Tag Archives: Gary Eastwood

Astons Star in Oulton Opener

Beechdean AMR pairing Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard ensured Aston Martin claimed both British GT opening round victories at Oulton Park following the success of Oman Racing Team duo Rory Butcher and Liam Griffin earlier in the day.

OmanRacing_WU

Howard_R2

As is tradition, the 2015 British GT Championship kicked off on Easter weekend with the opening two rounds of the championship taking place at Oulton Park; free practice and qualifying taking place on Saturday with the races following on Easter Monday.

After 6 months away from the race circuits, the years first sound of a Grand Touring car never fails to raise the hairs on the back of my neck.  Witnessing the 34 car cast of the 2015 rendition of the series thunder up Deer Leap during the opening moments of free practice 1 brought a smile to my face; it is difficult to argue against the view that this is the best national GT series on the planet.

Whilst missing some of the GT3 variety of previous seasons, there being no Porsche, Audi, Bentley or Nissan presence on the grid, a much bigger GT4 field more than fills the void.  Two fully competitive classes is exactly what the doctor ordered which should both be ultra competitive following some changes in the regulations for 2015.  Reiterating that Amateur drivers have a key part to play was made clear by the banning of gold/silver crews and, similar to the Blancpain series, ensuring Bronze drivers enjoy more track time in free practice sessions.  British GT is now a strictly Gold/Bronze, Silver/Silver driver combination series.

Free Practice / Qualifying

Friday rain had left the crews facing a damp track for the first free practice session where Jon Minshaw made the most of the drying conditions to go quickest with his final lap of the session.  The Demon Tweeks man, once again paired with the rapid Phil Keen and this year in a Barwell Motorsport BMW, will be many peoples favourites for the title; the duo quickest again in the fully dry 2nd session to reiterate this view.

As is often the case though, qualifying did not follow suit with the ten minute sessions giving little time to string together the perfect lap.  While Minshaw was only able to register 9th quickest time, Liam Griffin in the Oman Racing Team Aston Martin claimed pole for race 1 with a scintillating 1:35:858.  Dave Bartrum appearing to have pulled off another master stroke of a driver signing following the loss of Michael Caine as a result of the driver grading regulation changes.

Race 2 qualifying saw the Pros take to the wheel for what promised to be a classic 10 minute showdown starring the likes of A1 GP winner Adam Carroll in the FF Corse Ferrari and BMW works driver Alexander Sims in the Ecurie Ecosse Z4.   It was Jonny Adam however who starred, claiming pole with a stonking time of 1:33:877 on his first flying lap and showing exactly why he is a works Aston Martin employee.  The FF Corse Ferrari would join the Scotsman on the front row to match the efforts of team-mate Gary Eastwood in the earlier AM session with the BMWs of Phil Keen and Alexander Sims filling row 2.

Just like the predicted weather forecast race day was set to be a cracker with the remainder of the top ten separated by less than a second!

SATURDAY PICS

RACE 1

In what is becoming a more and more popular series with the fans, large crowds had gathered to take in the race-day action.  And with the sun yet to burn through, it was pole sitter, Liam Griffin, who maintained his advantage after an early safety car period with Gary Eastwood, Andrew Howard and Andrew Watson in hot pursuit.

Race1Start

From fifth position on the grid, Watson in the #10 Von Ryan Mclaren had made an excellent start, getting as high as second before going off the road at Island bend following an over enthusiastic attempt for the lead on lap 7;  An unfortunate end to what could have been a race winning car.

Griffin was not able to break away however and the top ten were covered by Just a handful of seconds before carnage broke out.  The delayed #12 Von Ryan McLaren seemed determined to have a say in the outcome of the meeting, causing the leading group to bunch up as they tried to put another lap on the 650s.  And just as Andrew Howard thought he was getting passed at Hislops chicane Salih Yoluc turned in on the Wycombe Wanderers Chairman sending the Aston into the tyre wall, with Ahmad Al Harthy also becoming caught up in the incident.  Both were out of the race and the safety car was deployed for the second time.

