Tale of two halves for TF Sport at Donington British GT

Sunday, August 16, 2020

This weekends first visit of the British GT Championship to Donington Park proved itself to be something of a 'game of two halves' for the sole full season Aston Martin Racing team over the course of Sundays three hours of racing.

Having made a great re-introduction for themselves into what is the cauldron of GT4 racing in the heavily revised Championship calendar at Oulton Park earlier this month, the two bright yellow TF Sport cars of Jamie Caroline/Dan Vaughan and Partick Kibble/Connor O'Brien gave it their best as the weather conditions deteriorated overnight to produce some treacherous track conditions in time for Sundays race programme.

In a change to the usual timetable, this second round of the Championship was to be made up of one - two hour endurance race in the morning followed by a one hour sprint race just three hours later and in those conditions, any accident damage in race 1 would have seriously compromised possibilities in the second.

By the end of yesterday collective Qualifying times, it was the #97 car of Caroline/Vaughan who stole team honours as the started from P4 on the GT4 grid with the sister #95 Kibble/O'Brien in P5. Weather conditions were already perhaps at their worst as the track had deepening puddles around it and water vapour remained static in the air as the Safety Car took the pack around for two formation laps.

From the off, Caroline was on a mission as he claimed two places on the first lap alone before claiming the class lead before the first ten minutes of racing were up. Kibble did what he could to keep up with his team mate but had to work a bit harder at it by being held up by a slow McLaren GT3 as well as former Optimum AMR GT4 racer Patrik Matthiesen in the #58 McLaren 570s.

After just fifteen minutes of racing TF Sport had a brief GT4 1-2 as Kibble finally cleared the McLaren at the Melbourne Hairpin but going wide at the final corner put the #95 back down to P4 in class as this AMR Academy driver had to wait another 15 minutes to finally secure P2 as Caroline made his exit some 12 seconds ahead already.

Hanging spray was continuing to be an issue as the cars headlines pierced their way through the gloom as the crews came up towards the minimum drive time for driver 1 in the race - no effective pit window this time around. Caroline was making as much space to those behind as they would have to serve a 15 second success penalty form their success in race 2 at Oulton Park but his 20 second plus advantage was dented in more ways than one as contact from the #6 car saw the #97 temporally off track with a few seconds lost to boot.

Kibble was first to pit in the TF Sport camp with just 48 minutes of the race remaining as the young Irishman O'Brien took the helm. Caroline would stay out as long as he could and would eventually come in two laps later.

As the change overs were eventually finalised, it was the #95 who had come out in front as the #97 car of Vaughan would get bogged down in a battle with another ex AMR GT4 racer Matt Cowley in the Automatic Racing Ford GT. By the time the chequered flag dropped at the end of two hours of racing, TF Sport achieved another double podium with the #95 securing their second win of the season with the #97 car (and despite their pit lane success penalty) to carry on with their stream of podium finishes in P2.

That success in Race 1 obviously gave both cars this time success penalties in the afternoons second race which gave a lot of teams issues as to which way to go with tyres as the rain had stopped and the track was definitely drying.

With some GT3 and GT4 cars electing to swap tyres and start from the pit lane, both Astons would stick with the Pirelli wet tyre from their P3 (#97) and P6 (P95) and considering the mixture of tyre types, the opening laps were fortunately incident free.

As the laps went by, it wasn't too long before those who elected to swap to slicks started to make ground with those on wets and whilst Vaughan again diced with one of the HHC McLaren GT4's, Euan Hankey aboard his Balfe McLaren GT4 came cruising through to overtake them before disappearing himself into the distance with the class lead. Clearly wets were not the tyres to be on but there was nothing that either AMR GT4 could do until their allotted pit window.

Both of TF Sports cars pitted at the half hour mark from their positions P5/6 overall - P4/5 in Silver Cup for the #97 and #95 respectively. Having both served their elongated Silver Cup plus success penalty determined minimum pit stop time, both cars had dropped further back in class to end up battling for the spoils in class.

Too much time had already been lost on wets in the first half to be able to be made up in the second and especially after the 20 and 15 second success penalties. Sadly for the team, the second race would end up with the #97 beating the #95 this time again with a P4 and P6 finish in class.

Despite this, the #97 crews consistency in results has promoted them to the top of the GT4 Overall and Silver Cup Drivers Championships - just ahead of the #95 in crew in both and both crews elevating the team to the top in the GT4 Teams stakes as the Championship moves on to Brands Hatch in two weeks time.

Photo credits - Jacob Ebrey / TF Sport

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