TF Sport’s Bri­tish GT plans

Tom Fer­rier’s team is aim­ing high. By Rob Lad­brook

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - Pho­tos: Jakob Ebrey

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”

Tom Fer­rier

Eurostar car took two poles Pit wall is an ex­cit­ing place TF Sport ran two As­ton Martin Van­tage GT3S in Bri­tain last year Fer­rier started off run­ning the Scud­e­ria Vit­to­ria Fer­rari

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