Meanwhile a big accident had occurred on the run down to Cascades.  Alistair McKinnon in the RAM Racing Mercedes tagged the Derek Johnston piloted TF Sport Aston in an attempted passing manoeuvre causing both cars to head to for the crash barriers at high speed; the Aston Martin bouncing back across the track and left stranded in the middle of the road.  The two following Barwell BMW’s had nowhere to go; Minshaw running into the back of Attard as he braked hard in an attempt to avoid the stricken TF Sport machine.  Somehow Attard was able to get the Ecurie Ecosse machine back to the pits, however Minshaw, Johnston and McKinnon were all additions to the retirements list!

Race1Carnage

With the pit window now open several crews took the opportunity to get their Pro drivers behind the wheel under saferty car conditions and remarkably Adam Carroll, now in the FF Corse Ferrari, managed to steel a march on the Oman Racing Aston of Rory Butcher to emerge from the pitlane in the lead of the race, with Joe Osborne in the Triple Eight Racing BMW now in third.

FFCorse_R1

Indeed it was the white BMW who looked most likely to challenge for victory when the track returned to green with just 16 minutes remaining.  In fact Osborne was soon passed Butcher and in pursuit of the 458, however GT4 traffic would soon catch out the BMW pilot allowing Butcher back into second.  And with the order remaining the same at the chequered flag it seemed the Italian Marque had taken victory.

However several hours after the race, Carroll and Eastwood were demoted to second following a successful appeal by the Oman Racing Team squad;  the FF Corse Ferrari penalised for blocking the #6 Aston as it exited the pits, leaving Butcher and Griffin to take maximum opening round points.

Meanwhile in GT4 it was the #50 Optimum Racing Ginetta of Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson who emerged victorious following a battle with the #407 Beechdean Aston and the similar car of Terry Langley and Mike Hart.  Alongside Ross Gunn, second place represented a great result for 16 year old Jamie Chadwick on her British GT debut.

RACE 2

With Oulton Park now basking in glorious afternoon sunshine it was pole man Jonny Adam who lead the field away, with FF Corse Ferrari pilot Adam Carroll heading the chase from the Demon Tweeks BMW of Phil Keen and the LNT Ginetta of Mike Simpson.

Carroll was on a charge, and perhaps keen to make up for his race one penalty managed to pass the Beechdean Aston early on in the stint at Old Hall.  Adam would not have been too concerned however, knowing the Italian car faced a 15 second longer pitstop courtesy of their race one ‘victory’; the Scotsman managing to keep the Northern Irishman in sight throughout the remainder of his stint.

The Demon Tweeks BMW had been holding a strong third place, but would find itself in the wrong place at the wrong time again on lap 14; this time taken out by the Preci Spark Mercedes of Godfrey Jones and ending race 2 in the Cascades gravel trap.  Things can only get better for the Barwell prepared machine.

Following the lead team pitstops it was, as anticipated, the Beechdean Aston, now in the hands of Andrew Howard who assumed the lead of the race, with Lee Mowle in the Triple Eight BMW, Liam Griffin’s Oman Racing Aston and Steve Tandy’s LNT Ginetta just behind; the FF Corse Ferrari dropping to sixth as a result of the success penalty.

But just as it looked like being a close fight to the finish, Howard, Mowle and Griffin were all judged guilty of short pit stops and given drive through penalties as a result.  This appeared to put Tandy in the driving seat for victory, however, such was Andrew Howard’s pace in the afternoon sunshine that he managed to maintain the lead!

And so while Howard cruised to victory, Tandy was left left to fight a rear guard action against the fast approaching Ecurie Ecosse BMW of 2014 champion Marco Attard and the recovering Liam Griffin.  But try as Attard and Griffin might there was no way through leaving the LNT Ginetta to take a fine 2nd place.

Race2Battle

Further back the Issy Racing Lotus Evora made up for being caught out by the safety car in race 1 by utterly dominating the GT4 class in race 2.  Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw finished the race in 12th place overall with a class winning margin of 26 seconds over round 1 winners Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson.

RACE-DAY PICS

And so after 2 rounds it is the new Oman Racing Team pairing of Rory Butcher and Liam Griffin that lead the championship courtesy of a win and a fourth place.  I am not sure many would have predicted this outcome at the start of the weekend but on this evidence they are likely to be title contenders.  As expected the racing around the tight Cheshire track was close, with driving standards at times dubious and on occasion shocking.  It was good to see the #12 Von Ryan Racing McLaren excluded from the meeting for blatant ignorance of the blue flags and generally causing chaos.  This is Sportscar racing Mr Yoluc, the Touring cars were at Brands Hatch!

