Dodge Viper Strikes....

 in British GT

The Avon Tyres British GT Championship is the UK’s leading sportscar series and on the 28 and 29 June race fans can see high powered supercars such as the Ferrari 430, Lamborghini Gallardo, Dodge Viper and Aston Martin DBRS9 battle it out in two 60-minute races at Thruxton, near Andover.  Local fans will have plenty to cheer about when Southampton’s Jon Barnes and Peterborough’s James Gornall travel to Thruxton at the top the British GT Championship table.

A great weekend at Snetterton in Norfolk three weeks ago proved to be a turning point for Barnes and Gornall, with a win and a second place handing them a healthy 16 point lead over their nearest rivals and Southampton based Team Trimite Brookspeed will be hunting for their third victory of the 2008 season on a track that will ideally suit the 8.3 litre, V10 powered Dodge Viper.

However Gornall and Barnes face an immense challenge from the chasing pack of four Ferrari 430’s led by the CR Scuderia drivers Michael Meadows and James Sutton (#14 Ferrari 430) and Michael Cullen (#15 Ferrari 430).  Meadows and Sutton have yet to win this season but four podium finishes in eight races has kept them in the hunt for overall honours. Cullen’s two wins alongside Paddy Shovlin, coupled with the points scoring by the other two Ferrari’s in the team, has enabled their CR Scuderia team to head to Thruxton with a comfortable 15 point lead over the Brookspeed outfit in the Team Championship. 

Round 3 race winners Jeremy Metcalfe and Luke Hines in the #16 CR Scuderia Ferrari are just 3 points behind their three teammates and 2 points ahead of Michael Cullen’s driving partner Paddy Shovlin, who was forced to miss the races in Norfolk three weeks ago due to business commitments.

The fourth Ferrari in the chasing pack is the Christians in Motorsport 430 of Allan Simonsen and Hector Lester.  This car won four times last season but has yet to taste the spoils of victory in 2008.  Pole positions and fastest laps have been punctuated by technical problems and bad luck, however two podium finishes have underlined the team’s speed and don’t rule them out for their first victory of the season in Hampshire.

The first non Ferrari in the chasing pack is the Team RPM Viper of Paul O’Neill and Steve Clark.  Team RPM won the 2007 Avon Tyres British GT Title with Alex Mortimer and Bradley Ellis at Rockingham last season and the team celebrated as O’Neill and Clark won their first race in British GT at the same track last month and they will be hoping for more of the same in the next two races.

Tech 9 have fielded two Lamborghini Gallardos for the 2008 season and Phil Hindley’s Liverpool based team have shown they have the pace to mix it with the Ferrari and Viper teams but technical issues have hampered their progress.  Victory for Oliver Morley and Tom Ferrier (#8 Lamborghini Gallardo) at Oulton Park has been the high point for the team this season but also keep an eye on the #9 Gallardo of 2006 British GT3 Champion Leo Machitski and 2004 British GT Champion Jonny Cocker.

Team Modena are also fielding two Gallardos, with Adam Jones and Piers Johnson putting the #21 Lamborghini on the podium at Rockingham for the first time in a season punctuated by accidents and technical problems.   The second Team Modena Lamborghini is driven by Guy Harrington and Ben de Zille Butler.  The pair won at Thruxton last year in the Aston Martin DBRS9 and they will be fighting hard to repeat that achievement this year and lift their 2008 campaign out of the doldrums.

The Chad Peninsula Racing pairing of Matt Griffin and Peter Bamford have been running at the front of the grid on more than one occasion this year and two 5th places is probably not a fair return for the pace shown by the Ferrari 430. 

The two Aston Martin DBRS9’s of Tom Alexander and Michael Bentwood (22GTRacing) and Gavan Kershaw and Barrie Whight (Cadena Motorsport) will be racing at Thruxton, the circuit that saw a double win for the manufacturer last season.

Another three Vipers will grace the British GT grid this weekend.  The second Team RPM entered car of Oliver Bryant and Nick Foster is currently equal on points with the ABG Motorsport Viper of Aaron Scott and Craig Wilkins, who have enjoyed two podium finishes this season already.  Moore Racing will be joining the grid for the first this year with Mike Gardiner being joined in the Viper by reigning British GT Champion Alex Mortimer.  Mortimer won at Snetterton in the Ford GT with Bradley Ellis hot on the heels of a pair of wins at Monza in the FIA GT3 Championship. 

The brand new GT4 class is providing just a much entertainment as their bigger GT3 cousins this season.  Current championship leaders Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn have been on the podium in all eight races, including wins at Oulton Park, Knockhill, Rockingham and Snetterton and hold a 17 point lead in their IMS Motorsport run Ginetta G50 over Fulvio Mussi, who is racing a Team RPM Ginetta G50 with Nigel Redwood. 

Hunter Abbott and Rob Austin have been victorious on three occasions this season but two missed races at Oulton Park after Abbott’s Round One fiery exit and a DNF at Knockhill due to a faulty brake light has left the pair 24 points behind the leaders but when they’ve finished it has been either 1st or 2nd.

The six Ginetta G50 entries will be joined this weekend by the Nissan 350Z of Derek Palmer and Maxi Jazz, the Aston Martin N24 of Peter Snowden and Mark Thomas and, for the first time, the Moore Racing Maserati Trofeo driven by Paul Fenton and George MacKintosh.