British GT: Mixed bag of results for Triple Eight Race Engineering

Fortunes flip, as #88 takes podium and battling top five finish

The fourth weekend of the 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship again yielded a mixed bag of results for the Triple Eight Race Engineering squad, but fortunes were reversed and it was Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne that scored the points, while Derek Johnston and Luke Hines were excluded from the first race after crossing the line third, then punted out of the second race.Saturday brought sunshine to Norfolk, but qualifying provided little cheer for Derek and Lee, as both cars struggled for track position amidst a busy fifteen-minute session. Lee’s first ‘hot’ lap (1:53.009) was his fastest and he took eleventh, while Derek did manage to get some fresh air, albeit after his tyres had gone off, improving to a 1:52.694, still 1.5s off pole. Neither time was an accurate reflection of either their or the team’s capabilities on the 2.99 mile Anglian circuit. Post qualifying, Derek quipped, “I’m a racer, not a qualifier,” and both drivers were confident of scything through the field on Sunday.In the PRO session, Joe out-qualified the BMW Z4 GT3 of the rival Barwell squad to start third (1:49.636), his best qualifying performance of the year, despite having his opening qualifying runs hindered by GT4 cars. With such a narrow window of optimum performance in the Avon Tyres, the fact Joe set his best time on his fifth attempt left the Olney-based driver feeling pole-position could’ve been his had it not been for the crude driving of a GT4 competitor. Similarly, Luke was impeded by rivals on his qualifying run and finished a lowly twelfth (1:50.057).Sunday was again sensationally hot, providing optimum conditions for the first race of the day, which took place late-morning. Lee and Derek battled through the order, with the former GT-Cup Champion up to fifth and past the reigning British GT Champion Andrew Howard by lap ten of the 32-lap race. What at the time was believed to be a relatively innocuous incident between Derek and AF Corse’s Pasin Lathouras would become more significant after the race; the Geordie ace continued his relentless charge and assumed the lead of the race five laps later during the pit window.Lee’s march up the order was aided by contact further afield, but the pace of the South Lopham resident ensured he made headway off his own accord too, and pitted from seventh to hand over to Joe. Once Derek had pitted for his mandatory stop, Luke took over the reigns of #888 and rejoined in fourth with sixteen laps left to run. Ten laps later he overcame Warren Hughes for third, the Trackspeed Porsche had lost pace with a suspension issue. Three seconds behind Luke was Joe, up from seventh and now past the wide Aston Martin of Richard Abra. Driving the newly re-numbered #88 Z4, Joe closed the gap to Luke in four laps, posting the fastest lap of the race in the process and the pair crossed the line with a few tenths between them, providing Triple Eight with the first double-points score of the 2014 season.After a late-decision after the Rockingham round where Luke and Derek were promoted to third post-race, the pair hadn’t yet stepped foot on the podium together, but Snetterton provided that opportunity, only for a similar fate to befall them, excluding them from the race due to the contact with the Ferrari and docking them of 12 championship points to boot. This promoted Lee and Joe to third, giving the ‘lucky’ duo a 15-point haul.The second race of the weekend had the potential to yield yet another podium for #88 with Joe starting from row two. However a violent impact for Luke while passing Andy Schulz’s Aston Martin at first corner Riches, courtesy of the Aston Martin of John Gaw ensured all bets were off. Amazingly all three drivers escaped unharmed, the same couldn’t be said for the cars.The race was understandably red flagged and following a lengthy delay, an unusual restart procedure behind the safety car in single file (to prevent a similar incident when the race got underway), meant the field was spread out and overtaking opportunities were limited. Joe fought hard to close the gap to Adam Carroll’s Ferrari 458, but the FF Corse man held on into the pit stop window and Joe pitted a lap later from second.Lee re-joined the race in fifth, a result of a success penalty for coming third in race one, with United Autosports’ Iain Dockerill ahead in the Audi R8 LMS and Championship leader Marco Attard behind him. The trio battled hard but fair for eight laps, and while Attard got ahead, it was only for a brief two laps before the Scotsman made a mistake and allowed Lee to re-pass along with Jon Minshaw’s Trackspeed Porsche. The net result of the battling was Lee was fifth and post-race the local racer rued his attempted overtake on a GT4 Porsche, which led to Minshaw getting by.There was further cause for celebration for Lee. Post-race he was awarded the prestigious Blancpain Gentleman Driver Trophy and the 49-year-old duly took to the podium to collect his prize, a wall-mounted replica of a Blancpain watch.Following the exclusion in race one and the incident in race two, Derek and Luke leave Snetterton poorer than when they arrived, twelve points down with a 38.5 point total in ninth place. Up four places and now into the positive numbers, Joe and Lee have successfully overcome a nine-point deficit from the Rockingham round, with the #88 car sixteenth on sixteen points. Additionally Triple Eight are now fourth in the teams standings, just 29.5 points off Beechdean AMR which lead the standings.The series now packs up and heads across the channel in three weeks (11/12 June) for the annual visit to the continent. This year British GT will return to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Belgian Ardennes forest for another pair of 60-minute sprint races.QuotesJoe Osborne, Driver #88“If you’d said before the weekend that we’d leave with a third and fifth place finish, I’d have bitten your arm off given the season we’ve had so far. We were where we needed to be in free practice and built upon the good setup we had from last year where we got into the points. Qualifying, as in past seasons at Snetterton, brought home the pace differential between the GT4 and GT3 cars, and there were some wile characters doing their best to ruin others lap times, which is always well received in PRO-AM racing. It’s a shame that the sister BMW had such a miserable weekend, but overall it was a really strong team performance from Triple Eight; Spa in three weeks is a tasty prospect.”Lee Mowle, Driver #88“I’m chuffed to bits to win the Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend award. It’s been a difficult year, but hopefully we’ve turned a corner with our luck here this weekend. I changed my approach this weekend and feel a lot happier in the car as a result; just giving yourself time to get your focus before a race and not worry about team-related issues has taken a little adjustment. The team have worked tirelessly over the past two months repairing damage of the like we’d not seen in a whole season of racing the year before. Joe drove flawlessly this weekend and he is without doubt a star of the championship, it’s a pleasure to drive with him. I think it’s safe to say the rabbit’s foot and lucky heather will stay for Spa!”Luke Hines, Driver #888“It’s really annoying. I was so positive this morning and now we’re trying to fix the car. I was in the inside with Andy (Schulz), he was on the outside out of Murrays - we we’re having a great race together. Then going into Riches I was on the inside, he was on the outside and we were giving each other plenty of room. Obviously at Riches you slow it down in the middle to rotate the car; I was just slowing it down nicely and it looked like Andy was going to slip behind, then all of a sudden I had a huge impact on the right front. That was easily the biggest impact I’ve ever felt. It was like the car was going flat out into me. It’s a bit concerning because of the intensity of the impact. That could’ve been a lot worse if this was a right-hand drive BMW. The good thing is Andy is okay and our car will live to fight another day, but it was all just so unnecessary.”Ian Harrison, Team Principal“We showed good speed at Snetterton but the weekend as a whole was frustrating for us. The consistency, or rather the lack of it, in BGT when it comes to handing out penalties for offences on track, has cast a shadow over the weekend, and indeed the season as a whole. I am sure that while everyone expects and understands that penalties for driving offences are part and parcel of motorsport, consistency is paramount and it is something that I feel is woefully lacking at the moment.”

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