British GT – GT4: Tuck and Green take pole, championship leader Mitchell seventh

Century Motorsport’s Ben Tuck and Ben Green have taken British GT4 pole ahead of tomorrow’s championship decider.

A session-long battle with the Equipe Verschuur McLaren of Finlay Hutchison and Daniel McKay ended with the #42 crew applying maximum championship pressure on teammate and leader Jack Mitchell and co-driver Dean MacDonald, who were only seventh.

Ben Barnicoat and Adam Balon were third in the #72 Balfe McLaren 570s, Barnicoat setting the second-fastest GT4 time in the final session.

Will Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones are fourth and have an outside chance of the title should they convert that into a win and their rivals fall by the wayside. The Academy Motorsport duo are fifth, 31 points behind Mitchell.

One of those rivals are Michael O’Brien and Charlie Fagg in the #4 Tolman Motorsport McLaren. They line up sixth for the race tomorrow and have a similarly outside chance, 28 points back in fourth place in the standings.

The team third in the standings are the #55 duo of Callum Pointon and Patrik Matthiesen in the HHC Motorsport Ginetta. They are 13.5 points behind Mitchell, but have work to do to overhaul him.

Elsewhere, British Touring Car Championship race winner Adam Morgan was fastest in the Ciceley Racing #25 Mercedes during the second part of GT4 qualifying, sharing with amateur David Fairbrother.

British GT – GT3: Keen and Minshaw on pole but Adam and Haigh where they need to be

Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen have taken GT3 pole position for tomorrow’s Donington Decider.

Minshaw gave the #33 Lamborghini team a two-second advantage in AM qualifying with an imperious display in improving conditions, while Keen maintained a healthy advantage in the Pro qualifying shortly after.

Jonny Cocker and Sam De Haan in the other Barwell Lamborghini are second ahead of Maxime Martin and Graham Davidson in the #47 JetStream Aston Martin.

Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam in the Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin are in fourth, and need to finish seventh to secure the British GT3 title tomorrow afternoon.

|Photographer: Jamie Sheldrick|Session: FP1|Event: Round 9|Circuit: Donington Park|Location: Derby|Series: British GT|Season: 2018|Country: UK|Car: Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3|Number: 75|Team: Optimum Motorsport|Driver: Flick Haigh|Driver: Jonny Adam|
The #75 Optimum Aston Martin needs to finish 7th to secure the British GT GT3 title

In truth the #33 Barwell entry rarely looked like being beaten as Minshaw put down times in the early 1:43s at the start of the session, with second in AM qualifying Graham Davidson setting a 1:43.402 by the time the session ended.

The other crew in with a chance of the championship are will start the race from fifth. Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim in the #11 TF Sport Aston also need to win tomorrow and hope that the Optimum Motorsport crew hit problems.

Marco Sorensen and Derek Johnston will start from sixth in the latter’s last race in the series following his retirement announcement earlier this month, with the ERC Mercedes of Lee Mowle and Yelmer Buurman seventh.

The sole GTC entry of John Seale and Marcus Clutton in the Ferrari 488 got in amongst the GT3 runners, qualifying ahead of the #101 Balfe Motorsport McLaren of Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson, the #24 Nissan of Struan Moore and Chris Buncombe and the #1 Bentley of Rick Parfitt and Ryan Ratcliffe.

 

IMAGES: Jamie Sheldrick

GT4 – Schjerpen/Mitchell make it six different winners from six races and two straight wins for Century Motorsport

Alexander Schjerpen and Jack Mitchell took an ultimately comfortable win at Silverstone for Century Motorsport’s #43 BMW team.

After a poor start in which he fell to 16th, the team recovered back to the front and took advantage of the dominant Equipe Verschuur #10 McLaren suffering a suspension failure while leading by half-a-minute.

And Schjerpen felt the team had to work hard to earn their second straight victory.

“We knew that we were going to be strong here at this track. We struggled a little in qualifying so going into the race we knew the pace was there so we had to push hard.

“I had a bad start, I’m not sure what happened there but others went and I didn’t so we ended up P16 and it was hard work in the first stint, Jack did a great job in his first stint to get us back to the front.”

The Norwegian took the first British GT win of his career with Mitchell on Sunday and left nothing on the table in his second stint.

