TF Sport’s British GT plans
Tom Ferrier’s team is aiming high. By Rob Ladbrook
It’s no secret that the pressure is on for TF Sport this year.
The 2015 season was like a coming of age for Tom Ferrier’s team. TF has been a bit of a sleeping giant in recent British GT seasons, but truly awakened toward the end of last year.
Two consecutive pole positions and a breakthrough race victory courtesy of Matt Bell and Derek Johnston in the season finale at Donington Park meant the team’s twin Aston Martin Vantage GT3S ended the year as the machines to beat.
How does TF go one better for this year? Simple: it hires both the current champion pro driver and a former one to occupy its two cars.
Jonathan Adam’s arrival alongside Johnston in the first Vantage GT3 signals clear intent from TF. He’s one of the hottest GT3 properties around and, as an AMR works driver, cements the growing relationship between the team and the Aston Martin Racing factory, something that will be key to TF fighting for this year’s championship.
In the second car is 2008 British champion Jon Barnes, partnering Mark Farmer. Together the team boasts arguably its strongest driver pairings to date. Not bad for a squad that morphed out of a rather short-lived GT enterprise.
TF Sport has an interesting story about its foundations. Ferrier was a successful GT racer himself, having progressed out of touring cars, but he was keen to tackle the business side of the sport. In late 2010 Ferrier got together with former Renault Clio Cup champion Danny Buxton and team owner Piers Masarati to form the Scuderia Vittoria concern. It was the start of Ferrier’s transition from driver to team owner.
“It was strange at first,” says Ferrier. “The chance to do something different as part of Scuderia Vittoria with two great friends was really exciting. Suddenly we had this Ferrari 458 GT3 and a great driver pairing in Charles Bateman and Michael Lyons for British GT. So we were right in at the deep end but with the right people behind it.
“We had a great season. We won two races and finished third in the championship in 2011, but it soon became clear the three of us wanted to focus on different areas.”
Scuderia Vittoria continued in British GT for the 2012 season, before its GT arm was disbanded and the assets divided between the three founders. Buxton continued the team in the Clio Cup team until mid-2015, when SV pulled out of the series.
Ferrier got the team’s original premises in Salfords, Surrey in the divide, and was determined to continue in GT racing. That’s when he met businessman and keen amateur racer Paul Bailey. A deal was struck for Ferrier to run Bailey’s Ferrari 430 GT2 in Britcar for 2013 – still under the SV name – but the plan hit a very late snag.
“We were testing the Wednesday before the first race at Donington Park when I had a run in the 430 and the engine blew up!” says Ferrier. “We needed a new car and fast, so Paul called Aston Martin as they were relatively local and bought a new Vantage GT3. We had it by the weekend and that started our relationship with AMR.
“It was a step-change going from running Ferraris to Astons as the tooling was different, but mostly it was the change in relations – who you order the parts from, who to speak to for technical advice. We’ve built that relationship over the last few years. We went on to finish second overall in the championship in 2013 with Paul and Andy Schulz in the car.”
Armed with a new marque of car and a new opportunity, Ferrier rebranded the team as TF Sport and entered Bailey and Schulz into British GT3 in 2014 under the Horsepower Racing banner – Bailey’s own company name. TF did run a customer Vantage GT4 for Andrew Jarman and Devon Modell too. It proved a learning season, with Bailey/schulz scoring just seven points, but Modell and Jarman just missed the GT4 title, finishing second overall.
Regardless of the end result, Ferrier was buoyed with what he saw and took the plunge to establish the team further for 2015. He leased two Vantage GT3S from Bailey and attacked British GT head-on.
Derek Johnston and Matt Bell finished fifth in the points with that all-important maiden win for TF, while the sister car of Andrew Jarman and Jody Fannin scored two late-season pole positions, and cemented a TF one-two in the Donington finale.
“The team has been a snowball,” says Ferrier. “Since going out on my own and buying a truck to go with the old SV premises, things have taken off. We had some success in Britcar, which got us known, but what we achieved in British GT last season was really beyond expectations.
“It was a different challenge going from racing myself to managing my own team. You look at race weekends in a different way. It’s far easier being a driver as you just turn up, race, then go home. But it’s far more fulfilling running a team I find. You have to worry about the logistics of getting cars where they need to be and in the state of preparation they need to be, about getting the right staff at tracks and doing what they should, and I also enjoy the business side of the sport.
“At first I did miss the racing, but this new challenge is so great that I don’t yearn to get in a car anymore. The pit wall is a hugely exciting place because you know how much work went in to just get that car onto the grid, with your guys working all the hours God gave and giving their all. It drives you on and it gets emotional when you get a good result.”
TF is still one of the smaller teams on the GT3 grid too. Ferrier only employs two full-time staff – the same number as when the team first started, with chief engineer Chris Gregory and number one mechanic Ben Spearing running the workshop. Ferrier has a select group of contract staff and engineers to ensure the cars run smoothly on race weekends. The team totals 14 staff typically.
“GT3 cars aren’t massively complex to run, especially not the Vantages as AMR builds them to essentially be turn-key race cars,” explains Ferrier. “But what the team has to do is get the best out of the package. It’s about helping drivers feel comfortable. We worked so hard on the set-up across the last year, to find things like that little bit more stability under braking, or that suspension setting that stops the car breaking away under power midcorner. Once you find that balance to give drivers confidence the results will come. That’s what we saw toward the end of last year and we need to take that to the next level this season.
“Having somebody like Jonny [Adam] with us brings a huge level of experience and opens the door for us to work closer with AMR. And we get that bit of insider knowledge now that makes all the difference.
“This is our biggest year yet, and there is a pressure that comes with running two champions. But I’m convinced we’re equipped to deal with that.” ■
“It’s easier being a driver”