Scuderia Vittoria duo claim twilight win as championship goes down to the wire

26 09 2011

Michael Lyons suffered a string of misfortunes at Spa in his Ferrari 458 © Jakob Ebrey

Lyons and Bateman took their second season win in the three hour twilight enduro © Jakob Ebrey

SCUDERIA Vittoria pairing Charles Bateman and Michael Lyons secured their second victory of the season after a dramatic three-hour race into darkness at Donington Park.

The duo had qualified in eighth place in their Ferrari 458 Italia but played the strategy game well to move into the lead heading into the final hour of the race.

Despite a third Safety Car period late on, Lyons was able to bring the Ferrari home to the finish to give the team its first win since the opening rounds of the campaign at Oulton Park.

In GT4, the Lotus Sport UK team stormed to victory, with Phil Glew and James Nash leading from start to finish to win ahead of the Ginetta of Josh Wakefield and Jake Rattenbury.

The race had started in the wet after earlier rain, which led to tricky conditions throughout the opening stint.

Early on, the Beechdean Motorsport Aston Martin proved the class of the field, with the team electing to put Jonathan Adam in for the first stint while most teams took the decision to start with their professional driver watching from the pit wall.

From sixth on the grid, Adam stormed through to lead by the end of the first lap and then pulled away at the margin of three seconds a lap before the gap between the Aston and the chasing pack eventually started to stabilise as conditions improved.

Behind Adam, Gregor Fisken had also got ahead of reigning champion David Ashburn and into second place, with the two Trackspeed Porsches running in tandem ahead of the MTECH Ferrari of Duncan Cameron, Bateman and Mike Guasch’s United Autosport Audi.

Bateman made a move on Cameron for fourth just before the 20-minute mark and that allowed Guasch also to close on the Ferrari, before contact between the two cars saw Cameron slip down to eighth and left the Audi to pit with bodywork damage which cost it two laps.

The Aston Martin led through to the opening round of stops – at which point the field switched to slick tyres on the drying track – but that would be as good as is got for the Beechdean crew as Andrew Howard then suffered a spin at Redgate on his out lap.

Dropping down to fourth, Howard then lost further places among the quicker ‘pro’ drivers before a spin at the Esses saw the Aston beached in the gravel and led to the Safety Car being deployed.  Although he managed to get the car back to the pits, the Aston Martin was soon retired.

It would prove to be the moment when the race swung towards Scuderia Vittoria, as the team called Michael Lyons – who had taken over from Bateman – in for a second stop.

Keeping the car towards the front, Bateman then pitted when the Safety Car came out for a second time to remove the CRS Ferrari of Andrew Tate from the gravel, and this handed control back to Lyons as the three cars ahead all pitted.

Despite his final stint running to just over an hour, and with fuel needing to be saved, Lyons maintained a lead of more than 20 seconds before the Safety Car was called out for the third time with 16 minutes remaining when the MTECH Ferrari of David Back went off.

With three lapped cars to act as a buffer against the chasing pack, Lyons was able to hold on to his lead and take victory as a heated battle developed behind for second place.

Those boys behind at the finish were the MTECH Ferrari of Matt Griffin and Tim Bridgman’s Trackspeed Porsche, which had moved to the front of the field by the half-way stage – the former despite the earlier delay in Cameron’s first stint.

Bridgman had been the race leader when the second Safety Car period was called, ahead of Griffin. Both cars dived for the pits to complete what would be their second of three mandatory stops – with Gregor Fisken and Duncan Cameron maintaining position when they rejoined the circuit.

However, while still behind the Safety Car, the pair found themselves stuck behind the GT4 Aston Martin of Sergio Lagana, which was suffering from a gearbox issue and which they were unable under the Safety Car rules to pass. Having already been delayed, there was further drama for Fisken as he exited Goddards to take the restart when Lagana suddenly dived for the pits, forcing the Porsche man to jump on the brakes and allowing Cameron through into the lead.

The Ferrari would then lead the Porsche through to the final stops, where both were jumped by Lyons, with Griffin and Bridgman setting about chasing down the leader over the final 40 minutes.

The final Safety Car looked like setting up a grandstand finish but Griffin found himself stuck behind the lapped cars of both Gordon Shedden and Adam Wilcox and was unable to challenge Lyons for the lead, although any challenge would ultimately have been immaterial when stewards handed Cameron and Griffin a time penalty for the earlier pass on Fisken at the end of the second caution period.

