MORE POSITIVE WEEKEND FOR THE TEAM AS THEY CHALLENGE FOR TOP POSITIONS
Glorious weather heralded the start of the fourth round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, held at Snetterton. Hope of a stronger performance was instilled in the team, after a break in the balance of performance following Silverstone, meant the engine restrictor had been altered, as well as 5kg taken off the car. Furthermore, a change in number for the #33 car of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen saw them running as #63. After 10 years of running as #33, and after the recent poor luck for them, Minshaw felt the time was right for the change.It seems as if the number change did indeed have it's intended purpose, with the #63 car taking both a P1 and P4 finish. Meanwhile an almost certain P3 finish was lost after a mechanical failure forced the number #12 car to retire. A P11 finish after a tough start in P19 was a more positive result for Firth and Hughes.
The first practice session was all about testing the limits for the #12 drivers with both Hughes and Firth spinning during their runs. Luckily, the spins were minor and they were able to continue, ending the session in P14.
Free Practice 2 was uneventful as a number of pit stops throughout the session meant both drivers were unable to get into a rhythm, ultimately finishing the session P17.
Firth almost immediately began to set the fastest overall times in sectors 1 and 2 during qualifying, which put the car into P4. A P1 would have been attainable had he not been forced to back off in the final sector. Firth later managed to better this time, putting the #12 in P2 however, a strong lap by #79 Attard dropped him down to a final placing of P3.
Hughes suffered poor luck during his qualifying session as a mixture of traffic and a red flag caused him to miss the brief window of optimum tyre performance. Due to this, Hughes only managed to attain P19.
Firth managed to quickly get himself into second place early on in Race 1. Teammate, Minshaw, was battling behind with Lathouras for third place, allowing Firth to build a large gap and run in some clean air.The pit stop saw Hughes rejoin the race in P5, which changed quickly to P3 when a couple of cars in front made their pit stops. Once again, the gap both in front, and behind the #12 car was big, allowing Hughes to run under less pressure. What should have been a third place finish, was taken away only 10-minutes from the end of the race by a mechanical failure on the rear of the car forcing them to retire.
RACE 2The race began well for Hughes who managed to move his way into P13 throughout the first lap. An incident involving three cars heralded a red flag however, and meant the field had to restart in their original grid positions. This, combined with a re-start behind the safety car, hindered the race for the #12 car. Despite that, Hughes still fought valiantly and entered the pits in P15. Firth took over and managed to move his way through the field after a long bumper to bumper battle with Sir Chris Hoy. Firth would ultimately bring the car home to finish in P11, eight places ahead of where they qualified.
Jody Firth #12:
“Certainly the Balance of Performance has brought us into the mix which was what we were all hoping for. I qualified third for my session, which I was relatively happy about; I probably could have got second. I started in third and managed to get myself up to second, but after the pit stop we rejoined in third. Unfortunately a component failed and that was the end of our race, which was a huge disappointment as it was our chance for the some really good points. That is motor racing though. We made a lot of changes to the car for Race 2 because of where we were starting and we weren’t happy with how the car handled in the first race. In the first start, Warren did a great job and advanced 6 places but the race was red flagged and started again under the safety car so it wasn’t easy. We pitted in 16th, and when I rejoined, Chris Hoy, rejoined in front of me. The Nissan is so fast in a straight line so it’s difficult to get close and attack so I was held up hugely with Chris defending very well. I eventually got past him and managed to finish 11th, just out of the points. It’s a much, much better weekend but still frustrating as we’ve come away with no points again. On to one of my favourite tracks next, Spa, so I’m really looking forward to that.”Warren Hughes #12:“It was an encouraging weekend in some respects. We are in the mix a little bit more now, especially with these one-hour races. With Jody’s pace against the amateur drivers it really brought us into play for the qualifying and first race. Jody did a really good job to stay right up there and it was a close top-3. I’m very, very disappointed for everybody that we had a mechanical problem. I think third, although it would have been close, I would have defended as well as I could and I think we could have kept the place. It would have been a nice boost for everybody. We had a difficult second race; we made good progress on the first start of the race and made it up to thirteenth but the red flag meant we had to start again from the original grid positions. It was hard to make progress after that. We are trying things on the car all the time, session-by-session, race-by-race, and they don’t always work, so for that race we lost out. However a P11 finish after starting P19 is a positive so we have to be happy with that.” Car 63 - J.Minshaw & P.Keen
