TF Sport’s Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam made it two wins from as many British GT Championship rounds this season after overcoming a 20-second pit-stop success penalty during round two at Rockingham earlier today.
The Aston Martin pair were untouchable throughout a 120-minute race featuring two Safety Car periods and a number of incidents that affected their GT3 rivals.
Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen’s Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini ended up just under five seconds behind at the chequered flag after coming through to finish a narrow second ahead of the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage driven by Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn.
Johnston was simply sublime throughout his first stint. Starting from pole, the Geordie was able to ease away from his pursuers over the opening 50 minutes to establish a near-10-second lead before the mandatory driver changes.
But things were far less clear cut further back where a number of incidents peppered the opening exchanges. Lee Mowle had started sixth but was up to fourth thanks to a demon getaway before a spin dropped him back down the order. That left the way clear for Minshaw to close in on Alasdair McCaig, whose Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren started on the front row, and Barwell team-mate Liam Griffin. The trio circulated together initially before Griffin relieved the 650S GT3 of second at Tarzan.
Rick Parfitt Jnr was also a man on a mission in the early stages after a practice crash prevented his Bentley from qualifying. Having seen his early good work undone by a spin instigated by Will Moore, the Team Parker Racing driver set about recovering lost ground. Such was the Continental GT3’s pace that he was soon up to fourth and challenging Minshaw, who by that point had taken third from McCaig. However, the McLaren was able to re-pass both when the Bentley and Lamborghini ran wide while battling at Deene.
A suspected electrical issue then saw McCaig drop back behind the pair, leaving Minshaw third on track behind Johnston and Griffin when the pit window opened.
Ordinarily a 20-second pit-stop success penalty would have been sufficient to drop Adam, who took over from Johnston, down the order at the start of his second stint. However, such was their advantage - not to mention the #6 Huracan having to serve its own 10-second penalty for finishing third at Brands Hatch - that the #17 Aston emerged with a slender lead over Carroll.
Keen was next up, no doubt glad to see the back of Seb Morris and Parfitt Jnr’s Bentley that had earned itself a 10-second stop/go penalty for avoidable contact during the latter’s stint.
But just as the race was beginning to settle down a Safety Car was required to retrieve Graham Johnson’s Ginetta, which had collided with and ultimately caused terminal damage to Jody Fannin’s PFL Motorsport Aston Martin. That allowed Keen to take the restart less than four seconds behind team-mate Carroll, who was also right behind Adam.
When racing resumed Keen was quick to clear the traffic and home in on Carroll’s bumper, but there was no way past the Lamborghini, while the Aston Martin made good its escape ahead.
Indeed, it would take a misdemeanour at the second Safety Car restart - a situation caused by a stationary GT4 McLaren on the Turn 1 banking - to break the deadlock when Carroll’s over-enthusiasm saw him overtake traffic before the start/finish line, earning him a drive-through penalty.
But rather than chase down Adam, Keen instead spent the remainder of his race resisting Gunn, whose Beechdean AMR co-driver Howard had spent all of his opening stint running inside the top-six. The gap between the Huracan and Vantage was less than one second at the finish, despite the reigning GT4 champion’s repeated efforts to find a way through at Deene.
Carroll recovered to bring his and Griffin’s Lamborghini home fourth ahead of Ross Wylie and Phil Dryburgh’s Motorbase Performance Aston Martin, which kept its nose clean to finish fifth and bounce back from a difficult opening weekend at Brands Hatch.
Will Moore’s eventful afternoon saw him penalised for two instances of avoidable contact, but he and co-driver Ryan Ratcliffe were still sufficiently fast to bring their Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 home in sixth, one place ahead of McCaig and Rob Bell’s Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren that might have been a podium contender without the intermittent glitch that blighted the end of its first stint.
Mark Farmer began the race by making up six places before spinning. Nevertheless, he and TF Sport co-driver Jon Barnes recovered from both that and losing all of Saturday’s running due to an engine change to finish eighth.
Mowle’s subsequent puncture after coming together with Farmer contributed towards he and Joe Osborne finishing ninth in their AmDTuning.com BMW Z4 GT3, while Team Abba with Rollcentre Racing’s Martin Short and Richard Neary completed the top-10.
Tolman Motorsport endured another tough race; Ian Stinton’s #32 G55 GT3 was a victim of Moore’s opening lap contact, breaking the car’s rear suspension, while a delaminating tyre stifled David Pattison and Luke Davenport’s performance.
Johnston’s first stint heroics and GT3 Am pole position earned him the Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend Award, while Team Parker Racing received the PMW Expo Team of the Weekend prize for spending all of Saturday and some of this morning repairing their badly damaged Bentley in time for warm-up.
Elsewhere, Keen might have been disappointed to miss out on victory but he did at least secure the Sunoco Fastest Lap of the Race Award for setting a new British GT record around Rockingham’s International Super Sportscar Circuit: a 1m18.341s.
British GT next visits Oulton Park on May 28/30 for rounds three and four of its 2016 season.
Derek Johnston, TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “We knew we’d need a gap to stand a chance of winning and being on pole gave us that opportunity. I had to lead into Deene - that was uppermost in my mind - so when I did that I just concentrated on getting my head down. The tyres weren’t quite up to temperature but I knew the first lap would really count. Fortunately that worked and I just kept pushing. I came in to hand over with a decent lead, which ultimately just cancelled out the success penalty.”
Phil Keen, Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “Barwell have done a really good job with a new car over the winter and I feel like we had the pace to win this weekend. Finishing second is still a great result, though. I had a little bit more pace than Adam [Carroll] but it was very marginal. He’s a fantastic driver, makes no mistakes and hits all his marks, so getting past was virtually impossible. I just tried to look after my tyres and then, in the last five minutes, go for it. Obviously in the end I didn’t need to!”
Ross Gunn, Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “The two Safety Cars played into our hands but generally speaking the pace was pretty good. Over the stint we were possibly the fastest; obviously Jonny [Adam] was very quick but we might have been a little bit faster, which is testament to the car being set up so well. Andrew had a slight coming together at the start, which set him back a bit, but fortunately he was able to close a few of the Ams down towards the end, which gave me a chance on the second run. Then with Phil [Keen], I knew I had a bit more straight-line speed than him, but he covered the approach to Deene very well. The Lambo was then very good on the infield. But I’m happy with the podium and more solid points.”