Image credit: British GT Twitter.
Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard overturned their two-point deficit to claim the Avon Tyres British GT Championship’s GT3 Driver’s title as they drove a calm and considered race through that chaos that reigned around Donington Park today.
At the chequered flag, Derek Johnston and Matt Bell lead home a TF Sport one-two in today’s two-hour season finale. However, the fifth place was all Adam and Howard required to seal the overall championship.
Speaking after the race, factory Aston Martin driver Adam said: “The race was good, nice and clean all the way through with no issues. The team told me before I got in the car where I had to finish.
“I’m really happy for Andrew and his family, so to win that for him and the team is cool. On a personal note, it’s nice to win the title, officially I never got it two years ago [when Howard also won the GT3 title].
“It’s also nice to see a customer happy and it just shows that the Aston Martin GT3 is still a good car.”
After taking his second British GT title Howard explained that he will be moving up to the European Le Mans Series with his goal being to race at the Le Mans 24 Hours in the future.
“We’re doing Estoril ELMS in October and we’ll announce our driver line-up for that at the end of this week,” he said.
“But my intention has always been to do Le Mans and I’m getting too old now not to start having a go. From a driver point of view, I want to drive at the highest level I can.”
Overall, the ninth and final round proved this year’s most incredible with two of the four championship challengers falling by the wayside within the first 30 minutes. TF Sport’s maiden victory also contributed towards its first one-two, with pole-sitters Andrew Jarman and Jody Fannin following the sister Aston Martin V12 Vantage home in second.
Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen’s third place helped Barwell Motorsport claim the Teams’ title ahead of Oman Racing Team and TF Sport, while Silver Cup honours went the way of Ahmad Al Harthy.
With sunny skies overhead, Jarman converted his second pole in as many race weekends into an early lead over Triple Eight’s Lee Mowle, who had to win if he and Joe Osborne were to have any chance of claiming the title, and fast-starting championship leader Marco Attard.
Derek Johnston also passed front-row starter Howard into the first corner, and it was the TF Sport driver who was involved in the race’s first incident when he and Attard made light contact at Goddards, resulting in the Ecurie Ecosse/Barwell Motorsport BMW spinning while re-joining.
Liam Griffin was the next of the championship challengers to hit trouble. A charging opening stint had seen the Oman Racing Team Aston he shares with Rory Butcher move up to fourth from eighth on the grid before coming to blows with Mowle at The Loop. While the BMW continued Griffin was forced to limp back to the pits and retire.
Attard’s race didn’t last much longer, a coming together with Beechdean AMR’s GT4 champion Jamie Chadwick at The Loop breaking a steering arm that fired him off into the Goddards barrier.
With just 25 minutes gone, and a Safety Car required to retrieve the terminally damaged BMW, half of the title challengers had bitten the dust. And when racing resumed eight minutes later it was game on between Mowle and Howard, who were down to fourth and fifth shortly after the restart courtesy of Bradley Ellis’ charging RAM Racing Mercedes.
That’s how they remained until the pit window opened after 50 minutes, Mowle immediately pitting to hand over the battle-scarred BMW to Joe Osborne. Howard was in a lap later knowing he’d be stationary for an additional 20 seconds thanks to the team’s Snetterton pit-stop success penalty.
Out front the two TF Sport Astons were locked in a seesaw battle for the lead. Johnston had closed in before the Safety Car only for Jarman to re-establish his three-second advantage. But that was down to just five tenths when the #17 Vantage pitted and Bell climbed aboard. And quick laps immediately after his stop ultimately made the difference in jumping Fannin, who emerged from the pits a net second.
Bell continued to build his lead thereafter, establishing a 12-second lead at one stage before losing radio communication with the team. From there it was a case of managing the gap and his fuel, and although Fannin did halve the deficit, Bell came home a worthy winner.
Fannin survived a last lap altercation with Osborne’s BMW to finish 17 seconds behind his team-mate, although the Triple Eight entry’s brief spin into the McLeans gravel helped Keen and Minshaw complete the podium after overturning their 15-second success penalty.
Adam re-joined the fray 10th after his longer-than-normal pit-stop and calmly picked his way through the GT3 midfield to secure a first British GT title with fifth. 10th or a non-score would have handed Ecurie Ecosse’s Attard and Sims the title, but that never looked likely thanks to the Scot’s assured performance.
Benny Simonsen set the GT3 benchmark (and won the resulting Sunoco Fastest Race Lap of the Weekend Award) aboard the Rosso Verde Ferrari he shares with Hector Lester en route to a popular sixth place ahead of Mike Simpson and Steve Tandy’s Team LNT Ginetta G55.
Jon Barnes and Mark Farmer’s 22GT Racing Aston was awarded eighth position post-race following the decision to dock the Andrew Watson-driven Von Ryan Racing McLaren 16 seconds for contact with Silver Cup rival Ahmad Al Harthy’s co-driver Alex MacDowall. Ninth for Oman Racing’s Aston was enough to give Al Harthy the title ahead of Watson and Wylie, who completed the top-10.
Mowle might have missed out on the GT3 crown but he did pick up his second 2015 Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend Award for a battling performance over the opening 50 minutes. Fourth place was also enough to move him and Osborne up to third in the final Drivers’ standings above Griffin and Butcher but below Attard and Sims. However, in the Pro/Am points it was the Oman Racing pair that finished third.