AS­TON IN THE ARDENNES

BRI­TISH GT AC­TION FROM SPA

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Rob Lad­brook

And they say it’s just the weather that’s fickle in the Ardennes.

For TF Sport, Bri­tish GT’S an­nual Euro­pean foray to Spa was truly a race of two halves.

While on one side of the garage Jon Barnes and Mark Farmer cel­e­brated a su­perb vic­tory, on the other TF’S ti­tle chal­lenge nearly dis­solved after first free prac­tice when Derek John­ston was in­volved in a high-speed ac­ci­dent on the Kem­mel Straight ( see Rac­ing News).

That nearly ended his and team-mate Jonathan Adam’s week­end after barely 30 min­utes on Fri­day, in what was the worst pos­si­ble start for the cham­pi­onship lead­ers.

John­ston was for­tu­nate in fact. He’d been able to brake and come down the gears when he saw the trou­ble ahead sparked by fluid dropped from a guest GT4 Maserati. It meant when his As­ton lost con­trol it was at re­duced speed and suf­fered only frontal dam­age. It was a mighty job to fix, but ul­ti­mately it was re­pairable.

TF mirac­u­lously got the car out in time for qual­i­fy­ing that af­ter­noon, but with just a base set-up on it and no prior run­ning be­fore the ses­sion, John­ston and Adam could only line up sev­enth on the grid.

But John­ston and Adam weren’t the only ones to hit trou­ble. After their vic­tory last time out at Sil­ver­stone, Jon Min­shaw and Phil Keen were look­ing to close the gap in the points. But an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic mis­take by the Bar­well crew meant Min­shaw com­pleted his qual­i­fy­ing on mis­matched tyres, some­thing the team col­lec­tively apol­o­gised for.

The only rain of the week­end de­scended in time for the Pro ses­sion and proved the dif­fer­en­tia­tor.

Team Parker Rac­ing’s Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT3 has been a force this year, with Rick Parfitt Jr and Seb Mor­ris hav­ing snatched pole for three of the four pre­vi­ous meet­ings. It didn’t look on for a fifth when Parfitt couldn’t hook his sec­tors to­gether in the Am ses­sion, but Mor­ris timed his run per­fectly to get a fly­ing lap in just be­fore rain hit the far end of the cir­cuit.

“I saw it com­ing in and pushed like mad on my first lap,” said Mor­ris. “I got through sec­tor two just be­fore the rain hit.”

As a re­sult Mor­ris wound up one sec­ond faster than Alexan­der Sims’ Lam­borgh­ini in the Pro ses­sion to an­nex yet another pole on ag­gre­gate times. The Mclaren 650S of Rob Bell and Alas­dair Mccaig started sec­ond by dint of a su­perb lap from Mccaig, but that’s as good as the Ecurie Ecosse team’s week­end got as chaos at the race start counted them out.

When the lights went out Parfitt got a bad start and was forced to move wide to de­fend from Mccaig into La Souce. That left a tempt­ing gap up the inside for Liam Griffin to try to sneak into, but he over­cooked it, went too deep on the brakes and tapped the Bent­ley, which in turn slammed into the Mclaren, dam­ag­ing its sus­pen­sion and putting it out of the run­ning.

The chaos didn’t end there. Griffin’s bon­net de­tached in the collision and was hit by the GT4 pack, dam­ag­ing an Ekris BMW. An­drew Howard was also shuf­fled wide in the Beechdean As­ton GT3, and when he tried to re­join the track he had to avoid the crawl­ing BMW and was then swiped by another GT4 car, caus­ing his As­ton to lose a wheel. The reign­ing cham­pion was out after a few me­tres.

With all the cars in front hitting trou­ble, Farmer took con­trol of the race early on. Hav­ing qual­i­fied a fine third, Farmer hit the front through Eau Rouge and con­trolled the pace for the first half of the con­test. The As­ton’s straight-line grunt made it strong in sec­tors one and two, mean­ing Farmer could main­tain a gap over Hunter Ab­bott’s Grasser Lam­borgh­ini and the Black Fal­con Mercedes AMG of Ab­du­laziz Al Faisal once he had worked past the re­cov­er­ing Parfitt to run third.

Farmer led un­til five min­utes to the pit win­dow, when Ab­bott dived past at the Bus Stop Chi­cane, de­lay­ing Farmer and caus­ing him to be shuf­fled down to third.

“I thought I had it cov­ered but he just got too good a run on me and be­fore I knew it they were both past,” said Farmer. “I was about to try to chase them but then got a ra­dio call say­ing ‘let them go, they’re not in the cham­pi­onship’, so I took the safe op­tion.”

Farmer stopped at the first chance to hand over to 2008 GT cham­pion Barnes, and set up a fas­ci­nat­ing strate­gic duel.

Ab­bott pit­ted a lap later to hand to Rolf Ine­ichen, while Al Faisal opted to stay out a fur­ther two in the hope of tak­ing track po­si­tion. Nei­ther worked out, thanks to a stun­ning two first laps from Barnes where he lapped sec­onds faster on fresh Pirellis than both late-stop­pers.

When Ine­ichen re­joined in the lead, Barnes was al­ready up to speed and hunted down the Lam­borgh­ini be­fore div­ing past in traf­fic through Blanchi­mont.

Ine­ichen’s at­ten­tions then turned to his mir­rors as he had the Bent­ley clos­ing at rapid speed. Parfitt com­pleted his stint in fourth be­fore hand­ing to Mor­ris. Mor­ris lost time with a slow getaway from his pit box, but once he was up and run­ning he showed su­perb pace to haul in Ine­ichen be­fore snatch­ing sec­ond with a quar­ter of the race to run.