With that time penalty applied, the MTECH car dropped back behind the Porsche, into third place, with Fisken and Bridgman securing the runner-up slot.

Outside the top three positions, the second Trackspeed Porsche of Ashburn and Stephen Jelley took the chequered flag in fourth place with its challenge having been hampered by a number of minor off-track excursions by Ashburn.

The CRS Ferrari of championship leaders Jim and Glynn Geddie was the final car to finish on the lead lap, in fifth place having lost time – and position – during the opening stint when the car was forced to serve a drive-through penalty for a starting procedure violation.

The all-new Rosso Verde Ferrari 458 Italia rounded out the top six after an encouraging debut, with touring car star Gordon Shedden quickly up to speed and matching the pace of the front-runners as he looked to lift the car back up the order after team-mate Hector Lester lost time during the wet opening stint.

Guasch and Bell lifted the delayed Audi – the only one in the race after the sister car was ruled out by a qualifying accident – back up to seventh at the finish, although the two laps lost early on would prove to be too much to make up. They regained one of the laps lost but seventh was the best the pair could have hoped for.

The 360 Vision Ferrari of Phil Burton and Adam Wilcox, the Speedworks Corvette of Ron and Piers Johnson and the Rollcentre Ginetta of Tom Sharp, Martin Short and Matt Nicoll-Jones rounded out the top 10 – the latter having been one of the stars of the early stages as Sharp fought his way up into the top five with a series of daring moves in the tricky conditions. For his sterling efforts at the wheel, Burton was awarded the Sunoco Driver of the Weekend trophy.

The GT4 category was dominated by the Lotus Sport UK Evora of Phil Glew and James Nash, which led throughout the three hours and claimed victory despite a late stop/go penalty. A strong first stint from Glew in the wet conditions saw the Lotus challenge a number of the quicker GT3 cars and the pair took the chequered flag a lap clear of the Ginetta of Josh Wakefield and Jake Rattenbury.

The Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta of Dan Denis and David McDonald had been well placed for third before a misfire in the final half hour saw the pair drop well off the pace. It allowed the KTM X-Bow of Marcus Clutton and Peter Belshaw to claim the final place on the podium, despite the car being forced to serve two stop/go penalties.

Elsewhere among the GT4 brigade, the second Lotus of Leyton Clarke and Freddy Nordstrom stopped on track, while the Barwell-run Secure Racing Aston Martin was hampered by its gearbox issues but did return to action late on, albeit 29 laps down.

Just 18.5 points separates the top nine drivers as the Avon Tyres British GT Championship heads for a grand finale at Silverstone on 8 October. The GT4 class is still open, too, with Belshaw and Clutton taking a 26.5-point lead into the last two-hour race of the season.

Round 9 Race Results

GT3

1  Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari  Michael Lyons/Charles Bateman  3h 0m 43.609s / 86.70mph

2  Trackspeed Porsche  Gregor Fisken/Tim Bridgman  +6.054s

3  MTECH Ferrari  Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin (IRL)  +6.100s

4  Trackspeed Porsche  David Ashburn/Stephen Jelley  +9.029s

5  CRS Racing Ferrari  Jim Geddie/Glynn Geddie  +33.549s

6  Rosso Verde Ferrari  Hector Lester/Gordon Shedden  104 laps

7  United Autosports Audi  Mike Guasch (USA)/Matt Bell  104 laps

8  360 Vision Ferrari  Phil Burton/Adam Wilcox  102 laps

9  Speedworks Motorsport Corvette  Ron Johnson/Piers Johnson  102 laps

10  Rollcentre Ginetta  Martin Short/Matt Nicoll-Jones/Tom Sharp  102 laps etc

GT4

1  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  James Nash/Phil Glew  100 laps

2  Century Motorsport Ginetta  Josh Wakefield/Jake Rattenbury  99 laps

3  ABG Motorsport KTM  Peter Belshaw/Marcus Clutton  98 laps etc

Fastest lap: Bridgman 1m 31.205s / 98.17mph (record)





Maiden British GT win for MTECH Racing’s Griffin and Cameron in Race Two at Spa

9 07 2011

Griffin and Cameron took their maiden 2011 British GT win at Spa (www.britishgt.com)

Griffin and Cameron took their maiden 2011 British GT win at Spa (www.britishgt.com)

MATT Griffin and Duncan Cameron finally fulfilled their Ferrari 458s promise with a maiden 2011 British GT win at Spa in the second race.

