The Tate/Mortimer CRS Ferrari en route to Rockingham victory on Sunday. Photo: Jakob Ebrey

For the second race in succession the Avon Tyres British GT Championship welcomed a new winner to the top step of the podium last weekend, with Andrew Tate celebrating his first podium in style after sharing the CRS Racing Ferrari 458 with 2007 Champion Alex Mortimer. But while the professional driver kept the car in close contention throughout his stint at Rockingham – not allowing race leader Phil Keen to get more than four seconds away at any time – it was Tate who arguably had the harder job; having to manage a healthy, but by no means insurmountable, lead while rarely having his pursuers in sight.

The conditions for the second race couldn’t have been more different from the first, which was won by Andrew Howard & Jonny Adam. Instead of heavy rain, the race began on a fully dry track under blue skies and much late-afternoon sun. In the absence of the Fisken/Bridgman Trackspeed Porsche, it was Matt Bell who assumed pole position in the United Autosports R8 LMS and he backed the field right up before making a great start as the lights turned green. Not as good as Keen, however, who had the Porsche into second from fourth by Turn 1 and into the lead by the end of the lap. Alex Mortimer also gained a place on the first lap and spent the next 35 minutes harrying the leader, never letting up for a moment through the traffic.

There were duels and battles all through the field during the opening half of the race, with the Ferrari 458s much more effective in the dry than in the wet. Both Glynn Geddie and Matt Griffin were making good progress in the opening laps, but both were served with drive-through penalties for not respecting the track limits at the exit of Tarzan. Allan Simonsen also suffered the same penalty, but this only accelerated the Rosso Verde’s fall through the field as the Dane struggled to keep pace with the latest generation of cars.

Before his penalty, Griffin had been locked in combat with Bell in the fight for third, with the Ferrari on the tail of the Audi for several laps. The United Autosports driver kept his cool and defended well and was still in the lead when the Irishman took his penalty at the half-way point of the race.

Phil Glew was the early leader in the GT4 race after starting from class pole in the Lotus Evora, but was unable to pull out a significant lead over Marcus Clutton, who was hanging on doggedly in the ABG KTM X-Bow. The Ginetta G50 of Josh Wakefield and Jake Rattenbury twice fell foul of the track limits ruling, which left them third at the end.

As is the norm in the second race, the majority of the pit stops took place towards the end of the pit window, with Keen pitting the lead Porsche at the last possible opportunity and Mortimer following him down the pit lane four seconds later. Both Trackspeed and CRS stops went well, but with the Porsche having a five-second success penalty from the earlier race, it was Andrew Tate who held a slender lead over David Ashburn as the two exited the pit lane with 22 minutes remaining.

The expectation was that the defending champion would soon take the lead, but Ashburn was too eager and had an unforced spin along the School Straight on his out lap. This cost him 10 seconds and allowed Tate to get properly settled in at the head of the field.

Over the next few laps the gap from first to second came down by a second or two per lap and by lap 30 was just 7.5s; but two laps later the Porsche was heading for the pits for the second time. The team removed some loose bodywork that had been dislodged in the spin and by the time the Porsche rejoined Ashburn was down in sixth.

Jim Geddie was now second in the CRS Ferrari 458, but he was engaged in a duel with Mike Guasch in the Audi. The American looked to be quicker, but time and again he was rebuffed by the Scot as he tried to get on the inside at Deene. The fight was tough but clean, but it also allowed the Ferraris of Duncan Cameron and Michael Lyons to close; and with five minutes to go there was a four-way fight for second.

Having pushed so hard for so long, it was Guasch who would come off worst in this fight when he ran wide at Graceland, which was enough for both Ferraris to go by. Lyons continued to push the now-third MTECH Ferrari and sneaked through on the inside of Tarzan; but Cameron had the better exit and was back ahead of the Scuderia Vittoria 458 by the time they reached Brook.

All the while Andrew Tate had been driving a controlled and error-free race at the head of the field, and stayed in control as he completed the final two laps. The gap from first to second came down quite significantly in the closing moments of the race, but all that mattered was that the CRS Ferrari took the flag 3.866 seconds before anyone else.

“I got a clean start, though I couldn’t believe how fast the Porsche was off the start,” said Alex Mortimer, who had clinched his BGT championship-win at the same circuit four years earlier. “Big thank you to the CRS guys, the set up was fantastic. My job was to keep the tyres as good as possible for Andy.”.

“The best bit was seeing the sign that said last lap,” smiled Andrew Tate. “Alex is a fantastic driver and I’ve had a lot of help from my driver coach Glynn Geddie. The team did a great job. All thanks to CRS and also to Alex.”.

Jim Geddie took an equally well deserved second place in the 458 to give CRS Racing its first 1-2 in the championship for almost three years. “All credit to the CRS team for their hard work,” said Glynn Geddie. “Obviously, taking the lead of the championship has turned this into a great weekend for us. We weren’t happy this morning. Things went wrong, we made a few mistakes, but we’re delighted with this afternoon” added Jim.

Duncan Cameron hung on to third in the MTECH car as Lyons completed an all-Ferrari 458 top four. “It’s amazing how being in P4 and seeing P3 right ahead of you makes you put your foot down!” laughed Cameron.

The cars that had done so well in the wet fared less well in the dry conditions. Adam and Howard finished 10th in the Beechdean Aston, not helped by their additional 15 seconds pit penalty; the Preci-Spark Mercedes finished seventh; but Hector Lester enjoyed himself in the Rosso Verde Ferrari, passing several cars on his way to eighth in what could potentially be the final outing for the #3 Scuderia.

Neither Ginetta G55 completed the race – the #28 Century car suffering mechanical problems on the opening lap, and the #25 Stark Racing car retiring later in the race.

The GT4 battle changed markedly in the second half of the race. The previously leading #48 Evora pulled off the track at Tarzan after 26 laps, which left David McDonald clear in the #50 Scuderia Vittoria G50. The Century Ginetta’s double penalty allowed Peter Belshaw to hang on to second in the X-Bow and keep his championship lead.

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