Blancpain makes a splash at Silverstone

Monday, May 26, 2014

Having had to test and set up their cars in almost impossible conditions on the Friday and Saturday before it came as some relief that race day was under warm and clearing skies.

Full season entrants MP-Motorsport and Oman Racing Team featured their planned driver line-ups with  Abra/Osborne/Poole in Pro-Am and Al Harthy/Caine/Jelley in Pro Class respectively. For the Silverstone round the Aston Martin Vantage line up was further increased with one off entries from British GT entrants Beechdean Motorsport (Pro-Am) and Horse Power Racing (GTR) with another GT3 car from full season VLN entry Leonard Motorsport (Pro).

Driver line ups had also been adjusted between the two of these additional customer teams - namely Jonny Adam assisting Leonard Motorsports' Paul Wilson and Stuart Leonard and Beechdean boss Andrew Howard being joined by Porsche Carrera Cup Scholarship winner Daniel Lloyd and again with Craft Bamboo WEC driver Alex MacDowall. HPR would be drive by car owner Paul Bailey and regular Andy Schulz.

The starting line up would be the #38 MP car starting in 8th position with Richard Abra behind the wheel, the #107 Beechdean car two places back with Daniel Lloyd, the  #44 Oman Racing car with Stephen Jelley in 19th, the #32 Leonard car in 28th spot with Jonny Adam and finally the #128 HPR car in 30th with Andy Schulz starting in a starting grid of 44 cars.

With the traditional GT rolling start trouble was only half way around Copse corner when the #128 HPR car was tagged into a spin on the opening lap. Difficulties extracting the car from the gravel trap would lead to waved yellows at that corner for the next couple of laps. That was Paul Bailey/Andy Schulz's raced destroyed immediately.

The inevitable 'madness' in 43 cars jostling for position around the GP circuit took well over 15minutes to calm down with MP and Beechdean line a stern in 7th and 8th respectively with Jonny Adam having a great 10 car plus scrap down in 10th before all had to avoid the debris of the 888 BMW Z4's accident, again into Copse and it would be at this point a few minutes later that Adam would be penalised with a drive through penalty for a yellow flag violation.

He wasn't the first and he certainly wouldn't be the last to receive such a penalty from the race stewards.

Towards the end of the first stint, and after some terrific racing between them would see Daniel Lloyd finally take Richard Abra for position for second position in the Pro-Am class. The #44 Oman Racing and #128 HPR cars also both received a drive through for benefiting in time under a yellow flag.

On the hour the first pit stop - driver changes - full service started with Jelley first in to swap with Al Harthy followed a few minutes later by both the Leonard and HPR cars. Abra and Lloyd would be able to sneak a few more laps into their stints before fuel limits dictated their pitting but a slicker turn around from the MP Motorsport crew would see their position relative to the Beechdean car reversed but both were still 2nd and 3rd in class.

With Joe Osborne now at the wheel of the #38 MP car it wasn't long before he had hooked onto the back bumper of the class leading #80 Nissan GT-R and a few laps later a svelte slip streaming move coming out of Stow and into Club would see him take the class lead with the chasing Andrew Howard still a third of a lap behind.

Coming to the top of the hour again would see the second and final pit stops but this time Osborne would stay out nearly 15minutes longer than the rest of the field, briefly take the overall race lead and helping to minimise the work that would be handed on to team owner and team amateur driver Mark Poole.

With only 45minutes left in this three hour endurance Osborne pits and Poole takes charge - a charge that would immediately require him to take avoiding action from the debris created by Andy Schultz loosing the back end of his HPR car and tank slapping his car into the barrier under the Hanger Straight bridge. The car suffered both front and rear damage but thankfully Schulz extracted himself from the car unaided and uninjured if not a little annoyed with himself.

Safety Car!

The Safety Car eventually came in leaving a thirty minute dash to the line - a dash that saw Mark Poole get swamped with Pro class cars along the International pit straight allowing the chasing #80 Nissan Academy GT-R to retake the class lead with only a few minutes left.

Come the chequered flag the #44 Oman Racing Vantage would be first across the line in 10th followed by the #38 MP Motorsport car in 11th overall and second in Pro-Am. A great result following their disappointment in Monza.

MacDowall would bring the Beechdean car home in 17th overall, the Leonard car would finish a very credible 23rd in their first Blancpain outing and sadly the Bailey/Schulz HPR car would be a DNF.

For some the next Blancpain event would be at Paul Ricard in June but for others their domestic season would see them return to Silverstone next weekend for the third round of the British GT. For Paul Wilson and Stuart Leonard we wait to see if Blancpain will be added to their 2014 plans or whether the lure of he Nordshleife is just too great!!.

Photo Credits - Blancpain Series/Brecht Decancq

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