RJN Nissan clinches closest ever British GT finish

RJN Motorsports Jann Mardenborough and Alex Buncombe gave the Nissan GT-R GT3 its first competitive victory t at Brands Hatch by just two hundredths of a second from Beechdean Motorsport's Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam in the V12 Vantage GT3. In the ever-exciting GT4 class, Team WFR’s Jody Fannin and Warren Hughes used a cautious approach to win the class, avoiding first lap chaos and beating pole sitters APO Sport's James May and Alex Osborne to take a fifth win in 2012.

A thrilling final set of laps saw Mardenborough take his maiden competitive race victory and he and team-mate Buncombe become the sixth different winner in as many British GT races by the narrowest of margins from a unrelenting Adam and Oliver Bryant’s Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3. The previous closest margin was in 2008 when Paddy Shovlin and Michael Cullen won the first race of the 2008 season at Oulton Park by under a half a second from Adam Wilcox and Phil Burton.

As is now seemingly customary, a brief shower of rain fell on the grid of twenty-fivecars before the five-minute board was shown, and once on the green flag lap, another was deemed necessary by the race director who was unhappy with the formation of the rolling grid.

Pole-man Steve Parish (Motorbase) led Duncan Cameron (MTECH Ferrari 458) and Howard into Paddock Hill bend for the first time with his Porsche 997 GT3 R avoiding the trouble behind; Scuderia Vittoria’s John Dhillon was spun around as was APO Sport’s Alex Osborne, but both the Ferrari and Ginetta drivers re-joined the race, albeit adrift of the leading pack.

As Parish completed the first lap he had a lead of just under half a second from Cameron, with Daniele Perfetti in the sister Motorbase Porsche now third. Big movers on lap one were Buncombe in the Nissan GT-R (4th from 10th on the grid), United Autosport’s Charles Bateman (8th from 13th), and Team WFR’s Riki Christodoulou (15th from 24th). Howard’s Aston Martin and Hector Lester’s Rosso Verde Ferrari lost places, while the Predator CCTV Ferrari pitted with significant front-end damage.

By lap three the drizzle was beginning to disappear and Buncombe was now leading from Motorbase pair Parish and Perfetti. In GT4, Jota Sport’s Mazda MX-5 had the lead of the class from the Ginetta G50s of Warren Hughes and the recovering Osborne.

Championship leader heading into round four was MTECH’s Cameron; the Ferrari driver was struggling though and was soon passed by Luke Hines (Optimum Ginetta G55); Cameron then spun, dropping down the order to nineteenth place. Stark Racing by Hepworth’s Jake Rattenbury posted the fastest lap a 1:34.515, three seconds a lap quicker than anyone else at that time.

Buncombe had extended his lead at the front to nearly seven seconds, finally breaking away from Parish. His new challenge however came in the form of Hines’ Ginetta, now past the two Motorbase Porsches and lapping quicker than the Nissan driver.

Elsewhere David Jones’ Mercedes AMG SLS was now fourth and Bateman’s Audi was up to sixth. Howard’s Aston was beginning to move up the field and JMH’s Nissan GT-R piloted by Benji Hetherington was in the top five after starting seventeenth on the grid. Osborne now led the way in GT4 after overcoming first the Mazda of Ticehurst and then Hughes’ Ginetta.

This, the second two-hour race of the 2012 season didn’t lack drama. An incident between Lester and Cameron caused a fluid spill at Paddock Hill bend and the leading pack all ran wide into the gravel; Cameron would retire from this incident with a ruptured radiator, Lester would drop places following a subsequent puncture. At the sharp-end Buncombe’s lead was down to half a second from Hines.

A brief safety car period to clear debris bunched the field together and allowed a number of cars to regroup with the field following spins or sluggish starts. Shortly after the race resumed, the Lotus Evora GT4 of Sailesh Bolisetti retired with damaged front suspension, the Indian driver struggling to match the pace of his GT4 rivals on the 2.43 GP circuit. Rattenbury dropped to eighteenth with a puncture, while Christodoulou received a drive-through penalty for a yellow flag infringement.

JMH’s Nissan GT-R had been flying with Hetherington at the wheel, and the 2011 Porsche Carrera Cup GB scholar was closing in on Bateman’s Audi R8 LMS Ultra when he rode a wet kerb at Stirlings and slammed hard into the barrier. Hetherington escaped okay, but the Nissan was heavily damaged as was the barrier he hit; cue another safety car period.

Similarly to Rockingham, the safety car went off track just as the pit window opened at the fifty minute mark. First in was Dhillon in the Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari from eighteenth place, a steady stream followed, but both Buncombe and Hines remained on track. Bryant now in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW began to fly, setting times in the mid 1:27 range.

