British GT needle match set for Rockingham
Friday 22 May 2009
With three different winners in the first four races and a single point separating the top eight drivers, this season's Avon Tyres British GT Championship is shaping up to be one of the closest fought in years. Next weekend (30/31 May) sees the series swing into the Rockingham circuit in Northamptonshire for rounds five and six.
The season kicked off at Oulton Park last month with twin wins for the youngest driver pairing in the championship: 17-year-old Daniel Brown and 24-year-old Stuart Hall, in their Momo-backed Mosler. The duo started both Oulton races from the pole, led the first all the way and the second from the pit stops onward.
Hall and Brown went to Spa-Francorchamps earlier this month as favourites to repeat the feat, but it was not to be. A pit stop rules infringement earned them a penalty in the first Spa race, and then they were sidelined from race two with mechanical problems. Thus Dan and Stuart find themselves a point off the championship lead and with everything to do at Rockingham to try to regain the advantage ahead of the annual visit to Knockhill - a circuit unlikely to suit their Rollcentre Mosler.
A Mosler did win round three at Spa, but it was the sister car of Rollcentre boss Martin Short and his new driving partner Gregor Fisken, who enjoyed a dream debut in British GT.
Spa race two brought a popular maiden win for Midlands-based racers Aaron Scott and Craig Wilkins and their ABG Viper. Scott delivered the car to Wilkins in third place, after a typically impeccable drive, and the impressive Wilkins then passed both Fisken and, with a lap in hand, the Allan Simonsen/Hector Lester Rosso Verde Ferrari (with Lester at the wheel) to snatch the win.
As a result Scott and Wilkins have a one-point championship advantage over a whole gaggle of drivers pursuing them for title honours. Rockingham proved a more than successful circuit for the Viper last year - eventual champions Jon Barnes and James Gornall took one win in their Dodge, Steve Clark and Paul O'Neil the other in theirs - so Scott and Wilkins will be out to build that championship lead.
"This should be a good round for us," says Scott. "We didn't go too well there last year but that was before we as a team had really got our heads around the Viper. Now that we have, I would expect the car to be reasonably well suited to Rockingham.
"I think the Ferrari and the Mosler will be our main opposition, and it should be fairly tight with the Ascari also. We are going to need to be on the case because I imagine it will be very close. We're looking forward to it and we are well prepared."
Simonsen and Lester were second-place finishers at Rockingham in '08 and their Ferrari has twice been on the podium this season already; a victory to add to that they scored at Thruxton last year cannot be far away. Three times the bridesmaids this year already, the Jones brothers, Godfrey and David, are also long overdue a win with the exciting Preci-Spark Ascari.
The fabulous RPM Motorsport Ford GT, which had been due to make its seasonal debut at Spa, but which had to be withdrawn after a testing crash, will be out at Rockingham in the hands of Michael Bentwood and Philip Walker. Meanwhile, the beautiful new MTECH Ferrari 430 Scuderia, which enjoyed a promising debut at Spa despite some teething problems, is expected to make progress at Rockingham, with Matt Griffin rejoining Duncan Cameron on the driving strength.
Andrew Howard and Jamie Smyth scored their best results of the season at Spa in the Beechdean Aston Martin, and likewise Ferrari exponents Chris Hyman/Paul Warren and Adam Wilcox/Phil Burton. All are expected to be in action at Rockingham, as will the exciting new Barwell Motorsport Ginetta G50Z, which enjoyed a hugely competitive British GT debut at Spa in the hands of Olly Bryant.
Provisional GT3 championship placings after round 4
1= Craig Wilkins & Aaron Scott 25
3= Daniel Brown & Stuart Hall 24
3= David Jones & Godfrey Jones 24
3= Hector Lester & Allan Simonsen 24
9= Martin Short & Gregor Fisken 16 etc
ALL EYES ON CONTINUING GT4 BATTLE
The Avon Tyres British GT Championship GT4 class battle has been just as exciting as that in GT3, with the Ginettas of Jody Firth/Nigel Moore and Gary Simms/Hunter Abbott sharing the wins. Simms and Abbott were excluded from their first-round class win through a technical infringement, allowing the WFR Racing duo of Firth and Moore to do the double at Oulton Park.
The battle between the two cars at Spa was as furious as it was fun, Simms and Abbott getting the better of it in the first race and then coming back at their rivals in race two after a pit-stop penalty, only for Firth to nick victory on the final lap. If the Rockingham GT4 battle is only half as entertaining, it will be well worth watching. Ian Stinton is the man currently in GT4 championship third after solid results at both meetings; Mike Thomas is expected to partner him.
The championship is sponsored by Avon Tyres and is further supported by motorsport insurance specialist AON, by Sunoco Racing Fuels and by Anglo American Oil Company.
Provisional GT4 championship placings after round 4
1= Jody Firth & Nigel Moore 28
3 Ian Stinton 17
4= Gary Simms & Hunter Abbott 15 etc
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