Late title push for Scuderia Vittoria as sensational enduro win sets up finale

26 09 2011

Lyons struggled with front end grip at Brands Hatch in a dramatic race

Lyons and Bateman are back in the title hunt after a stellar win at Donington

MICHAEL Lyons and Scuderia Vittoria teammate Charles Bateman stormed to a second race win of the season in a testing three-hour enduro at Donington Park to catapult them back into title contention.

The 20-year-old and Bateman took the GT500 by the scruff of the neck in the second half of the race and pulled out a lead over their closest rivals.

The fantastic result leaves Lyons with a shot at British GT glory in his debut season and the championship finale at Silverstone on October 9 is one not to be missed.

Lyons added: “The amazing thing is that this now leaves us firmly back in the championship chase with one round to go. After winning at Oulton Park earlier in the year which seems like such a long time ago, we now have a reasonable chance.

I will do my best to win at Silverstone the last race and just see what happens.”

Bateman started first on a damp and slippery surface and took the car from eighth to fourth before bringing it into the pits for Lyons to take over.

By this time, the circuit was bone dry and slicks were the only option. Lyons immediately set about setting fastest laps before the safety car was out again, this time for a beached Aston Martin.

As soon as the safety car came out Lyons pitted from an astonishing second place – in effect buying the team a free pit stop – a strategy that would pay big dividends at the chequered flag.

Bateman put the laps in and maintained the place and as the safety car came out for the third time, the team pitted on lap 62 to hand back over to Lyons for the last stint.

When Lyons rejoined the race he was in fifth place and a lap down, but the strategy was working well with a whole pit stop in hand to claw back the deficit to those in front.

By lap 85 Lyons was leading having passed cars on track and in the pits and the gap was 37 seconds. The biggest question at this point was whether a splash and dash for fuel would be needed.

Fortunately with some measured driving and fuel management they saw of the MTECH Ferrari 458 and ever present Trackspeed Porsche.

In the closing minutes though the #20 Ferrari spun off the circuit causing a safety car to come out one more time. This meant the lead was reduced to zero and when the safety car came back in, Lyons had to fight extremely hard to hold on to the flag.

Lyons said: “It was a mega race, those last twenty minutes just took forever, I never thought the race would finish. All the safety cars through the race both helped us and hindered us in equal amounts, so I suppose it just evened out really.

“The times in my last stint were great and against some really strong competition, so I’m really pleased with how it has all gone, this really is the race to win in British GT, and to beat the factory drivers too was very satisfying.

“The team have also done a great job all weekend, and the strategy and the way they spotted the opportunity to build a free pit stop was incredible, so I have to say thank you to the guys too.”





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)





‘Promising’ debut season for youngster Lyons as he continues to dream of glory

25 08 2011

Scuderia Vittoria showed the 458 was quick with a win in Race Two © Jakob Ebrey

Michael Lyons showed the 458 was quick with a win in Race Two at Oulton © Jakob Ebrey

MICHAEL Lyons is optimistic about the remainder of the season and is looking to continue his ‘promising’ start in British GT racing.

His debut race weekend saw him pick up a win at Oulton Park and the Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari 458, at the hands of Lyons and teammate Charles Bateman, has shown impressive pace throughout the season so far.

But Lyons, 21, believes there is more to come from the car especially now that some of the handling issues have hopefully been rectified in the summer break.

He said: “Promising, would be the way to put it in one word. I’ve had good speed and have already won races in only my first year in GTs as well as securing a couple of poles.

“But we haven’t gained the consistent big points hauls we should have in order to be where we should be in the points table right now.

“Fundamentally I’ve found it to be a very good car, it’s relatively easy to drive and with the raft of updates we’ve received it’s seems to be getting faster but it’s been an adjustment for me having never driven a race car with power steering and ABS.

“We have struggled with a handling in-balance which has slowed our progress in races recently but with some work over the summer I’m sure we can cure it.”

“I think it’s important for us to fight race by race, we were second in the championship a few races back but it seems like a long time ago and it just shows you how quickly things change.

“Therefore for us I think it’s important to just focus on getting the best results we can and see where that leaves us at the end of the year.”

Last time out at Spa, Lyons endured a troubled weekend with bad luck after bad luck preventing him adding to his win tally but despite his tender age he is mature enough to accept it is all part of the sport.

The Essex racer added: “This is hard one. I suppose you have to say it’s racing. Everyone has good and bad days. You have to be able look at everything, see the root cause of the problem and draw any positives that can be from the situation.

“Then try and make plans for how to ensure the same thing can’t ever happen again. At Spa for example I knew I had the pace as I put the car on championship class pole, then when the rear toe link broke while battling for the lead I had to accept that things like that just happen sometimes.

“As for Race Two there was nothing I could do, the car had problems before it was handed over to me so I knew all I was doing was a damage limitation exercise/

“I managed to get the car home in the points which was believe me an achievement in itself.”

