Aston Martin and Ferrari on top at Rockingham

The Avon Tyres British GT Championship welcomed new race winners and a new championship-leading team yesterday with wet and dry races at Rockingham which were as unpredictable as they were exciting. Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam triumphed in the very wet first race in their Beechdean Aston Martin to collect their maiden wins, while the dry second race brought another maiden winner, Andrew Tate, who with team-mate Alex Mortimer headed a CRS Racing 1-2. The second CRS Ferrari home was that of Jim and Glynn Geddie, and their success nets them a slender points lead.

Round 7 reportAndrew Howard and Jonny Adam scored a famous maiden Avon Tyres British GT Championship victory at Rockingham when they steered their Beechdean Motorsports Aston Martin DBRS9 through the spray to the flag with an advantage of 41 seconds over the Preci-Spark Mercedes AMG SLS.

The race began in a highly dramatic and confusing fashion. First the pole-sitting United Autosports Audi R8 LMS fell to the back of the grid as Mike Guasch struggled to get away, and then those runners - more than half of the field - that started on slick tyres discovered immediately that they had made the wrong choice, as they slithered, spun and generally crawled their way around the 1.9-mile circuit.

Beechdean and Preci-Spark had chosen wisely in the very tricky conditions - Howard calling for wets after seeing how slippery the track was on his way around to the grid - and it was the Mercedes that led into Turn 1 as Michael Lyons (Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari) and David Ashburn (Trackspeed Porsche) fell back. The Aston was through into the lead before the leaders reached the infield for the first time and thereafter Howard began to pull away from the SLS.

The two Ginetta G55s of Ian Stinton (Stark Racing) and Jody Firth (Century Motorsports) as well as the GT4 Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta G50 also started on wets and the sight of these cars circulating in third, fourth and fifth places must have put a smile on the face of a watching Ginetta boss Lawrence Tomlinson. Firth took full advantage of the conditions to secure third place in up to the pit stops.

That the slicks were not much help on the slippery track was bad enough for those cars that had chosen them, but when the rain began to fall heavily again after just a few minutes, those same cars had no choice but to pit again to change for wets. Ashburn was the first to stop for new rubber, and in doing so minimised the damage.

Howard’s lead was more than seven seconds after six laps, by which point he had already lapped the unfortunate Guasch, and had extended beyond 10 seconds after 10 laps. What wasn’t obvious was that the Aston’s windscreen wipers had failed and it was only the Aston’s pace that was clearing the water from the screen.John Dhillon had the GT3B Ferrari 430 up to sixth from the back of the grid after just a few laps and was able to hand the older car over to Aaron Scott in seventh once the pit window was open.

The opening laps had turned the positions completely upside down, so that by the time the driver changes had taken place the likes of Allan Simonsen, Matt Griffin and Alex Mortimer were well outside the top 10 and at least a lap down.

Howard pitted from the lead after 28 minutes to hand over to Jonny Adam after a flawless stint, leaving David Jones to lead by 33 seconds from Firth. When the Mercedes pitted five minutes later, the Beechdean car regained the lead with an advantage of 11 seconds; and, like his team-mate earlier, Jonny Adam immediately began to pull away.

As the race continued, so did the conditions continue to change. Phil Keen quickly got a handle on the situation and had soon passed the Stark Racing Ginetta and the #5 Ferrari to move up to fourth. He then began to draw the #28 Ginetta - now with Stefan Hodgetts at the wheel - ever closer. The #1 Porsche caught the G55 on lap 29 and Keen dived down the inside at Deene. Hodgetts closed the door and contact was made, leaving the Porsche ahead and the Ginetta spinning; but fortunately both cars were undamaged and able to continue.

Allan Simonsen had taken over the Rosso Verde Ferrari Scuderia from Hector Lester in 15th position, and spent his stint moving up the field; taking sixth from Charles Bateman on the final lap.

Despite reduced visibility in the final few minutes, Jonny Adam crossed the line at the end of 36 laps to take the win as his team cheered from the pit wall. “Lucky it was wet for the warm-up because that was the first time I had ever driven the car in the wet all the time I’ve had it. First time I have raced it in the wet,” said Andrew Howard. “Thank God it did rain for the warm up otherwise we wouldn’t have had a clue. We got a good set up and the car felt really balanced. We went out on slicks on out lap and changed on the grid. There was that much difference. It’s a big day, really cool; and it’s Jonny’s birthday.”

The SLS finished second, 17 seconds ahead of the Trackspeed Porsche. “I didn’t think there was a choice when it came to the tyres,” said David Jones. “This place is slippery enough in the dry! I thought those who started on slicks were bonkers, all of them.”

“We lost about three quarters of a lap because we started on slicks and had to change, otherwise we could have maybe had a win,” said Phil Keen, after his first race in the Porsche. “The wipers stopped working half way through my stint, so I couldn’t really see where I was going.”

