BRITISH GT TITLE CONTENDERS READY TO RUMBLE
Which of these 4 teams will deliver the knockout blow this weekend? – Photo: jakobebrey.com
And so it all comes down to this. After eight races lasting one, two or three hours and hosted by six different circuits Donington Park welcomes four title-contending crews each desperate to leave as 2015 Avon Tyres British GT3 Champions.
With Beechdean AMR youngsters Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn wrapping up the GT4 title at Snetterton last time out, all eyes are on the head of the field where Ecurie Ecosse, Beechdean AMR, Oman Racing Team and Triple Eight Racing will be vying for this season’s GT3 Drivers’ crown.
Meanwhile, multi-car operations Barwell Motorsport and Oman Racing Team are going head-to-head for the GT3 Teams’ title.
GT3: WHEN FOUR TRIBES GO TO WAR
It could barely be closer atop the Drivers’ standings. In the box seat is reigning champion Marco Attard and Ecurie Ecosse team-mate Alexander Sims who saw their advantage slashed to just two points during a chastening Snetterton weekend that yielded their worst results of the season.
But such was their pre-event advantage that even a victory for Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam in the soaking second race wasn’t enough to overhaul the Ecurie Ecosse pair. What’s more, that win ensures the Aston Martin V12 Vantage crew must serve an additional 20-second success penalty during their mandatory mid-race driver change, gifting Attard and Sims an opportunity to make good their escape.
The Barwell Motorsport-run entry won’t be counting its chickens just yet, though, for it was at Donington 12 months ago that a gearbox issue side-lined the BMW Z4 early, forcing Attard to endure an anxious wait to be crowned champion.
Oman Racing Team’s Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher, 20 points in arrears with a maximum 37.5 still to play for, also enter the Donington weekend without a pit-stop success penalty to worry about. And a commanding victory in the opening race at Snetterton – their first since the start of the year – suggests they’ll have the pace to bridge the gap should Ecurie Ecosse and Beechdean AMR falter.
Indeed, for Griffin and Butcher to win the title they’d need to repeat their Snetterton heroics and hope Attard/Sims finish no better than fifth, and Howard/Adam fourth.
Meanwhile, the darkest horses of this four-way title race are undoubtedly Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne who lie 32.5 points adrift of the lead. The Triple Eight Racing crew therefore have no choice but to score their maiden British GT victory this weekend and hope other results go their way.
It’s undoubtedly a long shot, but Mowle and Osborne would require Attard/Sims to finish no higher than ninth, Howard/Adam eighth and Griffin/Butcher third to snatch an unlikely but unquestionably thrilling GT3 Drivers’ crown.
While attention will be firmly fixed on those four crews, there are others eager to finish their 2015 campaigns with a flourish. None more so than TF Sport whose two Aston Martin V12 Vantages have scored three podiums between them in the previous three races, not to mention a pole position in the hands of Andrew Jarman last time out. Matt Bell and Derek Johnston’s recent run of good form aboard the #17 machine has helped them climb to fifth in the championship and their primary concern at Donington will be holding off the second Barwell Motorsport BMW of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen that came home second in a sodden second race at Snetterton.
It’s also worth highlighting the GT3 Silver Cup, which will be decided this weekend. Last year’s overall runner-up Ahmad Al Harthy has endured a tough season featuring just one podium, but still leads the Silver Cup standings by 9.75 points from Ross Wylie and Andrew Watson. The Von Ryan Racing pair looked capable of scoring their first rostrum at Snetterton before a pit-lane infringement cost them dear. The McLaren Young Drivers will be eager to make amends this weekend.
The GT3 Teams’ Championship will also be decided at Donington. Barwell Motorsport enjoys an 11-point lead at present but will be fully aware of the threat posed by Oman Racing Team whose lead car of Griffin and Butcher must go all out to beat Attard and Sims. With the Ecurie Ecosse entry potentially opting to play it safe there might be added pressure on the second Barwell-run BMW of Minshaw and Keen, while the race-winning pace demonstrated by Al Harthy and Alex MacDowall at Snetterton could be the ace in Oman’s pack.
GT4: SILVER CUP AND PRO/AM STILL TO PLAY FOR
Elsewhere, GT4 is set to feature its usual skirmish. The overall class title might be done and dusted but there’s still plenty to play for between the ISSY Racing Lotus Evora of Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw, Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson’s Optimum Motorsport Ginetta, and similar Tolman Motorsport-run G55 driven by David Pattison and Luke Davenport.
All three crews retain a chance of finishing as runners-up in the overall class standings behind Chadwick and Gunn, as well as clinching the GT4 Pro/Am title.
Johnson suggested last week that finishing second overall would exceed expectations for his first year in the category, but to do so he and co-driver Robinson need to overturn their four-point deficit to Yusuf and Kershaw who suffered contrasting fortunes at Snetterton. Victory in Race 1 took their season’s tally to three – one more than any other crew – before the lack of a wet weather set-up restricted them to only ninth in the second. Meanwhile, the difference between the two at the top of Pro/Am currently stands at 19.5 points.
Tolman’s duo also has designs on finishing second overall and first in Pro/Am, although the deficits of 17.5 and 24 points, respectively, most certainly make them outsiders for both. Instead, a second victory of the season might be the best Pattison and Davenport can realistically hope for, especially after the latter led comfortably at Snetterton
Meanwhile, Chadwick and Gunn’s overall title success hasn’t yet guaranteed them the Silver Cup crown. Aleksander Schjerpen’s double podium at Snetterton means he retains a mathematical chance of claiming the championship, although he does enter the weekend 26.5 points adrift of Beechdean AMR’s teenagers. Fredrik Blomstedt again joins the Norwegian aboard Century Motorsport’s #43 Ginetta G55 GT4.
Elsewhere, Snetterton race winners Fox Motorsport welcome back Paul McNeilly alongside Jamie Stanley, while the likes of consistent front-runners Will Moore and Dennis Strandberg (Academy Motorsport) will be eager to score their first victory of the campaign.
The GT4 grid is bolstered with a brand new team and car in the form of PROsport Performance’s Porsche Cayman. Experienced sportscar racer Henry Hassid and former single-seater ace Adam Christodoulou, who won on his only previous British GT outing at Silverstone in 2013, share the German machine that will run as an Invitation entrant.
Century Motorsport will also field a second Ginetta for the first time this year in the hands of Ian Stinton and Nathan Freke, while Jake Hill returns to the AmDTuning.com fold. And former GT3 front runner Daniel Lloyd makes a one-off appearance alongside Chris Webster in the second Academy Aston.
British GT’s #DoningtonDecider is live on Motors TV (Freeview 71 & 240, Sky 447 and Virgin Media 545) this Sunday from 12:45pm.