TF Sport's wins and woes in GT Cup

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TF Sport’s GT Cup returnees, Andy Houghton and Phil Glew, were jubilant race winners at Donington Park (19-20 September), but Paul Bailey was distraught leaving the East Midlands, as a minor lapse in judgement led to a pair of non-finishes that dashed all hopes of winning the overall championship title.

The historic Donington Park circuit hosted the opening round of the 2015 GT Cup in April and yielded a hat-trick of race wins for Bailey and his long-standing teammate Andy Schulz, who have continued collecting the silverware during a highly lucrative season.

The TF Sport pairing looked set to extend their winning streak and bolster their bid for the overall and GTO class titles on their return to the East Midlands when they finished fifth overall, in the wake of three non-points-scoring entries and immediately behind their chief title rivals, Wayne Marrs and Charlie Hollings, on Saturday.

However, the tides turned when the action resumed on Sunday, as Bailey locked his brakes and span while lapping a class rival and, unable to select a gear, caused a red-flag stoppage that would see him disqualified from the result.

Sadly, terminal gearbox issues prevented him from starting the third and final race of the weekend later that day, all but destroying his hopes of winning the overall GT Cup title.

“I was close to tears and beyond distraught leaving Donington Park on Sunday, as I only had to finish to win the GTO title,” said Bailey. “It was a schoolboy error, as I simply locked up while passing a backmarker, but I couldn’t select a gear and the TF Sport guys were unable to repair the problem between races, so we racked up a couple of DNFs, which was catastrophic for our title hopes.

“I’m still upset about it, but it was a simple misjudgement on my part. We can’t win the overall title now, but we can still become GTO class Champion by finishing a race at Oulton Park, so I’ll go there with the intention of playing it safe. Ultimately, I never thought titles would be achievable in our first full season of competition in the GT Cup, given the depth and breadth of the field. Wayne (Marrs) and Charlie (Hollings) are both great drivers and I applaud them for their speed and consistency.”

TF Sport fielded a second Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 for GT Cup returnees, Houghton and Glew. The teammates made an instant splash on the series when they reached the winners’ rostrum with a Ferrari 458 Italian GTC in Donington Park’s season-opener, but faced a new and more intense challenge this time around with a thoroughbred GT3-spec Aston Martin.

Nevertheless, Houghton – a newcomer to motor racing – rose to the task at hand with assistance from his professional mentor and co-driver, Glew.

The Cambridge racer clocked up invaluable testing miles at Silverstone prior to the race weekend at Donington Park and subsequently shone during only his second ever competitive outing.

Still acclimatising to the Aston Martin’s supreme power, braking and cornering capabilities, Houghton was some five second per lap quicker than in testing and stood his ground in sixth position during the first phase of Saturday’s race, before a storming drive from Glew and well-drilled pit stops from the TF Sport crew resulted in a sensational race win, which was backed up by fifth and ninth-place results the following day (Sunday 20 September).

“The weekend couldn’t have been any better,” said Houghton. “To achieve a win in only my second race weekend and my first outing in the Aston Martin is incredible and the fact I was able to bring my laptimes down so quickly was purely due to Phil’s coaching and the feedback from TF Sport. I kept the car in sixth during my first stint on Saturday and some remarkable driving from Phil and short stops meant we inherited the win after one of our rivals received a time penalty for a track limits infringement.

"By Sunday, I was settled in the car. The first race was relatively straightforward after I avoided the first corner melee and I finished fifth. It was good to have some more seat time, but then fatigue started setting in. I’d had four days in the car, the heat inside the cockpit was draining and it really took its toll on me. I had a few good battles, but I just decided to settle down and simply bring the car home safely. It was just a very positive weekend!”

Martin Johnston, meanwhile, ran through his usual programme, gradually upping his pace as he acclimatised to his car and the circuit during free practice, before working his way up from the back of the grid to sixth position in class by the conclusion of Saturday’s race.

Johnston – Managing Director of AllFloors Express – found chunks of time on Sunday morning and followed up a below par eighth place finish in the day’s opening encounter with a highly respectable fourth.

Source material - TF Sport
Photo Credit - Nicola Todd
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