Mor­ris then towed on to the back of Barnes for the lead, which set up an ab­sorb­ing fi­nal 20 min­utes. Mor­ris re­peat­edly closed through sec­tor two, but Barnes’ prow­ess in the run through La Source-eau Rouge and Blanchi­mont kept the As­ton ahead to the flag and ce­mented Barnes’ first Bri­tish GT vic­tory for eight years.

“That was hard work as I could see Seb in my mir­rors ev­ery lap, but I con­cen­trated on mak­ing the most of the car at the start and the end of the lap where I knew we had the pace, and then tak­ing it a bit eas­ier in sec­tor two so as not to put too much load through the tyres,” said Barnes. “Mark and I have been on some jour­ney – from crash­ing a Cater­ham on our first day work­ing to­gether to win­ning Bri­tish GT at Spa!”

Ine­ichen fell be­hind both Daniel Jun­cadella and Miguel To­ril in the Black Fal­con Mercs by the flag. But Jun­cadella’s podium was stripped post-race when he was judged to have passed un­der yel­low flags, pro­mot­ing To­ril and Al Faisal to the ros­trum.

Sixth place was a su­perb re­sult for Min­shaw and Keen, who drove bril­liantly to re­cover from start­ing stone last in GT3, and with a 20-sec­ond penalty to serve fol­low­ing their win at Sil­ver­stone.

It was valu­able points, but not as good it could have been as John­ston and Adam se­cured sev­enth, de­spite an early swipe with a GT4 car knock­ing the As­ton’s toe John­ston and Adam now lead by just 8.5 points head­ing into Snet­ter­ton.

“If you’d of­fered us sixth yes­ter­day we’d have bit­ten your hand off !” said Adam. been some stun­ning work by the team.”

Joey Fos­ter and Alex Reed cel­e­brated maiden GT4 vic­tory for Lanan Rac­ing after a su­perb first stint by Reed and another tech­ni­cal hitch for Mclaren’s GT4 crew.

Sandy Mitchell and Ciaran Hag­gerty dom­i­nated qual­i­fy­ing in the Ecurie Ecose 570S GT4 and Mitchell was well clear in the first half of the race when he sud­denly lost power at Fagnes. “It looks like a fuel pump is­sue,” said a de­spon­dent Hag­gerty.

Their pain was con­trast to Reed’s joy as sped past. “You should have heard me on ra­dio, I was shout­ing ‘We’re P1’,” he said.

Reed’s stint set up Fos­ter to stroke the home ahead of the cham­pi­onship-lead­ing PMW Op­ti­mum Ginetta of Mike Robin­son and Gra­ham John­son. Matty Gra­ham and Jack Mitchell com­pleted the podium in their Macmil­lan As­ton.

have a

Spa!”

Black Jun­cadella’s he yel­low bril­liantly GT3,

good as Adam swipe toe out. 8.5

we’d Adam. “It’s team.” cel­e­brated a after another crew. Hag­gerty Ecose in sud­denly fuel Hag­gerty. as he on the said. the car lead­ing Robin­son and in

1 John­ston/ Adam 106pts; 2 Min­shaw/ Keen 97.5; 3 Parfitt Jr/ Mor­ris 95.5; 4 Liam Griffin 81.5; 5 Farmer/ Barnes 79.5; 6 Adam Car­roll 75.5 etc.

1 Alex Reed/joey Fos­ter (Lanan Rac­ing Ginetta G55); 2 Gra­ham John­son/ Mike Robin­son (PMW Op­ti­mum Ginetta G55) +4.371s; 3 Matthew Gra­ham/jack Mitchell (Macmil­lan AMR As­ton Martin Van­tage); 4 Mar­cus Hog­garth/ Ab­bie Ea­ton (Ebor GT Maserati MC); 5 Wil­liam Phillips/jor­dan Stilp (RCIB Rac­ing Ginetta G55); 6 Aaron Ma­son/ Robert Barrable (RCIB Rac­ing Ginetta G55). FL Tim Stup­ple/ Len­nart Mar­i­onek (RYS Team Hollinger KTM X-bow GT4) 2m32.300s (102.86mph). P Sandy Mitchell/ Ciaran Hag­gerty (Ecurie Ecosse Mclaren 570S). S 42. 1 John­son/ Robin­son 114.5pts; 2 Jor­dan Al­bert/jack Bartholomew (Beechdean As­ton Martin) 97; 3 Anna Walewska/ Nathan Freke (Cen­tury Motorsport Ginetta G55) 75; 4 Stilp/ Phillips 74.5; 5 Hog­garth/ Ea­ton 72; 6 Fos­ter/ Reed 70 etc.

1 Steve Williams (Evora GT4); 2 Xavier Ge­orges (Ex­ige V6 Cup R) +3.857s; 3 An­drew Wright (Ex­ige V6 Cup R); 4 Robin Nils­son (Ex­ige V6 Cup R); 5 Philippe Loup (2-Eleven); 6 Bence Balogh (Ex­ige V6 Cup R). CW Loup; Harry Wood­head (Ex­ige S2); Ta­mas Vizin (Elise Cup R). FL Ge­orges 2m39.030s (98.52mph). P Williams. S 38.

1 Williams; 2 Jonathan Packer (Ex­ige V6 Cup R) +5.774s; 3 Nils­son; 4 Ge­orges; 5 Wright; 6 Loup. CW Loup; Christo­pher Franck Laroche (Ex­ige S2); Vizin. FL Packer 2m41.803s (96.83mph). P Williams. S 38.

Barnes held off Mor­ris at the flag

Keen and Min­shaw se­cured sixth spot Alex Reed and Joey Fos­ter took their first win in Lanan Rac­ing’s GT4 Ginetta G55

Mark Farmer (left) and Jon Barnes took maiden Bri­tish GT win

Pack heads to­ward La Source, where clash elim­i­nated many

G55

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