made things interesting. We knew we’d realistically have to win this one so hopefully we can now take it down to Donington.”

Rory Butcher, #6 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin V12 Vantage: “I got myself fired up and my head together before the race because I was so disappointed with my qualifying session yesterday. That, along with seeing Liam setting such good lap times and then nailing the pass at the end of his stint, was all the motivation I needed. I felt really good in the car and enjoyed the move around the McLaren for what turned out to be the lead. It was a chance I had to take for the championship.”

GT4: YUSUF AND KERSHAW AT A CANTER

ISSY Racing’s Yusuf and Kershaw were never troubled en route to their third victory of the season in Race 1 at Snetterton, although the same couldn’t be said for those behind.

Having converted his pole position into an early lead, Yusuf gradually pulled clear of the chasing GT4 contingent headed by Academy Motorsport’s Will Moore, who jumped Fulvio Mussi on the opening lap.

The pair would remain close until the Fox Motorsport Ginetta G55 ran wide onto the grass at Riches, which promoted both Graham Johnson and championship leader Jamie Chadwick to third and fourth respectively. The car wouldn’t see the finish though after a clutch issue prevented co-driver Jamie Stanley from taking the wheel.

Kershaw maintained his co-driver’s good work over the second half of the race to come home 17.5s clear of a close fight for second, which ultimately went the way of Moore’s team-mate Dennis Strandberg after he re-passed Fredrik Blomstedt on the final lap.

Blomstedt, who shares the Century Motorsport Ginetta with Aleksander Schjerpen, drove a fantastic second stint to bring the G55 into podium contention even if second became third at the death. He and Strandberg’s battle also gave Mike Robinson’s Optimum Motorsport Ginetta a sniff of the rostrum, with all three covered by just 0.6s at the chequered flag.

Beechdean AMR’s Chadwick and Ross Gunn saw their championship advantage cut to 28.5 points after finishing fifth. Their Aston Martin lost time on three separate occasions courtesy of a pit-stop success penalty, additionally slow driver change and a throttle issue cutting the V8 Vantage’s power as Gunn re-joined.

The Brands Hatch race-winning Tolman Motorsport Ginetta of David Pattison and Luke Davenport ended up sixth after the latter’s customary late charge, while Rob Garofall and Anna Walewska’s University of Bolton G55 was seventh. Mike Hart recovered from his clash with MacDowall to complete the top-eight alongside Academy co-driver Chris Webster.

James Nash’s UltraTek Lotus Evora failed to finish but suggested what might have been by setting the GT4 class’ fastest lap.

Oz Yusuf, #77 ISSY Racing Lotus Evora GT4: “It was important to look after the tyres so Gavan could continue the good work, and I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to claw back a decent chunk of points in the championship. We need something similar in Race 2 now even though it’s going to be more difficult with the success penalty. We’ll just keep pushing.”

Gavan Kershaw, #77 ISSY Racing Lotus Evora GT4: “We both had clean, consistent races and kept our noses clean. You only need to encounter traffic through somewhere like Coram to lose four or five seconds. The next one’s going to be more difficult with the pit-stop penalty but we’re going to do everything we can from pole position to reduce the championship gap further.”

The day’s second one-hour race gets underway at 16:30 BST, with Motors TV’s live coverage on air 10 minutes before.