22GT Racing is a true example of bulldog spirit. The Midlands based team has returned to the big time national racing spotlight in the
British GT Championship for 2015, racing in the top GT3 category with their Aston Martin V12 Vantage. However, the season has
been a completely mixed bag for them. Top 10 finishes in an ultra-competitive series have been punctuated by misfortune whilst
at the crest of a wave. But the team has been undaunted, brushing off the dust, patching up the cracks and as the season comes to
a close the team are moving ever closer to the sharp end of the British GT pack. We approached them for a Q&A following a true
rollercoaster ride of a season so far! Nathan Harrison (Team Manager) and their two GT3 drivers, Jon Barnes and Mark Farmer,
took time out from the race weekend at Snetterton to answer some questions. And just so you’re aware, Snetterton was the wettest
race since Noah sent two birds out to get to the olive branch first….
What was behind the decision to return to the British GT championship this season?
Nathan Harrison (NH): It was all down to Mark and Jon wanting to race, you can’t do it if you don’t have anyone willing to pay to run in a championship.
You’d ran the Aston DBRS9 previously. What are the biggest changes between that and the Vantage V12?
NH: The Vantage V12 is a lot better racing car compared to the DBRS9 as it was built as a racing car not a road car that has been adapted to go racing. The DBRS9 is a ten year old GT car, this is a modern GT car – so obviously it’s quicker and easier to work on.
How big of a plus was it to sign Jon Barnes (a previous British GT champion) as your pro driver?
NH: Well every team has its flaws doesn’t it! (Laughs) No – Jon’s input is invaluable and his positive attitude in every situation is highly commendable.
Mark Farmer has made a big step up to GT from Caterhams. What qualities did he bring to the team from a relatively short career?
NH: Mark’s obviously still learning each round as we go, you know. I think that he’s learning quickly and obviously helped by Jon with Jon’s coaching. But he’s getting better and better and I think he knows the areas where he needs to improve which is a big plus because if a driver doesn’t know where he can improve, he won’t improve and I’m impressed with how Mark wants to improve and wants to be the best and be the best he can possible be.
The team has faced some big challenges in the British GT season, how are the team feeling as a whole as we come to the end of the season?
Mark Farmer (MF): We need some luck, don’t we? And we’ve had lots of bad luck – some of which we’ve made for ourselves and some of which has been thrust upon us but I think we need some more help with setting the car up – I think that’s where our major disadvantage is and I think that’s evident from the fact our race pace is pretty good. Our qualifying pace is not. So I think we’re on a fairly level playing field in the race but a massive difference in qualifying and that sets us back a lot because trying to do anything from the back of the grid is really really difficult, it’s so competitive – so feeling despondent but encouraged!
What has been the toughest problem you have faced this year, and what would you say is the biggest success?
Jon Barnes (JB): The biggest challenge we’ve faced this year without a doubt is qualifying pace, trying to get the car to work well on new tyres and because we’re qualifying so poorly that’s masking our race pace as we get held up for the first 5-10 laps of the race and actually when we get the gap we’re as quick as the race leaders like we showed at Brands so we just need to qualify better – if we get the car working better in qualifying then we can be right up there in the top ten and possible even top 5 and then we get a chance of a podium in the races but at the moment we’re really hampered by our qualifying pace. The biggest success was probably Mark’s driving at Brands, getting from 13th or 14th in the start up to P7 by the pit stop. Same as Silverstone – so Mark’s getting plenty of overtaking practice just because we’re qualifying so poorly and showing that his race pace when he avoids incidents and doesn’t have any bad luck his race pace is really good.
MF: At Silverstone we had a commanding lead due to a levelling of the playing field in the wet weather where we performed pretty well and also an epic strategy call which put us two and a half minutes in the lead for a quite significant period of the race, until we crashed.
MF: … Until I crashed
What are your aims for the final rounds of the British GT season?
JB: We’re still desperate for a podium, the target at the start of the year was to catch a podium finish before the end of the year and then that would give us a good little springboard for 2016 so that’s still the aim – that’ll give us something solid to build on next year. Hopefully we can do that, there’s 3 races left this year – 2 races today at Snetterton but this weekend’s going to be difficult but you never know, and then a two hour race at Donington, there’s an opportunity there to get a good result. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
What’s been the funniest thing you’ve seen this season?
TBC – (we hope you’ve got something good lined up for us by the end of the year guys – Pete)
What’s the strangest complaint you’ve ever heard a driver make about a car?
NH: After about four races in, Jon suddenly decided that the roll bar padding was banging on his helmet. But it had been there ever since we’ve owned the car and he never moaned about it before so we had to address that situation
JB: Steering wheel not being straight every time I get in the car (Jon has slight OCD.)
You’re currently in Britcar Endurance with the Vantage GT4, driven by Mika and Chris Brown. Will you be looking to step up to British GT with the GT4 in 2016 if the rest of this year goes to plan?
NH: I don’t think that they’ll be doing that. I think they just want to do some club stuff rather than a championship.
How difficult is it running all of your GT3, GT4 and Historic efforts?
