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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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