Trackspeed Racing, yet again, tasted victory in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, this time at the Circuit de Spa Francorchamps, in Belgium. A win in the first race for the #63 car of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen, was followed by an impressive fourth place drive for the #12 car of Jody Firth and Warren Hughes after starting 18th on the grid. This is the second round in a row that Trackspeed have graced the top step of the podium, and is a welcome relief to the team after a tough start to the year.
Car 12 – J.Firth & W.HughesQualifying: Race 1 – P8 | Race 2 – P18Race 1: DNF | Race 2: P4Hughes was first to sit in the drivers seat in the #12 Porsche during the first practice session. After putting in a string of strong times, consistently pushing the car to the limits and keeping within the top five, he handed the car over to Firth. Firth’s run in the car was hindered by a red flag, which prematurely ended the session with the #12 Porsche lying in P15.
Throughout the second practice session, Hughes once again pushed, managing to keep the car, once more, near the top five. Unfortunately for Firth, another red flag interrupted the session. Despite this, the session ended with the #12 P11.
Despite the 75kg of driver ballast the #12 car must carry, the first qualifying session saw Firth keeping pace with the front-runners, including teammate, Minshaw, in the #63 car. There was to be one more red flag to disturb those on track and Firth ultimately qualified P8. In the ‘Pro’ qualifying session, Hughes managed to qualify the car in the vacinity of the main pack, in P18, only 2.6 seconds off Sims in P1 and 1.9 seconds off Keen in the sister Trackspeed car, regardless of the weight penalty.
RACE 1The start of the race saw a rapidly drying track, after an overnight downpour. Last-minute tyre choice decisions on the grid (the changing of which is required to be carried out in the pits) meant the starting positions for the race were altered. After taking the decision to move to slicks, Firth would be required to start from the pit lane. This meant he initially started the race much further back than he had qualified, but was able to make a good start,moving from P14 up to P6 in a relatively short amount of time. Unfortunately, this impressive start was the peak of the race for #12; contact from another car as Firth entered the pits caused damage to the front end and consequently the radiator of the Porsche. As a result, Firth had to retire the car out on track.
RACE 2Hughes managed to take great advantage of the start of race 2, moving up from P18 to P16 straight away, and shortly after, a further place to 15th. A lengthy safety car period slowed proceedings until the pit window opened: with half the field pitting, Hughes opted to stay out, moving him up to P10 on the restart. However, it wouldn’t be long before the safety car would be called out for a second incident and this period gave Hughes the opportunity to pit, and swap with Firth, who rejoined the race still in P10. With seven minutes on the clock, and the safety car finally called in, Firth began his hunt for positions. He was a man on a mission as he swiftly made his way through the pack; with one minute left he found himself P5. A last corner move on Lee Mowle in the BMW saw Firth take one final position to end the race in a well deserved P4.
Jody Firth #12:“It was a mixed fortunes weekend for Warren and I. I was slightly disappointed with my personal performance on Friday which only resulted in me qualifying 8th. However that would still be good enough to keep us in touch with the front of the field. Spa still had its usual part to play with the weather and mixed conditions at the start of race 1. We elected to make a change from wets to slicks on the way to the grid but this meant a start from the pit lane. We pretty much started in the last third of the entire field. However I made my way up to 6th in the first 25 minutes. As we pitted we were hit by another car and we were forced to retire the car. Race 2 was a different story with Warren making progress during his opening stint and keeping us in touch of the top ten. He pitted just as a second safety car came out, I rejoined in tenth still under safety car, which lasted a long time, only leaving a short three lap sprint to the flag. In those three laps I was able to pass six cars, including the fifth placed BMW just over the line by less than a tenth of a second! It was a fabulous scrap to the flag of which I thoroughly enjoyed! Finishing fourth is the first time we have been able to show what we are capable of. Terrible bad luck so far has dented what could have been a promising season.”
Warren Hughes #12:“I felt we had reasonable pace throughout practice, so I was disappointed with our qualifying. We made some changes, however, for the races, which helped us to fight through. I managed to stay with the main pack, although I was struggling with rear tyre pressures, which were very high. After the pit stops we came out in 10th place but the safety car was out for ages. I was frustrated watching because I thought Jody would be able to make good progress once the race went green. Despite not having many laps he did a great job, and took fourth place coming out of the last corner. It’s great to get a good result at such a brilliant circuit.”
Car 63 – J.Minshaw & P.KeenQualifying: Race 1 – P6 | Race 2 – P5Race 1: P1 | Race 2: DNF
The teams were met with damp, foggy conditions for the first practice session of the weekend. Minshaw set a strong time initially, making him the fastest man on track for a period of time. Keen was up next, however, he was hindered by a lengthy red flag period. Despite the lack of running he set the second fastest time and while pushing for the top spot, he suffered a rear tyre delamination. The failure caused significant bodywork damage to the #63 car, but was swiftly repaired in preparation for Free Practice 2. However, the second practice session would be once again hindered by a red flag, leaving #63 down in P17 with no opportunity for improvement.
Minshaw was first to qualify, and consistently put in fast times, keeping the car in the top five for the majority of the session. Yet again a red flag disrupted the session, ending part one of qualifying early and leaving the #63 car P6. Keen was able to avoid red flags throughout his qualifying session, and managed to replicate Minshaw’s strong performance by qualifying P5 for race two.
RACE 1It was a confusing start to the race, with mixed weather conditions hampering tyre decision. During the green flag laps, most teams opted to change onto the slick tyres, but doing so meant they had to enter and start the race from the pits. A swift change of tyres for the #63 car meant that Minshaw would sit at the front of the queue in preparation for starting the race. While Minshaw started further back than he initially should have, a fantastic opening drive saw him make up a handful of places and he soon found himself P2, running a second a lap quicker than the race leader.Keen took over for the second half, and likewise, was setting faster times than the leader. Over the remaining 20 minutes of the race, Keen efficiently narrowed the gap between himself and the race leader and, with eight minutes to go, Keen made the move and grabbed first place, taking a well-deserved victory.
RACE 2Race two unfortunately did not see similar results to the first. Keen initially found himself caught up in the pack on the first lap, forcing him to go wide and dropping him to P9. Relentless battling took place over the ensuing laps, with regular position swapping up and down the field until a safety car was introduced to allow track marshalls to clear an incident out on the circuit. Moments before the pit window opened, the safety car was called in and the race resumed. During this period, Keen received contact from another car, which would cause more damage than would be initially seen. After pitting the car, and swapping with Minshaw, the latter was forced to retire with broken suspension.
Phil Keen #63:“Overall it was a good weekend; Jon is driving really well at the moment. It is always nice to win at Spa and, of course, to collect the points to go with it! I want to say a quick thank you to Keith and the Trackspeed team, who did a great job as always.“
Keith Cheetham – Team Manager“After the team tested a couple of weeks before the race weekend, we felt confident that we had a good set-up and had a real chance of some good results. The race one drive from Jon was a mega one to put us 2nd before the pit stops, and then it was an amazing drive from Phil to catch the leader and then pass for the win. In the second race, again, Jody had mega spirit at the end, just missing out on 3rd place; all this from 18th on the grid. So a really hard fought race from both Warren and Jody to leave for Brands on a high.”The first of the final two remaining rounds of the British GT Championship will take place at Brands Hatch. Trackspeed will look to continue the strong results seen at Spa.The penultimate round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, visits Brands Hatch, on the 30th and 31st of August.