Podium clean sweep just missed out on in British GT opener

Sunday, August 02, 2020

This weekend saw the welcomed return of the British GT Championship and its opening two races of the season from Oulton Park.

Dramatically down on numbers of course from those first indicted by the Championship at the turn of the year, we have been left with just two Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4's from the 2019 GT3 and GT4 overall Championship winning stable of TF Sport for us to support throughout the revised nine round 2020 calendar.

More than some, at least the #95 and #97 crews of Patrick Kibble/Connor O'Brien and Jamie Caroline/Dan Vaughan respectively were able to get in some significant testing ahead of this weekends start to official proceedings and that pre season seat time showed as others around them looked more tentative and careful over todays proceedings.

Not that either TF Sport crew showed anything more than confidence, it was that confidence and consistency that took O'Brien to overall Pole position for Sundays earlier one hour race with Vaughan not too far behind in P4.

Considering the complexities of the circuit and it being the first race of the year, all was quiet and careful around the first lap of the race although Vaughan had dropped a place in class during the opening laps. Whilst the young Irishman began to pull out a sizeable lead, the former Porsche Carrera Cup racer Vaughan got himself an early scrap with former Beechdean AMR GT4 racer Jordan Albert in his new Academy Motorsport Ford GT - a scrap that would see cars swap positions on track many times during the course of their opening stint.

Having waited for the GT3's to pit, Vaughan would come in first having just lost out again to Albert whilst O'Brien stayed out to maximise his then nine second lead. At the end of the pit window, Kibble would retain that lead earned by his co-driver whilst Caroline had a gap of about twelve seconds to make up to his team mate as all cars moved up one position after the then P2 placed Toyota was served with a drive through penalty!

With nine minutes left on the clock, the Academy Mustang hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons as it spun off (unaided) onto the grassy infield coming out of Cascades - not be able to restart the car brought out the Safety Car which (despite not actually recovering the car to a place of safety) allowed for two hot laps to the chequered flag.

The unconfirmed result of Race 1 was that the #95 Kibble/O'Brien car finished P1 overall and in Class whilst their team mates of Caroline/Vaughan in the #97 car finished P3 overall/P3 in class!

Great results so far!!

Race 2 later on Sunday would see a shake up of the starting orders of earlier as it was the turn of the Pro drivers to start the race - for TF Sport that meant the #97 car of Caroline heading the two yellow cars from P2 whilst Kibble had to settle for a P4 starting slot after losing two laps for track limits in Qualifying yesterday. Both cars however, would have to serve longer pit stops due to their Race 1 successes meaning for an additional delay of 5 and 10 seconds respectively on top of their additional 15 second Silver Cup time penalty.

Another great start from the front from this time Caroline maintained his class lead whilst Kibble made up an early place to follow in from P3, split only by the Balfe Pro-Am McLaren. This time, the GT4's ran a much tighter race than the first after drivers had found their race legs and pushed for a result - sometimes too hard as the #97 car was quickly  'pinged' very early on for track limits!

Reversing track time from earlier, Kibble was the first of the TF Sport cars to come in as there simply wasn't enough room for both cars to come in together - after that, we're sure things were only a blur for his co-driver O'Brien!!

Having left pit lane and coming round the kink that is Denton's, the #95 car suffered a side to side contact with the Team Parker Racing Bentley GT3 - contact that sent both cars careering over the grass infield. Catching the raised kerbs whilst travelling backwards, significant parts including wheels were ripped off his Aston Martin as the unguided 'missile' narrowly missed collecting the following 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren GT3 before coming to a more controlled stop within the off side track gravel trap.

With the Aston sitting in the gravel and with the Bentley and McLaren also stopped at various places around the circuit Race Control had no option but to deploy the Safety Car with twenty five minutes remaining. Although the #97 had been in for its pit stop there would effectively be no more racing as the caution period would unfortunately remain until the end!

Unconfirmed results from Race 2 show that the #97 Caroline/Vaughan car finished P2 overall behind the Pro-Am Balfe McLaren but P1 in Silver Cup thus earning them their first GT4 win at their first competitive British GT meeting.

Next round of the Championship is from Donington Park where something a little different will be seen with, not only their usual two hour race on Sunday but with another one hour sprint thrown in later in the afternoon to boot. That fun starts on Sunday 16th August.

Photo credits - Jacob Ebrey / TF Sport

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