ASTON MARTIN ROLLS ON TO ROCKINGHAM BRITISH GT GLORY
Beechdean's young chargers Jordan Albert & Jack Bartholemew picked up their first GT4 win – Photo: Jakob Ebrey
TF Sport’s Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam made it two wins from as many British GT Championship rounds this season after overcoming a 20-second pit-stop success penalty during round two at Rockingham.
The Aston Martin pair were untouchable throughout a 120-minute race featuring two Safety Car periods and a number of incidents that affected their GT3 rivals.
Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen’s Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini ended up just under five seconds behind at the chequered flag after coming through to finish a narrow second ahead of the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage driven by Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn.
Johnston was simply sublime throughout his first stint. Starting from pole, the Geordie was able to ease away from his pursuers over the opening 50 minutes to establish a near-10-second lead before the mandatory driver changes.
But things were far less clear cut further back where a number of incidents peppered the opening exchanges. Lee Mowle had started sixth but was up to fourth thanks to a demon getaway before a spin dropped him back down the order. That left the way clear for Minshaw to close in on Alasdair McCaig, whose Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren started on the front row, and Barwell team-mate Liam Griffin. The trio circulated together initially before Griffin relieved the 650S GT3 of second at Tarzan.
Rick Parfitt Jnr was also a man on a mission in the early stages after a practice crash prevented his Bentley from qualifying. Having seen his early good work undone by a spin instigated by Will Moore, the Team Parker Racing driver set about recovering lost ground. Such was the Continental GT3’s pace that he was soon up to fourth and challenging Minshaw, who by that point had taken third from McCaig. However, the McLaren was able to re-pass both when the Bentley and Lamborghini ran wide while battling at Deene.
A suspected electrical issue then saw McCaig drop back behind the pair, leaving Minshaw third on track behind Johnston and Griffin when the pit window opened.
Ordinarily a 20-second pit-stop success penalty would have been sufficient to drop Adam, who took over from Johnston, down the order at the start of his second stint. However, such was their advantage – not to mention the #6 Huracan having to serve its own 10-second penalty for finishing third at Brands Hatch – that the #17 Aston emerged with a slender lead over Carroll.
Keen was next up, no doubt glad to see the back of Seb Morris and Parfitt Jnr’s Bentley that had earned itself a 10-second stop/go penalty for avoidable contact during the latter’s stint.
But just as the race was beginning to settle down a Safety Car was required to retrieve Graham Johnson’s Ginetta, which had collided with and ultimately caused terminal damage to Jody Fannin’s PFL Motorsport Aston Martin. That allowed Keen to take the restart less than four seconds behind team-mate Carroll, who was also right behind Adam.
When racing resumed Keen was quick to clear the traffic and home in on Carroll’s bumper, but there was no way past the Lamborghini, while the Aston Martin made good its escape ahead.
Indeed, it would take a misdemeanour at the second Safety Car restart – a situation caused by a stationary GT4 McLaren on the Turn 1 banking – to break the deadlock when Carroll’s over-enthusiasm saw him overtake traffic before the start/finish line, earning him a drive-through penalty.
But rather than chase down Adam, Keen instead spent the remainder of his race resisting Gunn, whose Beechdean AMR co-driver Howard had spent all of his opening stint running inside the top-six. The gap between the Huracan and Vantage was less than one second at the finish, despite the reigning GT4 champion’s repeated efforts to find a way through at Deene.
Carroll recovered to bring his and Griffin’s Lamborghini home fourth ahead of Ross Wylie and Phil Dryburgh’s Motorbase Performance Aston Martin, which kept its nose clean to finish fifth and bounce back from a difficult opening weekend at Brands Hatch.
Will Moore’s eventful afternoon saw him penalised for two instances of avoidable contact, but he and co-driver Ryan Ratcliffe were still sufficiently fast to bring their Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 home in sixth, one place ahead of McCaig and Rob Bell’s Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren that might have been a podium contender without the intermittent glitch that blighted the end of its first stint.
Mark Farmer began the race by making up six places before spinning. Nevertheless, he and TF Sport co-driver Jon Barnes recovered from both that and losing all of Saturday’s running due to an engine change to finish eighth.
Mowle’s subsequent puncture after coming together with Farmer contributed towards he and Joe Osborne finishing ninth in their AmDTuning.com BMW Z4 GT3, while Team Abba with Rollcentre Racing’s Martin Short and Richard Neary completed the top-10.