An excellent, and fully deserved, fourth was the Century Motorsport G55, giving a huge fillip to the team and marque. “I knew we had good pace in the wet but it took so long to get temperature into the tyres,” said Jody Firth. “It was a very bitty sort of few opening laps but once the tyres came in it was OK. Then the car totally steamed up and I couldn’t see a thing. I just had to do my best.”

Aaron Scott was another to be celebrating an unexpected result as he battled his way to an excellent fifth overall in the GT3B MTECH 430 - the top-placed Ferrari in the race.

GT4 went to the Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta G50 of Dan Denis and David McDonald after a dominant run from both drivers. “We made the right choice on tyres by sticking to the wets because it started raining pretty much as soon as the race got going,” said Denis. “It was great because both the Lotuses were on slicks and had to pit; we were about a lap ahead when I came in and David did a good job to get it home.”

“I struggled a bit because the windscreen wipers stopped working so I was struggling to see where I was going,” added David McDonald. “Thankfully I had enough of a lead and I did not have to worry too much.”

The two Lotuses came home second and third in class, with the #49 Evora of Freddy Nordstrom and Leyton Clarke heading home the #48 of Ollie Jackson and Phil Glew.

The race saw only one retirement - the Speedworks Corvette Z06R of Ron and Piers Jones, which suffered diff failure on the first lap. The Trackspeed Porsche of Gregor Fisken and Tim Bridgman was a non-starter after losing its engine in the morning warm-up.

Round 8 reportFor the second race in succession the Championship welcomed a new winner to the top step of the podium, with Andrew Tate celebrating his first podium in style after sharing the CRS Racing Ferrari 458 with 2007 Champion Alex Mortimer. But while the professional driver kept the car in close contention throughout his stint - not allowing race leader Phil Keen to get more than four seconds away at any time - it was Tate who arguably had the harder job; having to manage a healthy, but by no means insurmountable, lead while rarely having his pursuers in sight.

The conditions for the second race couldn’t have been more different from the first. Instead of heavy rain, the race began on a fully dry track under blue skies and much late-afternoon sun. In the absence of the Fisken/Bridgman Trackspeed Porsche, it was Matt Bell who assumed pole position in the United Autosports R8 LMS and he backed the field right up before making a great start as the lights turned green. Not as good as Keen, however, who had the Porsche into second from fourth by Turn 1 and into the lead by the end of the lap. Alex Mortimer also gained a place on the first lap and spent the next 35 minutes harrying the leader, never letting up for a moment through the traffic.

There were duels and battles all through the field during the opening half of the race, with the Ferrari 458s much more effective in the dry than in the wet. Both Glynn Geddie and Matt Griffin were making good progress in the opening laps, but both were served with drive-through penalties for not respecting the track limits at the exit of Tarzan. Allan Simonsen also suffered the same penalty, but this only accelerated the Rosso Verde’s fall through the field as the Dane struggled to keep pace with the latest generation of cars.

Before his penalty, Griffin had been locked in combat with Bell in the fight for third, with the Ferrari on the tail of the Audi for several laps. The United Autosports driver kept his cool and defended well and was still in the lead when the Irishman took his penalty at the half-way point of the race.

Phil Glew was the early leader in the GT4 race after starting from class pole in the Lotus Evora, but was unable to pull out a significant lead over Marcus Clutton, who was hanging on doggedly in the ABG KTM X-Bow. The Ginetta G50 of Josh Wakefield and Jake Rattenbury twice fell foul of the track limits ruling, which left them third at the end.

As is the norm in the second race, the majority of the pit stops took place towards the end of the pit window, with Keen pitting the lead Porsche at the last possible opportunity and Mortimer following him down the pit lane four seconds later. Both Trackspeed and CRS stops went well, but with the Porsche having a five-second success penalty from the earlier race, it was Andrew Tate who held a slender lead over David Ashburn as the two exited the pit lane with 22 minutes remaining.

The expectation was that the defending champion would soon take the lead, but Ashburn was too eager and had an unforced spin along the School Straight on his out lap. This cost him 10 seconds and allowed Tate to get properly settled in at the head of the field.

Over the next few laps the gap from first to second came down by a second or two per lap and by lap 30 was just 7.5s; but two laps later the Porsche was heading for the pits for the second time. The team removed some loose bodywork that had been dislodged in the spin and by the time the Porsche rejoined Ashburn was down in sixth.

Jim Geddie was now second in the CRS Ferrari 458, but he was engaged in a duel with Mike Guasch in the Audi. The American looked to be quicker, but time and again he was rebuffed by the Scot as he tried to get on the inside at Deene. The fight was tough but clean, but it also allowed the Ferraris of Duncan Cameron and Michael Lyons to close; and with five minutes to go there was a four-way fight for second.

Having pushed so hard for so long, it was Guasch who would come off worst in this fight when he ran wide at Graceland, which was enough for both Ferraris to go by. Lyons continued to push the now-third MTECH Ferrari and sneaked through on the inside of Tarzan; but Cameron had the better exit and was back ahead of the Scuderia Vittoria 458 by the time they reached Brook.

