British GT :- Win some - Loose some.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Again, the final round of the Avon British GT Championship was to be held upon the fast, undulating curves of the Donington Park circuit with both GT3 and GT4 championships still mathematically up for grabs.

With MP Motorsport's Mark Poole and Richard Abra again deciding to sit out another round in favour of the Blancpain Endurance Series and with Paul Bailey (Horsepower Racing) wisely deciding to skip the meeting in favour of celebrating a significant wedding anniversary with his good lady wife the number of Aston Martin Vantages competing was thus reduced to 'only' seven cars.

Craft Bamboo driver Alex McDowall would again deputise for John Gaw in the PGF-Kinfaun car with Phil Dryburgh. in readiness for the next round of the WEC in Austin Texas this weekend.

Going into this race the situation was that the #4 Oman Racing GT3 Vantage needed to win the race outright but with the championship leading Barwell BMW Z4 Ecurie Ecosse of Marco Attard finishing no higher than seventh for Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine to be crowned GT3 champions.

A similar situation was to hand in the GT4 category with the Beechdean V8 Vantage being 29.5 points ahead of the TF Sport V8 Vantage prior to the race.

Come the end of qualifying on Saturday the #4 Oman Racing car snatched pole from its championship contender by the slimmest of margins leaving an 'all to play for' front row together with the #49 TF Sport car just ahead of the #407 Beechdean further back the grid in GT4 in P2 and P3 respectively.

Additional hope was also given to Al Harthy/Caine when it was decided that a late engine change was required on the championship leading Ecurie Ecosse Z4 after morning warm up. Speaking to Michael Caine in the Media room just after this disclosure there was an almost noticeable 'lift' to his already competitive demeanour and with a simple 'smile and shrug of the shoulders' he was gone!! Another car requiring an engine change post qualifying was the Strata 21 car of Paul White and Tom Onslow-Cole.

With the Barwell team having moved mountains to get their car - albeit a bit smokey to the grid all was set and within the next two hours champions would be made.

Straight from the off Ahmad Al Harthy planted his foot hard down and very quickly established a second or two lead over the chugging BMW and the rest of the chasing pack and within a few more laps later the BMW would be in the pit lane with terminal issues. The #5 Oman Racing car of Liam Griffin now in P2 would be Al Harthy's wingman and all was looking sweet………..!

Further back into the pack the #1 Beechdean car of Andrew Howard had beached itself in the gravel at The Esses - cause was unknown and he was to loose several laps waiting for marshal/mechanical intervention and despite rejoining seemingly undamaged it would later retire with mechanical issues.

Paul White was also having a stormer with some good moves up the inside into the Melbourne Hairpin on some, a wild trip through the gravel at The Esses with others before contact with another car would see him sitting in the pits for several laps whilst suitable repairs were undertaken.

Back in GT4 the TF Sport of Andrew Jarman was almost inseparable from the Beechdean of Ross Wylie with some very tight but clean driving between them - certainly no BTCC style rubbing going on or needed there!

Around about lap 32 the pit window was to open allowing the 'gentlemen drivers' to swap with their professional counterparts - now the racing was really to begin.

By the time AL Harthy pitted he had lead every lap and eked out a lead of over twenty seconds allowing Caine to rejoin back in the lead by the time the rest of the field had completed their mandatory stops. Still all was looking good for the #4 car - leading the race AND with their championship rivals already in retirement.

With not much more than twenty minutes remaining the sky suddenly blackened and drops of the wet stuff started to fall - not enough to have to don your coat and put up your umbrella but the stuff drivers hate - the stuff that causes indecisiveness. A seemingly inocuous glancing blow between the #4 Vantage and a Triple 8 BMW during this damp period of the race would be enough to alter the results in both time lost in the traffic and damage caused by the contact allowing the chasing Porsche of Phil Keen to ultimately pass him for the lead. Soon after the racey Ollie Hancock in the FF Corse would force his way passed the Vantage going through Redgate for position with the Audi of Matt Bell doing similar a couple of lap later.

What could have been was not to be and by race end the #4 Oman Racing car had slipped back to P4 which was not enough to snatch the championship away from Marcus Attard who would ultimately win by 10 points from the #4 car.

Back in GT4 Ross Wylie had handed over to Jake Giddings in the Beechdean who again was able to do decent, safe percentage driving, keeping the TF Sport of Devon Modell in his sights all the time - controlling the gap - controlling the race. The only hiccup came was when the drizzle appeared and the #407 shot into pit lane with only about 20 minutes to go for what turned out to be a precautionary 'splash n dash' but even that wasn't enough to alter the eventual outcome.

Come the chequered flag the #49 TF Sport car of Jarman/Modell would finish on the podium in second but for the #407 Beechdean their P5 would be enough to award Ross Wylie and Jake Giddings the 2014 GT4 Championship title.

Subject the official confirmation would see the Aston Martin teams finish as follows :-

Photo credits:- Richard Leach

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