TF Sport finally take their GT3 race win at Donington Park

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Soon after the joys from Germany earlier this afternoon with Aston Martin Racing claiming a commanding class win in the ADAC Total 24H event with their new turbo charged Vantage GT4, came the first overall race win for the (also new for 2019) Vantage GT3 fromTF Sport in the latest round of the British GT Championship from Donington Park today.

Having had to involuntarily 'delay' this event by two weeks by virtue of unwanted contact with a back marker crashing the same car out of the race the final lap out in the Championship at Silverstone, the #47 crew of Graham Davidson and Jonny Adam finally did what was needed to claim their first race win and that of the car in the British national series at the end of this afternoons two hour race.

With weather again not being a problem, Am driver Davidson was a man on a mission right from the start of the race allowing those behind to squabble between them enabling him to pull out what became an unthreatened lead by the time he passed the car over to Adam.

Two cars making hay at the start were the #99 Beechdean AMR of Andrew Howard who managed to leapfrog himself up to P4 in the first two corners alone, closely followed by the #96 Optimum Vantage GT3 of Ollie Wilkinson. Fortunately for Davidson, all the accident and incident was at least behind him as team mate Mark Farmer would endure another difficult race in his #2 TF Sport car that he shares with Nicki Thiim as two early spins would see his position plummet to mid pack amongst the slower GT4's. Asking Thiim what he thought of the situation on track, the Dane did suggest that it was "already time to get a beer!"

Kelvin Fletcher was again flying in his #11 Beechdean GT4 as he headed the GT4 Pro-Am class just behind the overall GT4 leaders. Clearly something had again happened with the performances of many chassis in GT4 as the Ford Mustang was again untouchable whereas the Vantage GT4's as a whole were obviously slower than at Silverstone.

Unfortunately, early and unrelated contacts for the #95 TF Sport GT4 of Josh Price and the #35 Optimum GT4 of Jack Butel would see both sidelined on track for a short while before managing to make it back to pit lane for repairs. Losing several laps each, both cars would return to the track but not for to long for the #35 car which would soon pit again and retire from the race. Their respective sister cars in GT4 Silver Cup were also taking their time to come up to speed with the #97 down in P8 in class with the #75 Optimum car a further place back contrary to suggestive speeds displayed earlier in the events proceedings.

Coming up towards the midway point and the compulsory pit stop, both Davidson and Wilkinson were 'enjoying' themselves in P1 and P3 respectively although the Silver Cup #96 car had dropped back from the leading pair. Shaun Balfe was also on a charge in his 720s McLaren and a series of personal best times began to dwindle the Scotsman's earlier lead to just under a second by the time they all pitted.

Disaster was not far away however for the #96 Optimum GT3, as on leaving their pit bay the grey liveried car spluttered and coughed before erupting into a plume of dense smoke as the engine compartment broke out in fire. Exiting the vehicle, Bradley Ellis would make it no further than the end of the pit lane but swift action of the Balfe crew and pit lane marshals at least saved the car from serious damage.

With all the Pro drivers now aboard, Rob Bell had now positioned his red Balfe McLaren GT3 to within 0.5 seconds of the rear of the #47 Vantage and for lap after lap Adam had to lead a defensive line. The fastest man on track however was Nicki Thiim who, having been further delayed at the pit stop because of their podium at Silverstone, soon caught and passed Bell to then place himself (strategically) in between the top two cars despite being a lap down.

Billy Johnson's Ford Mustang was also on a mission chasing down the #11 GT4 of Martin Plowman as the former Le Mans racer defended his Pro-Am lead but a slight error from the Englishman speeded up the path of inevitability and allowed the American past into the final corner of the lap.

Back in GT3, things were really heating up as an uncharacteristic error from Adam forced Thiim to pass him by at the chicane and allowed Bell to regroup back onto his tail. With a GT4 being the villain last time out at Silverstone - its would an incident involving a GT4 that would end up helping the #47 crew as the race entered its final minutes as the yellow flags for an incident forced the McLaren to stay behind some slower GT4's giving Adam the space that he needed to intimately take the chequered flag.

In terms of other successes at the race, the #11 Beechdean car did hold on to claim another Pro-Am podium with another P2 finish for Fletcher and Plowman. The #97 TF Sport of Tom Canning and Ash Hand did claw themselves up from P9 on the grid to claim a P4 finish.

Having now had two events in as many weeks, the Championship runners now get a month to regroup/repair and refocus before the fifth round of the season from Spa Francorchamps in Belgium before the final run in to the end of the season from brands Hatch and Donington Park again.

Photo credits - Jacob Ebrey / Steve Jackman

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