Drama and more drama as British GT rides out another eventful visit to Spa Francorchamps

Sunday, July 25, 2021

After the trials and tribulations of the last two days, Spa Francorchamps again delivered another exciting round of the British GT Championship although it came as a high price to some again, even before they had crossed the start line.

Bathed in all its natural beauty under broken cloud and beating sunshine following the rains of last night, all was looking good for the fourth round of the UK Championship and despite the loss of three cars in earlier sessions, the #7 Beechdean AMR of Andrew Howard enjoyed a clear view to the fist corner from P2 on the grid and Matt Topham was to start from P11 overall – P3 in the GT4 class with his #27 Newbridge AMR.

Sadly for the race and for the Championship as a whole, a significant incident literally on the start line, initiated by the Team ABBA Mercedes AMG GT3 took out three cars on the spot and put another GT3 Championship contender into the pits for lengthy repairs. Topham had to take emergency avoiding action to avoid the carnage ahead of him whilst Howard would even get struck from behind as the green Mercedes became airborne through the pack.

Thankfully no injuries but another incident reminiscent of that seen last time out at Donington when the #27 Newbridge car was effectively taken out resulting in two other drivers getting warnings and/or points on their race licence.

Fifteen minutes of this two-hour race was lost behind the Safety Car as the debris field was cleared with Topham now firmly at the rear of the pack but at least Howard held on to P2 but over his hour stint, the performance of his AMR Vantage GT3 was also reminiscent of that of Donington where he couldn’t keep up with the leading #63 Lamborghini and only stayed ahead of those behind due to their constant battling.

Topham would need to push to get through and there was a point where an incident between him and the #56 Ginetta would leave that car in the pits and for the investigation to be undertaken post-race by Race Control but either way, he was now up to P12.

Whether car performance or the effects from the earlier damage, Howard was haemorrhaging time to the leader as a five second gap became ten before becoming fifteen just short of his intended pit stop – which was then where the Beechdean race fell apart.

Pitting one lap too early by the team, Howard was sent on his way again to pit again the next time around. Losing a minute with that error as well as paying the time penalty for their P3 finish last time out, the #7 car was latter pinged for speeding in the pit lane and that cost them a further eight seconds plus the pit lane minimum time!! Ross Gunn (deputising for an isolating Jonny Adam) would have little opportunity to rectify that situation on track but would at least come away that he was the fastest before his next racing excursion at Spa next weekend in the Spa 24. The #7 car would finish P4 overall and P3 in Pro-Am.

Topham meanwhile, had already stopped and handed the #27 over to Darren Turner for his hour behind the wheel.

Leap frogging two class rivals thanks to their success time penalties, it wasn’t long before Turner was knocking at the door of an overall GT4 podium position – first into P3, then P2 but still with a ten second gap to the leading McLaren. That gap took the AMR factory driver just fifteen minutes to break down before taking the lead from around the outside of the corner just two laps later. Great stuff!!!

Drama came the way of the #27 car however with just five minutes remaining as it was pinged for track limits – a drive through penalty being awarded for that but Turner stayed out and effectively taking the chequered flag first in GT4. That missed drive through penalty was however changed into an additional 30 seconds added to their race time and that took that back behind the Jack Brown McLaren to still claim an overall GT4 P2 finish and P1 in GT4 Pro-Am for their troubles.

For Newbridge, this result is what they needed after the disappointment of Donington but for Beechdean, there maybe a few questions to ask about their car in terms of overall performance as well as learning lessons from the mistakes of pitting too early and not pushing the pit limiter button!

Once these results have been verified and confirmed, we will see what these do with the Championship standings as the teams move over to Snetterton for round five in two week’s time.

Photo credits – Jacob Ebrey

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