Trackspeed Racing’s Steve Tandy and Joe Osborne claimed their first victory of the 2012 Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Rockingham this afternoon, leading home Rosso Verde’s Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen. Jody Fannin and Warren Hughes won the GT4 class, seeing off the challenge of fellow Ginetta entrant APO Sport’s James May and Alex Osborne.
The first two-hour race of the 2012 season brought drama and action; there were six non-finishers, the most this season, a big accident for Andrew Howard in the Beechdean Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, and the top four finishers in the GT3 class were covered by just 4.5 seconds after two hours racing.
Polesitter Steve Parish’s Porsche 997 GT3 R led the opening two laps until he was overcome by Motorbase team-mate, Daniele Perfetti. Parish thenspun and dropped to eighth and Howard then moved up to second with Duncan Cameron’s MTECH Ferrari 458 and Alex Buncombe in the RJN Motorsport prepared Nissan GT-R GT3 third and fourth respectively.
One of the biggest movers in the opening laps was the Chevron GT3 of Anthony Reid and Jordan Witt. Starting from thirteenth place on the grid, Reid hustled the bright yellow Invitation Class entry up to sixth in the first ten laps.
Similarly Riki Christodoulou (Team WFR Ginetta G55) and Charles Bateman (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS) made light work of those ahead; Christodoulou was fifth from ninth on the grid and Bateman tenth from row eight. Christodoulou’s joy would however be short-lived after he picked up a puncture on lap eleven, re-joining after a tyre change in 21st place.
Ferrari driver, Lester and Ecurie Ecosse’s Alasdair McCaig lost out in the early laps; the BMW driver would recover several places towards the midpoint of the race though. The Chevron in the hands of Reid now had Cameron’s Ferrari in tow was up to fourth, closing on Howard’s third placed Aston Martin.
Quickest in warm-up, Lotus Sport UK’s Phil Glew had a point to prove and by lap two had the lead of GT4 from Hughes. Glew then set about picking off the GT3 cars ahead of him and passed John Dhillon’s (Scuderia Vittoria) Ferrari 458 and the Jones’ Mercedes AMG SLS GT3. Behind him Hughes had a comfortable lead of the APO Sport Ginetta of Hove-based James May and the second Lotus of Alistair Mackinnon.
RJN’s Buncombe got past Perfetti with ease on lap fifteen, having reeled in the Swiss driver’s impressive lead and set about creating a buffer with immediate effect. Also progressing well in a Nissan was Freddie Hetherington who had made up five places from his grid slot and was now ninth until a challenge for eight with Parish forced the Nissan driver to lock-up and badly damage his tyres; an earlier than planned pit stop rectified this, but saw Hetherington re-join in 20th place.
Mackinnon’s Lotus became the races first retiree on lap eighteen, before Howard’s shunt on the exit of turn one on lap 28. The Beechdean driver had a slow puncture which 'let go' as Howard exited the banked corner and clattered the wall with a significant impact, heavily damaging the front of the #007 Aston Martin, but Howard himself escaped unharmed. As a result of the debris on track the Mercedes SLS of David Jones retired from tenth place just a few metres past Howard’s stricken car with a damaged radiator.
Five laps behind the Nissan Juke R safety car allowed the marshals to recover the #007 Aston Martin, and its exit off the circuit signalled the opening of the pitwindow. Buncombe pitted from the lead, as did a flurry of entrants and it was here where the #32 made its march through the ranks. Reid gave the Chevron its first taste of leading a British GT race, but laps later Mardenborough in for Buncombe and Osborne in for Tandy set about a thrilling battle that lasted sixteen laps, when Osborne, having harassed the Nissan driver for several laps in succession made a move up the inside into the Deene hairpin.
Over in GT4, long time leader of the class Phil Glew handed over to driving partner Sailesh Bolisetti and within a lap the Indian driver was back in the pitlane with a driveshaft issue that caused a small fire in the pit lane. Around the same time the Jota Sport Mazda MX-5 retired in the hands of Owen Mildenhall from third in class. Alex Osborne, now in for May in the APO Sport car led the class with Zoe Wenham (Century Ginetta G50) narrowly ahead of Jody Fannin’s G50; a Ginetta 1-2-3 looked like it might on the cards.
With Richard Westbrook racing at Mid Ohio on Grand-Am duty with Corvette, David Ashburn drafted in Phil Keen to assist at Rockingham. Ashburn had held steady during the race while others around him had lost places and pitted from sixth; Keen re-joined in thirteenth and set about working the car into the top five. Fifteen laps later, Keen was exactly that; P5 and closing in on Simonsen’s Rosso Verde Ferrari and the Audi of Matt Bell.
