Meadows & Sutton Take Debut Win and Secure Team Title for CR Scuderia
Michael Meadows and James Sutton took their maiden Avon Tyres British GT Championship win at Silverstone, ending the 2-hour race 9.8 seconds ahead of the ABG Motorsport Viper of Craig Wilkins and Aaron Scott to help secure the British GT team title for CR Scuderia. In a race of attrition only 9 cars took the chequered flag but the lack of finishers didn't detract from the action packed racing throughout the 120 minute race. GT4 Champions Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn took their 6th class win in 5th overall to secure the team title for their IMS Motorsport team.
Craig Wilkins in the ABG Motorsport Viper led the 21 car grid towards the first corner at Copse with David Jones challenging in the Ascari. Wilkins held the inside line to emerge from the first corner still in the lead with Michael Bentwood now up to third in the Aston Martin. Phil Burton and Hector Lester were now fighting over 4th place as Michael Cullen joined in the fray. Burton’s Ferrari emerged under Bridge travelling very slowly with a puncture as did Cullen’s Ferrari, with both cars returning to the pits for new rubber.
Newly crowned British GT Champion James Gornall was forced to start at the back of the grid in the Team Trimite Brookspeed Viper after a blown engine in free practice forced the him and Jon Barnes to sit out Saturday’s 30-minute qualifying session. However Gornall was soon scything his way through the field and was up to 6th by the end of the opening lap and then gained a further two places by the end of lap 2 by forcing his way past Nigel Redwood in the Team RPM Viper and the Ferrari of Luke Hines.
Meanwhile Wilkins was still holding onto the top spot as David Jones was coming under pressure from Michael Bentwood and on lap 3 the Aston Martin moved ahead of the Ascari, with Gornall passing Jones on the next lap at Maggotts to move into a podium position from the back of the grid. David Jones lost further ground on lap 6 as Meadows and Redwood both passed the Ascari.
Craig Wilkins now had the Aston Martin of Michael Bentwood filling his mirrors and everyone thought it wouldn’t be long before Wilkins succumbed to the pressure. However for lap after lap the driver from the West Midlands who was driving in his first season of British GT was having none of it and defended his line cleanly at every turn. James Gornall joined in the battle and moved ahead of Bentwood at Becketts on lap 8. On the same lap Michael Meadows, who was fighting with Luke Hines for 4th place had a spin at Brooklands, dropping the #14 CRS Ferrari back two places behind Nigel Redwood and the recovering David Jones. Meadows dropped further back on lap 9 but on lap 10 set the fastest lap of the race, setting the scene for a great recovery drive.
James Gornall was now challenging Craig Wilkins for the lead but disaster struck at Brooklands on lap 11 as the Team Trimite Brookspeed Viper didn’t brake quickly enough and ran into the back of the lead Viper. Gornall was forced into the pits with smoke pouring from the front right wheel which was rubbing against the broken bodywork. The leading ABG Viper had some rear end damage but was able to continue with Wilkins keeping his race pace unaltered.
Michael Bentwood was now back up into 2nd place, with Luke Hines in 3rd ahead of Nigel Redwood’s RPM Viper. These four circulated nose to tail for lap after lap, no one giving an inch to their rivals. David Jones, who was now back up to 5th place had an excursion onto the grass at Becketts but was able to regain the track without losing a place.
Meanwhile in GT4 Richard Evans (#51 RPM Ginetta) was holding off a determined challenge from Stewart Linn in the IMS Motorsport Ginetta after the newly crowned GT4 champion had lost out to Evans at the start of the race. Behind these two Hunter Abbott was keeping track of them in the Rob Austin Racing Ginetta however he was struggling with the handling of his G50 and started to lose tough with the lead pair on lap 14.
For lap after lap Wilkins and Bentwood were separated by less than half a second, but Wilkins would not yield his lead to the vastly more experienced Aston Martin driver. Michael Meadows caught and passed David Jones for 5th but on the next lap Jones repaid the compliment to regain the place. It took another four laps before Meadows could repass the Ascari at Maggotts and make the move stick. Hines and Redwood were also nose to tail across the line with the Ferrari driver defending the final podium position rigorously.
On lap 28 Bentwood finally got his reward for his dogged determination to take the lead as Wilkins succumbed to the pressure and on the same lap Nigel Redwood moved ahead of Luke Hines, pushing the Ferrari down to 4th. Craig Wilkins then had a spin at Brooklands dropping the Viper behind Redwood and Hines only to regain a podium place two laps later as Redwood ran wide at Becketts, the Viper spinning and losing three places before the end of the lap.
