Chase Down The Viper?
On Sunday 13 July the identity of the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Champion could be known after the next two 60-minute races on the full Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch. After a win and a third at Thruxton two weeks ago the Team Trimite Brookspeed Viper pairing of James Gornall and Jon Barnes have one hand firmly gripped on the British GT Title but can the chasing Ferrari 430’s upset the party at Brands Hatch?
With three wins and four further podium finishes to their credit, Jon Barnes and James Gornall look to be unstoppable as the Championship heads into the final four races of the fourteen race season. Following Thruxton the Team Trimite Brookspeed pair have built a comfortable twenty-five point lead over Luke Hines and Jeremy Metcalfe and they just need to leave Brands with a twenty point advantage over their rivals on Sunday evening to be declared the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Champions.
Round 3 winners Jeremy Metcalfe and Luke Hines (#16 CR Scuderia) have been consistent points scorers since that victorious race at Knockhill but two non points finishes at Oulton Park at Easter dented their title aspirations. However after a fighting second place at Thruxton, they head to Kent knowing that the long sweeping curves of the Grand Prix circuit should suit the Ferrari.
The #14 CR Scuderia Ferrari of Michael Meadows and James Sutton is tied on thirty-seven points with their teammate Michael Cullen in the #15 CR Scuderia Ferrari, just one point adrift of Metcalfe and Hines. Cullen is a double race winner with Paddy Shovlin this season but an enforced absence at Snetterton has left Shovlin five points behind his driving partner. Meadows and Sutton have yet to stand on the top step of the podium, but five top three finishes have kept the pair in with a shot of the 2008 crown.
One point further down the table is the Christians in Motorsport Ferrari of Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen. The CiM team took their first race win of year at Thruxton and both drivers rate Brands Hatch as one of their favourites.
The ABG Motorsport Viper of Craig Wilkins and Aaron Scott enjoyed their best weekend of the year at Thruxton with a second place in race 1. The team looked to be heading for their first win in the second race until a loose undertray forced Scott into retirement and spoilt an otherwise excellent weekend in Hampshire.
The performance of the two Aston Martin DBRS9s was transformed at Thruxton with Barrie Whight qualifying the Cadena Motorsport Aston on the front row for Round 11 and Michael Bentwood putting the 22gtracing car on pole position for Round 12. A spin for Tom Alexander while leading the second race of the weekend denied the team of a well deserved podium and the two teams can expect to be challenging again at Brands Hatch.
The Lamborghini Gallardo has been one of the fastest cars in the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Championship but a combination of bad luck and technical fragility has reduced the number of championship points Team Modena and Tech9 could have rightly expected to have accumulated by now. However when things do go right the car is very quick as demonstrated by Oliver Morley and Tom Ferrier when they took the win at Oulton Park for Tech9 last Easter, with pole positions following in both races at Rockingham. Who knows, Brands Hatch could be the circuit where lady luck smiles once again on the charging Italian Bull.
The Team RPM Vipers have been a force to contend with after winning the 2007 championship with Bradley Ellis and Alex Mortimer. Steve Clark is already a race winner in 2008 with Paul O’Neill but, due to other commitments, Oliver Bryant subbed for O’Neill at Thruxton. A crash in race 1 for the #2 Viper of Nick Foster and Nigel Redwood left the team with no points in Hampshire.
The Chad Peninsula Racing Ferrari of Matt Griffin and Peter Bamford has been steadily gathering points but Griffin’s performance in the opening race at Thruxton provided one of the highlights of the weekend as the Irishman battled through the field.
Moore Racing made a welcome return to British GT at Thruxton but the weekend was one they would probably want to forget in a hurry. Hopefully Brands Hatch will be a happier occasion for both the GT3 Viper and the GT4 Maserati.
While Gornall and Barnes hold a comfortable lead at the top of the GT3 standings, IMS Motorsport drivers Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn hold an even better advantage, twenty-seven points over their closest rival, Fulvio Mussi. Nicol-Jones and Linn have been on the podium in every race this season, including five times on the top step, and few would deny them the laurels this year. However they both know that it isn’t over until it’s over and they will be fighting all the way to the chequered flag to leave Brands Hatch as the first ever British GT4 Champions on Sunday.
The fact that Fulvio Mussi hasn’t yet won a GT4 race this year is a testament to his consistency on the track with eight podium finishes from ten starts. Mussi’s campaign suffered a setback in Hampshire with the accident involving his teammate Bradley Ellis in the last race at Thruxton destroying the Team RPM Ginetta, but the cars safety features thankfully saved Ellis from serious injury. Expect Mussi to back out at Brands Hatch chasing for that elusive first win.
The Ginetta G50 of Rob Austin and Hunter Abbott are currently in third place and still have a mathematical chance of overhauling the leader’s points total. However, with thirty-six points to make up and forty on offer in last four race, the three times race winners know that realistically they will be going for the wins and let the championship take care of itself.
Ginetta G50 Cup race winner Nigel Moore took his first GT4 win at Thruxton alongside Joe Osborne in the #51 Team RPM Ginetta and the 16-year-old will be looking to climb onto the top step of the podium once again at Brands Hatch.
The dominant Ginetta’s are being joined in the GT4 class this weekend by the Promotorsport Nissan 350Z of Maxi Jazz and Derek Palmer and the Moore Racing Maserati Trofeo of Paul Fenton and George MacKintosh.