And Lyons revealed he did not have any firm plans for 2012 in British GT and that he is focusing on the rest of 2011 and his other commitments to F5000 and historic F1 racing.

He did allow himself to dream of the future though, he concluded: “My aim is to become a factory driver and win the Le Mans 24 Hours.”

The next British GT race is at Rockingham on the weekend of September 3/4.





Bad luck costs Scuderia Vittoria and Lyons podium in British GT enduro at Spa

13 07 2011

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

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

MICHAEL Lyons is focusing on the future after a torrid luck at the weekend in Spa cost the team a possible podium and championship points.

The Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari 458 had looked quick in practice and qualifying and Lyons and co-driver Charles Bateman were looking to repeat their Oulton Park success.

The Essex racer had qualified on GT3 pole for Race One but a rear tow link broke on lap sending him into the gravel at 140 mph and in Race Two he had to nurse the car to ninth place after a set-up mistake degraded the tyres down to the steel rims.

But at the tender age of 20 years old Lyons showed maturity and understood that weekends like these happen now and again and you have to learn to move on.

He said: “Today was just one of those days, and as hard as it is to accept, that is just how motor sport is sometimes.

“Even though the results weren’t there, there are still some positives to take from this weekend; such as getting back to the front in qualifying and racing hard.

“After qualifying it looked like we were back on track and looking good for a potential win in Race One, and a solid result in Race Two.”

“We now have to look at the rest of the year, and hope for some luck, and try and win as many of the remaining races as possible.”

And Scuderia Vittoria Team Principal Piers Maserati was equally disappointed but praised his driver for bringing the car home.

He added: “Today was disappointing, Race One was looking good until we had a parts failure which put us out of the lead and eventually out of the race.

In Race Two we clearly had a serious issue with the dampers and Michael did an excellent job to bring the car home in one piece in the points”.





Westbrook takes British GT pole with stunning lap as McLaren impresses at Spa

8 07 2011

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

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

A STUNNING lap by Richard Westbrook in qualifying put his Trackspeed Porsche on pole position for the second race in the British GT at Spa tomorrow.

Westbrook clocked a lap of 2.22.748 round the Belgian circuit, nearly a second faster than his nearest rival in the qualifying session for Race Two and was the only man to break 2.23.00 all day.

The session was called to a halt prematurely, a red flag unfurled after an incident between GT4 cars from another championship sharing the track, but in reality nobody looked like getting close to Westbrook’s sensational lap.

Allan Simonsen was second in his Rosso Verde Ferrari, Glynn Geddie’s CRS Racing Ferrari 458 was third and fourth was Matt Griffin who had posted the quickest time in Free Practice.

For the first race the McLaren MP4-12C, on its international racing debut, will start from pole after driver Chris Goodwin showed how competitive the new supercar is.

Goodwin was a second faster than the Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari 458 of Michael Lyons who was the closest driver in the first session.

Defending champion David Ashburn was third in his Trackspeed Porsche and David Jones, in the Preci-Spark Mercedes, starts fourth.

Other notable efforts include a superb drive from Ron Johnson to qualify the Speedworks Motorsport Corvette in ninth and championship leader Mike Guasch starts Race One from seventh.

There was a clean sweep in the GT4 category for Scuderia Vittoria, with Dan Denis claiming the class pole in session one and his team-mate David McDonald repeating the feat in session two. Lotus men Ollie Jackson and Phil Glew will line up behind them for respective races tomorrow.

Race One Qualifying Times

GT3

1  McLaren GT McLaren MP4-12C (Invitation Class)  Chris Goodwin  2m 23.479s

2  Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari  Michael Lyons  2m 24.481s

3  Trackspeed Porsche  David Ashburn  2m 25.820s

4  Preci-Spark Mercedes  David Jones  2m 26.022s

5  MTECH Ferrari  Duncan Cameron  2m 26.612s

6  Trackspeed Porsche  Gregor Fisken  2m 26.896s

7  United Autosports Audi  Mike Guasch (USA)  2m 27.270s

8  CRS Racing Ferrari  Jim Geddie  2m 28.577s

9  Speedworks Motorsport Corvette  Ron Johnson  2m 28.889s

10  Beechdean Aston Martin  Andrew Howard  2m 29.163s etc

GT3B

1  MTECH Ferrari  John Dhillon  2m 35.276s

GT4

1  Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta  Dan Denis  2m 34.651s

2  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Ollie Jackson  2m 36.716s

3  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Freddy Nordstrom  2m 38.297s etc

