Usually the opening round of the British GTs take place at Oulton Park hosting two one-hour sprint races. However, for this year the season opener took place at Brands Hatch and was scheduled to last for the usual two-hour endurance format race at the Kent based circuit.
TF Sport started the 2016 season as every team would have loved to, Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam took the victory in the disrupted opening round of the 2016 Pirelli British GT Championship. Fans only got to see no more than one hour of racing from the scheduled two-hour race, this was caused by there being a forty-minute full course yellow flag to enable marshals and rescue/medical teams to be able to go on track to tend to drivers involved in a nasty crash.
Early on in the race Rick Parfitt Jnr lead the field off the line and quickly began building a gap back to the other competitors. In second place at the beginning of the race was Jon Minshaw in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan only three seconds behind Parfitt Jnr. Third place and slowly closing in was Johnston’s Aston Martin Vantage prepared by TF Sport.
The order quickly began changing after a driver error from Wilson Thompson in the Team Hard run RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 made contact with Demon Tweeks sponsored Huracan on the approach to Clearways at the end of lap nine, the contact snapped part of the suspension and broke the right rear wheel. Minshaw managed to limp the car into the pit lane where the team took the decision to retire the car from the race due to not having enough time to repair it and come back out to make up ground lost after the incident.
Rick Parfitt Jnr began looking comfortable leading the race and slowly began picking off backmarkers with a very strong lead of nine seconds over Johnston. Barwell Motorsport’s Liam Griffin was just about one second behind the TF Sport Aston Martin and had Lee Mowle at the wheel of the hard charging BMW Z4, prepared by AMD Tuning, hot on his heels of the Lamborghini.
Behind the entertaining battle Ryan Ratcliffe had worked his way up into sixth after starting in twelfth on the grid in the Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3, on lap twenty-two he eased his way past McCaig to take fifth place. At this point in the race Martin Farmer was up into seventh in the second TF Sport run car. Current reigning British GT GT3 Champion Andrew Howard had climbed up to eighth from fourteenth.
The stunning Optimum Motorsport Audi in the hands of Will Moore and Ryan Ratcliffe – Photo Credit: Ambrose Motorsport Photography
On lap twenty-two an enormous accident occurred as cars headed down to Pilgrim’s Drop on the GP loop. The incident saw Phil Dryburgh in the Motorbase prepared Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and Matthew Graham in a GT4 Aston Martin bump wheels, this sent the GT3 car up onto his two left wheels. Graham then went on to slide underneath sending Dryburgh launching into the air in which he suffered multiple nose-to-tail flips, the Motorbase driver ending up in the barriers to the left of the circuit. Meanwhile, Graham’s GT4 car hurtled to the right of the track and clipped the rear end of a Ginetta G55 GT with Nick Jones at the wheel, this ended Graham’s debut race. Nick Jones was able to limp the car back to the pit lane but Graham and Dryburgh retired on the spot. Thankfully all drivers walked away from the incident unharmed, which demonstrated how safe and strong the modern GT cars are and the rapid response of the medical team at the MSV circuit.
Subsequently a code 80 (full course yellow flags) was brought out so that marshals could tend to the drivers involved in the incident as well as make the track safe for other drivers to be able to race on. Code 80 or full course yellow flags means that drivers must stick to the speed limit of 80km/h, this was the first one used in the history of British GT. Nobody could predict how much the code 80 would change the race.
Rick Parfitt Jnr suffered because of the code 80 as he had to watch his ten second lead disappear after getting stuck behind a GT4 car who was not doing the 80km/h he needed them to be doing. Meanwhile Johnston, Griffin, Mowle and McCaig were all able to make the most of it and keep to the speed limit and slowly catch Parfitt Jnr.
