Stars in some very fast cars
The Avon Tyres British GT Championship once again provided some of the best sportcar racing action in Europe across all 14 rounds of the 2008 season. New for 2008 was a return to Knockhill in Scotland and the addition of the brand new GT4 class to the Championship.
A mouth watering selection of supercars signed up for the 2008 Championship, with Ferrari 430s, Lamborghini Gallardos, Viper Competition Coupes, an Ascari KZ1R and Aston Martin DBRS9s lining up for the first race at Oulton Park, with the Ford GT making its British GT debut at Snetterton mid season. Jon Barnes and James Gornall, in the Brookspeed Team Trimite Viper proved to be best all round racing package and at Brands Hatch they became the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Champions. Four wins, three seconds and one third place finish was an impressive tally by any standards but the season was long, and the competition extremely hard, for the pair in their first season of GT racing.
Barnes and Gornall were chased all season by the trio of CR Scuderia run Ferrari’s with Luke Hines and Jeremy Metcalfe coming out ahead of their teammates to claim the runners up spot at Donington Park. Their efforts, coupled with those of Michael Cullen, Paddy Shovlin, Michael Meadows, James Sutton and Marco Mapelli, who subbed for Paddy Shovlin at Snetterton, helped CR Scuderia to the British GT team title in their first season of competition.
GT4 was a welcome addition to the series, replacing the GTC class at the end of 2007. The class of the field was without doubt Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn who became the first ever British GT4 Champions at Brands Hatch. They ended the season with eight wins, four seconds and two thirds, finishing on the podium in all fourteen races and securing the team title for IMS Motorsport ahead of Team RPM and Rob Austin Racing.
New GT3 lap records were established by Allan Simonsen (Ferrari 430) at Oulton Park and Knockhill, by Aaron Scott (Viper Competition Coupe) at Brands Hatch, by Bradley Ellis (Ford GT) at Snetterton, by Michael Meadows (Ferrari 430) at Silverstone and by Godfrey Jones (Ascari KZ1R) at Donington Park.
New GT4 lap records were established at all of the circuits with honours going to Matt Nicol-Jones (Oulton Park), Rob Austin (Knockhill and Rockingham), Joe Osborne (Snetterton), Nigel Moore (Thruxton and Brands Hatch), Richard Evans (Silverstone) and Hunter Abbott (Donington Park)
Oulton Park – Rounds 1 and 2
Paddy Shovlin and Michael Cullen (#15 CR Scuderia Ferrari 430) took the first win of the season in an incident packed race that saw one of the closest ever finishes in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship and a Ferrari 1-2-3 as just 0.5 seconds separated the winning pair from second placed Adam Wilcox and Phil Burton and third placed Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen. Joe Osborne and Michael Broadhurst became the first drivers to win in the new GT4 class in their Team RPM Ginetta G50 finishing nine seconds ahead of Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn. The race was marked by the two dramatic accidents. Piers Johnson rolled his Tech9 Lamborghini in the opening laps of the race, which brought out the safety car to clear the wrecked Lamborghini. Johnson was OK but wouldn’t take any further part in the weekend’s races. After the race went green the red flags flew when Hunter Abbott’s Ginetta G50 clashed with Peter Snowden’s Aston Martin with the Ginetta barrel rolling down the hill at Cascades before bursting into flames. The prompt action of the marshals and the safety features of the Ginetta G50 saved Abbott from serious injury and the driver was ready to race on Easter Monday but his Rob Austin Racing run Ginetta was not.
The second race in Cheshire was nearly as close as the first with Tom Ferrier and Oliver Morley taking the first ever win in British GT for a Lamborghini finishing 0.9 seconds ahead of the CR Scuderia Ferrari of Michael Meadows and James Sutton. Victory nearly went to the Christians in Motorsport Ferrari of Allan Simonsen and Hector Lester but the team were handed a 20 second stop-go penalty after Simonsen came in too late for his pitstop. Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn won the GT4 Class in their IMS Motorsport Ginetta G50, finishing a lap ahead of Fulvio Mussi and Charlie Hollings.