Race Two Qualifying Times

GT3

1  Trackspeed Porsche  Richard Westbrook  2m 22.648s

2  Rosso Verde Ferrari  Allan Simonsen (DEN)  2m 23.561s

3  CRS Racing Ferrari  Glynn Geddie  2m 23.571s

4  MTECH Ferrari  Matt Griffin (IRL)  2m 24.003s

5  CRS Racing Ferrari  Alex Mortimer  2m 24.198s

6  Chad Racing Ferrari  Tom Ferrier  2m 24.272s

7  United Autosports Audi  Matt Bell  2m 24.673s

8  McLaren GT McLaren MP4-12C (Invitation Class)  Andrew Kirkaldy  2m 24.898s

9  Beechdean Aston Martin  Jonny Adam  2m 25.006s

10  Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari  Charles Bateman  2m 25.026s etc

GT3B

MTECH Ferrari  Aaaron Scott  no time

GT4

1  Scuderia Vittoria Ginetta  David McDonald  2m 35.114s

2  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Phil Glew  2m 36.538s

3  Lotus Sport UK Lotus  Leyton Clarke  2m 36.621s etc





Lyons hoping for tyre development before Spa to help British GT championship tilt

1 07 2011

Lyons struggled with front end grip at Brands Hatch in a dramatic race

Lyons struggled with front end grip at Brands Hatch in a dramatic race © Jakob Ebrey

ESSEX racer Michael Lyons is hoping extra testing before next weekend’s trip to Spa will cure front-end grip problems.

A weather and accident affected race at Brands Hatch in the British GT meant tyre choice was crucial and the team’s decisions never really gave the car a chance of a podium.

The Ferrari 458 at the hands of Lyons’ teammate Bateman had led the race picking off competitors before a safety car came out. At the driver swap the car changed tyres but they never gave the grip required.

Lyons eventually finished fifth at the Kent circuit in his Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari but admits the car struggled with front end balance in his stint.

A winner at Oulton Park in Round Two, Lyons is hoping that more work with the car and tyres before Spa on July 8/9 will allow the team to remedy the problem.

He said: “During my stint the car struggled massively with front graining on the tyres which meant the balance of the car was just not there.”

“I think if we did some testing we would begin to understand these issues and would hopefully resolve them.”

“Overall, it was a tough race as the car was not really on form. I’m really looking forward to racing at Spa Francorchamps next time and hope we can really get our championship going with some good points there.”





New co-driver for leader Ashburn as British GT heads to Snetterton for new 300 layout

9 05 2011

Defending champion Ashburn wants to extend his lead at Snetterton

Defending champion Ashburn wants to extend his lead at Snetterton

DEFENDING champion David Ashburn will lead the British GT Championship into the two-hour endurance race at Snetterton this weekend (Sunday 15 May) alongside a new co-driver in the #1 Trackspeed Porsche.

Ashburn and Richard Westbrook won Race One of the Championship at Oulton Park on Easter Monday but Westbrook will be absent at Snetterton and is replaced by FIA GT3 race winner Phil Keen, who had British GT experience in a KTM X-Bow two years ago.

Trackspeed are hoping that the all round abilities of the Porsche 997 GT3R will give them an edge around the new Snetterton 300 layout which will make its championship debut.

CRS Racing who struggled with their older Ferrari 430 Scuderia at Oulton will be forced into running it again as delivery problems have upset plans to unveil their new Ferrari 458. CRS have also announced a driver change as whilst the Geddie family continue, the sister car will see Andrew Tate joined by 2006 British GT Champion Tim Mullen who replaces Alex Mortimer.

MTECH Racing and Scuderia Vittoria both have their Ferrari 458s and will be looking to improve on what was an impressive debut for the Prancing Horse. Michael Lyons and Charles Bateman steamed to victory in Race Two for Scuderia Vittoria at Oulton in the Ferrari 458 and Matt Griffin for MTECH Racing put in some of the fastest laps all weekend.

Griffin also competed in Round One of the FIA GT3 Championship at Portimao on Sunday 8 May and showed the cars potential, qualifying second and clocking the fastest time of any Ferrari driver all weekend.

All the other cars from Oulton Park have confirmed they will be on the grid for the second meeting with local fans excited at the prospect of Norfolk-based Lotus Sport UK challenging for honours in GT4.

Ollie Jackson lives in Attenborough, minutes from Snetterton, and cannot wait to get in the Lotus Evora at the new 300 layout and get on his home podium.

He told the official site: “I can’t wait to get out there on it. I was always a huge fan of the old Snetterton and the feedback I have been getting from people who have raced the new layout is all positive, and of course it is always nice to be racing close to home.

“We had a tough weekend at Oulton Park battling some problems which would have been sorted earlier had we had the luxury of more testing time, but I was amazed at how professional the team was in coping with those issues and I think we should have them sorted now.

“Not having tested the Lotus at Snetterton may be a small handicap for us, but we know where we are going with the set-up of the Evora and I am sure we will be on the pace.”

Snetterton timetable

Saturday 14 May: 0930-1030 & 1300-1400 practice; 1725-1755 qualifying

Sunday 15 May: 0900 warm-up; 1315 Round 3 (120 mins)