Reigning British GT Drivers Champion Jonny Adam brought home the #17 TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage to win an incident-packed opening round of the 2016 British GT season at Brands Hatch.
Ginetta-stalwarts PMW Expo/Optimum took the GT4 class win with the #50 G55 GT4 driven by Mike Robinson, who brought the car home, and Graham Johnson.
On a day that enjoyed warmer and drier weather than that experienced for qualifying, Rick Parfitt Jnr. led the field from pole position in the #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3. Parfitt drove a controlled first stint which saw him come under pressure from the #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan driven by Jon Minshaw. Minshaw’s challenge faded 14 minutes into the race, however, when the car was retired due to suspension failure due to an earlier contact, much to the driver’s disgust.
Parfitt then appeared to have the race under control with his closest challenger, the remaining #6 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 driven by Liam Griffin, 13 seconds behind.
However a Full Course Yellow with one hour 26 minutes remaining in the race changed everything. The caution was brought out because of an incident which caused considerable damage to safety barriers in Sector 2 involving the #66 Simpson Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 driven by Nick Jones, the #42 Generation AMR MacMillan Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 driven by Matthew Graham and the #8 Motorbase Performance Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driven by Phil Dryburgh.
Thankfully no drivers were injured but damage to circuit furniture meant that the race remained under caution for over 40 minutes. This took the race through the pit stop window where the issues occurred.
By the time Parfitt brought the #31 Bentley Continental GT3 in for the obligatory driver change, his lead had reduced to just over one second. Further delay in the pit lane meant that Seb Morris rejoined the race in fourth position. Parfitt let his feelings be known in his post-race interviews.
After the driver changes had cycled through, the #33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driven by Jonny Adam had the lead, a position he was not to relinquish when then race was finally halted due to a red flag with 20 minutes to go.
“Yes, I feel robbed, to be fair,” said Rick Parfitt Jnr in the post-race press conference. “The stint went well. The start went exactly as we wanted it to and I got my head down and kept the laps nice and tidy and I was able to build up a gap. Then it was all about maintaining it. I had target lap times. Then, of course, the Code 80 came into effect.”
“When the Code 80 started I had an over 10 second lead but by the time I pitted I had a one second sec lead. I think that needs to be looked into because it doesn’t work as far as I’m concerned because blatantly people were going faster. We absolutely weren’t. We have data to prove it so I think our lead was robbed and to add insult to injury the Maserati was parked at 45 degrees which didn’t enable us to get on to our fuel rig and they sat there with their door open.”
“So it was a catalogue of disasters,” continued Parfitt. “None of which were our fault. But I’ve got to draw positives. We came here looking for a top six so the fact that we got on the podium was absolutely amazing and the fact we brought a British marque back to a British championship and got pole position and dominated the first few minutes is a wonderful thing and it’s great to see Bentley back in British GT.”
Derek Johnston, who took them opening stint in the winning #17 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage, was clear where his team had found an advantage.
“We had a good start,” said Johnston. “The car was good. On the opening few laps it felt good on a heavy tank, the tyres were good (and) the brakes were good. We struggled with the brakes all weekend with the cold weather but I worked them hard on the out lap and they were really good and then half a dozen laps in I lost the rear end and it was really snatchy and on the ABS a lot. I thought I just need to hang on here.
“Five or six laps later the car came back to me and it felt really, really good,” continued Johnston. “By that time we were really pushing. I was the quickest on track at that time. The car was going great and then the accident happened and it’s all over, isn’t it. We were just chugging until the pit stops but we decided to stay out and run a bit longer and just see what happened. We just spun the dice and it worked in our favour.”
Jonny Adam was delighted with the win.
“When we came out of the pit lane it was a surprise because we decided to wait a little bit, make sure the pit lane was clear before we decided to pit and I think that worked really well, “ said Adam. “We got a nice clean pit stop. It’s nice to start the season with a good result for TF. We’ll just see how the season pans out.”
In GT4 the #73 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 driven by Anna Walewska was quickly overhauled at the start. Graham Johnson then established a lead in the #50 PMW Expo / Optimum Motorsport Ginetta which the maintained through to the end of the race.
Final Podium Positions:
1) #17 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driven by Jonny Adam and Derek Johnston.
2) #7 AmDTuning.com BMW Z4 GT3 driven by Joe Osbourne and Lee Mowle.
3) #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental by Rick Parfitt Jnr. and Seb Morris.
1) #50 PMW Expo / Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 driven by Graham Johnson and Nick Robinson.
2) #73 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 driven by Nathan Freke and Anna Walewska
3) #45 RCIB INSURANCE RACING Ginetta G55 GT4 driven by Jordan Stilp and William Phillips.