A race nearly to forget for #TeamAMR

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Little over three hours after the opening race of the season came round two of the British GT Championship from Oulton Park, and being a split race format this time it was the turn of the professional drivers to start the one hour sprint race.

After not having much luck in the first race was AMR factory driver Nicki Thiim's chance to shine in the race as the highest placed Aston Martin in P6 with the #2 machine he shares with Mark Farmer. Plowman was the highest placed AMR GT4 crew and after their P2 podium in race 1 they would have to endure the effect of an additional five second mandatory pit time success penalty - likewise with the #96 Optimum GT3 of Bradley Ellis and Ollie Wilkinson.

Another clean rolling start and opening laps for the thirty four car field but again that didn't last that long as a Mercedes GT4 was soon tagged and dispatched to the gravel trap bringing out another early and elongated Safety Car period which in some ways dampened the expectations of the race again. Indeed, ten minutes were lost to that but the trouble with Safety Cars is that they usually only breed further accidents and incident as and when the field is eventually released.

That scenario very quickly came to haunt the #95 TF Sport car of Josh Price who, in tangling with the #42 BMW earned himself some bodywork damage as well as a later 30 second stop and hold penalty for causing a collision. That was their race ran even before it had really started.

For the second race it was still obviously apparent that the McLaren 570s's had the legs over the Astons with the Woking produced cars way out in front followed by the Astons at the rear with the two Ford Mustangs and sole Jaguar somewhere in the middle but despite that, at least the class was giving us some good racing action whereas the GT3 class had gone somewhat stale again with plenty of good racing but little to no overtaking around the tight, twisty and undulating track. Like their smaller GT4 cars, the new Vantage GT3 was clearly done on power or at least top end speed.

Just as the #96 Optimum car decided to pit early for Ellis to swap back over to Wilkinson did things really start going wrong for #TeamAMR. In the midst of something like an eight car GT4 train (all fighting for position of course) came the #62 Academy car of Will Moore who in making only the slightest of contact with the rear of one of the McLaren's coming out of T1 did his silver and black car spin violently off the circuit at high speed to ultimately make heavy sideways contact with (thankfully) into the tyre wall. That impact ended both his and Alex Both-Jones' race on the spot and fortunately for Moore he was at least able to exit the car unaided. Speaking with team boss Matt Nichol-Jones later, he confirmed that the car 'should' be OK for the GT4 European Series races at Brands Hatch in two weeks time.

Watching on TV as the #95 TF Sport GT4 car served their earlier penalty did we see the final stages of the #2 TF Sports car's pit stop with Thiim swapping positions with Farmer having made no progression from his P5 position behind. Unfortunately for all and only a matter of a few hundred metres later did Farmers weekend go from bad to worse as he spun out his car onto the outside of Casacdes in what would have been a potential podium position before becoming beached between the track and the grass on the opposite side of the track trying to recover his position. Unable to move under its own power or with marshal power assistance was another Safety Car called by Race Control. When interviewed afterwards - Thiim was clearly awash with frustration about what had happened.

That Safety Car would cost the race a further fifteen minutes to clear.

First with Marco Sorensen and then later with Andrew Howard behind the wheel of the #99 Beechdean AMR GT3, did events on track work in their favour as they edged their way up to P5 overall. Whilst this time the #95 TF Sport GT4 served a penalty for speeding in the pit lane did an Aston finally get a break of fortune.  Firstly, having only just overtaken the #99 Beechdean for position did Rick Parfitt Jnr then crash his Bentley into the barrier before then a sure podium runner - the RAM Racing Mercedes AMG go wide and onto the grass at Cascades which in turn elevated Howard up to a P3 position with just eight minutes remaining. At last - a chance of something good happening and being the experienced racer that he is, that was something that Howard wasn't going to relinquish without a fight.

At that moment in time that would have been an awesome result for the Beechdean team as their GT4 #11 car was also still holding P3 in GT4 and actively competing for more with the McLaren and Ford ahead but alas that was not to be.

Almost as the final nails in what had been until then something of a average to bad race event for the eleven AMR runners did we see within the same screenshot glimpses of both Graham Davidson spinning off in his #47 TF Sport GT3 at Cascades and crashing heavily into the padded Arco section on the infield section leading to the hairpin as well as the #11 Beechdean GT4 car recovering itself back to the circuit having also spun out. Driver error apparently on the part of the #47 driver and back marker problems reported for the #11.

For Howard and Sorensen it was simply a case of their perseverance paying off (with a little piece of fortune) to collect their first podium of the season having managed to fend off the chasing #72 Lamborghini until the chequered flag.

Beyond that there was nothing to show for all the efforts of the Academy, TF Sport and Optimum teams - nothing more than repairing some of the damage sustained at the meeting and moving on to build upon the positives. Both platforms are clearly down on ultimate pace compared with the more established marques but also silly mistakes were being made - mistakes that, by the time the penalty was served, all but destroyed the race for the offending party.

Whilst it is good to see that the Vantage GT3 and GT4 can pick up some good results, better results will only come about with more instilled discipline and control (with a little redressing of the Balance of Performance between the cars as well perhaps) and that is what we hope that we will see more off in Norfolk in four weeks time.

Photo credits - Steve Jackman / Jacob Ebrey

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