Two dramatic rounds of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Rockingham this weekend brought not only a new race victor to the series in the shape of the Barwell Motorsport Ginetta G50Z but also another new championship leader, 17-year-old Mosler driver Dan Brown returning to the top of the points table after a GT3 class-winning performance this afternoon.
Saturday's race was an event of high drama and attrition over which the Invitation Class Ginetta G50Z driven by Joe Osborne and Olly Bryant emerged triumphant, with Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen and their Rosso Verde Ferrari taking the GT3 class honours.
The Zytek-engined Ginetta was making only its second appearance in the championship, and was being driven by Osborne for the first time, but that did not stop Joe from planting it on the pole, nor from leading the race from the start and for the duration of his stint at the wheel.
"We always knew the start would be critical," said Joe. "My first three laps were real 'qualifying laps' to pull a good gap of about four or five seconds over Dan Brown's Mosler, and then I settled into a pace I could drive at consistently."
Brown in the Rollcentre/Momo car did well to keep in touch with Osborne, and indeed to narrow his lead to under 1s as the pit stops approached. Alas Dan threw away any chance of victory with a spin at the hairpin just after inheriting the lead when Osborne pitted to hand over to Bryant. Olly regained the track with a huge advantage over the new second-place car, the Beechdean Aston Martin of Andrew Howard and Jamie Smyth.
Second-stinter Smyth didn't hang on to second for long, passed firstly by the VRS Ferrari of Phil Burton/Adam Wilcox and then by the Rosso Verde 430, with Simonsen at the wheel and gunning for a blazing finish after solid work from the start from Lester.
With 10 laps to go Simonsen was only three seconds behind Wilcox and there ensued a mighty battle for the GT3 class lead, settled in the Dane's favour four laps from the flag when he blasted around the outside of his rival into the Deene hairpin and held station, now on the inside for the Yentwood right-hander.
"It was an extremely hard race because of the heat," said Simonsen, "but everyone was struggling with it, not just us. A few people dropped out, which helped our situation, and then I was able to pick off a few towards the end."
Up ahead, Bryant was being given pit signals to speed up lest he also fall into Simonsen's clutches. "When the gap started coming down I had to up my pace a bit," said Olly, "but I had to be very careful not to slide off the track in the process. The car was good but we still need to do a lot of work to it to make it a bit kinder on its tyres." With the G50Z not yet homologated and running as an Invitation Class entry, it was Lester and Simonsen who emerged on top in championship terms, despite finishing four seconds adrift at the chequered flag.
Wilcox and Burton were delighted with third overall and GT3 class second. Burton made a blinding start to pick up three places on the opening lap, and handed over to Wilcox with the Ferrari a solid fifth. "Adam did a fantastic job to lead the class until three minutes from the end," said Burton, "and the team did a great job in preparing a reliable car. After all the bad luck we've had this is a great boost."
Howard and Smyth continued their season-long progress up the leaderboard with fourth place overall and the final slot on the GT3 podium, with Brown and his new driving partner Gregor Fisken next up, ahead of the Chris Hyman/Paul Warren Chad Ferrari and the RPM Ford GT of Philip Walker and Michael Bentwood, which finished a lap down after an unscheduled pit stop following a collision at Brook with the GT4 Ginetta of Gary Simms.
Erstwhile championship leaders Craig Wilkins and Aaron Scott went out after 21 laps when their Viper broke a driveshaft. Other mechanical casualties were the Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin MTECH Ferrari and the Jones brothers' Preci-Spark Ascari.
GT4 category points leaders Nigel Moore and Jody Firth scored their fourth class race win from five starts with an untroubled drive in their Team WFR Ginetta. Their closest rivals, Simms and Hunter Abbott, were in trouble right from the start, Gary losing time with a fourth-lap spin which dropped him to the tail of the field.
As Moore romped away into the class lead ahead of Ian Stinton's Stark Racing Ginetta, Simms did his best to make up the deficit until the 21st lap collision which holed his car's radiator and ended his race.
Moore took over to win by a lap from the Stinton/Mike Thomas car, a confidence boost ahead of the 17-year-old's looming Le Mans debut. "Jody made an excellent start to the race," said Moore, "He pulled a decent gap and all I had to do really was to stay out there and finish. The team did really well, the car was excellent."
Today it was Brown's turn to shine, the youngster propelling himself back to the top of the points standings thanks to a well-judged GT3 class victory in the sixth round of the championship. Sharing the Momo-backed Rollcentre Mosler with Gregor Fisken, Brown drove superbly to snatch the class victory from the hands of David Jones in the Preci-Spark Ascari on the final lap of the race.
But the Brown/Fisken Mosler wasn't the first car over the line - that honour went once again to the Invitation Class Ginetta of Olly Bryant and Joe Osborne, which Osborne hustled past both the Mosler and the Ascari in the closing laps of the race.
Brown now leads the championship by three points from Saturday GT3 winners Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen.
Simonsen it was who started from the pole in the Rosso Verde Ferrari, but any plans he might have had to run away and hide were scuppered by Adam Wilcox in the VRS Ferrari, who muscled his way past and into the lead at the Deene hairpin on the opening lap. Shortly after, the pack was bunched up behind the Safety Car for six laps as the smouldering remains of the Ferrari of luckless MTECH pairing Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin were removed from the track, the 430 having caught ablaze.
At the restart Simonsen wasted no time in dispatching Wilcox but, by the time he pitted on lap 21 to hand over to Lester, his lead was only around 12 seconds, not enough for the Ulsterman to have much hope of maintaining the lead.
The Rollcentre team played a cannier game, Fisken the first to pit, as soon as the opportunity arose, to hand over to Brown, who was able to climb steadily through the field as those ahead made their stops. Lester lost the lead to the Ascari on lap 24, David Jones having taken over from brother Godfrey, and on the same lap Hector was pushed back to fourth by Brown and Phil Burton, who had taken over from Wilcox.
