Fortec take fifth at Brands

Release courtesy of British GT PR

A brief rain shower an hour before the race threatened to meddle with proceedings, instead the 2.613 mile circuit was basked in a mini-heatwave, and after the one minute ‘roar’ in remembrance of Allan Simonsen was complete, a thrilling race got underway.

Steve Tandy started the 888Optimum BMW Z4 he shares with Dan Brown from pole-position and led the field into the treacherous Paddock Hill Bend, but come Graham Hill Bend it was different story and Howard’s Aston slipped inside before powering away to build his lead.

Several drivers came to grief early on; Mtech’s Derek Johnston was a victim of early contact on the Grand Prix loop, Gary Eastwood made contact with Lee Mowle, the FF Corse driver retired, Mowle dropped down the order. Phil Dryburgh spun the PGF-Kinfaun AMR Aston Martin Vantage after making a good start and was unable to rejoin, and Gregor Fisken was a spinner after two bouts of contact, firstly with Mark Patterson’s United Autosports Audi, the second with the Preci-Spark McLaren of David Jones.

With Howard beginning to build a lead, fellow BMW racer, Marco Attard in the Ecurie Ecosse car, prepared by former British GT Champions Barwell Motorsport, joined Tandy. Colin White was up to fourth in the CWS 4×4 Spares and IDL liveried Ginetta G55, he and co-driver Tom Sharp making some wholesale changes to the car over the weekend had found a race setup that suited the demanding high-speed GP circuit. The Ginetta stalwart stalked the two BMWs before making a suitably opportunistic move at Graham Hill for third on Attard, and a similarly successful manoeuvre on Tandy’s Z4 two laps later.

Mark Poole in the Barwell Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage was excelling, despite only haven driven the GP circuit a handful of times. Indeed, Poole set the fastest lap of the first half of the race, but not before an adventurous move on Jon Minshaw’s Trackspeed Porsche for fifth at Druids saw the 997 GT3 R driver drop to eleventh.

Up front, White’s Ginetta took the lead of the race from Howard, but shortly after overshot at Surtees, handing the lead straight back to the Aston Martin racer. Just behind them was Demoustier, who was in sensational form today. The Von Ryan Racing driver who started nineteenth on the grid made light work of those ahead, eventually leading the race.

Elsewhere, a recovering drive by Minshaw saw him do battle with brother Jason in the Fortec Mercedes AMG SLS; the Fortec driver would emerge victorious on this occasion.

A huge accident for United Autosports’ Zak Brown saw the American’s McLaren pitch violently off the circuit at Hawthorn following a puncture. Brown emerged unscathed, the same couldn’t be said for the McLaren which had heavy rear-end damage.

Championship leader David Ashburn had a torrid start to the race and slid backwards through the field. When the pit window opened after 50 minutes, the Trackspeed boss caused chaos by driving past the Trackspeed garages, pitting between the PGF-Kinfaun and FF Corse pit boxes, then getting boxed in when those team’s cars pitted.

The 2010 British GT Champion later blamed the error, which cost him three laps on his age and announced he didn’t think he had won too many friends with the move. He returned a lap later to handover to team-mate Nick Tandy, but the Porsche Factory hardly got into his groove before a transmission issue saw him retire. Ashburn received a fine of £500 and a licence endorsement for his misdemeanour.

It was a tough weekend for the multiple British GT Champions, Trackspeed. Coming into the weekend the Surrey-based team had taken four wins in six races, but there wouldn’t be any further wins this weekend. Fisken and Jelley pushed on with their battered Porsche, eventually succumbing in the second half of the race when the rear tyres melted due to bent bodywork forcing hot exhaust gases directly onto them.

With pit stops complete, Adam, now in for Howard, was leading the race after a close dice with Tappy, in for Demoustier, at Paddock Hill Bend as the Von Ryan Racing driver exited the pits. From there the Aston Martin driver disappeared into the distance and the race was his to lose, and after coming so close last season, you couldn’t imagine the Scottish driver putting a win in danger.

The battle for second place however was anything but over. Tappy soaked up immense pressure in his stint and looked drained after the race. His race consisted of defending from the ominous threat of Olly Bryant and Dan Brown who proceeded to switch places.

In the latter half of the race Tappy’s mirrors became filled solely with Bryant’s BMW as the 888Optimum driver made a rare error, and then got weigh laid with Team WRT’s Warren Hughes who was in this race a back marker following issues earlier in the race for team-mate Rembert Berg.

Oman Air Motorbase’s Michael Caine, the reigning British Champion held fifth from Phil Keen in the #33 Trackspeed Porsche. Ben Hetherington excelled once more in the Fortec Mercedes SLS and put in a dogged display from an equally determined Richard Abra in the Barwell Aston Martin that Poole had used to great effect an hour earlier.

A late clash between Abra and the GT4 Aston Martin of Steve Chaplin saw both head to the gravel trap at Clearways; the GT4 driver rejoined, but Abra, now behind United Autosports’ Bell after a great move by the Geordie on lap 54, retired with significant damage to the GT3 Vantage.

Tappy held onto second at the flag and Bryant did enough to beat Brown who had overturned the fifteen second success penalty in the mandatory pitstop, the #888 888Optimum car again in the points, unlucky to miss out on a third podium in four races. Hetherington finished fifth and had one of his strongest British GT performances today, but a podium wasn’t going to be on offer despite the Cheshire-born youngster reeling in the BMWs ahead by the flag.

Another driver who got baulked by the WRT Audi was Bell, the United Autosports racer finished sixth, some two seconds off the Fortec Mercedes ahead. Twelve seconds up the road was Caine, continuing a sensational run of points scoring in every race this season, he and co-driver Ahmad Al Harthy continue to be a force to be reckoned with despite the additional weight they carry for their Silver/Gold graded partnership.

AF Corse’s John Dhillon and Aaron Scott finished an impressive eighth, whilst John Gaw and Phil Dryburgh’s PGF-Kinfaun AMR Aston was ninth and the beaten-up 888Optimum of Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle staged a huge fight back to finish tenth, albeit a lap down.

 

The next round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship is in four weeks when the teams and drivers head to Holland for a maiden visit to the historic coastal circuit, Zandvoort (6-8 Aug).

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