Craig Wilkins and Aaron Scott claimed a long overdue maiden win in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship on Sunday at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, their ABG Motorsport Viper snatching victory two laps from the chequered flag to deny the Ferrari of race-long leaders Allan Simonsen and Hector Lester.
Their victory promotes Wilkins and Scott to the overall lead of the championship; after four rounds the West Midlanders hold a slender one-point advantage over their pursuers.
It was a masterly performance in tricky conditions from the Viper men, Scott battling the Rollcentre Mosler of Martin Short for second place in the foggy early laps as Simonsen's Rosso Verde Ferrari sped away from the pole to lead. Danish driver Simonsen held a 12-second advantage when he pitted to hand over to Ulsterman Lester - it might have been a greater advantage had the race not spent its first four laps under the Safety Car due to the poor visibility.
A slow out lap and an unhelpful tap from a back-marker delayed Gregor Fisken, Short's Mosler driving partner, enough for the ABG Viper, now in Wilkins' hands, to slip past and into second pace, behind Lester. The Ferrari's advantage after 13 laps was 11 seconds but Wilkins nibbled into it each lap, posting fastest lap on his 20th tour as he latched on to Lester's tail.
The decisive move of the race came on the run through Eau Rouge: "I had a bit of a run on him through La Source," said Craig. "There was a bit of contact but I made it past. It was a bit of a last-minute thing. It's very special to get our first win at last. We have worked very hard for two seasons to get here. All credit to Aaron: he's a true professional; he knows how to drive a car at a pace and bring it back with good tyres and brakes. I got into a lovely car." Craig was awarded the accolade of Sunoco Driver of the Weekend for his sterling efforts.
"It's been great working with Craig and it's great to get this win," added Scott. "Really we should have had some victories last year. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by the team, and I'd like to say very well done to all of them."
The Scott/Wilkins Viper crossed the line three-and-a-half seconds ahead of the Ferrari, with Saturday's race victors, Short/Fisken and their Mosler, a solid third ahead of the Beechdean Motorsport Aston Martin of Andrew Howard and Jamie Smyth, which recorded its best result of the season.
The 22 GT Racing Aston of Adrian Willmott and Tom Alexander, whose pace was hobbled by mechanical problems on Saturday, went well to claim fifth ahead of the Chris Hyman/Paul Warren Ferrari.
The Momo-backed Mosler of rounds one and two victors Stuart Hall and Daniel Brown retired after only four laps, Hall pulling off after a spin. Alas the Ascari of David and Godfrey Jones failed even to make the start after an engine problem was discovered moments before the off.
The battle for honours in the GT4 class was as dramatic and exciting as it has ever been, a two-way Ginetta fight after the early demise against the barriers of the Mike Thomas/Ian Stinton car. Nigel Moore led Spa race one winner Hunter Abbott in the early laps before pitting to hand over to Jody Firth, who found it impossible to maintain the pace during his stint due to over-used tyres.
Gary Simms duly took over in front, but only until called back to the pits for a stop/go penalty after missing the pit window time limit. Simms drove spectacularly after serving the penalty to close down Firth's 10-second lead and pass him for the class lead once again. Jody, however, had the last laugh: "It was a great battle over the last two or three laps, I think we must have swapped the lead four or five times. It was brilliant. I only just managed to make the lead stick. On the last lap I had a good run through Blanchimont, throwing caution to the wind, and managed to pull a gap on him. That little extra bit of bravery helped."
Moore and Firth, GT victors in three out of four rounds, now enjoy a 12-point title race advantage.
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 4
22 laps / 95.74 miles
1 GT3 Dodge Viper, Aaron Scott/Craig Wilkins 1h 02m 48.287s / 91.47mph
2 GT3 Ferrari 430, Allan Simonsen/Hector Lester +3.494s
3 GT3 Mosler MT900, Martin Short/Gregor Fisken +32.332s
4 GT3 Aston Martin DBRS9, Andrew Howard/Jamie Smyth +42.192s
5 GT3 Aston Martin DBRS9, Adrian Willmott/Tom Alexander +44.534s
6 GT3 Ferrari 430, Chris Hyman/Paul Warren +1m 19.961s
7 GT3 Ferrari 430, Adam Wilcox/Phil Burton 21 laps
8 GT3 Ferrari 430, Duncan Cameron/Mike Wilds 21 laps
9 GT4 Ginetta G50, Jody Firth/Nigel Moore 21 laps
10 GT4 Ginetta G50, Gary Simms/Hunter Abbott 21 laps
11 INV Ginetta G50Z, Oliver Bryant/Andrew Smith 14 laps
GT3 Mosler MT900, Daniel Brown/Stuart Hall 4 laps
GT4 Ginetta G50, Ian Stinton/Mike Thomas 1 lap
GT3 Ascari KZR1, David Jones/Godfrey Jones 0 laps
GT3 Wilkins, 2m 32.082s / 103.02mph
GT4 Abbott, 2m 41.742s / 96.87mph
INV Smith, 2m 31.383s / 103.50mph
Provisional championship standings GT3
1= Wilkins/Scott 25 points; 3= Brown/Hall, Jones/Jones & Lester/Simonsen 24; 9= Fisken/Short 16 etc
1= Firth/Moore 36; =3 Simms/Abbott 24; 5 Stinton 21 etc
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