There was a mighty tussle for the lead thereafter between Jones and Brown, the Mosler clearly having the edge in certain sections of the track. Ten laps from the end Osborne and the Barwell Ginetta joined the party, the three cars circulating as if on a short piece of elastic until, with five laps to go, Osborne dived down the Mosler's inside at the hairpin to snatch second place. Two laps later some deft out-braking saw Joe snatch the lead from the Ascari into Brook.
"It was a lunge into the last corner from a couple of lengths back," said Osborne, who went on to take the chequered flag by a 0.6s margin. "It was a fairly easy move in the end in what had been a very hard race with a lot of overtaking." Osborne collected the Sunoco Driver of the Weekend award for his sterling efforts.
The drama was not yet over for, on the final lap, Brown also managed to find his way past the Ascari to snatch GT3 class honours for the third time this season. Brown's driving partner for the weekend, Gregor Fisken, paid this tribute: "Dan made up a lot of time when he got out on track. I don't think the podium was ever in much doubt, but we are very pleased to take the win. He drove magnificently, picked his moment perfectly where the Ascari braked a bit late, and managed to get through. Today's win was mostly Dan's, I was just pleased to be along for the ride."
The ABG Motorsport Viper of Aaron Scott and Craig Wilkins collected the final GT3 podium spot, some consolation for the erstwhile championship leaders following their Saturday retirement. Wilcox/Burton took fourth ahead of the Jamie Smyth/Andrew Howard Beechdean Aston.
GT4 class honours went this time to Hunter Abbott and Gary Simms, whose Ginetta led almost from the outset.
"I got a good start," said Hunter, "but I left the door open in the hairpin and Nigel Moore nipped past. Then, about four laps later, he made a slight mistake into Turn 3, drifted wide and I went up the inside and past him and never looked back. I handed over to Gary with about three seconds in hand and he did a good job to bring home the win."
The Abbott/Simms G50 crossed the line five-and-a-half seconds clear of the championship-leading Nigel Moore/Jody Firth Ginetta, with the car of Mike Thomas and Ian Stinton collecting third in class.
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.
Avon Tyres British GT Championship
Provisional results round 5
42 laps / 81.48 miles
1 INV Barwell Ginetta G50Z, Oliver Bryant/Joe Osborne 1h 1m 01.875s
2 GT3 Rosso Verde Ferrari 430, Allan Simonsen/Hector Lester +4.141s
3 GT3 VRS Ferrari 430, Adam Wilcox/Phil Burton +8.386s
4 GT3 Beechdean Aston Martin DBRS9, Andrew Howard/Jamie Smyth +39.847s
5 GT3 Rollcentre Mosler MT900, Daniel Brown/Gregor Fisken +1m 08.460s
6 GT3 Chad Ferrari 430, Chris Hyman/Paul Warren +1m 11.695s
7 GT3 RPM Ford GT, Michael Bentwood/Philip Walker 41 laps
8 GT4 WFR Ginetta G50, Jody Firth/Nigel Moore 40 laps
9 GT4 Stark Ginetta G50, Ian Stinton/Mike Thomas 39 laps
GT3 ABG Dodge Viper, Aaron Scott/Craig Wilkins 21 laps
GT4 Austin Racing Ginetta G50, Gary Simms/Hunter Abbott 21 laps
GT3 MTECH Ferrari 430, Matt Griffin/Duncan Cameron 16 laps
GT3 Preci-Spark Ascari KZR1, David Jones/Godfrey Jones 2 laps
INV 1m 23.166s / 83.97mph Osborne
GT3 1m 23.685s / 83.45mph Simonsen
GT4 1m 28.882s / 78.57mph Moore
Provisional results round 6
38 laps / 73.72 miles
1 INV Barwell Ginetta G50Z, Oliver Bryant/Joe Osborne 1h 0m 02.390s / 73.67mph
2 GT3 Rollcentre Mosler MT900, Daniel Brown/Gregor Fisken +0.616s
3 GT3 Preci-Spark Ascari KZR1, David Jones/Godfrey Jones +1.584s
4 GT3 ABG Dodge Viper, Aaron Scott/Craig Wilkins +19.585s
5 GT3 VRS Ferrari 430, Adam Wilcox/Phil Burton +22.672s
6 GT3 Beechdean Aston Martin DBRS9, Andrew Howard/Jamie Smyth +24.491s
7 GT3 Chad Ferrari 430, Chris Hyman/Paul Warren +35.955s
8 GT3 Rosso Verde Ferrari 430, Allan Simonsen/Hector Lester +48.793s
9 GT3 RPM Ford GT, Michael Bentwood/Philip Walker +1m 17.042s
10 GT4 Austin Racing Ginetta G50, Gary Simms/Hunter Abbott 37 laps
11 GT4 WFR Ginetta G50, Jody Firth/Nigel Moore 37 laps
12 GT4 Stark Ginetta G50, Ian Stinton/Mike Thomas 36 laps
GT3 MTECH Ferrari 430, Matt Griffin/Duncan Cameron 2 laps
GT3 1m 23.316s / 83.82mph Simonsen
INV 1m 24.132s / 83.01mph Bryant
GT4 1m 27.743s / 79.59mph Moore
Provisional championship standings
1 Brown 39 points; 2= Lester & Simonsen 36; 4= Jones & Jones 32; 6= Fisken, Wilkins & Scott 31; 9 Stuart Hall 24; 10= Howard & Smyth 21 etc.
1= Firth & Moore 37; 3 Stinton 24; 4= Simms & Abbott 20; 6 Thomas 11 etc.