Knockhill – Round 3 and 4
Jeremy Metcalfe and Luke Hines (#16 CR Scuderia) won the first British GT race held at Knockhill since 2005, finishing Round 3 of the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Championship ahead of the Dodge Viper’s of James Gornall and Jon Barnes (#40 Team Trimite Brookspeed) and Aaron Scott and Craig Wilkins (#20 ABG Motorsport), in a race of attrition that was punctuated by four safety car periods.
It was a fairy tale return for Hunter Abbott and Rob Austin after their Ginetta G50 was destroyed at Oulton Park with the pair winning the GT4 class, finishing a lap ahead of Matt Nicoll-Jones and Stewart Linn.
Godfrey and David Jones took their first British GT race win for three years, taking the chequered flag in the Team Eurotech Preci Spark Ascari KZ1R in a dramatic second Avon Tyres British GT race at Knockhill, the first GT3 win for an Ascari in British GT. The brothers from Leicestershire finished ahead of the Christians in Motorsport Ferrari of Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen and the 22gtracing Aston Martin DBRS9 of Adrian Willmot and Michael Bentwood. However a stewards enquiry overturned the result after the leading four cars were all judged to have overtaken under yellow flags and the win was handed to 5th placed Michael Cullen and Paddy Shovlin, with Jon Barnes and James Gornall in second and Aaron Scott and Craig Wilkins in third.
Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn won the GT4 class after the Rob Austin Racing Ginetta had to retire the Rob Austin Racing Ginetta with faulty electrics while leading the race.
Rockingham – Rounds 5 and 6
In the pouring rain James Gornall and Jon Barnes took their first win in the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Championship as the Team Trimite Brookspeed Viper Competition Coupe took the chequered flag ahead of the Team Modena Lamborghini of Adam Jones and Piers Johnson. James Sutton and Michael Meadows were a distant third in the CR Scuderia Ferrari. Stewart Linn and Matt Nicol-Jones were winners once again in the GT4 class, just beating the Ginetta of Rob Austin and Hunter Abbott to the finish line by less than a second.
After winning both Rockingham races last year to lift the 2007 driver’s title, Team RPM were once again victorious in 2008 as Steve Clark took the chequered flag behind the safety car to win his and Paul O'Neill's first British GT race. The circumstances were a little bizarre after the Viper inherited the lead as race leader Leo Machitski spun out at Gracelands on the slippery track while following the safety car in the Tech 9 Lamborghini. The roles were reversed in GT4 as Rob Austin and Hunter Abbott took their win, well ahead of championship leaders Stewart Linn and Matt Nicol-Jones.
Snetterton – Rounds 7 and 8
Jon Barnes and James Gornall extended their lead in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship with a win in the rain at Snetterton. The Team Trimite Brookspeed Viper started 9th on the grid but came through to win by just 0.6 seconds ahead of the Matech Ford GT, which enjoyed its first British GT outing in the hands of reigning champions Alex Mortimer and Bradley Ellis. Hunter Abbott and Rob Austin took their third GT4 win of the season after the Beechdean Aston Martin of Andrew Howard and the Team RPM Ginetta of Nigel Moore clashed while fighting for the lead forcing the deployment of the safety car.
The sun shone for the second race of the weekend, with Bradley Ellis and Alex Mortimer, despite a 30-second pitstop handicap, securing the first win for the Ford GT in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship. The FIA GT3 race winners took the chequered flag just 2.8 seconds ahead of championship leaders Jon Barnes and James Gornall in the Team Trimite Brookspeed Viper, with James Sutton and Michael Meadows a distant third. Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn returned to the top step of the GT4 podium to record their 4th win of the year to extend their GT4 championship lead.
Thruxton – Rounds 9 and 10
Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen took the first win of the year for the Christians in Motorsport team in an incident packed race at Thruxton in Round of the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Championship. Simonsen took the chequered flag over six seconds ahead of Aaron Scott in the ABG Motorsport Viper and a further 2.8 seconds in front of championship leader Jon Barnes in the Team Trimite Brookspeed Viper. Rob Austin and Hunter Abbott took the chequered flag in the GT4 class but a 10-second penalty for overtaking under yellows handed the win to Championship leaders Stewart Linn and Matt Nicol-Jones.
