Tag Archives: Phil Keen

Greaves head Gibson 1-2 at Silverstone

Greaves Motorsport claimed victory in the opening round of the European Le Mans Series at Silverstone following a close battle with the similar Jota Sport machine and the Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca.

LMP2

For the third season in a row, the teams headed to Silverstone for the opening round of the European Le Mans Series; dovetailing with the World Endurance Championship to create a nicely dubbed ‘super endurance racing weekend’.  And although the numbers are slightly down on 2014, we could be in for one of the best seasons yet courtesy of a gentle tweak to the driver time regulations which allow the Platinum and Gold LMP2 drivers to have more of an impact on the overall result.

Qualifying did nothing to disprove this idea as Jon Lancaster’s early lap proved just too good for pole favourite, Harry Tincknell, to topple.  It didn’t help that the Nissan factory driver had flat spotted his tyres with a spin early in the session however a last gasp effort from the 2014 Le Mans class winner was good enough for second on the grid.

And while Gary Hirsch was able to lead the crews away from start in the #41 Greaves Motorsport machine, it was Audi loanee, Filipe Albuquerque, who eventually worked his way to the front of the field in the #38 Jota Sport car; gradually increasing his lead to 16 seconds by the time he handed over to Simon Dolan at the end of his second stint.  Hirsch however brought his driving duties to a close with a stellar lap (fastest of the race) to allow Platinum rated co-driver Bjorn Wirdheim to leap-frog Dolan and build a strong lead over the English businessman, with the Thiriet by TRDS Racing Oreca 05 not too far behind in third.

A safety car, required for a collision between the Massive Motorsport Aston and the #63 Ferrari with 1.5 hours to go then closed up the entire field.  A good pit call by Greaves however, with Wirdheim pitting just before the safety car appeared, allowed the Swede to maintain the lead after re-fuelling.  TDS racing on the other hand had a different approach and used the safety car period to put Platinum man Tristan Gommendy in the car;  A tactic which looked to be paying off as the Frenchman soon caught and passed Dolan once the track returned to green.

With Wirdheim’s tyres passed their best, Gommendy was also able to close on the lead Greaves car and it wasn’t long before the TDS Oreca was leading the race.  However the boot was soon on the other foot as he now had the super quick and freshly shod Jon Lancaster and Harry Tincknell to contend with as the event headed towards the final stages; and crucially the team had elected to change the left sided tyres only at their driver change.

Lancaster and Tincknell were now significantly faster than Gommendy at this stage of the race and had they worked together they would have caught the lead Oreca much more quickly.  However you can’t stop true racing drivers fighting for position and what lay ahead was an almighty battle between the two Gibson pilots.

With the TDS machine beginning to fall into the clutches of the two Gibson cars the battle for second really started to heat up.  Tincknell clearly had the bit between his teeth, and after several attempts Tincknell managed to squeeze into second and now looked favourite for victory.  However, as is often the case in endurance racing, traffic played a part; slowing Tincknell through Copse and allowing Lancaster to gain on the Nissan man heading into the Becketts complex.  In what was deemed a fair move, Lancaster went the around the outside at Maggots, with Tincknell left spinning as a result.

Lancaster was now free to chase down Gommendy as the race neared its conclusion; and with traffic slowing the Frenchman, Lancaster saw his chance and attempted a pass down the inside of the Loop.  Gommendy however had not seen him coming and contact caused the Oreca to spin, losing second as a result to the recovering Tincknell.

Whilst debate commenced over whether Lancaster’s attempted pass was legal, Tincknell rapidly approached the partially damaged Greaves machine; getting close to the #41 Gibson but ultimately crossing the line at the end of the 4 hours in second position.  The press conference was interesting to say the least but ultimately this adds additional flavour to what is already building up to be a great championship fight.

GTE

The mid race safety car ruined what was turning into a great battle for GTE honours as the Gulf Racing Porsche was allowed to pass the safety car and almost gain an entire lap over the chasing JMW Ferrari and the similar #55 AF Corse machine.  This left Michael Wainwright with a much easier task of finishing the good work started by Adam Carroll and Phil Keen to claim GTE top spot for the Gulf Racing 911 RSR

GTE

Behind, Sam Tordoff and George Richardson both put in solid drives to elevate the JMW Ferrari to a well deserved 2nd while Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott will have been content with third.  Rui Aguas had been leading in the #81 Ferrari early on before ending the day in the turn one barriers following a collision with the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Peter Mann.

LMP3

LMP3V2

Sir Chris Hoy and Charlie Robertson made an excellent start to their debut European Le Mans Series campaign in the brand new Ginetta Juno.  Robertson started the car from the back of the grid having been penalised for a pit lane speed limit violation but was soon leading the class before handing over to Hoy.  The multi Olympic Cycling champion put in a great drive which ultimately saw the the Scottish pair take class victory by the best part of a lap from team LNT team-mates Michael Simpson and Gaetan Paletou.

GTC

In a race of attrition where only 3 cars finished in class, the TDS Racing BMW Z4 of Franck Perera, Dino Lunardi and Eric Dermont took victory by 2 laps from the #64 AF Corse Ferrari of Mads Rasmussen, Felipe Barreiros and Francisco Guedes.  To round of a good day for Gulf Racing UK, Roald Goethe, Dan Brown and Archie Hamilton came home third in the GT3 Lamborghini Gallardo, albeit 16 laps down on the class leader following earlier problems.