“I finished my second stint with qualifying laps and we were pushing very hard, we were unsure where exactly we were with the stops and cars pitting around us, it was a hectic race and we’re super-happy that we finished at the front.”

And he had a lot of praise for his team’s preparation of the GT4 BMW M4, having had bad luck  earlier in the season.

“The BMW is a brilliant car, every time I get into it I can throw anything at it and it responds. We’ve been playing around a little with set-up in practice yesterday and we found a good setting with the car.

“Century Motorsport are doing a brilliant job with it, and it’s fun to drive.”

Image credit: Nick Smith (@theimageteam)

A Day with Emil Frey Racing – Blancpain GT Round 4, Silverstone

It was an early start on Sunday the 20th of May, heading up at 6.30am on Sunday for the two-hour trip to the Northampton track. The weather was fantastic, with sunshine and blue skies. Ed Hocknull and I had been invited by Lexus UK to attend the second UK round of this championship that is held in the UK, although this would be the longer endurance three-hour race, rather than the two separate one-hour sprint races held at Brands Hatch.

There were perfect track conditions for the three hour race. – Photo credit, Warren

The team run two Lexus RC-F GT3 cars, numbered 14 and 114. The drivers of car 14 are, Albert Costa, Christian Klein and Marco Seefried, whilst Stephane Ortelli, Norbert Siedler and Marcus Palttala team up in 114. We were given a warm welcome by the team, with VIP passes allowing access to the garage at all times and grid access too.

Emil Frey Racing hospitality – Photo credit, Warren Nel

The first track action of the day was qualifying, which is an hour long. Each driver has to drive the car in qualifying, getting 15 minutes each, with a seven-minute break between each run. This makes for a busy hour when there are 50 cars on track! When all was said and done, the number 14 car was third on the grid, whilst the sister 114 car had qualified seventh. The team were very happy with this result, particularly after topping the timesheets in the second part of the session with car 14, showing that they were starting to find the sweet-spot in the set-up and unlocking the potential pace.

Everyone was watching how qualifying would turn out! Photo credit – Warren Nel

At the start of the afternoon, we were given a garage tour. The BOP or, Balance of Performance was explained. The are so many different cars that run in this championship, that SRO mandate certain things to keep the performance of the cars very close. For example, every team get the same tyres and fuel and then there are also restrictors placed on the inlets for the engines, controlling the power the engine can produce. There are freedoms though and the teams use trick single seater suspension systems.

Garage tour – Photo credit – Warren Nel
The poor guy giving us the tour kept getting interrupted by engines revving and wheel gun noise! Photo credit – Warren
The garage tour continued with a look at the engineers area. – Photo credit, Warren

A pit walk followed the tour, allowing the fans to meet the drivers and teams. The championship definitely welcome fans with open arms, and it’s great to see! After this, we had a delicious lunch at the teams’ hospitality. It was getting close to race time though, and before that was the grid walk. It was super busy on the grid, with the cars coming around from the pitlane, before being pushed to their spots on the grid.

The drivers meet the fans! Photo credit, Warren Nel
A very fan friendly championship – Photo credit, Warren Nel
What a great looking race car! – Photo credit, Warren Nel
On the grid with the team – Photo credit, Warren Nel
The number 14 Lexus chases down the 62 Aston Martin. Photo credit, Warren Nel

Race Recap

Christian Klein would be taking the wheel of the number 14 car, whilst Stephane Ortelli would start the 114.

Now after half an hour of racing, the two Lexus were running very well, with Klein in 4th place and Ortelli two places further back in 6th. As the pitstops approached after nearly 50 minutes of racing, the RC-F GT3’s were 6.3 and 9.4 seconds from the leader.

The team had done a very good job indeed. The number 14 Lexus, with Klein behind the wheel pitted, but suffered a slow pitstop. The reason? Well, the team had a failure with a wheel gun slowing down the changing of the tyres.

Ortelli pitted a couple of laps later, and the pitstop was completed without any hitches. All of this meant that the 114, driven by Marcus was now in 5th place, whilst number 14, piloted by Marco was now in 7th.

Lexus 114 approaches the left-right-left before Hangar Straight. Photo credit Warren Nel

Twenty minutes after the pitstops Marcus passed the number 4 Mercedes, and then quickly closed on the number 62 Aston Martin which had Alex Brundle behind the wheel. On lap 51, Alex made a mistake and slid wide in the left-right-left and this allowed Marcus to get alongside the Aston and then make the pass into third place down Hangar straight!