Most of the GT3 cars pitted as soon as the pit window opened after 50 minutes, Johnston chose to be different and stay out on track doing the speed limit of 80km/h. Meanwhile his rival teams including Team Parker Racing and Ecurie Ecosse McLaren got held up in the pits due to people not parking cars properly so others weren’t able to get to where they needed to be. Whereas Fabio Babini for Barwell Motorsport and AMDTuning.com’s Joe Osborne managed to exit the pits a lot faster to come out ahead of the others. When Johnston finally decided to pit to hand the car over to GT3 reigning champion Jonny Adam they were in the lead of the race and ahead of all the GT4 backmarkers.
Fabio Babini, Joe Osborne, Seb Morris and Ross Gunn all got held up after exiting the pit lane due to an Ecurie Ecosse Mclaren GT4 which was slower than everyone else. Due to this, Jonny Adam was gifted the lead of the race plus a few seconds over the second place driver.
On lap thirty-seven the race went green once again, but the leader of the race was at the rear of the GP loop. Osborne made a brave move to take second from Fabio Babini whilst running on cold tyres. Meanwhile former British GT champion Jon Barnes passed Will Moore in the Optimum Motorsport Audi to take sixth place.
At the beginning of lap thirty-nine Jonny Adam had a lead of just over three seconds, he had warmed his tyres up nicely and was maintaining them well. Adam overcame a brief caution period due to a stray GT4 car at Paddock Hill, he set his best lap time of 1:24.695 which was 1.5 seconds faster than Joe Osborne’s second place lap time.
Joe Osborne quickly had to change his focus from attacking to defending as newcomer Seb Morris had passed Fabio Babini and was rapidly closing in on the AMD Tuning driver. On lap forty-two Morris managed to close the gap down by 0.9 seconds over the lap.
Optimum Motorsport’s Will Moore exited the race backwards into Paddock Hill gravel trap. The entertaining battle between Joe Osborne and Seb Morris kept fans entertained fans constantly until the race was terminated prematurely due to the catalytic convertors in Luke Davenport’s car catching fire.
Jonny Adam pulled back into the pit lane after red flags being waved to be greeted by a lively Derek Johnston. He was followed into the pit lane by Osborne, Morris, Babini and Gunn. Adam’s gap to Osborne and Morris was a little more than 4.6 seconds when the race was halted.
The rapid TF Sport Aston Martin in the hands of Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam – Picture Credit: Ambrose Motorsport Photography
Fabio Babini had difficulties adapting to the extremely cold and green tarmac of the GP loop. He was a further ten seconds back from the third placed Seb Morris with GT3 debutant Ross Gunn just a second off his tail in fifth. If the race had gone to its full two hours as expected there is no doubt Ross Gunn would have very likely been scrapping with Osborne and Morris towards the end, but due to it being terminated early he finished in fifth place.
Sixth place went to Jon Barnes and Martin Farmer in the second TF Sport Aston Martin, both drivers looked to have gained confidence and looked more comfortable in the car. Once the pair have mastered hooking their lap times together to qualify better they could very likely be battling for podiums at most rounds.
The one and only McLaren 650s GT3 finished in seventh place with Alaisdair McCaig and Rob Bell. Eighth place was Jody Fanin and Pete Littler in PFL Motorsport’s Aston Martin. Martin Short finished ninth in the Team ABBA with Rollcentre Racing’s BMW Z4 GT3 car with teammate Richard Neary who is new to the championship, they are both racing aboard an ex Barwell Motorsport car.
After setting some very impressive and promising practice times it was a tough weekend for Mike Simpson and Ian Stinton. After suffering significant contact from the Motorbase Aston Martin of Phil Dryburgh on lap one Ian Stinton found himself in the left-hand wall on the exit of Druids. He limped the car back to the pit lane, the team freshened the car up and sent him back out to regain lost ground. A suspension failure from the contact at the beginning of the race ended their race prematurely.
Post-race the officials looked back over footage from the race and judged that Osborne’s overtake of Babini on the restart took place under yellow flag conditions. This meant that they gave Osborne a 10.68 second time penalty to allow Fabio Babini and teammate Liam Griffin to finish in third, promoting Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris to second place. Joe Osborne also received three penalty points for the incident.
© Fay Tilley 24th April 2016