The MTECH Racing pair have shown flashes of brilliance all season but could not hook up a full race weekend but after a second place in Race One, they followed it up with victory in Race Two.

Richard Westbrook had again led from pole and looked set to take his second race win of the weekend but a puncture forced him out on lap nine paving the way for Griffin and Cameron.

Griffin led from lap nine onward until the driving changes and then Cameron took over to maintain the lead and eventually take the flag by 0.9 seconds from Gregor Fisken.

Griffin was full of praise for teammate Cameron who held off a late charge from the Trackspeed Porsche.

He said: “I didn’t get a great start and was fourth. It took a little time for our car to get to where I wanted it to be grip-wise, but once it did I was able to get past Alex Mortimer and Glynn Geddie and started to catch Richard.

“I got the lead and was able to get my head down and build a lead. Duncan jumped in and did an incredible job under a lot of pressure. We got the win and we’re over the moon.”

The #2 Trackspeed Porsche of Fisken and Tim Bridgman was down in fourth after the pit stops but Fisken, the experienced Scot, was in a racy mood and soon took the Geddie CRS Racing Ferrari and the Beechdean Motorsport Aston Martin.

Fisken was delighted with his pace and revealed he believed he could challenge the leaders and gave it everything right to the end.

He added: “It was very close; I certainly wasn’t going to settle for second if I could have taken the win.

“The team kept telling me I was taking time out of him, but it would have needed a mistake from Duncan really to get past him cleanly. Duncan was driving very well; it was a real good scrap.”

The Andrew Howard and Jonathan Adam Beechdean Motorsport Aston Martin rounded off the podium only 6.7 seconds behind the winner.

Fourth was the debutant, the McLaren MP4-12C in the Invitational class with title leaders Mike Guasch and Matt Bell finishing fifth and the Geddie family in sixth.

A superb weekend for the Speedworks Motorsport Corvette of the two Johnson’s came home in seventh with Ron Johnson named Driver of the Weekend.

The popular Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen’s Rosso Verde Ferrari, the Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari of Michael Lyons and Charles Bateman and the United Autosports Audi of Bintcliffe and Palmer rounded out the top ten.

In GT4, the first-race class victors, Dan Denis and David McDonald fought a pitched battle with the Phil Glew and Ollie Jackson Lotus for much of the race.

The Lotus gained the upper hand after three laps and maintained its advantage after the pit stops to win. It was not Denis and McDonald in second spot, however – their afternoon went wrong on the penultimate lap when their Ginetta’s gearbox developed a problem.

That allowed class points leaders Marcus Clutton and Peter Belshaw in their ABG KTM through for second, ahead of Aston Martin men Chris Holmes and Peter Erceg, who claimed a maiden class podium placing for the Secure Racing/Barwell Motorsport squad.

Race Two Results 

GT3

1  MTECH Ferrari  Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin (IRL)  1h 0m 25.159s / 103.72mph

2  Trackspeed Porsche  Gregor Fisken/Tim Bridgman  +0.888s

3  Beechdean Aston Martin  Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam  +6.697s

4  McLaren GT McLaren MP4-12C (Inv Class) Chris Goodwin/Andrew Kirkaldy  +24.020s

5  United Autosports Audi  Mike Guasch (USA)/Matt Bell  +26.247s

6  CRS Racing Ferrari  Jim Geddie/Glynn Geddie  +27.726s

7  Speedworks Motorsport Corvette  Ron Johnson/Piers Johnson  +1m 22.574s

8  Rosso Verde Ferrari  Hector Lester/Allan Simonsen (DEN)  +2m 47.512s

9  Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari  Michael Lyons/Charles Bateman  23 laps

10  United Autosports Audi  John Bintcliffe/Jay Palmer  23 laps

11 & GTB winner  MTECH Ferrari  John Dhillon/Aaaron Scott  23 laps etc

Fastest lap: Westbrook 2m 24.615s / 108.34mph (Record)

GT4

1  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Ollie Jackson/Phil Glew  23 laps

2  ABG Motorsport KTM  Peter Belshaw/Marcus Clutton  23 laps

3  Barwell/Secure Aston Martin  Peter Erceg/Chris Holmes  23 laps





Westbrook and Ashburn keep calm head under safety car to take Spa victory

9 07 2011

Westbrook produced a phenomenal lap to take pole position in Race Two at Spa (www.britishgt.com)

Westbrook's expert safety car management contributed to Race One victory (www.britishgt.com)

TRACKSPEED duo Richard Westbrook and defending champion David Ashburn took the honours in the first race at Spa in the British GT.