With an hour and five minutes to go, Marcus pitted and handed 114 over to Norbert. It would be down to him to bring the car to the chequered flag. A lap later and Marco pitted and Alberto Costa took the wheel of the number 14 and re-joined in 8th place. He started setting some very fast sector times, looking to move up some places.

Lexus RC-F GT3 – Photo credit, Warren Nel

On lap 69, Albert Costa passed the Strakka Racing number 43 Mercedes for 7th place. He was just two seconds behind the 62 Aston Martin now. Just thirty minutes remained in the race.

With just twenty minutes left, Costa was dropping back a little, with the 43 Mercedes getting closer and behind that, the 72 SNP Ferrari closing on the Merc.

Meantime, the 114 was holding its own, 22 seconds from 1st place, but the number 1 Audi was within 1 second of the Lexus. Drama though for the number 14 car which ran wide at Aintree on lap 75, giving the 72 Ferrari 7th place. Just six minutes remained now, and the battle was on for the final spot on the podium between 114 and 1! With less than 4 minutes remaining the 114 Lexus was still in 3rd place! The team were looking at their first podium finish!

The number 114 Emil Frey Racing Lexus RC-F GT3 chases the number 4 Mercedes – Photo credit, Warren Nel

Coming into the loop near Silverstone six stand, the number 1 Audi got a run and was starting to get alongside the Lexus, but he ran wide, giving Norbert a breather! It was enough! They’d done it! Further back number 14 had lost another place unfortunately, crossing the line in 9th place. The team had definitely done a very good job to improve the car, allowing them to fight at the front.

Nerves were high in the garage as the final minutes of the race counted down. Photo credit, Warren Nel

We all headed down to the end of the pitlane to watch the podium, which was their first ever in the Blancpain championship. The trophies were handed out and then it was the time-honoured tradition to spray the champagne!

The top three celebrate on the podium – Photo credit, Warren Nel
Stéphane Ortelli, Norbert Siedler, Markus Palttala, hold their trophies aloft! Photo credit, Warren Nel

It was now time to go home, but first we visited the team garage and watched as the team all celebrated their great result!

 

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to Matt at Lexus/Toyota and Emil Frey Racing for the invite. Ed and I had a fantastic time, with a really friendly team.

Quick 10 With…..Jody Fannin

 

He started his career in karting from 2006 to 2009, becoming the Midlands Minimax champion  and Bayford Meadows Winter Champion in 2008. In 2010 he finished 4th in the Ginetta Junior Championship with 2 wins, 4 podiums, 2 fastest laps and a pole. 

The following season he finished third in the Ginetta G50 Championship and then moved onto become the GT4 champion in the British GT Championship for 2012. He was selected as BRDC Rising Start in 2013 and raced in the Blancpain Endurance Series and various European GT events.

In 2014 he had a wind and a second place in the International GT Open at Silverstone with Darren Turner in an Aston Martin which was followed up in 2015 by being selected for the Aston Martin Racing Evolution Academy. He took two podiums that season in the British GT Championship

For 2016 he competed in the GT Open at Barcelona where he obtained a podium place and again competed in the British GT Championship.

This season he competed in and won The European Le Mans GTE class with Rob Smith for JMW Motorsport in a Ferrari 488 GTE. He took a win and four podiums.

His helmet design is based on the South African flag, where his father originates from and the Union Jack, for his mother. He also has his name on the side of his helmet, exactly the same as Jody Scheckter, the 1979 Formula One World Champion who he was named after.

These are his Quick 10 questions, the newly crowned 2017 ELMS GTE Champion and he is….. Jody Fannin.

What is your favourite racing circuit?

Spa-Francorchamps because of its massive elevation change and speed. If you are walking along the Kemmel Straight, there is a bit where you can look across at the Bus Stop Chicane. You realise then just how much elevation change there is on the track; it looks so far down! Also, through the middle sector of the lap especially, each corner leads into the next, so if you make a mistake through one, it will affect your run through the next, amplifying the error. It’s a real challenge… and obviously Eau Rouge is a proper corner in a GT car!

Who was your racing idol?

Allan McNish because of his undoubted speed and killer instinct through traffic.

Who would you regard as your toughest opponent?

