There was a considerable gap to the back of the GT3 cars ahead, this meant that the green lights on the gantry were largely unsighted by the GT4 cars at the rear of the field. Anna Walewska remained calm and held the lead of GT4 as the cars headed for Paddock Hill Bend. Jack Bartholomew managed to get the jump on Johnson as they headed round the blind crest of the right hander. However as the pair came out of Druids Johnson managed to push his way back through to retake second in class. Walewska lead the whole of the first lap but was quickly being caught by Johnson in the Optimum Motorsport run Ginetta.
Graham Johnson used the busy opening laps to pass the Century Motorsport run car and then get away to put a gap between the two Ginettas. Jack Bartholomew in the Beachdean AMR Aston Martin V8 Vantage followed Johnson through to pass the Century Motorsport run Ginetta. Jack Bartholomew in the baby Beachdean Aston Martin was unable to close the one second gap Johnson had opened. Johnson managed to maintain his lead to between one and two seconds long before the yellow flags came out and the pits beckoned for the mandatory driver change half way through the race. Jack Bartholomew in the baby Beachdean Aston was on an early charge, after passing Walewska he set about chasing down Johnson. The debutant began pushing and the ‘AM’ class driver responded to him.
The dominant Optimum Motorsport Ginetta in the hands of Graham Johnson/Mike Robinson – Picture Credit: Ambrose Motorsport Photography
Behind the top three, Matthew Graham in the #42 Generation AMR Aston Martin had managed to pass William Phillips in the #45 Team Hard run RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta from the start to take fourth. Meanwhile the stunning Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse Mclaren 570S with newbie Sandy Mitchell at the wheel had managed to gain sixth place after passing Sean Byrne in the second of the Century Motorsport run Ginettas. Mitchell then also managed to unsettle and overtake William Phillips to claim fifth.
The new Ebor GT Maserati GT MC GT4 car was showing to be a fan favourite, most people would believe it to be a GT3 car due to the size of the car. At the wheel of the Maserati Marcus Hoggarth was showing some good pace and was up in eighth place after starting eleventh. He caught up with Sean Byrne and passed to take seventh.
Further back in the GT4 field Jamie Chadwick was recovering from a grid penalty she was handed for alleged ‘corner cutting’ during qualifying, she was on a mission to make up as much ground as possible.
GPRM’s Toyota GT86 in the hands of the Steffan Hodgetts was flying in the beginning of the race, he gained four positions and was up into tenth. But far too soon after starting the race Hodgetts had to park the car into the garage. The team had been suffering from power steering issues all weekend, they were still not cured. Due to having to retire the car Ollie Chadwick was unable to partake in the race and make his debut whilst standing in for another driver.
The #42 Generation AMR MacMillan Racing Aston Martin in the hands of Matthew Graham was emerging to be a strong contender within the championship as he closed in on Walewska. He attempted to pass her on lap eight as the duo entered Paddock Hill but was unable to make it stick. William Phillips and Sandy Mitchell were having a close but fair battle for fifth.
The race was just beginning to get exciting and the first yellow flags came out for the #75 Team Hard/ RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta in the hands of Wilson Thompson was in the gravel trap at Clearways after contact with the Lamborghini Huracan of Jon Minshaw, who managed to limp the car into the pit lane. Young driver Wilson Thompson had been fighting his way up through the pack after an accident in qualifying meant he had to start from the back of the grid in the repaired car. This had definitely been a hard start to the weekend for the pair of Team Hard drivers. Thompson made his frustration visible after being punted off by the quickly closing in GT3 machine. The recovery team recovered the Ginetta and retired it into the pit lane with suspension damage, meaning teammate Robert Barrable would not get to drive.
At the restart William Phillips in the second Team Hard car pulled the move he had been waiting to on Sandy Mitchell to take the position. Mitchell then fell into the clutches of the charging Jamie Chadwick. With nearly half an hour having passed Jack Bartholomew had caught up with leading GT4 driver Graham Johnson after Johnson had been ‘dive bombed’ by Ryan Ratcliffe in the sister Optimum Motorsport car, this caused Johnson to lose time. Johnson then managed to begin pulling away once again. A few seconds behind them Sandy Mitchell and Jamie Chadwick were having a tight scrap for fifth.
The brightly coloured Team Hard/ RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta in the hands of William Phillips/ Jordan Stilp – Picture Credit: Ambrose Motorsport Photography
Full course yellow flags came out after Matthew Graham and Phil Dryburgh had contact and the latter being sent air-born into multiple rolls in the Motorbase Aston Martin. The most important thing was that nobody was hurt in the massive accident. Both cars retired on the spot. After bouncing across the track from the contact Matthew Graham’s car caught the rear end of the #66 Simpson Ginetta. The Ginetta was immediately driven to the pits for what appeared to be cosmetic repairs and sent on its way to make up ground.
Prior to the full course yellow flags coming out Anna Walewska lost another place to RCIB Insurance Racing’s William Phillips in the #45 Ginetta G55 GT4 car, putting her down to fourth but fought back out on the GP Loop.
Teams took the opportunity to make the most of the pit window opening whilst the full course yellows were out. After leaving the pit lane after the mandatory pit stops for driver changes Mike Robinson took over piloting the leading car, Jordan Albert came out in second place in the baby Beachdean Aston Martin, followed by Jordan Stilp in the #45 RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta. Fourth was the Century Motorsport Ginetta in the hands of Nathan Freke.
Once the race went green Nathan Freke took no time in beginning to make up places. He got up to second after making some impressive overtakes to put him in shouting distance of Mike Robinson who had taken over from Graham Johnson in the PMW World Expo Racing Ginetta run by Optimum Motorsport.
Jordan Albert had a very unfortunate trip through the gravel trap which demoted him down to fifth as Jordan Stilp and Matthew George had managed to take advantage of the mistake to pass. Red flags came out to end the race, a little too early for Jordan Stilp as he was just beginning to close in on Nathan Freke. The #40 Ginetta run by Century Motorsport also had a spin backwards into Paddock Hill gravel trap hitting into a tyre wall with Aleksander Schjerpen at the wheel. Mike Robinson’s lead stretched to fifteen seconds over second placed Nathan Freke as Jordan Stilp kept challenging the Century Motorsport driver.
Matthew George was running fourth in the #44 Generation AMR Aston after taking over from Jamie Chadwick. Jordan Albert was running fifth in a very dusty looking #407 baby Beachdean Aston. Ciaran Haggerty had the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse #59 Mclaren in sixth, midway between the Beachdean car ahead and Lanan Racing’s Joey Foster behind.
With just twenty-three minutes of the race remaining it all came to a fiery end due to Luke Davenport’s G55 GT3 Ginetta catching alight and being in a dangerous location. The officials decided to end the race prematurely by putting out the red flag and then the chequered once they returned to the pit lane.
Victory for the GT4 class went to Optimum Motorsport’s Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson in the PMW World Expo Racing sponsored Ginetta followed by Nathan Freke and Anna Walewska in second and rounding out the podium was Jordan Stilp and William Phillips in their debut race for Team Hard/RCIB Insurance Racing.
© Fay Tilley 24th April 2016.