The Porsche drivers held off a late challenge from Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron to seal victory on European soil and take their second win of the season.

The hour long sprint was not without drama as a mid-race safety car caused by accidents in the other championships sharing the track allowed the frontrunners to pit and get their driver changes out of the way.

A swift stop from Trackspeed got them out first behind the safety car and an expert restart from Westbrook pulled out a five second gap over Griffin in the MTECH Racing Ferrari 458.

Griffin came back over the remaining laps and even briefly passed the Porsche but could not hold on as tyres degraded and he eventually finished behind Westbrook by 2.5 seconds.

Griffin said: “It was the safety car which killed us because Westie somehow managed to put a lapped car between him and me.

“We lost five seconds at the restart as a result and I pushed very hard to catch him, maybe hurting my tyres a little in the process.

“I made a good passing manoeuvre on him at Les Combes, but it was too slippery to hold it and he got me back.”

And Westbrook was aware that he had used tactics to gain the victory as he admitted his Porsche was not as quick as the Ferrari 458 in a straight shootout.

He added: “The Porsche isn’t really a match for a well-driven Ferrari 458, so you have to do as much as can; use your head, make a break with the traffic and that’s the only way we can compete.

“It was a good race, and in the end I just had enough. Matt was eating into my lead at the end so it was tough. It’s always nice to win, and all credit to David for bringing the car into the pits in the lead.”

CRS Racing’s Geddie father and son partnership completed the podium after starting way down in eighth and good teamwork and driving brought their Ferrari 458 home only five seconds behind the leaders.

Elsewhere the debuting McLaren MP4-12C held the lead from the start before contact pushed Chris Goodwin and Andrew Kirkaldy back down to 12th.

Andrew Tate and Alex Mortimer were another pairing to make good progress from a lowly grid slot, converting 12th on the grid to fourth at the line, ahead of the Andrew Howard/Jonathan Adam Beechdean Aston Martin, which picked off the faltering Trackspeed Porsche of Gregor Fisken and Tim Bridgman on the penultimate lap.

Bridgman’s sixth became seventh on the final lap when he was passed by the United Autosports Audi of championship leaders Mike Guasch and Matt Bell.

Phil Burton and Adam Wilcox put clutch problems in practice behind them to claim another points finish in eighth in the Predator CCTV Ferrari

In ninth was the Ron and Piers Johnson Speedworks Corvette, which enjoyed a strong and reliable run for the team’s first points of the year.

Godfrey and David Jones, the only front-runners not to pit at the start of the safety car period, completed the top 10 in the Preci-Spark Mercedes.

For once everything went right for the Scuderia Vittoria GT4 pairing of Dan Denis and David McDonald.

Denis started from the pole in the Ginetta G50 and led comfortably all the way to the stops, and McDonald maintain the gap over the pursuing Ginetta of Josh Wakefield and Jake Rattenbury to score a handsome class victory, the duo’s first of the season.

Denis was delighted to finally get a win on the board in the British GT Championship.

He concluded: “My qualifying yesterday was fantastic. I got a good start and built a comfortable lead, and my pace was good.

“I was a bit worried when the safety car came out that I would lose my big lead but the team did a great job in the pits and David drove quickly and sensibly. It’s great finally to get a win.”

Race One Results

GT3 & overall

1  Trackspeed Porsche  David Ashburn/Richard Westbrook  1h 0m 13.778s / 95.38mph

2  MTECH Ferrari  Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin (IRL) +2.520s

3  CRS Racing Ferrari  Jim Geddie/Glynn Geddie  +5.189s

4  CRS Racing Ferrari  Andrew Tate/Alex Mortimer  +17.102s

5  Beechdean Aston Martin  Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam  +17.876s

6  United Autosports Audi  Mike Guasch (USA)/Matt Bell  +19.687s

7  Trackspeed Porsche  Gregor Fisken/Tim Bridgman  +22.913s

8  Predator CCTV Ferrari  Phil Burton/Adam Wilcox  +38.971s

9  Speedworks Motorsport Corvette  Ron Johnson/Piers Johnson  +39.553s

10  Preci-Spark Mercedes  David Jones/Godfrey Jones  +40.036s etc

Fastest lap: Griffin 2m 24.845s / 108.20mph (Record)