Next up for the British GT teams is a trip to Rockingham for a 2 hour mini endurance race around the Northamptonshire track.  I however will most likely catch them at Silverstone for round 4 in late May where I will be hoping the wider track will create racing more akin to round 2 than round 1.

FULL RESULTS

For JPEGS or any other enquiries please get in touch via paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

The Old and The New

Having decided against the long trip up north for the Pirelli International rally, a visit to both the Donington Historic Festival and Rockingham’s round of the British GT championship was in order for the May Day bank holiday weekend.

The Donington Historic Festival runs over three days, however it was the Sunday schedule that caught my eye, in part due to the last race of the day being the FIA Masters Historic Sportscar race.  A grid full of classic 60’s and 70’s Le Mans racers made it worth the trip alone.

Arriving at the circuit early gave us plenty of time to look around the multi million pound paddock before heading out around the track.  With the sun starting to appear from behind the clouds It looked like being a great day to show off these stunning machines.

IMG_8312A_LR

There were some very well turned out cars on display in the HTCC Touring car race …..

IMG_8798A_LR

….. however the first event that particularly caught my attention was the RAC Woodcote Trophy for the pre-56 Sportscars.  The iconic fin of the D type Jaguar makes it one of my favourite Le Mans winners from the past and this 60 minute event contained a couple of well driven examples.

Regular historic pilot Gary Pearson was actually entered in 2 of them which paid dividends when the #7 went out early on.  Fortunately he was able to get back to the pits, take over from Carlos Monteverde in the white #5 and claim second spot on the podium!

IMG_8847_PRO_B&WA_LR IMG_8923AB_LR

However this formidable pairing could not keep up with the very fast Cooper T38 of Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards who claimed the victory by more than 12 seconds.

Some of the best sounding cars of the day were the 2 litre Sportscars in the HSCC Martini Trophy where ex BTCC racer Ian Flux put in a stonking drive from the back of the grid to take a magnificent victory.  Driving the Osella PA3 he didn’t have it all his own way as once getting to the front he was re-passed by the similarly rapid Lola T210 of David Gathercole.  It was looking difficult to pick the eventual winner but unfortunately Gathercole pushed slightly too hard through McLean’s on lap 19, losing the back end and becoming beached in the unforgiving Donington gravel.

The Pre-66 Under 2 litre Touring Car race was yet another highlight with a field full of MK1 Cortina’s, BMW T1800’s, Minis and even the odd Alfa.

IMG_8981_B&WAB

It was in fact the Alfa Sprint GTA of Andrew and Max Banks who would eventually get the better of Jackie Oliver and Richard Shaw’s T1800.  The ex Le Mans winner did take an early lead but could not keep the rapid Alfa crew behind for long.  It was a pleasure to watch these machines being man handled around the track; the way they are thrown into the corners with masses of opposite lock is a sight not often seen in modern-day racing.

With the light starting to fade, it was time for the FIA Masters Historic Sportscar race.  I absolutely love the fact that the main event was held at this time of day as there is just something about watching racing in the late evening sunshine.

IMG_9245A_B&WA_LR

The throaty roar as the green flag was dropped was phenomenal, bettered only by the sound of a full field of endurance legends, headed up by no less than 7 Lola T70’s, disappearing down the infamous Craner Curves;  Oh to have witnessed these at Le Mans in period.

In actual fact the race didn’t turn out to be that close as ex British GT racer Oliver Bryant showed his class by taking victory by more than a lap in the #14 T70.

IMG_9230_B&WAB_LR

But who cares!  The sight of these 5 Litre Chevy engined powerhouses lapping traffic around the undulating tarmac of Leicestershire’s famous circuit was just fantastic.  My ears were still ringing by the time I was back at base with a beer in hand.  This had been one of the best days racing in a long time.

——————————————————————————-

A day of modern racing was in order on Bank Holiday Monday with my first ever trip to Rockingham Motor Speedway.  And with the circuit little over an hour away I can’t believe I had never visited before.