All of this chopping and changing allowed Michael Bentwood to open up a gap to his rivals and by lap 32 he was 3.8 seconds ahead of Hines as Meadows moved ahead of Wilkins. Craig Wilkins decided his work was done and dived into the pits to hand over to Aaron Scott. Michael Cullen’s Ferrari became the latest casualty as the Irishman pulled off at Abbey with a broken gearbox. David Jones’ race came to an abrupt end when flames were seen from the engine bay and the Preci Spark Ascari pulled off at Becketts into retirement. However Team Modena Lamborghini of Piers Johnson spun on some oil dropped by the Ascari and the Gallardo was launched into the barriers at Becketts. Johnson was alright, which was more than could be said for his car.
On lap 40 the clock counted down to 60 minutes of the 2-hour race run and Michael Meadows, Michael Bentwood and James Gornall all came into the pits. Bentwood didn’t have a driver to hand over after Tom Alexander was called away for family reasons and Bentwood was unable to secure the services of another driver in time. So Michael Bentwood got back into the Aston Martin to rejoin the battle knowing full well he would have to retire after 90 minutes because this was the maximum time a driver could spend in the car according to the British GT regulations. However Bentwood was determined to be at the front of the field when this happened to demonstrate his and the 22GTRacing Aston Martin’s capabilities.
Meanwhile the Team Trimte Brookspeed pitstop wasn’t going to plan as the damaged bodywork from the earlier accident had started to come loose and then the cockpit fire extinguisher went off, ending the team’s chances of taking the British GT Team title.
As the pitstops were all completed it was Michael Bentwood in the lead, twelve seconds ahead of Jeremy Metcalfe now at the wheel of the #16 CRS Ferrari, who was just 0.3 seconds ahead of James Sutton in the #14 CRS Ferrari. Nick Foster was eight seconds behind Sutton in the RPM Viper and Aaron Scott was a further fifteen seconds further back. On lap 50 Michael Bentwood brought the Aston Martin into the pits and drove straight into the team’s garage after leading for 20 of the 50 laps run to that point.
Metcalfe was now in the lead of the race with Sutton less than a second behind as Fister was being reeled in by Scott, the ABG Viper catching the RPM Viper by 1.5 seconds per lap. Jeremy Metcalfe and James Sutton looked as if they were going to be taking a CRS 1-2 at Silverstone when the team were handed a 10 second stop go penalty for refuelling the cars with the doors open, which is against the regulations. On lap 62 the two Ferrari’s were called in by the team but Metcalfe was given the call late and in the effort to gain the pit road he spun across the grass and the gravel and he was forced to follow James Sutton into the pitlane and then follow him out onto the track, the two now in 3rd and 4th respectively. Nick Foster was now in the lead of the race with Aaron Scott closing down the RPM Viper’s lead.
On lap 65 Scott went into the lead with a move on Foster at Brooklands as Adam Wilcox came into the pits to retire the VRS Motor Finance Ferrari from 6th place. Gavan Kershaw was also forced to retire the Cadena Aston Martin as the car slowed on the exit of Woodcote and was parked out of sight at Copse.
In GT4 Joe Osborne , now at the wheel of the #51 RPM Gineta was being caught by Matt Nicol Jones in the #88 IMS Motorsport Ginetta with Rob Austin a lap adrift in 3rd place. Nicol-Jones was right on the bumper of the GT4 leader as they began their 57th lap. Osborne bowed to the inevitable and Nicol-Jones went into the GT4 lead at Becketts.
Meanwhile back at the front Aaron Scott was pulling away from Nick Foster as the #2 RPM Viper was being caught by James Sutton in the #14 CRS Ferrari and on lap 71 Sutton went ahead at Luffield. Nick Foster seemed to be struggling with the handling of the Viper as Jeremy Metcalfe rapidly closed up to threaten the final podium position. Three laps later Metcalfe went ahead of Foster but knew that he would be unable to get on terms with the leaders before the end of the race.
James Sutton was closing down the lead held by Aaron Scott but as the Ferrari got to a second behind the Viper seemed to find some extra pace and for three laps the gap was maintained. With just 90 seconds left on the clock the two leaders crossed the line nose to tail to begin the penultimate lap. As the Viper headed down to Abbey it appeared to stutter, allowing Sutton to pounce and the Ferrari swept into the lead on the exit of Abbey. Scott was clearly struggling as Sutton moved rapidly ahead. However Aaron Scott coaxed the Viper to the flag to take a well deserved second place finish but there was a great deal of disappointment in the ABG team as they were so close to securing their first win in British GT.
The race belonged to James Sutton and Michael Meadows, who joined their teammates as race winners in the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Championship and they helped secure the British GT team title for CR Scuderia in their first season.
The final 2-hour race of the 2008 season will take place at Donington Park on Sunday 12 October.