Tolman Motorsport endured another tough race; Ian Stinton’s #32 G55 GT3 was a victim of Moore’s opening lap contact, breaking the car’s rear suspension, while a delaminating tyre stifled David Pattison and Luke Davenport’s performance.
Johnston’s first stint heroics and GT3 Am pole position earned him the Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend Award, while Team Parker Racing received the PMW Expo Team of the Weekend prize for spending all of Saturday and some of this morning repairing their badly damaged Bentley in time for warm-up.
Elsewhere, Keen might have been disappointed to miss out on victory but he did at least secure the Sunoco Fastest Lap of the Race Award for setting a new British GT record around Rockingham’s International Super Sportscar Circuit: a 1m18.341s.
That saw the second Century Ginetta of Sean Byrne and Aleksander Schjerpen promoted to second in class while Lanan Racing’s Alex Reed and Joey Foster completed the podium.
In truth any number of crews could, should and would have won the second British GT round of the season were it not for a variety of issues, accidents and penalties throughout the two-hour encounter.
In the end it was Bartholomew and Albert who emerged victorious despite lying 10th before the pit-stop window opened. However, success penalties and problems for others left them best placed to capitalise during an eventful second half of the race. That was despite suffering from a recurring brake problem that caused Bartholomew to spin out of fifth at Deene midway through his first stint.
Freke and Walewska were denied an even more unlikely victory after the latter overtook under yellow flags in the opening laps. A fuel issue during qualifying had seen the car start dead last before Walewska worked her way forwards to ninth before the pit-stops when the crew had to serve a 15-second success penalty for finishing second at Brands Hatch.
Freke therefore emerged with plenty of work to do, but a Safety Car period in the subsequent laps at least accounted for some of the time. Nevertheless, it was his incredible pace that helped the Ginetta move forwards rapidly before inheriting the lead when Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse's McLaren was awarded a stop/go penalty.
Indeed, the new 570S GT4 had looked the most likely victory candidate at half-distance after Sandy Mitchell had closely shadowed race leader Graham Johnson over the latter stages of their opening stints. And although co-driver Ciaran Haggerty emerged from the stops with the net lead, the Scottish crew’s fate had already been sealed by not serving the full minimum pit-stop time, earning them a penalty.
That promoted Generation AMR’s Matthew George and Jamie Chadwick into a short-lived lead. But barely a lap had passed after the McLaren served its six-second stop/go when a charging Freke made his move. The Aston’s race ended in the pits and retirement with a brake issue of its own only a few laps later.
The Brands Hatch-winning PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta made a perfect start from pole to lead the opening stint and would have been a podium contender, despite its 20-second pit-stop success penalty, were it not for Johnson’s accident that not only removed him from the reckoning with just under an hour remaining but also triggered the first Safety Car period.
All of that meant Byrne and Schjerpen finished third on the road but second in the final classification after a topsy-turvy race. Byrne started on the front row but was soon passed by more experienced drivers over an opening stint where preservation proved key. His Norwegian co-driver then jumped aboard and steered clear of the drama to take a well deserved podium that ultimately became second.
The rostrum was completed by Lanan Racing who, in similar fashion to the #40 Century Ginetta, kept their nose clean to claim a first British GT4 podium. Foster started 12th in class and was up to eighth just before the pit window opened, but elected to stay out longer than most of his GT4 rivals before co-driver Alex Reed took over. A similarly trouble-free run to the flag earned the team a confidence-boosting third place one week after confirming their permanent switch to Ginetta machinery.
Marcus Hoggarth was another to produce a fine opening stint to progress four places before Abbie Eaton climbed aboard the Ebor GT Maserati GT MC. A lack of success penalty gave them a shot at the podium before a lengthy pit-stop infringement incurred them a 38-second stop/go. Such was the rate of attrition that they still recovered to finish fourth.
The same could be said of Haggerty and Mitchell’s McLaren which came home fifth despite its penalty and subsequent intermittent electrical glitch that saw it stop on track twice, the first of which necessitated a brief second Safety Car period.
The Generation AMR Macmillan Racing Aston Martin of Matty Graham and Jack Mitchell finished sixth, one place clear of the similar JWBird Motorsport V8 Vantage driven by Kieran Griffin and Jake Giddings. Meanwhile, RCIB Insurance Racing’s Jordan Stilp and William Phillips completed the top-eight despite suffering a steering issue.
Freke might have been excluded from the result but he still earned the Sunoco Fastest Race Lap of the Weekend Award courtesy of his blistering 1m23.957s. That was almost a second faster than the next best in GT4 and more than two seconds inside the class lap record for Rockingham’s International Super Sportscar Circuit.