TF SPORT MAKES IT TWO WITH SURPRISE GT WIN AT ROCKINGHAM
Johnston and Adam defy the odds to score victory...again.
erek Johnston and Jonathan Adam arrived at Rockingham with humble ambitions to just finish inside the top five. A few hours later the TF Sport Aston Martin had secured its second win in a row this term, and the drivers were in dreamland.
There was an air of good fortune about TF’S win, which also represented both the team and Johnston’s third in a row in British GT if you count last year’s Donington Park finale. The majority of rivals suffered either mechanical or judicial troubles in a race littered with incident, but regardless all others had their work cut out trying to stop the rapid TF Vantage GT3.
Johnston is very much the form man of the championship, and his remarkable first stint set up the chance for victory. The car carried an additional 20-second pitstop penalty into Corby by dint of its win last time out, but Johnston managed to erase much of that deficit during a dominant first 50-minutes of racing.
The biggest opposition all weekend came from the twin Barwell Lamborghinis, which should have secured a two-three finish were it not for a late penalty for Pro driver Adam Carroll.
The Vantage was the car to beat all weekend, excelling in straightline pace on the long straights of Rockingham. In contrast, the Lamborghini Huracans were the machine of choice when things got twisty on the infield.
“We’re running a 38mm [engine] restrictor, which really limits us in a straight line,” said Barwell head Mark Lemmer. “All of the pace of the Huracan is in the chassis as we run low ride height and high downforce. When we’re in the fast corners we’re on top and, being mid-engined, we have good grip off the slow stuff so the speed trap figures are OK, but we tend to run out of puff later on the straights against the Aston.”
In truth, the differentiator between the Aston and the Lambo came in Geordie form, as Johnston proved unstoppable in both qualifying and the race. His Q1 time put the car on provisional pole and was only just shy of Adam’s best in practice. Adam cemented the pole by doing enough to ensure the Aston was fastest overall.
“Derek’s pace is brilliant this weekend,” said Adam. “He’s in a little bubble of confidence and has really clicked with the car. I still think the 20s pit penalty will be a big barrier to us winning though so we’re not getting too excited.”
But the mood in the garage gradually changed from quiet expectation to sheer euphoria over the course of an eventful two-hours.
The two Huracans lined up fourth and fifth, with Liam Griffin starting the car he shared with Carroll ahead of the sister entry of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen. The Huracan proved trickier for the amateur drivers to get a time out of with its aerodependency, but the Pros’ times told a different story with Keen fastest of all in the session. The fight was on for the race.
Starting behind the TF Aston was the Ecurie Ecosse Mclaren 650S GT3 of Alasdair Mccaig and Rob Bell. That car should have been a factor for the win, had technical trouble not robbed it of the chance.
When the lights went out, Mccaig got an early run on Johnston but was wide into Turn 1 and had to settle for second ahead of Griffin, who had vaulted into third as the pack ran through Deene. Minshaw soon followed to complete the top-four train. Griffin knew he had to get by the Mclaren to stand any chance of catching Johnston, who had got the bit between his teeth up front and began to pull a gap.
Griffin dived for second at Deene and made it stick, and that was where the race began to fall apart for the Mclaren. Mccaig held firm in third until the car began to stutter shortly before the pit window opened.
“I have no idea what the issue was but suddenly the engine started losing power and we couldn’t change gears, then it would clear and be fine, then come back,” said Mccaig, who tumbled down the order. He stayed out, hoping to make a solitary stop when the window opened and swap for Bell at the same time as resetting the car’s systems. But, by then, the damage was done.
Johnston was metronomic up front, and was the best part of 10 seconds clear when he stopped to hand over to Adam. With Griffin having to serve 10s for his third place at Brands Hatch, it was all TF needed to eliminate the handicap.
Adam took over, as did Carroll in the Lambo, and the two rejoined together. Barwell edged in front when the cars rejoined, but Adam slipped ahead on the out lap.
Things looked set as Adam steadily edged away from Carroll, who had the sister car of Keen behind him after it retained third during the stops despite Minshaw overshooting badly at Deene while battling with Rick Parfitt’s seemingly cursed Bentley in his stint. Having been repaired after a free practice accident, the Bentley struggled as Parfitt was tipped into a spin early on and then had to serve a stop-go for a clash with a GT4 car after a determined fight back up the order. The extra stop consigned him and Seb Morris to 10th.
With a paying driver on each side of the garage, team orders weren’t an option for Barwell and Carroll’s defending from Minshaw only aided Adam’s escape.
Things were shaken up when the safety car was called twice, but Adam controlled both restarts as the traction-heavy
Johnston led Mccaig Mclaren early in race BRITISH GT
Two Barwell Lamborghinis starred