Hines pitted first, Buncombe soon followed, and the GT4 class front-runners Osborne and Ticehurst were promoted to the lead of the overall race. Bryant’s handy work had elevated the BMW driver to second place, six seconds off Mardenborough (in for Buncombe). With the pit window now closed, several team receives penalties for mis-timed stops, not least Century Motorsport who for the second race in succession released their Ginetta G50 too soon.

Winners in the previous round, Joe Osborne and Steve Tandy (Trackspeed) were forced to retire on lap 44 with damage to the Porsche’s exhaust system caused from an earlier incident. The pair were soon joined by Speedworks’ Corvette Z06r which had a propshaft failure and Stark Racing by Hepworth’s Ginetta which suffered an alternator-related issue. Penalties for pit stop infringements caused Stephen Jelley (Motorbase Porsche) and Matt Bell (United Autosports Audi) to pit once more, while Trackspeed’s Tim Harvey pitted with a puncture. At the front, Mardenborough’s lead was now down to under two seconds.

Another driver thriving was Scuderia Vittoria’s Aaron Scott who was up to sixth ahead of Allan Simonsen in the Rosso Verde Ferrari. Scott, having earlier fought heroically against Murrell’s Optimum Ginetta and Nicolas Armindo’s Trackspeed Porsche, would keep Simonsen behind him to the flag, holding sixth and seventh respectively. Behind them Jelley, Harvey and Jones would hold station and complete the GT3 top ten.

While Armindo and Murrels fought it out for fourth and fifth, Adam was now within ten seconds of the top-two, with just fifteen minutes left on the clock. It was now that Adam set the fastest lap of the race, a 1:27.200.

Laps later, Bryant closed to just over a second and a half from Mardenborough, and Adam was now just 2.6 seconds off the BMW. Qualifying had been close and the race was looking like it could all go down to the final lap as Adam pushed on further.

Fannin now had the GT4 class lead after waiting patiently and reeling in the APO SportGinetta of Hove-based James May, but wasted no time in extending his lead over his G50 rival. Owen Mildenhall was now a comfortable third in the Mazda, a lap ahead of Barwell Motorsport’s Ben De Zille Butler.

On the penultimate lap, the Mazda played a crucial part in the story of the race as the leaders came to lap the Jota Sport car. Mardenborough made light work of the MX-5, but Bryant got baulked and Adam rocketed past the BMW and began its final lap just 0.9 seconds off the lead.

In the pit lane a crowd gathered, nobody sure who would win. The Nissan driver emerged first from under the bridge into Clearways with the Aston tucked behind his GT-R’s bumper.  Adam made his move on the start of the pit straight and the pair raced to the flag side-by-side; Mardenborough would be victorious by twenty two thousandths of a second and provide the 2012 championship with it’s sixth different winner in as many races.

Bryant took a well-earned third place and celebrations began in the Nissan pit with great gusto. Post race it emerged that Mardenborough’s first win would fall precisely a year to the day that he had won Nissan’s GT Academy competition, the catalyst for his very being here at Brands Hatch. 

Fannin took his and co-driver Hughes’ fifth victory in 2012, extending their GT4 championship lead over Zoe Wenham to 52.5 points, Wenham and co-driver Dominic Evans finished fifth in class at Brands Hatch. APO Sport’s hard fought second place gives May and Osborne a welcome 22.5 points and Jota Sport’s Mildenhall and Ticehurst move up to sixth in the points table with the first-ever British GT podium for Mazda.

The Mobil Service Centre Master of the Weekend was awarded to James May for his spirited efforts to hold off Fannin on a circuit he hadn’t driven on until the first practice session on Saturday.

The next round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship is in early August (4th and 5th) at Snetterton in Norfolk where the championship will contest its final 2 x 60 minutes format races of the year before the three-hour spectacular at Silverstone (8th and 9th September).


Alex Buncombe, RJN Motorsport (1st in GT3):“Ultimately that was mega! It was very unfortunate that we had the safety car issue again after the lead I managed to build; it’s a real shame that happened as I wanted to give Jann the biggest gap possible. But we didn’t just have one safety car, we had two! After the second I got my head down, doing quali laps in the 1:27s on old tyre, which was good as we were doing 1:28s in practice; the car is just really good now. The team did a great job this weekend, the stop was faultless and Jann did brilliantly to hold off the Aston there at the finish.”

