There were battles aplenty throughout the field at Rockingham Speedway last weekend, but none more closely fought than between the Barwell Motorsport-run BMW Z4 GT3 of Marco Attard and Alexander Sims and the Oman Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Ahmad Al Harthy and Daniel Lloyd.
Having secured pole position in Saturday’s qualifying, Attard lead the field into turn one, however Andrew Howard quickly launched a challenge for the lead in his #007 numbered Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3, slipping past at the Deene hairpin.
The two-hour race was the longest of the year, but it lasted less than 10 minutes for both Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650S machines. Their drivers tangled with each other on the second lap, bringing out a short safety car period.
When the race resumed, Attard began reapplying pressure to Howard’s Aston Martin and regained the lead after less than 20 minutes. The Beechdean Aston Martin then began slipping down the field, while the Oman Racing Team Aston driven by Al Harthy charged in the opposite direction.
With the #2 car in second place, it would not be long before Al Harthy was chipping away at Attard’s lead, with the BMW only retaining a slender advantage by the time he was due to hand over to team-mate Alexander Sims.
Both the #79 BMW and #2 Aston entered the pits, but because it finished third last time out at Oulton Park, The Barwell Motorsport-run Ecosse car served an additional 10-seconds during their pit-stop. The #2 Aston therefore took the lead, with Daniel Lloyd now at the controls.
The race was clearly on, this time with each team’s young guns battling for supremacy with just over 63-minutes to go.
Sims immediately began closing on the rear of the Aston, bagging the Sunoco Fastest Race Lap of the Weekend prize with a series of rapid times. But it’s one thing catching a car and quite another passing it around Rockingham’s twisty in-field section, nonetheless Sims was relentless in his pursuit.
Lloyd put in an excellent effort to fend off the BMW, but it was only a matter of time before he surrendered the lead, running wide under braking while lapping the slower GT4 cars.
Sims took the opportunity and built up an advantage, but with a little over 20 minutes to go, he found himself under pressure once again when another safety car bunched up the pack. But Sims had the measure of the field and pulled away convincingly to finish more than 10 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.
Further back, the action was really hotting up. With Lloyd soundly beaten by Sims, fellow Oman Racing Team driver Rory Butcher began closing fast, followed closely by the #30 RAM Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 of Lewis Plato. But despite their wheel-to-wheel battles, they ended up in that order, with Lloyd clinching the runner-up spot as well as Silver Cup honours with Al Harthy.
Butcher completed the podium, crossing the line just four-tenths clear of Plato, while Butcher’s team-mate Liam Griffin picked up the Blancpain Driver of the Weekend award for his role in the Oman Racing Team car’s podium finish.
Matt Bell took fifth in the TF Sport Aston Martin he shares with Derek Johnston, beating the Mowle/Osborne BMW Z4 GT3 by just 0.745s. While The #18 FF Corse Ferrari 458 had been in contention for a top-five, only for Adam Carroll to receive a black flag during the closing stages for causing the accident which brought out the second safety car.
The Ecurie Ecosse – Barwell Motorsport team now lead the GT3 Drivers’ and Pro/Am standings, while Oman Racing Team top their classification. Griffin leads the Blancpain Gentleman’s Trophy by 3.5 points from Attard, while the GT3 Silver Cup is headed by Al Harthy/Lloyd.
The 2015 British GT series resumes in four weeks’ time at the Silverstone 500 (May 30/31).
Marco Attard, Barwell Motorsport/Ecurie Ecosse: “We’re really pleased. I went deep at one point and Andrew [Howard] got past me, but he returned the favour later so I was able to take advantage. Then I could hand over to Alexander and didn’t have to worry about it because he’s just the best!”
Alexander Sims, Barwell Motorsport/Ecurie Ecosse: “It all felt pretty good in my little bubble! Fair play to Daniel [Lloyd], he did a really good job defending so the first 20 minutes were great fun. After I got through it was pretty plain sailing, so I just got my head down and pushed on.”
Ahmad Al Harthy, Oman Racing Team: “Starting third and finishing second – and a first podium for me and Dan – represents a great result for us. We really deserved it and both drove really well – it was great teamwork. Morale will be really high tonight and going into Silverstone.”
Liam Griffin, Oman Racing Team: “Somehow our third place here seems even better than the two we had at Oulton! The car was really good and Rory and I make a pretty good team! It was a great race, really exciting and a great spectacle for the championship.”
Race 1 – Round 2
1st. Barwell Motorsport / Ecurie Ecosse (Attard/Sims) BMW Z4 GT3
2nd. Oman Racing Team (Al Harthy/Lloyd) Aston Martin GT3 (+10.498)
3rd. Oman Racing Team (Griffin/Butcher) Aston Martin GT3 (+11.211)
4th. RAM Racing (Mackinnon/Plato) Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 (+11.681)
5th. TF Sport (Johnston/Bell) Aston Martin GT3 (+14.698)
Image credits: Kevin Mc Glone – Red Square Images.