Qualifying: Minshaw: P5 Keen: P8Race 1: P1 Race 2: P4
Minshaw was the first driver out in the newly numbered #63 car for Free Practice 1, putting it up into P15 almost straight away. Minshaw remained in the car for most of the first half before Keen eventually took over near the 30-minute mark. After 10 minutes in the car, a blinder of a lap saw #63 jump up into P3, and ultimately finish the session in P5.Free Practice 2 was another strong showing for the #63 car with a P1 time set by Keen only five minutes into the session, putting him half a second clear of the car behind. A number of stops saw this position drop to P8, before Keen pushed back to P6. Minshaw further bettered this to P5 with 20 minutes left on the clock. Five minutes prior to the chequered flag the field began setting their fast laps leaving the #63 down in P14 before Keen, yet again, set an astonishing lap in the very last minute, putting the car back up into P5.The qualifying session for the first race saw Minshaw putting the car into P3, behind teammate Firth. He was able to maintain this position until the last lap, which saw him move down to P5.Keen’s qualifying session for race 2 was not as dominant as Minshaw’s, however, he was able to immediately put the #63 into P2. A red flag affected the latter part of the session and Keen was unable to find the rhythm again, therefore qualifying in P8.
After starting fifth, Minshaw managed to gain a position where he began a battle for a further place with #29 Ferrari driver, Pasin Lathouras. Minshaw was consistently closing the gap before he was able to make the move on lap 6, putting himself up into P3 behind teammate Firth in the #12. A mere lap after overtaking Lathouras, he had already pushed the gap to 1.9 seconds, which served only to prove how much pace Minshaw had. This pace was further cemented with a fastest lap time.Keen took over the car during the pit window and rejoined the race in 3rd place, however it was not long before the two cars in front pitted, leaving Keen in the lead with 25 minutes remaining. The remainder of the race was a tense battle between Keen and #79 Jonny Cocker who fought hard to take the place from Keen, but ultimately lost out as the #63 car crossed the line in P1.
RACE 2A red flag very early on in the race caused a lengthy delay, and the race to be re-started behind the safety car. Starting in these conditions meant Keen was not able to gain many places initially, but with 30-minutes remaining he had managed to fight his way up into 7th position.A spirited drive from Minshaw saw him fight his way through the pack, even passing Iain Dockerill in the Audi R8 and Lee Mowle in the BMW in one, skillful move. Despite a 15-second time penalty applied, given after winning the previous race, Minshaw took the car to the finish in an impressive fourth place.
Phil Keen #63:“Winning the first race was great! Jon drove really well and I can’t fault him. He drove brilliantly. I had to hold off Jonny Cocker, which wasn’t easy but I managed to do it. I’m really happy with that result and it feels great to be on the top step of the podium. Looking forward to Spa now“
Keith Cheetham - Team Manager“We’ve been given a break with the Balance of Performance which is overdue, and I think it’s fair. It has brought us into the pack; I think the Aston’s and the BMW’s are still slightly quicker, but it means we can have a half decent race and challenge for podiums and race wins. Both cars had a really good first race. It should have been a P1 and P3 for the team, so it is a shame that the #12 had a mechanical problem on the rear and had to retire, otherwise that would have been a really good team effort and result. We changed a few things for the second race with the #12 car and it didn’t really work so we were just outside the points. In the #63 car, Jon had an absolutely mega drive for his stint in the last 20 minutes and managed to get the car up to fourth. Jon and Phil probably managed to take away the most points from anyone this weekend, so it was a good all around job from the team this weekend. We are all moving forward now and it can only get better from here.”
The team is greatly looking forward to the next round at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, and will undergo testing there next weekend. With the new found pace in the Porsches, Trackspeed is confident of being able to push for top positions.NEXT ROUND
SPA FRANCORCHAMPSBELGIUM11 - 12 JULY 2014