Encouraging weekend for TF Sport at British GT fly away

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

TF Sport once again finished strongly inside the top ten, but was denied its best result of the season at Belgium’s globally renewed and highly demanding Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps during the fifth instalment of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship (10-11 July).

Both Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3s took to the iconic Belgian circuit for free practice on Friday (10 July) morning, where drivers were quick to dial themselves in and set the sixth and seventh fastest times respectively, before Andrew Jarman and Jody Fannin went second fastest in the red flag-interrupted second session.

The best two laps combined from each driver over the course of the two 15-minute qualifying sessions would determine their grid position ahead of Saturday’s (11 July) two-hour endurance race, as Jarman and Fannin claimed fifth, with the pairing of Matt Bell and Derek Johnston in the sister Aston Martin a further four slots back in ninth.

Lining up in their respective grid positions for Round 5, the two-hour, points-and-a-half race provided much entertainment and unpredictability from the off, as positions up-and-down the grid changed hands when the drivers reached the tight La Source hairpin for the first time.
Thirty minutes into the endurance race, the Safety Car made its first of two appearances, levelling the playing field and bringing both TF Sport cars back into the mix, as they looked to climb further into the top ten.

Unfortunately, fluid deposited onto the circuit led to several cars spinning off, collecting Johnston in the process, who was able to rejoin with no damage, albeit down the order in 19th.
Nonetheless, Johnston continued to show strong pace in making his way back up through the field, before another Safety Car put halt to any progress, as Bell took over the reins, where he immediately set lap times several seconds faster than the rest of the field to quickly scythe his way past the slower GT4 machines and back into the GT3 fray.

Placing Spa-Francorchamps at the top of his list of favourite circuits, Bell was in his element and it was not long before he breached the top ten, where he had to negotiate his way through more carnage towards the dying stages of the race, as drivers fell off.

Having been plagued by incidents through no fault of their own and unable to show the true potential that they hold this season, Bell and Johnston were buoyed by the weekend’s performance to finish in seventh position and collect yet another handful of strong points.

“It was one of our most positive weekends of the year so far,” said Bell. “We weren’t able to realise our potential in qualifying, as we had a bit of knock-off on the brakes, which prevented us from qualifying inside the top four. It was a lot hotter on race day, which was a challenge in itself doing a long stint, but Derek (Johnston) had a good start to his stint and was involved a pretty intense fight for much of it, before the Safety Car. A few cars around Derek came together after running over the dropped fluid, collecting him in the process, but it was a miracle that he was able to continue with no damage. He did really well from then on to bring the car into the pits for my stint.
“Being down in 19th, I didn’t think we had much to race for, but I drove like hell and was receiving messages over the radio saying that we were two seconds quicker than some of the cars I was catching, which was a huge confidence boost. It was nice to show some pace and do some overtaking, rather than being taken out. TF Sport did a great job in the pit stops once again. Some teams were losing a few minutes, but TF Sport was bang on. As a racing driver I am disappointed at the result, but we have to be buoyed by the pace we showed, which shows that we can fight, not only towards the front, but for podiums and wins. Brands Hatch is next and hopefully we can carry that momentum forwards.”

On the other side of the garage, Jarman was able to methodically negotiate his way past a handful of his rivals to climb into fifth position just before the hour mark, placing himself within touching distance of a podium position, before handing over to teammate Fannin.
With results this season not wholly representative, Fannin looked to make amends for that by rising up one position to fourth, where he would become entangled in a tight scrap with the RAM Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3.

All eyes were focused on the pair and Fannin mustered all his might to keep the SLS at bay, before an unfortunate coming together with 18 minutes left to run resulted in them dropping outside of the top five, returning to the pits where they would later retire.

"It was a really encouraging weekend that stands us in good stead for the rest of the season,” said Fannin. “I hadn’t been to Spa-Francorchamps since 2013 and I was really pleased to be second fastest in FP2.  I think we could have qualified higher had I not been held up on all of my fast laps. I was running in fourth position towards the end of the race, before I was held up by a GT4 car on the run through Blanchimont, which allowed the RAM Racing Mercedes to close right up on me. The Merc is very quick in a straight line and it towed up alongside me down the long Kemmel straight. We were side by side at the apex of Les Combes, with me on the inside and on the kerb and it looked to me as though he didn’t see me, as he turned in on his normal racing line, resulting in wheel-to-wheel contact and two left-side punctures for me."

“It was fantastic to be racing at Spa-Francorchamps again and I really thought a podium was a possibility here, if we’d had a clean run without any issues. We know we’re at the sharp end now and can build on it going on to Brands Hatch.”

Source material - TF Sport
Photo Credits - Jacob Ebrey
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