Brands Hatch - one to forget for AMR runners

Sunday, August 30, 2020

As we said only yesterday after Qualifying, Brands Hatch is a circuit that always entertains and excites but unfortunately for all three Aston Martin Racing runners today that was not to be in a good way.

With us welcoming back for a brief return into the Championship was the #7 Beechdean AMR Vantage GT3 of Andrew Howard being joined (this time only) by his former driver coach and multiple British GT Champion in Jonny Adam. Not having raced competitively since the end of last season, a single test at the circuit last week as well as multiple hours on the simulator was hoped to be enough for Howard and all looked good with their P4 Qualifying position.

In the GT4 Class, the two TF Sport Vantage GT4 cars of Championship leaders Jamie Caroline and Dan Vaughan had been top of the class all weekend so far alongside their sister #95 Vantage of Patrick Kibble and birthday boy Connor O'Brien. They had picked themselves up from their 'poor' performance of race 2 at Donington two weeks ago to claim a 1-2 on the grid for todays two hour race.

With the 'Am' drivers taking the start at an overcast and chilly Brands Hatch, the opening laps came without any real incident other than some door panels being redefined as the cars jostled for position. With two Silver Cup GT3's directly behind, Howard elected to let them pass at the start of the second lap as he looked to find his racing head again after nearly a year out of the sport but soon his lack of seat time became very apparent as he lost a further six places to almost the entire GT3 pack in under half a lap.

Further back, Vaughan had already been overtaken by the Toyota but was fast enough to hold onto his P3 slot but ahead of him, O'Brien was constant and smooth enough to hold a comfortable class lead. Former AMR racer Joradn Albert in the Ford Mustang was the person on the move in GT4 as he slowly cruised up towards the rear off the #97 car having started from second last in class but at least that was where his progression stopped for a time.

Coming up to the hour and the start of the pit stop window (which the GT4's had first option at this time) an impatient Mercedes AMG GT3 stuck his nose up the inside of O'Briens car coming out of Druids causing contact the spun the GT4 Class leader out right in front on the chasing GT4 pack. Fortunately no other contact was made and O'Brien was able to recover and continue.

Moments later, another altercation between two GT3 cars at Hawthorns sent the TPR Bentley into the gravel which brought out the Safety Car less out less than a minute from the start of the Pit Stop window. Luckily for TF Sport, both cars found themselves near pit in and where able to come in straight away whilst the leading Toyota chose to carry on one more lap.

The Safety Car however also washed away any chances of the Beechdean AMR team from recovering their P12 position as they found themselves behind the race leader at the worst time possible - that effectively put them a lap down to almost the entire GT3 field.

By the time the pit stops had sorted themselves out the Mustang of Matt Cowley was now in the lead of GT4 but with the #97 car of Caroline and the #95 of Kibble close behind as a failing tyre upon one of the HHC McLarens brought out another Safety Car for tyre debris across the circuit. At the restart it quickly became a four way battle between the Ford, the two Astons and the BMW of a Championship returning Ben Green.

Whilst Adam put in some of the quickest laps of the race so far, their race was effectively run and would eventually take the chequered flag in P9 but for the GT4 class, it wouldn't be over until they all took the chequered flag.

Three minutes remaining, and with the GT3 leaders now coming through the GT4 leaders into Druids, there was more side to side and front to rear bumping going on as all looked for track position relative to their class advisories. Going into what was to be the penultimate lap, the #95/#42 BMW/#97 went three wide out of the final corner and onto the start straight - again bumping into each other as first the #97 lost P2 before regaining P2 from the BMW going into Druids again.

Then going into the final lap the battles came to a head as a recovering Caroline made contact with the rear of Kibbles car going into Paddock Hill Bend sending the #95 off into the gravel trap and out of the race. Whilst the #97 was able to continue and take the flag for a provisional P3 in class, a 40 second post race penalty saw the #97 car demoted to P6 in the finishing order after the race.

Checking the amended results, the #95 was also classified as finishing P7 in class which at least gave them some points but not as many as certainly a P3 or P4 finish would have given them.

Whilst Tom Ferrier and his team deal with the aftermath of what happened going into the final lap, that incident may well serve his four youngsters with a firm reality check into their recent performances with them being as fast as they like during Free Practice and Qualifying - its where you are at the end of the race that really counts!!!

Still at the top of the Silver Cup and Teams Championship standings, these two full season entries now turn their attention to the sixth round of the Championship at Donington Park in just under three weeks time.

Photo credits - Jacob Ebrey

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