Good showing for Barwell Belgian GT

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Barwell Motorsport contested its first ever Belgian GT Championship event last weekend, around the atmospheric four-kilometre Zolder circuit. We are running the sole Aston Martin DBRS9 in a quality-packed entry, which features no less than eight different models of GT3 car. Car owner Eddy Renard and top Belgian professional, Vincent Vosse, are campaigning the Aston Martin-Brussels supported DBRS9 in this year’s series, which includes the gruelling Zolder 24 Hours. It didn’t take long for Barwell Motorsport to make our mark in the Belgian Championship, with Vosse holding the lead early on in race one.

Race 1 – 1 hour

The ‘pro’ drivers start the first race and after a tight qualifying session, Vincent was scheduled to line up fourth on the grid. This became third, however, when the pole-sitting Dodge Viper of van Hooydonk/Wauters didn’t make it onto the grid after suffering a mechanical problem pre-race. The track was still slightly damp for Sunday morning’s start, but drying quickly, and nearly all of the grid opted for slick dry tyres. The exception was the now second-placed Ford GT of Huisman/Kuismanen, who strangely changed to wet tyres just before the start.

As the lights turned green the Huisman-driven Ford used its grooved tyres to good effect to immediately pull ahead of the reigning champions, Bouvy/Coens (Ferrari), with Vincent slotting into third in the Barwell Aston. It was clear that Vosse had better pace than Bouvy, however, with Barwell’s tyre pre-heating procedures working better than our rivals and giving Vincent loads of confidence to attack on the greasy track surface. During the early stages of lap two Vosse scythed his way past the Ferrari and set off after the Ford. Very soon the Ford started to come back towards the rest of the pack, as its wet tyres were – in Ferrari F1-style – clearly the wrong way to go. Vincent didn’t want to waste any time getting stuck behind Huisman and quickly moved ahead on the third lap to take the race lead.

The Barwell Aston then pulled out a useful lead as Vosse pressed on bravely in the still slippery conditions. A few laps later, however, he ran wide on the exit of a tight right-hander and skipped through a gravel trap. Vincent kept the car’s momentum going well and was about to rejoin the track in second just behind Bouvy, but had to cut across some wet grass. Slick tyres don’t grip too well on wet grass and unfortunately the Aston spun around and cost Vincent 15 seconds and another four places. He made a searing recovery drive, passing the Longin/Verbist Porsche Cup S around the outside of turn 2 on the way, and came in to hand over to Eddy in third place.

Eddy immediately got into a really good race groove, and was running an excellent pace as he set about defending third place from the Phoenix (Audi factory team)-run Audi R8 (which has two ‘pro’ drivers on board) and the Porsche Cup S, which also enjoys two ‘pros’ in the form of Longin/Verbist. The Verbist-driven Porsche was the biggest threat, and caught up to the back of the Barwell Aston after a handful of laps. Although Verbist was snapping at his heels, Eddy kept the Porsche behind extremely well for two laps before he succumbed to a dive-bomb under braking for the first corner. Eddy’s late race speed was good enough to keep the Audi at bay, however, and he brought the gorgeous silver, grey and red DBRS9 home in a fine fourth place.

Race 2 – 1 hour

Eddy started Sunday afternoon’s encounter from ninth on the grid, and made a good getaway to duel it out with the de Laet/van der Zwaan Lambo into the first corner. It was a tight squeeze for the big GT muscle cars but Eddy made his move stick and gained another place when Coens spun the Ferrari around. He then ran confidently in seventh spot, shadowing the Thiers Ferrari and Venthoor/Wauters Viper. This became sixth place after 15 minutes when the Verbist Porsche suffered a stop-go penalty for a grid infringement. Eddy then applied the pressure to the Thiers brothers’ Ferrari during the second part of his stint, and was challenging for fifth spot.

The recovering Coens/Bouvy Ferrari soon spoiled this ‘fifth place party’, however, as it picked off both Eddy and the other F430 of Thiers. Renard thus came in to hand over to Vosse in seventh position, and at the stop the team noticed that the car had some battle scars around the right rear wheel – signs that it had received a knock during the first corner kerfuffle. Vincent quickly disposed of both the Venthoor/Wauters Viper and Thiers Ferrari during the early stages of his stint, and was running in a comfortable fifth as the race entered its final quarter. He was closing in slightly on the fourth-placed Audi but there was no threat at all from behind, and with five minutes to go fifth place at least was in the bag. Sadly the car then lost drive to the wheels and he was forced to park it up, slipping to an eventual ninth place in the classified results. The early knock on the right rear wheel had split the driveshaft c.v joint cover, and then during the race the joint had lost its grease and eventually overheated & failed.

Overall, however, it had been a very good showing from the team on its Belgian debut, at a circuit with three tight chicanes which is not ideally suited to the characteristics of our Aston Martin DBRS9. The more flowing curves of Spa-Francorchamps are definitely more ‘DBRS9-country’, and the next three rounds of the Championship are held there….
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