Jann Mardenborough, RJN Motorsport (1st in GT3):“This is so weird. This time last year, 365 days to this day, I won GT Academy; so its mega to get my win here today. The guys did a great job with setup, we struggled in first practice one with oversteer over the bumps and Alex and I sat down with the team and worked out what we need to do. Our car isn’t the quickest over a lap, but we set it up to give us the best race pace we could achieve and that proved right!”

Jonny Adam, Beechdean Motorsport (2nd in GT3)“On the radio it was like a second, a second and a half per lap and then when I saw the Nissan and the BMW I thought well there’s not enough laps, but I kept pushing on through. It was like qualifying out there for me, lap after lap just on it. Near the end the Nissan had a moment on the last corner and I thought I had a chance, but it was just so close.  I thought we had it, but another 100 yards and we would’ve been there. The car was so good, the guys have done a great job to make it as quick as they have this weekend.”

Andrew Howard, Beechdean Motorsport (2nd in GT3):“The opening laps were just carnage. We seem to be fated this year in British GT with rain on the grid; but it’s all a learning curve. The championship is so competitive with such good drivers that you have to be on it immediately. It was a fantastic job from the team to rebuild that car in four days, it was fresh out the box yesterday. What an experience, what a race to watch, I mean, it wasbrilliant to watch from the pit wall. For me, I knew Jonny could get there, and when he started chipping away at the times, it was just incredible. We need to go one step higher at Snetterton and I’ll have a chat with Jonny afterwards… losing by two foot isn’t the way forwards. We know we’re not in the championship race, so everything else this year is about developing the car and taking race wins.”

Olly Bryant, Ecurie Ecosse (3rd in GT3):“We were lucky with the safety cars, it was tricky for us to overtake as we’re about 5-6 miles per hour slower down the straights which means you have to overtake under braking; if they shut you off onto a straight you have to wait for the next lap to get them. Alasdair’s learning about getting through traffic, but did great. We saved a set of tyres from quali and in hindsight with only a tenth separating 12th to 4th on the grid, we could’ve used those tyres to get a better starting position. However, I think the benefit of having the tyres in the race certainly helped us catch the Nissan after the pit stops. Jann did a good job out there, especially when the rain fell on the back of the circuit.”

AlasdairMcCaig, Ecurie Ecosse (3rd in GT3):

“It was very hectic at the start and there was a lot of contact between the cars, it wasjust a case of keeping my head down and picking cars off where I could. It wasn’t easy as we’re lacking straight-line speed, but we came in to pit in fifth which was good and Olly did a great job and was unlucky to get pipped by the Aston at the end.”

Race Six - Top Ten Results:GT31. Jann Mardenborough/Alex Buncombe RJN Motorsports Nissan GT-R 74 laps / 2:01:14.098 / 89.11 mph2. Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam Beechdean Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage +0.0223. Alasdair McCaig/Oliver Bryant Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 +2.1634. David Ashburn/Nicolas Armindo Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R +19.5225. Luke Hines/George Murrells Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 +3.9376. John Dhillon/Aaron Scott Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari 458 +0.1897. Hector Lester/Allan Simonsen Rosso Verde Ferrari 458  +9.4288. Steve Parish/Stephen Jelley Motorbase Porsche 997 GT3 R +35.5479. Jon Minshaw/Tim Harvey Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R +3.51710. Godfrey/David Jones Preci-Spark Mercedes AMG SLS +13.358

GT41.Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes Team WFR Ginetta G50 70 laps / 2:01:34.657 / 84.06 mph2.James May/Alex Osborne APO Sport UK Ginetta G50 +20.6973. Mark Ticehurst/Owen Mildenhall Jota Sport Mazda MX-5 GT4 +1 lap4. Peter Erceg/Ben De Zille Butler Barwell Motorsport Ginetta G50 +1 lap5. Zoe Wenham/Dom Evans Century Motorsport Ginetta G50 +1 lap

Full results: http://bit.ly/Mi5y42

Championship points after six races:GT31. David Ashburn Trackspeed 96.5pts2. Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin MTECH 88pts3. Jann Mardenborough/Alex Buncombe RJN Motorsport 87.5pts4. Alasdair McCaig/Oliver Bryant Ecurie Ecosse 69.5pts5. Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam Beechdean 60pts6. Hector Lester/Allan Simonsen Rosso Verde 58pts7. Richard Westbrook Trackspeed 56pts8. Danielle Perfetti/Michael Caine Motorbase 53pts9. Steve Tandy/Joe Osborne Trackspeed 43.5pts10. Jon Minshaw/Tim Harvey Trackspeed 35pts

GT41. Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes Team WFR 150pts2. Zoe Wenham Century Motorsport 97.5pts3. Sailesh Bolisetti/Phil Glew Lotus Sport UK 71pts4. Dominic Evans Century Motorsport 70.5pts