Difficult to single anyone out, but competing in the European Le Mans Series against multiple factory drivers is as tough as it gets in GT racing!

Considering racers of all time, you are a team principal and money is no object. Which two racers would you have in your team?

Mario Andretti because of his versatility, being successful in so many different sorts of cars, and Ayrton Senna because of his prodigious speed.

 

If you could invite four famous people to dinner (past and present), who would you invite?

It would be fascinating to have people, each from a different era of motor racing, so I could learn about eras that I haven’t lived through and get first hand accounts of what life was like back then. Stirling Moss, Derek Warwick, James Hunt would have some very interesting stories I’m sure..!! Then probably Murray Walker because of his inside knowledge of all aspects of motor racing over many decades.

Your personal racing number? What is it and the reason behind it?

27 because it was Gilles Villeneuve’s number and I admire the way he drove and raced!

What is the best race you have been involved in?

At Monza this year, it was the swansong race for the Ferrari 458 Italia GTE after 7 years of service. No one expected us to have a chance against the newer cars, but we had a fairytale race and managed to win. I had to hold off the Aston Martin of TF Sport for the final stint and gave it absolutely everything. It was an amazing feeling to get the job done! And that chassis actually won its very first and last race, so it was a perfect end to the chapter for the car.

Is there a race or series you have not competed in that you would like to or had wanted to?

Le Mans is the ultimate race for me; I have been to watch the race 15 times, and everything about it is just magic. Racing through the night is an amazing experience, and to race there would be a privilege. To compete in the World Endurance Championship as a factory driver would be very cool.  The Bathurst 12 Hour is a race that I would really like to do as well. The track looks awesome and the race is growing in stature year on year.

How did you get interested in motor racing? What ignited that spark?

My Grandad and Dad were both into motorpsport (didn’t have any direct involvement though), so I grew up watching F1, Sportscars, MotoGP, just about anything, so I was surrounded by it from a very young age. I didn’t start karting until I was 11, but I haven’t looked back since! I have always wanted to be a racing driver for as long as I can remember, and being named after Jody Scheckter, guess I was always destined to have something to do with Motor Racing!

What is the best advice in racing you have been given?

Always be ready for the next step up in category/car (both mentally and physically), because if you suddenly get asked to test/race, you need to be immediately ready to go and do the job.

I want to thank Jody for taking the time out of his busy schedule to take part in the Quick 10 feature. Always ready for a quick chat and a very friendly person Also want to congratulate him, Rob Smith and JMW Motorsport on their ELMS GTE title win. The Pit Crew Online wish Jody even more success for 2018.

(c) all photographs courtesy of Jody Fannin

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

British GT – Format Confirmed, Entries Open

Photo Courtesy Of British GT (c)

2018 entry process opens early after British GT organisers confirm class format.

> 14 of 34 spaces reserved for GT3 cars

> Championship retains multi-class GT3/GT4 format

Entries are now being officially accepted for next season’s British GT Championship after series organiser, SRO Motorsports Group, confirmed its successful multi-class GT3/GT4 format would remain unchanged for 2018.

SRO considered splitting its grids into separate races, but that idea has now been dropped after consulting with teams, drivers and stakeholders. The idea of staging a standalone GT4 round at Thruxton has also been shelved for next season.

14 of the 34 full-season spaces have been initially reserved for GT3 cars, although SRO is happy to revise this number up or down depending on demand. Several of the class’ current teams have already committed, with driver announcements expected in due course.

GT4’s rise also looks likely to continue with new teams and manufacturers in the pipeline. Entries will be accepted on a first-come-first-served basis, as well as historical support and marque variety.

Indeed, the level of interest is such that SRO has moved the opening of its 2018 entry process forwards to the end of October rather than waiting until its usual mid-November date.

Meanwhile, Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps’ additional pit garages once again raise the possibility of seeing one-off or race-by-race entries competing in both classes.

Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici had this to say in a statement:

“After a memorable and record-breaking 2017 campaign we’re hopeful that British GT will be bigger and better than ever before next season. Demand is already such that it makes sense for us to open the selection process earlier than usual so that teams have more time to plan once assured of their entry. That’s why I strongly suggest anyone interested should not delay registering their interest!