GT4

1  Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta  Dan Denis/David McDonald  +2m 14.732s

2  Century Motorsport Ginetta  Josh Wakefield/Jake Rattenbury  21 laps

3  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Leyton Clarke/Freddy Nordstrom  21 laps etc





Johnson believes British GT will benefit from endurance races for 2011 season

10 03 2011

Piers Johnson

Johnson believes GT racing is all about endurance events

EXPERIENCED racer Piers Johnson is delighted the British GT Championship has moved towards an endurance-based series for the 2011 season.

Johnson, 41, has competed in British GT since 2001, and believes that the new longer race distances for this year is what makes GT racing.

He told BritishGT: “I definitely prefer the longer races. I’d prefer them to be a minimum of two hours, I think one hour is a bit too short.

“At the end of the day, GT racing is about endurance. We all aspire to go to Le Mans and all the European events are four or six hours and longer and that’s what I prefer.

“In a one hour race, you’re pretty much stuck in your place, there’s no strategy involved, no team involvement, it’s just two half an hour sprints for both drivers.

“It means with the longer races you can play a more tactical game and it also prepares you if you want to move onto greater things in Europe.”

And Johnson has nothing but praise for the organisers who decided on the new format after discussions with the drivers.

He revealed: “We did the last race last year and Benjamin [Franassovici] and SRO are very good at communicating with the competitors and we all voted for the longer races.

“It’s all worked out and looks like it will be a good championship this year.”

The new pit stop ruling that replaces weight penalties are an unknown quantity but Johnson believes they will make the competition fairer.

He said: “The pit stop should make it more equal and work better than having weight on the car.

“It’ll make the car a lot nicer to drive because you’re not hampered for the whole race and it should give you a chance to get back up if you’ve got a penalty from doing well in the race before.”

Johnson will be racing a Corvette Z06 this year and is unsure of what they can achieve as they have yet to test but is optimistic given the car’s previous performances in Europe.

He explained: “You don’t know how everyone is going to compare. Last year’s cars you knew where you were whereas there are a lot of new cars out there this year.

“With the Mercedes, the 458s, the Audis and obviously our car, all new to the championship, it is difficult to predict really.

“From the form of the Corvette in Europe hopefully that should put us in good stead whereas the 458 and Mercedes are new to competition.

“I’m sure they’re going to be competitive if not quicker than we are but it’s difficult to say at the moment.”





New Snetterton track layout excites drivers for British GT 2011 Championship

8 03 2011

Snetterton 300

Designers hope new lay-out will mean more exciting racing (Click to enlarge)

THE new Snetterton circuit had its first track day at the end of last month and the British GT drivers just can’t wait to give it a go.

Having undergone a £3.5 million re-development to make the track more exciting and increase overtaking opportunities, Snetterton hosted a media day and it received rave reviews with the new infield loop increasing the Snetterton 300 lay-out to 2.99 miles long.

The current crop of British GT racers are eager to give it a go and hope that with the addition of new viewing platforms and paddocks it will be a great racing spectacle.

Rookie driver Dan Denis told BritishGT: “I’ve seen pictures of the new layout it looks interesting. It should make it better than it was before. It was quite hard to overtake and now there is a lot more opportunity.”

Experienced British GT racer, Aaron Scott also told BritishGT: “I haven’t seen it yet, I’ve seen some on board footage on You Tube and it looks good.

“I’ll be there in a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to it. It’s what the track needed and should make the races more exciting this season for teams and drivers.”

Piers Johnson, added to BritishGT: “We’ve got a test booked there in April to learn all about it for the second race and I’m looking forward to it.

“I always liked Snetterton anyway and hopefully now it’ll be a little bit more technical.”

Ex-Le Mans driver, Gregor Fisken, told BritishGT: “It’s obviously a big revision and we’re very excited.

“It’s brilliant to see what’s happening and I can’t wait to drive on the new track.

“It might just be one of those things that adds a bit of mileage onto an already a great circuit. Snetterton is favourite of mine so I’m hoping the good just got better.”

MotorsportVision, who are behind the revamp, released a simulation of what they wanted the track to look like before the work started.

Alongside the on-board camera from the last month’s track day you can see how accurate the redevelopment has been.

a