NH: It’s fine because the dates don’t clash at the moment apart from when we’re at Donington and Goodwood for the revival which are on the same weekend but we’ve got that covered so I think that’s fine. As long as we’ve got dates early in the diary we can work around it. Even if it’s different race events and the team needs to be split, like we’ve had to get more people in to run the DB4GT at Goodwood in a couple of weeks when we’re at Donington for British GT too, but we can cope with it. What is a bit of a strain is when the cars have incidents, especially if you get two or three cars having accidents at the same time like we did in June with the GT3 incident at Silverstone and the GT4 at Le Mans Aston Martin Festival. It obviously stretches your resources a little bit but we’ve got three of us in the workshop full time now, so it’s better now.
After the car has suffered an accident, how hard is it to keep the team motivated and try and get it fixed?
NH: Well we just get the car fixed for the next round anyway, it’s all about get it fixed as quick as possible and get it back on track so that we can learn from the mistakes and see to move forward and hopefully not make them again.
Where is the team’s favourite place to go racing, and which circuit do you find the most challenging?
JB: Spa was good.
MF: Yeah, Spa was good.
NH: I like Spa. My favourite is Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.
MF: Brands Hatch is quite challenging.
NH: I like it for everything, but I like it from a spectator’s point of view as well. You can actually see some racing out back rather than just the pit straight. I like the fact you’re all in one area, it’s quite compact. I think Brands Hatch is my favourite circuit.
MF: We had a good result at Brands, but Brands is one of the most challenging because the consequences of crashing are quite high. You’ve got to be very careful in those high speed turns with severe consequences if you get it wrong – that keeps you on edge. Same in that respect as Oulton Park, a very high consequence circuit – very demanding and technical. So yeah those are probably the favourites.
JB: Most challenging is probably this weekend. We came here and had a good test session at here Snet two weeks ago, thought we’d made a massive step forward with the car, especially after Brands where the car was a little bit difficult to drive. We thought we’d come here this weekend having had a really positive test with a car that was going to work well but you turn up at a race weekend and the car handled completely differently partly due to different weather conditions so we’ve been a bit on the back foot this weekend because we thought we were in a good place but instead we’ve had a lot of work to do – so this weekend so far has probably been the most challenging and most disappointing in terms of our pace.
How does the team like to relax after a hard weekend?
JB: I like to go home, chill out and watch Netflix, and eat some nice food before getting ready to go back for another week of work at Jaguar
MF: I like to do the same. Except I don’t have to work at Jaguar. And I don’t have Netflix. And I’ve got a couple of kids who are running around and taking places
NH: We don’t, we’ll be back in the workshop first thing in the morning putting these cars right again, it’s just a constant stream at the moment until we finish the season.
Who’s the biggest joker in the team, and who is the biggest “diva”?
JB: Nathan and Nigel (the team’s tyre specialist) are definitely the two biggest jokers without a doubt.
NH: Biggest diva’s got to be Stuart hasn’t it?
JB: Yeah! We have a few little hissy fits, don’t we – every now and again from our engineer, so that’s probably it.
When was the last time the boss made tea?
MF: I made tea yesterday!
NH: That’s right, Mark made tea when he arrived! I’ve never had a drink that Jon’s made – ever!
JB: I don’t make drinks. (to NH: What about you? When was the last time you boiled the kettle?)
NH: I always boil the kettle!
JB: Yeah, he always boils the kettle, he just doesn’t finish them off!
NH: That’s what I do. I say “Anyone want a drink? Right I’ll put the kettle on!” Fill it up with water, put it on and walk off! It’s done.
What is the team’s greatest accomplishment?
NH: Probably leading the race at Silverstone which was only our third race in our first season in British GT
JB: Yeah, that was a good one. Leading the race by over two minutes.
Does the team have a long term goal to go racing in Europe, say in the Blancpain Series or even in ELMS or WEC GT categories?
NH: Europe? No nothing as yet.
JB: We’ve got the conquer the British GT championship first before we look to do anything else.
If you could hire any driver to accompany your GT3 drivers for a “perfect” line up in a 24 hour race, who would you pick?
JB: Jonny Adam. I think you’d always try and hire the guy with the most experience of the car and the quickest guy driving this car which at the moment is Jonny Adam.
What would be the dream car addition to the 22GT stable?
MF: McLaren? BMW? Probably a BMW would be the next choice
JB: Yeah, although the new Aventador looks awesome, dunno how well it would go
NH: Probably a Fiat 500 because I think they’d be really easy to mend… and really cheap!
JB: You think so?
MF: Hmm… Not great on pace though
NH: Not if you were racing against Fiat 500s it wouldn’t be? Erm no, I don’t know to be fair. I like the look of the new Lamborghinis – they look pretty cool.
It’s time to get the takeaway in! Chinese or Indian?
JB: Chinese! Overruled.
Movie night: “Rush” or “Le Mans”?
JB: Yeah, Rush.
In a pleasing twist to this tale – following answering our Q&A the team DID manage to score their first British GT podium finish on the flood plains of Snetterton that weekend! Whilst we at The Pit Crew Online don’t wish to take any credit for this, we would like to think the team went out there with a big enough smile on their faces to go out and gain third place in race 2. We’d like to thank Nathan, Jon and Mark for answering our questions. Thanks also to Rosie and Merill at the team who have been really kind in getting us the chance to have this interview with the team, and providing us with photos for this article too! We wish the team the best of luck for the rest of this year, and the next!