British GT's first of two Easter spectaculars

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

For the many who made the journey to Oulton Park yesterday for the opening two races of the 2019 British GT Championship were once again treated to two battle royales as both the GT3 and GT4 classes set about establishing an earlier order of hierarchy in some very equally performing race machinery.

Treated this time to an Easter Bank Holiday of clear blue skies and blazing sunshine, it didn't take long in race 1 for events to get spiced up with the leading two GT3 cars taking themselves out of the race on only the second time around the 2.7 mile circuit.

The first unwanted track action for the one of the Aston Martin Racing team cars however had already happened when the #2 TF Sport GT3 of Mark Farmer had already had a 180 degree spin at the first corner at the end of the first lap - a spin that saw his car only narrowly missed by one of the Academy Vantage GT4's coming up behind. The next track action to forget for Farmer was unfortunately just half a lap later when he failed to negotiate the now stricken Mercedes AMG of Ian Loggie that had just been taken out of the race by the Team Parker Bentley hitting that a broadside but at a thankfully very low speed. It already wasn't going to be Farmers day!

Loosing a large chunk of time in the first half of the race to the resulting Safety Car, it didn't leave the Am drivers long to do what they needed to do before the pit window opened allowing for the deployment of their respective Pro drivers.

The young Ollie Wilkinson in his #96 Optimum prepared Vantage GT3 was the highest placed AMR car at the time holding a comfortable P7 whilst the grid followed in procession behind the Safety Car. Patrick Kibble meanwhile was also having a great opening race in the Championship in his #95 TF Sport Vantage GT4 holding P5 in his Silver Cup class.

Just after the Safety car released the pack the #97 TF Sport Vantage GT4 of Tom Canning came into the pit lane with a technical issue with the (?) front nearside corner of his bright yellow car that he shares with Ashley Hand - an issue that would see a premature end to their otherwise pacy start to the year.

With the first round of pit stops (featuring minimum pit stop times) inevitably came the first wave of penalties for any transgressions - the #2 TF Sport car of the then Nicki Thiim was one of the first to get pinged for a 1 second stop and go for the error at the changeover.

With the GT4's having a different pit window it took several laps for the field to finally filter itself out so that those at the front of both classes were the overall class leaders - not just those who hadn't pitted yet. Coming through the other end of the pit stop cycle in a better position than what they went in was the #96 Optimium car with Bradley Ellis now at the wheel as he would emerge from pit lane in P3 but with the #69 Barwell Lamborghini in a great close pursuit - a battle that would last till race end.

Another car having a discreet but progressive passage up the order was the Pro-Am Beechdean AMR GT4 entry of Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher - with many races of racing together experience under their belts, Plowman was given the opportunity by his co-driver of racing for a class podium which he did , bringing the #11 Vantage home P2 in class.

To round off a good opening start to the season for the AMR runners was with Ellis hanging on till the death to his P3 overall finish in his #96 car to continue the fine performance of the Optimum team in the Championship with last years Championship winners Jonny Adam and Flick Haigh.

The #95 TF Sport GT4 car of Patrick Kibble/Josh Price did well in their opening race together to finish a very appluadable P5 in what is already a heavily McLaren 570s dominated GT4 Silver Cup class.

For the other nine AMR runners it would be the case of looking forward to making amends in the afternoons second BGT race of the day to help start their season off with some vital Championship points.

Photo credits - Optimum / Steve Jackman / Jacob Ebrey

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