All the while Andrew Tate had been driving a controlled and error-free race at the head of the field, and stayed in control as he completed the final two laps. The gap from first to second came down quite significantly in the closing moments of the race, but all that mattered was that the CRS Ferrari took the flag 3.866 seconds before anyone else.

“I got a clean start, though I couldn’t believe how fast the Porsche was off the start,” said Alex Mortimer, who had clinched his BGT championship-win at the same circuit four years earlier. “Big thank you to the CRS guys, the set up was fantastic. My job was to keep the tyres as good as possible for Andy.”

“The best bit was seeing the sign that said last lap,” smiled Andrew Tate. “Alex is a fantastic driver and I’ve had a lot of help from my driver coach Glynn Geddie. The team did a great job. All thanks to CRS and also to Alex.”

Jim Geddie took an equally well deserved second place in the 458 to give CRS Racing its first 1-2 in the championship for almost three years. “All credit to the CRS team for their hard work,” said Glynn Geddie. “Obviously, taking the lead of the championship has turned this into a great weekend for us.”

“We weren’t happy this morning,” added Jim. “Things went wrong, we made a few mistakes, but we’re delighted with this afternoon.”

Duncan Cameron hung on to third in the MTECH car as Lyons completed an all-Ferrari 458 top four. “It’s amazing how being in P4 and seeing P3 right ahead of you makes you put your foot down!” laughed Cameron.

The cars that had done so well in the wet fared less well in the dry conditions. Adam and Howard finished 10th in the Beechdean Aston, not helped by their additional 15 seconds pit penalty; the Preci-Spark Mercedes finished seventh; but Hector Lester enjoyed himself in the Rosso Verde Ferrari, passing several cars on his way to eighth in what could potentially be the final outing for the #3 Scuderia.

Neither Ginetta G55 completed the race - the #28 Century car suffering mechanical problems on the opening lap, and the #25 Stark Racing car retiring later in the race.

The GT4 battle changed markedly in the second half of the race. The previously leading #48 Evora pulled off the track at Tarzan after 26 laps, which left David McDonald clear in the #50 Scuderia Vittoria G50. The Century Ginetta’s double penalty allowed Peter Belshaw to hang on to second in the X-Bow and keep his championship lead.

The British GT Championship is sponsored by UK tyre manufacturer Avon Tyres and is further supported by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and OAMPS.

Avon Tyres British GT ChampionshipProvisional results, Round 7Rockingham 4/9/201136 laps/69.84 miles

GT3, GT3B & overall1  Beechdean Aston Martin  Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam  1h 1m 35.928s2  Preci-Spark Mercedes  David Jones/Godfrey Jones  +41.965s3  Trackspeed Porsche  David Ashburn/Phil Keen  +58.425s4  Century Motorsport Ginetta  Jody Firth/Stefan Hodgetts  +1m 11.225s5  MTECH Ferrari  John Dhillon/Aaron Scott  +1m 28.880s6  Rosso Verde Ferrari  Hector Lester/Allan Simonsen (DEN)  +1m 36.514s etc

GT41  Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta  Dan Denis/David McDonald  35 laps2  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Leyton Clarke/Freddy Nordstrom  34 laps3  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Ollie Jackson/Phil Glew  34 laps4  Century Motorsport Ginetta  Josh Wakefield/Jake Rattenbury  34 laps5  ABG Motorsport KTM  Peter Belshaw/Marcus Clutton  29 laps

Fastest lap Simonsen 1m 36.769s / 72.17mph

Provisional results, Round 8Rockingham 4/9/201143 laps/83.42 miles

GT3 & overall1  CRS Racing Ferrari  Andrew Tate/Alex Mortimer  1h 1m 02.070s2  CRS Racing Ferrari  Jim Geddie/Glynn Geddie  +3.866s3  MTECH Ferrari  Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin (IRL)  +5.187s4  Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari  Michael Lyons/Charles Bateman  +6.028s5  United Autosports Audi  Mike Guasch (USA)/Matt Bell  +6.333s6  Trackspeed Porsche  David Ashburn/Phil Keen  +11.508s etc

GT3B1  MTECH Ferrari  John Dhillon/Aaron Scott  41 laps

GT41  Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta  Dan Denis/David McDonald  41 laps2  ABG Motorsport KTM  Peter Belshaw/Marcus Clutton  41 laps3  Century Motorsport Ginetta  Josh Wakefield/Jake Rattenbury  41 laps4  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Leyton Clarke/Freddy Nordstrom  40 laps5  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Ollie Jackson/Phil Glew  26 laps

Fastest lap Mortimer 1m 21.433s / 85.76mph

Provisional championship standingsGT3 & overall=1 Geddie/Geddie 106.5 points; =3 Guasch/Bell 101.5; =5 Cameron/Griffin 91; 7 Ashburn; =8 Jones/Jones 83 etcGT3B=1 Dhillon/Scott 118.75 etcGT4=1 Belshaw/Clutton 156; =3 Nordstrom/Clarke 137; =5 Denis/McDonald 123.5 etc

Next rounds 24/25 September, Donington Park