One teams success to another teams woe after British GTs Snetterton sprints

Monday, June 19, 2023

Another two equally exciting and dramatic rounds of the British GT Championship were had yesterday around the Snetterton 300 circuit as two Aston Martin Racing powered crews battled it out for crucial championship points within their allotted GT3 and GT4 classes.

The Beechdean AMR team were back with drivers Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn in their #97 Vantage GT3, both keen to redress the balance after a pitlane ‘bungle’ last time out at Donington Park probably cost them a race win whilst the #23 R-Racing duo of Josh Miller and Seb Hopkins needed to get their 2023 account moving a lot faster than it had been over the four proceeding races.

Two days under intense early summer sunshine in Norfolk saw the thirty-four strong grid partake within private testing, Free Practice before the four-way Qualifying sessions of Saturday afternoon before the two one-hour sprint races on Sunday.

With storm warnings lingering over race day, it would be a case of making hay whilst the sun shone just in case the heavens opening and dealt all a hand which hadn’t been catered for leading up until then.

The morning’s opening race unfortunately went from mediocre to worse for the #97 crew as a lower-than-expected Qualifying time saw Howard start from the midst of the GT3 ranks, only to get picked off one by one as the laps passed by. The #23 car of Hopkins, however, was having a great start having started from the second row of the grid to quickly move up to second overall behind the leading Ginetta.

Handing over to Gunn at the opening of the GT3 pit window, his performance on track was nothing short of what would be expected from any factory driver as he eventually crossed the line fifth in their Pro-Am class, which was at that point in time great damage limitation considering their poor start. However – contact between Gunn and another GT3 was later adjudged to be Gunn’s fault with the applied post-race time penalty of 45 seconds then dropping the #97 crew down to P17 overall, P13 in class.

For the #23 crew, they would run a near faultless race as their grey Vantage GT4 would let them under their present BoP with Miller hanging on to finish what was on track – a P3 finish. For the drivers and the Norfolk based team, that result was what deserved and earned considering the pace of the Ginetta and McLaren GT4’s around them. That result would later change.

The second race followed very much a similar thread for both sets of teams as the #97 Beechdean crew again came to the notice of race officials despite Gunn racing his socks off in the opening stint to hold back two more powerful Mercedes AMG GT3’s with two AMG factory drivers aboard them.

Having inherited class pole position thanks to a penalty for another crew, Gunn kept his nose in front all the way, developing a vehicle length gap for the opening laps into something measurable in time before the handover. However, leaving the pit lane 1 second early would cost them a drive through penalty before also being clocked speeding within the pitlane whilst serving that for a post-race 30 second time penalty. A double whammy that would see off any possibility of Championship points for their efforts, as the #97 would be listed P15 overall, P12 in class.

Thankfully for the R-Racing team, there would be no self-inflicted error that would count them out of contention within the GT4 battles although contact between cars up ahead into the first corner nearly put paid to that as carbon flew out of the congested huddle of cars.

Sporting damage to the defuser from that point forward, Miller would keep his foot in to keep his car ahead of the chasing BMW for as long as possible in third before finally succumbing to that cars superior pace at the time.

The second half hour of racing would leave all within the garage on tenterhooks as Hopkins went about securing both the cars position on track and looking forward to progressing it into a podium contending opportunity to finally come home third in class.

The results for the #23 R-Racing team have since been the subject to post race investigations that have resulted in their Race 1 third position being elevated to second after the #55 Raceway Motorsport Ginetta was disqualified from the event after a paddock fracas (witnessed by us) with the #61 Academy Motorsport Mustang.

These results see the #97 Beechdean crew slip down to sixth in the GT3 Drivers table (now 38 points behind the leading 2 Seas Mercedes AMG crew whilst the #23 R-Racing crew move up to seventh within the GT4 Drivers table (71.5 points down) as the Championship prepares to fly out to the Algarve, Portugal in just over a months’ time.
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