James Gornall and Jon Barnes extended their championship lead with victory in Round 10 of the British GT Championship, leading home Jeremy Metcalfe and Luke Hines in a 30-minute shortened race after the initial race was red flagged after just six minutes after an accident between the Ginettas of Rob Austin and Bradley Ellis on the fast run into the last corner. The accident resulted in the Team RPM Ginetta shooting off the circuit and hitting the marshal‘s post before coming to rest well off the track. Nigel Moore and Joe Osborne took the GT4 honours in restarted race, ahead of championship leaders Stewart Linn and Matt Nicol-Jones.
Brands Hatch – Rounds 11 and 12
Jon Barnes and James Gornall moved a step closer to the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT title by winning Round 11 at Brands Hatch, finishing seven seconds ahead of Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen who remained their only challengers with three races remaining. However, the day belonged to Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn who finished 3rd in class behind race winner Nigel Moore to become the inaugural Avon Tyres British GT4 Champions.
Michael Cullen and Paddy Shovlin celebrated their third win of the year after a rear wheel problem denied James Gornall and Jon Barnes victory in Kent. The Team Trimite Brookspeed Viper finished 7th and the 2 championship points were good enough to give the pair the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Championship drivers title. Newly crowned GT4 Champions Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn finished the weekend with their sixth win from twelve races.
Silverstone - Round 13
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 nine cars took the chequered flag but the lack of finishers didn't detract from the action packed racing throughout the 120 minute event. Michael Bentwood was forced to drive the 22GTracing Aston Martin solo after a family crisis kept Tom Alexander away from Silverstone. Bentwood drove one of the best races of his career but was only allowed to race for 90-minutes before bringing the Aston Martin into the pitlane from the lead of the race.
Newly crowned British GT Champions James Gornall and Jon Barnes had a weekend to forget after the engine in the Team Trimite Brookspeed blew forcing them to miss qualifying and starting the race at the back of the grid. An impressive drive by Gornall to 2nd on lap 9 came to nought after a collision brought the car in for an early stop and then a fire extinguisher went off in the cockpit on lap 41 forcing Gornall to retire.
In the GT4 Class Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn took their 6th class win, taking the chequered flag in 5th place overall to secure the British GT team title for IMS Motorsport team to add to the drivers title they won at Brands Hatch last month.
Donington Park – Round 14
Luke Hines and Jeremy Metcalfe took the last race of the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Championship season in dominant style, giving the CR Scuderia pairing the points to be declared 2008 Vice Champions.
The two hour race was one of attrition but Hines put the CRS Ferrari at the front of the field ahead an early battle with Nick Foster in the Team RPM Viper. A confusing safety car period gave Metcalfe a good lead after the driver change, with the Ferrari and the Preci Spark Ascari of David Jones the only cars in contention for the win. Michael Cullen in the No 15 CRS Ferrari was being caught by Allan Simonsen in the Christians in Motorsport Ferrari and the two cars were nose to tail as the race entered the final lap.
A suspension failure on the last lap put the Jones Ascari out of contention and while Jeremy Metcalfe celebrated victory, Cullen’s Ferrari got out of shape coming out of the last corner allowing Simonsen to get alongside and the two Ferrari’s crossed the line side by side with Cullen getting the nod by 0.073 seconds. Matt Nicol-Jones and Stewart Linn took their 8th win of the year in the GT4 Class, giving the newly crowned class champions 100% record of podium finishes in 2008.
A full season review can be seen across Europe on Motors TV, starting on Sunday 30th November, with regular repeats in the following weeks. A full TV schedule can be found on the championship website at britishgt.com/tv.php
The 2009 Avon Tyres British GT Championship will start at the traditional Easter weekend meeting at Oulton Park next April and will include the first international event since 2006 when the championship travel to Spa Francorchamps. Next season GT3 and GT4 will be joined by a new Supersports class, which will be open to the Ginetta G50, Lotus 2/11 and the KTM Crossbow amongst others.