Delight for Beechdean AMR as Ecurie Ecosse falter

GT3 victory for Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam in this afternoon’s weather-shortened eighth Avon Tyres British GT Championship round of the season at Snetterton helped the Beechdean AMR crew move to within just two points of the series lead with one race remaining.

Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen kept their cool in the torrid conditions to finish second ahead of Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes’ 22GT Racing Aston Martin.

Howard and Adam’s third overall victory of the campaign owed much to both drivers’ wet weather prowess on an afternoon marred by increasingly heavy rain that eventually ended the hour-long race 14 minutes early.

While the conditions were undoubtedly daunting, the duo were never troubled by their main rivals once Adam had dispatched pole-sitter and championship leader Alexander Sims at the first corner on the opening lap. He’d established a 12-second lead before the mandatory driver changes at half-distance and Howard maintained the gap to win comfortably once the call came to halt proceedings.

Ecurie Ecosse’s chances were as good as over almost before they’d begun when Sims out-braked himself into Melbourne while immediately attempting to re-pass Adam on the first lap. He and fellow title contender Rory Butcher then made contact as the BMW re-joined, puncturing the Z4’s right front tyre and damaging the Aston’s front-end. Both cars would finish, albeit 10th and 21st respectively.

The second Barwell Motorsport-run BMW at least gave the team something to cheer about after Keen’s first stint heroics moved the car from fifth to second. Co-driver Minshaw was then as immaculate as Howard in the much wetter conditions but couldn’t do anything to challenge the V12 Vantage up front.

Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle looked like podium contenders for much of the race but ended up fifth after the latter’s late excursion. The final place on the rostrum therefore came down to a scrap between 22GT Racing’s Mark Farmer and Rick Parfitt Jnr, who’d taken over the Team LNT Ginetta from guest co-driver Ryan Ratcliffe. Only Ahmad Al Harthy could lap anything like as quickly as the 2013 GT4 champion, who was often five seconds a lap faster than the frontrunners in his pursuit of the podium over what turned out to be the final 15 minutes.

Farmer’s late spin in the atrocious conditions allowed the G55 GT3 to nip through just before the race was stopped, although it would be classified fourth owing to results being taken from the previous lap. Parfitt Jnr’s performance didn’t go unnoticed though, his wet weather display earning him the Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend Award.

Derek Johnston and Matt Bell backed up their earlier podium with sixth overall aboard the #17 TF Sport Aston Martin ahead of the Al Harthy/Alex MacDowall V12 Vantage and first of the Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650Ss driven by Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey. Race 1 runners-up Andrew Jarman and Jody Fannin were ninth in the second TF Sport Aston ahead of Marco Attard’s recovering Ecurie Ecosse machine.

Adam’s benchmark time from Race 1 earned him the Sunoco Fastest Race Lap of the Weekend Award after the inclement weather precluded any opportunities for further improvements this afternoon.

All of that means the same four teams who came into this weekend as championship contenders move on to Donington’s decider with a mathematical chance of winning the title. Attard and Sims’ advantage has been slashed from 34 points at the start of the Snetterton event to just two from Howard and Adam, while Griffin and Butcher’s Race 1 win has them a further 18 adrift. Mowle and Osborne meanwhile must win at Donington if they’re to have any chance of stealing the crown.

Andrew Howard, #007 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage: “I’ve raced in conditions like that before but never in a GT3 car with 600 horsepower! It was one of those that you just had to survive. I was saying on the radio late on that it was time for a red flag so it was a fantastic call from Race Control, especially as a lap later the car started aquaplaning. We’ve made a massive dent in Ecurie Ecosse’s championship lead and although it’ll be us with the success penalty at Donington we’ll just have to crack on!”

Jonny Adam, #007 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage: “The car was good in the wet. We knew the weather was coming but nowhere near as bad as that. They absolutely made the right call to stop the race; it was too dangerous out there. I didn’t have the worst of the conditions so just got my head down after taking the lead. The car actually got better the wetter the track became! We needed a slip-up from Ecurie Ecosse and unfortunately for them that’s what happened. Game on at Donington!”

The ninth and final round of this year’s Avon Tyres British GT Championship takes place at Donington Park over the weekend of September 12/13.