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British GT: Ten Memories From Ten Years. (Part Two) 15.12.19

In Part Two of this look-back at the past decade of some of the finest GT racing on the planet, we remember a driver who narrowly missed out on the drivers title not once, not twice but three times in as many years, a car that went on to dominate the GT3 class and a heart-stopping moment at Eau Rouge.

September 2018 – Jon Minshaw And Phil Keen So Close For Third Straight Season.

Being ‘runner-up’ is a title that Jon Minshaw would probably hate, being a highly driven and successful businessman and racing driver. However three seasons finishing second in the closely contested British GT Championship would be enough to test the patience of any sportsman.

Phil Keen (left and Jon Minshaw (right) – Donington – September 2018. (Photo: British GT Championship)

Partnered with Phil Keen in the Barwell Lamborghini Huracan GT3, the crew of the #33 entry finished runners up to Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam in 2016, Rick Parfitt and Seb Morris in 2017 and Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam in 2018.

Minshaw stepped back from domestic competition in 2019 and raced in historic events as well as selected endurance events. Minshaw also continued to lead his business, Demon Tweeks, a racing supplies business started by his father in 1973.

With more than a hint of unfinished business, we may not have seen the last of Jon Minshaw in British GT competition.

April 2012 – The Debut Of The Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3.

2012 saw the debut of the Aston Martin V12 Vantage, a car that would go on to dominate the decade, winning four drivers titles, double those of its closest rival manufacturer.

Gaydon’s finest would see its first track action in the domestic championship in 2012. Andrew Howard’s Beechdean Motorsport would take delivery of the first chassis with Cyber Racing-AMR also campaigning the #17 entry in the hands of John Gaw and Phil Dryburgh.

Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam’s TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 – Donington – September 2016. (Photo: British GT Championship / Jakob Ebrey)

The V12 Vantage GT3 would win its first title the following year, the #007 Beechdean Motorsport entry, piloted by Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard earning the team owner the GT3 drivers title by the slimmest of margins – 1.5 points ahead of Matt Bell and Mark Patterson in the #25 United Autosports Audi.

Three more drivers titles would be won behind the wheel of the V12 Vantage GT3. In 2015 Beechdean’s Howard and Adam would win again and the following year Adam would partner with Derek Johnston to win the title in the TF Sport entry.

The V12 Vantage would take its final bow at Donington in September 2018 when Jonny Adam and Flick Haigh took the title in the Optimum Motorsport entry.

In 2019 the V12 was superseded with a turbo-charged V8 in the form of the Vantage AMR GT3. Guess what – it won the title in its first season.

The moral of the story? Never bet against Aston Martin!   

July 2019 – Three-Wide Into Eau Rouge!

Picture the scene. It’s July 2019 and the British GT Championship grid has gathered for its overseas round at Spa-Francorchamps. As the two-hour race draws to a close, there is an epic battle taking place for second place between Glynn Geddie in the #7 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3, Rob Bell in the #22 Balfe Motorsport McLaren and Callum Macleod, piloting the #6 RAM Racing Mercedes.

Spa- Francorchamos – Eau Rouge – July 2019 (Photo: Screen Grab – British GT Championship)

As the trio descends into Eau Rouge side-by-side, Bell is on the inside at the bottom of the hill, Macleod on the outside and Geddie sandwiched between the two.

Bell takes a chunk of kerb before climbing up to Radillon and Macleod takes advantage of the inside line on the sweep up the hill to pull across and came out in leading the trio and in second place overall. It was a bold and gutsy move but none of the three drivers was giving up a centimetre.

It was Spa. It was summer. It was Eau Rouge. It was GT racing at its very best.   

July 2018 – Graham Davidson’s Debut Championship Win.

2018 was Graham Davidson’s first year in the British GT Championship and he campaigned an Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, co-driven by Maxime Martin. Jetstream Motorsport ran the car although Davidson played a large hand in the organisation of the season.

After a frustrating start to the year, Davidson approached the seventh round of the 2018 championship at Spa questioning where his racing career was going. Martin and Davidson put the #47 Aston Martin on the front row of the grid. The Scot dropped positions on the opening lap but then, in his own words, ‘had a right word with himself’ and started reeling in the field. By the driver change, Davidson was leading, handing over to Maxime Martin who brought the car home for the team’s first win of the season.

The #47 Jetsteam Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage takes the chequered flag to win at Spa – July 2018 (Photo: British GT Championship)

“It was what people had been saying all year – just keep it clean and you’ll be all right,” said Graham Davidson, reflecting on his win at the Brands Hatch round in August. “Do what Jon Minshaw does and keep it clean and you’ll collect points. So we did that and it paid off.”

Davidson and Martin finished the 2018 season seventh in the GT3 drivers championship. Davidson returned in 2019, joining Jonny Adam at TF Sport and won the drivers title in only his second year.

April 2010 – The Finale Of The Dodge Viper Competition Coupe GT3.

The start of the decade saw a car on the grid with the largest naturally aspirated engine ever seen in contemporary domestic competition.

The Dodge Viper Competition Coupe was entered for the 2010 season by RPM Motorsport and was powered by a Dodge 8.3L V10 that produced 520 bhp. Based on the Viper SRT-10, the #5 entry was driven by Aaron Scott and Craig Wilkins.

Photo: British GT Championship, with grateful thanks to Tom Hornsby

Scott and Wilkins did not have an untroubled season and would finish 23rd in the 2010 drivers standings.

The car, by all accounts, produced a sound unlike any other. We will never see its like in British GT competition again.

And as a bonus…Ebor GT’s Double Win At Spa.

York-based Ebor GT had entered the 2016 British GT Championship with its Maserati GT MC GT4, piloted by Abbie Eaton and Marcus Hoggarth, but had not enjoyed the best of seasons. The pace was in the car, no doubt, but it proved tricky to unlock and Eaton and Hoggarth finished fourth in the overall GT4 drivers standings and second in the Pro-Am table.

Although the car was tested and appeared at the Media Day for the start of the 2017 season, it was not entered for the full season.

However, it was on the grid at Spa for Rounds Seven and Eight, the series organisers having settled on the two one-hour sprint race format for the Belgian weekend.

The #60 Ebor GT Maserati GT MC GT4 – Donington – September 2016 (Photo: British GT Championship)

Charlie Fagg and Matthew Graham were the pilots and, in qualifying, the outlook for both races looked bleak. Both drivers started from the rear of the grid. However, Ebor GT now had a much better understanding of the Italian chassis and had made some suspension adjustments which finally allowed the GT MC GT4 to fly.

Fagg and Graham tore through the fields to win the GT4 class in both their races. It was a triumph for Ebor GT and a vindication that the Maserati was a worthy addition to the British GT grid.

The car, unfortunately, has never been again in the premier domestic championship. It begs the question of what might have been had the car been in Spa 2017 trim for the 2016 season.