Mark Farmer scored his maiden British GT Championship victory, and co-driver Jon Barnes his first in eight years, to claim a narrow win over Team Parker Racing’s Seb Morris and Rick Parfitt Jnr at Spa-Francorchamps earlier today.
Just 0.674s separated the winning Aston Martin V12 Vantage from the pole-sitting Bentley Continental after two hours of racing in Belgium, while Abdulaziz Al Faisal and Miguel Toril completed the overall podium aboard their Mercedes-AMG GT3 after their Black Falcon team-mates Oliver Morley and Dani Juncadella were handed a 30-second post-race penalty for overtaking under yellow flags in accordance with Belgian regulations.
Meanwhile, Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam – who finished seventh – have seen their championship lead cut to just 8.5 points by Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen, while Parfitt Jnr and Morris are two more further back.
The initial run through La Source, Spa’s tight first corner, set up a thrilling afternoon’s racing. Liam Griffin, who started fifth aboard Barwell Motorsport’s #6 Lamborghini, hit the back of Parfitt Jnr’s Bentley which subsequently collided with Alasdair McCaig’s front-row starting Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren, breaking its right-rear suspension. Andrew Howard was also in the wars after losing a wheel from his Beechdean AMR Vantage while rejoining from the outside run-off.
That released Farmer, who from third on the grid suddenly had a clear track in front of him on the run down to Eau Rouge. Behind, a fast-starting Hunter Abbott avoided the collisions to jump from ninth to second ahead of Parfitt Jnr’s recovering Bentley, Al Faisal and team-mate Morley.
Farmer initially broke clear but was reeled in and passed by Abbott and Al Faisal, who had also found a way past Parfitt Jnr, before the pit window opened after 50 minutes. However, TF Sport’s decision to stop at the first opportunity would see them re-pass the Mercedes during the driver changes after Black Falcon delayed swapping Al Faisal and Toril.
That meant Barnes was right with Rolf Ineichen, whose GRT Grasser Racing Team Huracan GT3 had retained the lead after Abbott stepped aside. And it wasn’t long before the Aston Martin was ahead.
Team Parker Racing’s Morris also benefited from Black Falcon’s pit strategy to run third after the stops. Such was his pace that the Bentley soon moved on to Ineichen’s tail, although he took longer to find a way past the Lamborghini. Just under 40 minutes remained when the Welshman finally claimed second, by which time Barnes was almost six seconds further up the road.
The gap between the pair fluctuated through the traffic thereafter, but despite getting to within six tenths at one stage Morris was never able to challenge for the lead, leaving Barnes to claim his first British GT victory since Brands Hatch in July 2008, the same year he won the overall title.
The pace of factory Mercedes AMG driver Dani Juncadella over the final stint helped him wrestle away third from Ineichen and close to within five seconds of victory over the final stages. Black Falcon team-mate Toril also passed the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini en route to fourth before inheriting third post-race.
A low key qualifying session saw Barwell Motorsport’s Minshaw and Keen line up only 16th. However, their under-the-radar performance helped them pick up 10 positions despite also having to serve the full 20-second pit-stop success penalty for winning at Silverstone last time out.
Johnston yo-yoed around the top-six during his opening stint before damage stymied co-driver Adam’s efforts to make up further ground in the second TF Sport Aston Martin.
Griffin’s first corner misdemeanour came at the cost of a front bonnet and drive-through penalty. But his Barwell co-driver Alexander Sims hinted at what might have been by setting the Sunoco Fastest Lap of the Race en route to eighth. His case was also helped by passing Joe Osborne’s AmDTuning.com BMW Z4 on the final lap and a late pit-stop for the #19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini, which was also docked 30 seconds post-race.
Tolman Motorsport’s Ian Stinton and Mike Simpson completed the points-paying positions in 10th.
Mark Farmer, #11 TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “We knew we had the pace from testing so it was more a case of stringing it all together. We hadn’t managed that this season in qualifying or the race. What a place to finally do it! The traffic was a challenge and I definitely lost some of my lead fighting through it. I lucked in at the start but then really got my head down.”
Jon Barnes, #11 TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “We were lucky enough to come and do two test days here, which we needed to be honest. It’s really helped us with the set-up. Mark just stroked it round and did what I’ve known he was capable of since we first met two years ago. From crashing a Caterham on our first day together to winning a British GT race at Spa is absolutely unbelievable! He and TF Sport made my life easy. I just concentrated on keeping it tidy through sector two where the Bentley was faster.”
Rick Parfitt Jnr, #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “It was all going to plan until the first corner! I was lucky to save it, in fairness, and fortunately the car felt ok after. The traffic made things very interesting and I was content to not take too many risks lapping other cars. The team did a great pit-stop – stopping early was the right decision – which helped us make up some ground. It was very close at the end; those were great drives from both Seb [Morris] and Jon [Barnes]. I’m really pleased for them because they’re lovely guys, while second at Spa is a fantastic result for us and a dream achieved.”
The penultimate rounds of this season’s British GT Championship take place at Snetterton on August 6-7.