The sheer size of the 52,000 seater American Style oval becomes apparent as you arrive; more like a football stadium than a race track.  But what I like most about the place is that it was obviously put together with the fan in mind as the access is second to none.  Silverstone could definitely do with a Rockingham style underground tunnel and being able to watch a race from the top of the pit garages is just great; an experience I had only previously witnessed at Spa.

In fact the only negative of the day was the lack of interest in the support races with the once formidable British F3 championship attracting just 7 entries and disappointingly only 6 cars making the start of the 1 hour Aston Martin GT4 event!

However, the British GT race was the main reason for being there and with 29 cars on the grid it promised to be 2 hours to remember.  The spacious pit walk prior to the race allowed a closer look at both the cars and drivers as the pre-race excitement started to build.

IMG_9526_B&W2A_LRA IMG_9518A_LR

Marco Attard and Works BMW driver Alexander Sims had carried on their Oulton form by taking a comfortable pole position in the Ecurie Ecosse Z4.  They would start the race as clear favourites for victory and Marco Attard was able to get away in the lead from the off.  Derek Johnston in a similar Z4 would soon get by Mark Patterson’s United Autosports Audi R8 to take second with 2013 champion Andrew Howard following suit in the Aston.

Sir Chris Hoy had made a wild start to the race by ‘out-braking’ himself heading into Deene on the first lap and being lucky to get away with a brush with the wall.  His pace is there for all to see however, and I am pretty sure it won’t be long before he is running much closer to the front.

IMG_9587_PROA_LR2

Inevitably it wasn’t long before a safety car was required to recover Tania Mann’s Ginetta.  Much of Attard’s early effort to build a lead had therefore been negated as the race returned to green flag conditions.  Soon after the pit window opened and the majority of the contenders for victory pitted with the Ecurie Ecosse BMW’s lead not being of the necessary margin to cope with the Oulton Park success penalty.  Sims would therefore rejoin in fifth behind, the yet to pit, Gary Eastwood’s Ferrari, the similar machine of Richard Lyons and the two Triple 8 Z4’s of Luke Hines and Joe Osborne.

Eastwood staying out in the FF Corse Ferrari turned out to be either a master stroke or, more likely, a lucky break as a second safety car was required to remove John Gaw’s Aston and Morten Don’s Ginetta.  This allowed the Ferrari crew to get Rob Barff strapped in and leave pit road with a 40 second lead over the rest of the field.  Even a drive through for exiting the pit lane while the red light was showing could not stop them taking an 18 second victory.

Behind, Alexander Sims was showing everyone why he was not only the 2008 McLaren Autosport BRDC award winner but also why he is now a factory BMW driver.  He was soon up to second with the pass to take this position being absolutely breathtaking; taking advantage of a backmarker and coming from way back to slip down the inside of Lyons on the entry to Deene.  A pleasure to watch from my now grandstand vantage point.

Other than a close battle between the triple 888 Z4’s, which saw Joe Osborne take a trip across the gravel, not a lot else happened throughout the remaining 40 minutes of the race.  This left Richard Lyons to take third place on the road only to be later handed a ten second penalty for driving standards when Pasin Lathouras was at the wheel.  This would drop them to 7th but promote Luke Hines and Derek Johnston to the final step of the podium.  Behind them Tom Onslow-Cole put in a stellar performance to take 4th in the Strata 21 Aston ahead of the similar machine of Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam.  Adam doing a great job in a damaged car.

IMG_9809A_LR2

Having started on the back row, and being given an early drive through for overtaking under yellow flags, John Dhillon and Aaron Scott put in a great a drive to claim 8th overall in the second AF Corse Ferrari 458.

IMG_9435A_LR2

The all new Generation Racing Bentley of  Steve Tandy and James Appleby struggled at Rockingham and ended up a lap down in 14th place.  It is however great to see this huge car in British GT and hopefully it will be nearer the sharper end of the grid as the season progresses.

IMG_9722A_LRB

All this leaves Alexander Sims and Marco Attard sitting pretty at the top of the championship points table.  And with Marco Attard being one of the quicker “Am” drivers this surely now makes them the clear favourites for the 2014 crown …

Full British GT results: Here

Next up it is back to Silverstone for the Blancpain Endurance Series.  I will be cheering on the very British Works Bentleys who will be looking to build on a strong performance at the Monza season opener.