Three Aston Martin crews leave Portimao empty handed

Sunday, July 23, 2023


Having given the event their all earlier today sadly saw all three Aston Martin Racing powered teams leave the Autodromo do Algarve empty handed as the British GT Championship concluded its seventh race of the season so far at the Portuguese circuit.

Replacing Spa Francorchamps as this years ‘fly away’ mid-season event, gave all thirty-three crews who attended the opportunity to compete upon another of Europe’s premier race venues for this the first time and to make the travel more justifiable, the race would be run over three hours.

Yesterday’s Qualifying had already seen the R-Racing #23 AMR Vantage GT4 crew of Seb Hopkins and Josh Miller grab all the headlines with a faultless build up and runs during the two GT4 Qualifying sessions to secure class Pole Position ahead of today’s race whilst the #77 Enduro Motorsport of Matt Topham and Marcus Clutton saw their P5 starting position in GT3 was later changed with a 5-place grid penalty for accruing three behaviour warning points. The #97 Beechdean AMR of Andrew Howard and Nikki Thiim would be starting from P8.

With the intensity of the sun over the circuit increasing ahead of the early afternoon start, it was Andrew Howard who remained one of the coolest of all as he quickly made up for lost ground during Qualifying to place his #97 into P6 during the opening corners in what was, an incident free opening couple of laps.

Whilst the #23 car of Miller quickly got into a routine of the free air ahead of them to the GT3 field now breaking away, all of the action was within the top half of the GT3 field as the Howard entered into a three-way battle for P4 but in doing so, allowed the group behind (now including Topham in the #77) to catch up.

Just ten minutes in and the first Safety Car was required to extract an errant BMW GT4 from the gravel and that allowed the grid the opportunity to make their first of three compulsory stops for fuel and tyres (if needed) plus a driver change. All three Aston Martins elected to do this, sacrificing immediate track position under caution rather than potentially having to do it later under racing conditions.

Whilst the GT3’s soon made up for lost ground to the GT4 field that didn’t stop, it soon became apparent that the #23 was now on course with a three-way battle with both Academy Ford Mustangs as they continued to run up ahead whilst the #23 had dropped to P7.

Thirty minutes in and another Safety Car was required as an ailing McLaren GT4 first parked itself on the track side before catching fire within the engine bay. That incident (although off circuit itself) would be a lengthy one before the race went back to green some thirty minutes later and with many cars pitting again during that caution, the #77 Endura AMR was now ahead of the #97 Beechdean in P4 and P6 respectively.

As far as the Aston Martins race fortunes went, that was about that far as whilst we watched Topham racing the #4 Two Seas Mercedes around the outside for track position we missed an indent involving the #97 car of Howard having contact with a Ginetta GT4 causing them race ending suspension damage for their efforts. Also, the #77 car of Topham would soon be in the wars itself as contact was made with the #13 McLaren, spinning the McLaren around and losing the front near side fender off the #77 car.

Back in GT4, the #23 was busy in its dice with the two Mustangs but had dropped to P5 on track again due to two other cars ahead yet to make their second stop.

Reaching the halfway mark and Topham was feeling very racy aboard his Vantage GT3 for the first time as he was prepared to take on John Fergusson’s Ram Mercedes AMG for what was then P3 and eventually his perseverance paid off.

Moving into the final hour and all was looking good for the remaining two Aston Martins as the #23 had just re-inherited the class lead again as well as the #77 having also made their final stop to come out in P7 – or so we thought!

Firstly, the #77 was given a drive through penalty for track limits and in serving that Clutton would drop to P11 but worse was still to come as Hopkins, chasing the leading BMW GT4, hit the rear of the #55 Ginetta causing them to spin and his car to suffer from steering/suspension related issues with just fifteen minutes to go. 

Re-joining and finishing the race in P6, a later post-race time penalty for that contact with the #55 would cost the R-Racing crew another 72 seconds in time and that would finish their Portimao adventure down in P7.

The Championship now enjoys a summer break ahead of its penultimate round from Brands Hatch in early September.

Photo credits – Team / Jacob Ebrey / D Gibson










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