Brands Hatch British GT scorcher

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Under the warming sky of the Kent countryside, Round 6 of the British GT series played out what could be the best race of the year so far around the iconic Grand Prix circuit.

Having kicked off a bit earlier than usual last Sunday morning for what is now the customary public pit walk in front of the thirty GT3 and GT4 entries, the glorious weather conditions brought with it a large crowd of all ages eager to meet and great the drivers and favourite marques.

With qualifying for Sunday's two hour race being determined on Saturday, Beechdean's Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam would secure another class pole position for their V12 Vantage having been timed second and third overall in Am and Pro respectively but more importantly with a combined time that was 0.2 seconds quicker than the 888 BMW Z4.

Contrary to previous rounds the Aston Martin GT4 platform appeared to be struggling against the Ginetta G55 with GT4 qualifying leaving the top Aston (#61 Academy of Will Moore and Dennis Standberg) starting fourth on the grid just ahead of GT4 championship leaders in the #407 Beechdean.

Round 6 was certainly shaping up into something exciting!

By the time the green flag dropped at the start of the race on Sunday the skies were almost clear and the air temperature had risen to over 25 deg C. That would make things very hot in the cockpit for all the drivers over their next one hour stint yet alone the spectators waiting patiently in the wings.

Holding onto his his lead position for the first few critical corners, Howard and his #007 Beechdean liveried Vantage was able to fend off the immediate and incessant attack from Lee Mowle in his #888 BMW Z4 to a point where the performance characteristics of the V12 Vantage would stretch his lead over the Z4 before the lapping of the GT4 cars closed the gap again. Such was their pace that only after a handful of laps the front two cars had pulled away from the two TF Sport Vantage's sandwiching the two Oman Racing Vantage's behind.

Back in GT4 the #61 Academy V8 Vantage had made a great start catching and passing all of the leading G55's by the time they arrived at Druids for the first time. Jamie Chadwick's Beechdean would have to work hard to maintain position for the opening period of the race.

The first drama of the race was to unfortunately involve the #27 TF Sport Vantage of Andrew Jarman who was left beached in the gravel at Clearways after possible contact whilst pushing for position. Although the car would be recovered from its immediate predicament and would return to the pit lane under its own power the car would be retired within the first half an hour.

By mid point into his stint Howard still retained the lead from the 'ever in his mirror' 888 BMW with Liam Griffin holding station in fourth in his Oman Racing car with Derek Johnston and Mark Farmer a bit further back in their TF Sport and 22GT Vantage's respectively. Ahmad Al Harthy's busy race diary would soon come to another premature end when innocuous contact would lead to terminal loss of drive with a broken drive shaft leaving the car abandoned of the side of the circuit just after Surtees bend.

Will Moore in the #61 Academy car was having a cracking race in GT4. Having took an early class lead he would use all of his recently acquired experience to control and maintain his class lead through until his mandatory pit stops.

It was only at the pits stops that the race, exciting and dramatic as it already was would change dimension. The Beechdean #007 would have to serve an additional 20 seconds success penalty for their win two weeks ago in Belgium and as the entry time advantage wasn't to that degree to begin with thats to a couple of Safety Car periods Jonny Adam would rejoin the track down in seventh. Words may have also been exchanged between the #007 and another Aston Martin team for what they saw as blocking in the pit lane - but enough said!

With all the Pro drivers now in their respective cars the second hour would have all the hallmarks of a cracking race. In their opening laps it would be Rory Butcher in his #6 Oman Racing Vantage who would be chasing Joe Osbourne's BMW Z4 for top honours whilst further back Jon Barnes in the 22GT Racing Vantage would have to serve a drive through penalty for inconstancies in their pit stop earlier dropping them down the GT3 order.

22GT Racing's British GT woe would continue with just under half an hour remaining when apparent brake failure would plant the blue and black V12 Vantage heavily into the tyre wall at Druids ending their race on the spot.

A car not going unnoticed for the whole of the race was the re-liveried #17 TF Sport car of Derek Johnston and Matt Bell. Keeping themselves out of trouble and running their own race had seen the predominantly white car reach and maintain a comfortable third that they would hold until the end. This would come as welcome relief for the drivers having so far experience so much destructive disappointment so far in the series.

Adam would recover the #007 race position to a more credible fourth by the end, at least the important championship points would offset the bitter taste of the time pit penalty that cost the car a possible race win.

Race excitement wasn't restricted to just the GT3 field. Despite the early form of the #61Academy car the chasing Ginetta G55 GT4 of Toleman Motorsport would take the class lead after the pit stop cycle having stayed out longer on a clearer track. The performance of the Ginetta's were also coming back to the domineering form that was displayed in free practice. Ross Gunn, now in the #407 Beechdean would inherit third after an incident ahead involving the #49 Porsche and the #61 Academy of Dennis Strandberg who were themselves battling for the final step on the podium.

The #61 car would at least recover to finish just ahead of its sister #62 car with 'super sub' Mike Hart back at the wheel again. I don't think that it will be the last time we see him in the silver and black car either despite what he may say!!

To watch this race was enthralling and captivating as drama was literally just around the corner. The cars close balancing of performance, the circuit and the weather made for possibly the best GT race of the year which all who attended (or watched live on Motors TV) - a great advertisement for the series and GT racing as a whole.

As for the championship - in GT3 Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard again loose ground to the reigning champions of Marco Attard and Alex Sims but with three rounds still remaining its is still possible for the drivers from four cars to lift the 2015 championship title.

In GT4 Beechdean's Ross Gunn and Jamie Chadwick had t work extremely hard to extend their championship lead to 42.5 points at the weekend and with Issy Racing' Lotus not finishing it now may appear that the championship is for those 'pesky kids' to loose?!!

Next round is at Snetterton over the weekend of the 22 -23 August for two - one hour races.

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