It has been some time since we last reported on the the British GT championship. Our European trips to cover the ADAC 24 hours of Nurburgring and the Total 24 hours of Spa have caused us to miss the last two rounds of one of the most successful sportscar series in the UK. So we eagerly set off to Brands Hatch last weekend for the penultimate round of the championship.
Also returning after a prolonged absence was the duo of David Ashburn and Nick Tandy in their The #31 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R.
Although the Beechdean Ice Cream duo of Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard secured Saturday’s qualifying pole, it was not to be their race. Depsite a great initial start, a recurring brake problem had had them down in 10th within a single lap and quickly moved them to the back of the field.
Speaking afterwards, Adam said “We had a problem in warm up with the brakes and we reckon that cost us pace and we dropped from first to sixteenth.”
“It was purely straight line speed so maybe the brakes jammed on, which is something we’re investigating. We struggle throughout the race with a lack of balance and pace. We kept the car out because you never know if we could’ve snuck into the points”.
Their brake problems were compounded when they lost power steering, leaving the #4 Aston Martin of Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine in the lead, with Jon Minshaw following closely behind in the #63 Demon Tweeks Sponsored Porsche.
It would not be long however before things took a dramatic change.
On lap 23, the Beechdean Aston came together with the BMW Z4 GT3 of Derek Johnston, leaving Johnston stranded on the kerbs at Clearways and sending the #1 Aston back to the pits. With the safety car on track the whole complexion of the race had changed, but not before another safety car incident occurred shortly after the green flag had been raised. This time when the AF Corse Ferrari of John Dhillon came to a halt on the bottom straight.
It was not long before the race restarted, followed by the pit window opening and the lead changing several times. With just minutes to go, a win for the #63 Porsche of Minshaw and Keen seemed certain.. until a left rear puncture took Keen out of the lead.
“I’m absolutely gutted, to be honest,” said Keen after the race. “The car had been running perfectly, and Jon had done a fantastic job. We were running one and two, a great result for the whole team, and then a puncture right at the end. Sometimes luck doesn’t go your way, and today that was the case. I’m sure we’ll be back with a vengeance at Donington.”
The result was a gift for the #31 Trackspeed Porsche, whose driver David Ashburn inherited the lead with just a couple of laps remaining in the two hour race.
“What a crazy race!” said Ashburn afterwards “It’s nice to come back and feel so at home again! I’m upset for Jon and Phil, though, because they earned the win but were robbed by some cruel luck.”
Behind the Tandy/Ashburn combo the Motorbase Aston Martins took second place, with the #4 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine edging a second clear of the #5 car of Rory Butcher and Jeff Smith.
Donington Park hosts the final round of the championship on September 13-14, with the #79 Ecurie Ecosse driver Marco Attard sitting on top of the GT3 Drivers Championship with 148.5 points. His only challenger is the Al Harthy/Caine Aston Martin on 120 points, who will need to win the next round with Attard finishing no higher than 7th.
Tickets are available via the Donington Park website priced at just £15 for either Saturday or Sunday or £25 for the full weekend.
Words:James Broomhead and Kevin Mc Glone.
Pictures:Kevin Mc Glone(Red Square Images)