Pitlane infringements were minimal at Rockingham, but Century Motorsport under timed their stop and on lap 44 Zoe Wenham had to pit and take a 15 second stop-gopenalty; Jody Firth would have to complete a similar penalty some laps later. Out on track, Bell’s Audi was overheating; while the weather was nice, it was still less than 20 degrees and the issue plagued Bell’s stint, culminating in the Audi driver having to pull off track after his R8 went into safe mode due to the technical error.
Strange things happen in endurance races as George Murrells can testify; on lap three the young British driver’s gearstick snapped in half, but from 26th he fought back and Mike Simpson carried on Murrells’ efforts in the Optimum Motorsports prepared Ginetta G55 and by lap 63 the pair were tenth overall.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Osborne’s lead was anything but comfortable as team-mate Keen had gotten past Mardenborough and was filling his mirrors. The Trackspeed duo abley made their way through the precarious traffic and as they crossed the line for the final time, it looked like Trackspeed would achieve their first 1-2 since Brands Hatch in 2010.
Danish sports car ace, Simonsen had other ideas. Enjoying the 458 GT3, he had held off MTECH’s Griffin and RJN’s Mardenborough and was now back on the chase of Keen and Osborne. On the last lap Keen made an error, which allowed Simonsen an opportunity into Piff Paff and the Dane was second.
Osborne crossed the line to take his first GT3 class win and provide driving partner Tandy with a maiden victory in only his fifth British GT race; the win sees the fifth different winner in five races of 2012. Behind Simonsen and Keen it was Griffin who took fourth ahead of Mardenborough and the third Trackspeed car of Harvey. Bryant in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW was seventh and yesterday’s qualifying hero Stephen Jelley eighth. Bell took ninth in the overheating Audi and Simpson gave Optimum something to cheer about with their first championship points of the season in tenth.
A supreme effort from Team WFR’s Jody Fannin saw the teenager take him and co-driver Hughes take their fourth victory of the year, ahead of APO Sport’s May and Osborne. Wenham took third in GT4, which sees her overtake Lotus duo Bolisetti and Glew in the points table for second place.
The next round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship is in a fortnight (23rd and 24th June) at the prestigious Brands Hatch GP circuit in Kent. Another two-hour race spectacular will take place before the Championship has somewhat of a summer holiday, getting underway again in early August (4th and 5th) and Snetterton in Norfolk.
The Mobil Service Centre Master of the Weekend was again a British GT driver, this time the award went to Rosso Verde’s Hector Lester for his fight back to hand Allan Simonsen a car in a strong position for their first podium since round three at Snetterton in 2011.
Race Five Top Ten Provisional Results:
1. Steve Tandy/Joe Osborne Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R 79 laps / 2:00:31.779 / 80.68 mph
2. Hector Lester/Allan Simonsen Rosso Verde Ferrari 458 +2.739
3. David Ashburn/Phil Keen Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R +1.612
4. Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin MTECH Ferrari 458 +0.189
5. Jann Mardenborough/Alex Buncombe RJNMotorsports Nissan GT-R +13.877
6. Jon Minshaw/Tim Harvey Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R +1.015
7. Alasdair McCaig/Oliver Bryant Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 +4.803
8. Steve Parish/Stephen Jelley Motorbase Porsche 997 GT3 R +10.348
9. Charles Bateman/Matt Bell United Autosports Audi R8 LMS +1.806
10. George Murrells/Mike Simpson Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 +1 lap
1. Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes Team WFR Ginetta G50 74 laps / 2:01:55.761 / 74.71 mph
3. James May/Alex Osborne APO Sport UK Ginetta G50 +1 lap
5. Zoe Wenham/Dom Evans Century Motorsport +1 lap
Full results from TSL Timing: http://bit.ly/Oc5b95
Provisional championship points after 5 races:
1. Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin MTECH 88pts
2. David Ashburn Trackspeed 78.5pts
3. Richard Westbrook Trackspeed 56pts
4. Danielle Perfetti/Michael Caine Motorbase 50pts
5. Jann Mardenborough/Alex Buncombe RJN Motorsport 50pts
6. Hector Lester/Allan Simonsen Rosso Verde 49pts
7. Alasdair McCaig/Oliver Bryant Ecurie Ecosse 47pts
8. Steve Tandy/Joe Osborne Trackspeed 43.5pts
9. Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam Beechdean 33pts
10. Jon Minshaw/Tim Harvey Trackspeed 32pts
1. Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes Team WFR 112.5pts
2. Zoe Wenham Century Motorsport 82.5pts
3. Sailesh Bolisetti/Phil Glew Lotus Sport UK 71pts
4. Dominic Evans Century Motorsport 55.5pts
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