GTC

GALLERY
TALKING POINT

Whilst the mid race safety car closed up the field and helped provide an exciting finish it did however ruin a lot of the carefully thought out strategies being employed by the teams.  I can’t help but feel that the full course yellow system employed by the WEC is a much better way of allowing the track marshals to clear up a wreckage, with the gaps being maintained and there being no chance of incorrect ‘wave bys’.  We can only hope that the European Le Mans Series takes a serious look at this issue before round 2 at Imola.

Once again the European Le Mans Series provided some of the best racing of the weekend.  In my eyes it has a lot to do with the extra strategy of when to play the silver/bronze driver card and together with the 4 hour format we have a brilliant series on our hands.  It would be nice to have a few more entries in the GT classes but that would just be picky.  I am more than tempted to try and find some extra days holiday to fir the season ending Estoril round into my schedule!

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Trackspeed’s Day, Attard’s Season

The Spotty Trackspeed Porsche made a triumphant return to British GT at Brands Hatch, with ‘retired’ team principal, David Ashburn, and ‘Works’ Porsche driver Nick Tandy standing on the top step of the podium after 2 hours of racing.

Trackspeed

The penultimate round of the British GT season saw the drivers head to Brands Hatch in Kent for a 2 hour blast around the infamous Grand Prix circuit.  Personally I was grateful for the 10am race-day start for my annual visit after a busy Saturday covering the Woodpecker Stages Rally.

BeechdeanGT3

Andrew Howard’s phenomenal lap in qualifying put the Beechdean Aston on Pole Position and it was he who lead the 30+ car formation lap; a sight to behold for the more than adequate crowd.  Braking issues, unable to be rectified from the warm up, would however cause the Ice Cream guru to rapidly drop down the order, undoing much of the hard work from the previous day.

DemonTweek Oman

In fact it was another Aston Martin in the hands of Ahmad Al Harthy and the Demon Tweeks sponsored Trackspeed Porsche of Jon Minshaw that managed to pull away from the pack and build a healthy lead prior to the inevitable first safety car period.  Meanwhile Colin White had quickly got to grips with the MP Motorsport Aston and was running as high as third overall before a collision with the GT4 BMW M3 caused them to lose a significant amount of time.

As is often the case, a second safety car period followed in quick succession but fortunately the track returned to green flag conditions prior to the opening of the pit window.  Phil Keen, now in the #33 Porsche, managed to jump Michael Caine in the Oman Racing Team Vantage largely as a result of the latters success penalty.  While Nick Tandy, taking over from David Ashburn in the spotted Trackspeed Porsche, came out fourth behind the second Motorbase (Oman Racing Team) Aston of Rory Butcher.  Further back, Irish Ferrari specialist, Matt Griffin was now in the #29 AF Corse 458 and ‘Works’ BMW ace, Alexander Sims, had taken over from Marco Attard in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4.

AFCorse

Akin to Richard Westbrook in previous seasons, Tandy is just at one with the rear engined German machine, seemingly able to go quicker than his competitors on any given circuit.  And it wasn’t long before he had caught and passed the Aston’s of both Butcher and Caine before lining up behind team mate Keen in what looked like becoming a Trackspeed formation finish.

With just 10 minutes of the race remaining however Tandy was in the lead after the Demon Tweeks car cruelly suffered a left rear puncture.  This is not an uncommon occurrence around the testing Grand Prix circuit and Keen would unfortunately drop to the lower end of the top ten after replacing the shredded tyre; their championship challenge effectively over as a result.

Tandy may now have been able to cruise to victory, but the battles behind were far from over with Butcher able to catch the weight penalised sister car of Michael Caine, and Sims right on the back of Griffin’s Ferrari.  In the end Sims was able to get the move done on the way into Paddock Hill bend, taking fourth with only a few minutes remaining .  The two Motorbase prepared cars on the other hand held position to complete the final steps of the podium behind the untouchable Tandy.

Sims

It has been great to see much more variety on the GT4 grid this year with a Porsche, BMW and Lotus regularly joining the Aston’s and Ginetta’s.  More often than not it has been an Aston Martin that has come out on top though and the Brands Hatch round was no different.  The Beachdean Junior Team of Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie dominated the weekend, following up their pole position with a lights to flag victory.

GT4

Conversely, last year’s champion, Ginetta pilot Rick Parfitt Junior has had zero luck in 2014, again showing that the car had the pace but unfortunately suffering from an early puncture.

Parfitt

All this leaves Marco Attard heading into the Donington finale next weekend with a comfortable championship lead of 28.5 points over the Oman Racing Team duo of Michael Caine and Ahmad Al Harthy.  The 2012 champions still in with a slim chance of taking the crown with 37.5 points on the table for the victors, but facing the further challenge of a 10 second success penalty as ‘reward’ for taking second place at Brands.

Outgoing champion Andrew Howard compounded a torrid weekend by taking 9 penalty points as a result of contact with the BMW Z4 of Derek Johnston.  Prior to Brands Hatch he and Jonny Adam were right in the mix for the title and it is a real shame that the Wycombe Wanderers chairman will not be able to take his title defence to the Leicestershire circuit.

Sadly other commitments mean I cannot make the championship finale, however I will be making my first trip to the Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit for the final round of the Blancpain Endurance Series the weekend after; where, ‘Bentley boys’, Andy Meyrick and Guy Smith have a genuine chance of taking the crown, one of the top prizes in GT racing.

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All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)