“We have initially reserved spaces for 14 GT3 cars, which I believe sends a strong message about our commitment to the class. British GT is still home to the strongest GT3 Pro/Am platform in Europe and ensures amateurs are able to win races and championships outright. However, Macmillan AMR’s excellent performances this year – they claimed four podiums and two pole positions – prove our Silver Cup class also represents an attractive option for aspiring professionals. The same goes for GT4 where both driver line-ups compete closely together.

“July’s announcement about the possibility of running separate GT3 and GT4 races resulted in much discussion in and outside of British GT’s paddock. There are pros and cons to both but after consultation with teams, and also taking into consideration the opinions of our fans, we believe a single multi-class championship remains the overwhelmingly best and strongest option for our championship in the foreseeable future.”

British GT’s nine-round 2018 campaign begins on its traditional Easter Bank Holiday Weekend at Oulton Park (March 31 – April 2).

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

1932 Trophy For Silverstone 500 Winners

The overall winning drivers of British GT’s blue riband Silverstone 500 race will lift a historical piece of silverware next weekend (June 10/11) following the unveiling of the event’s new standalone trophy.

British GT organisers announced the prize at the end of 2016 and have since worked closely with Silverstone’s owners, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, to identify a suitably significant piece of silverware. Its archive contains many such examples but, together, the BRDC and SRO Motorsports Group have selected the ‘RAC Trophy’ that was previously awarded for a 500-mile race at Brooklands on 24 September 1932.

Back then it was common practice for prominent sporting bodies and organisations to sponsor individual awards. The Royal Automobile Club was no exception and presented its cup to BRDC Member William Alexander Cuthbert and his co-driver Cecil Wingfield Fiennes who finished fourth in 1932’s race driving a Riley 1100.

Almost a century ago the ‘500’ was considered one of the BRDC’s and Brooklands’ showpiece events. Indeed, Motor Sport Magazine’s season review, taken from its December 1932 issue, described it as “one of the finest races staged at Brooklands in years,” and “The ‘500’ added still further to its reputation as the finest race of the year at Brooklands.”

But when the circuit was requisitioned on the eve of WWII and subsequently sold in 1946, so the Club’s attention switched to another RAF base: Silverstone.

British GT has staged its own version of the ‘500’ there since 2012, which The Home Of British Motor Racing is now keen to formally recognise as a flagship event in its annual calendar. As such, this year’s race weekend will feature a prominent ‘Supercar Sunday’ display as well as family entertainment, open paddock, free grandstand access and pit walk.

Benjamin Franassovici, British GT Championship Manager: “The Silverstone 500 has gathered momentum since we first staged the race in 2012 and is very much seen as our season’s blue riband event. We were keen to further emphasise this by awarding a historically significant trophy to the overall winners and, thanks to the BRDC’s efforts, will be doing so for the first time this year. The trophy is stunning and a wonderful way of aligning our season’s biggest race with a genuine piece of British motorsport history. Whoever wins it can be mightily proud to see their name engraved on its silver and mahogany base.”

Adult tickets for next weekend’s Silverstone 500 start at just £12 while children aged 15 and under can attend for free all weekend. Visit www.silverstone.co.uk/events/british-gt-championship/ for more information.

SILVERSTONE 500 SCHEDULE

Saturday 10 June

09:30 – 10:30: Free Practice 1
12:25 – 13:25: Free Practice 2
16:05 – 16:15: Qualifying – GT3 Am
16:19 – 16:29: Qualifying – GT3 Pro
16:33 – 16:43: Qualifying – GT4 Am
16:48 – 16:58: Qualifying – GT4 Pro

Sunday 11 June

10:05 – 10:15: Warm-up
13:35 – 16:35: Race

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

(c) Photograph and press release courtesy of SRO Motorsports Group

 

 

OD Racing Enter Blancpain GT Series Asia

Malaysian squad OD Racing will enter an Audi R8 LMS GT3 in this season’s inaugural Blancpain GT Series Asia campaign, with Mitch Gilbert confirmed as its first driver.

Founded in 2014, the team has previously contested the Asian Le Mans Series and GT Asia categories with McLaren and Lamborghini machinery. However, that all changes this year thanks to Blancpain GT Series Asia’s partnership with the Audi R8 LMS Cup, which allows teams to run the same car in both championships at the same venue a matter of weeks apart.

Indeed, such favourable logistics and opportunities to gather additional data using the same car and Pirelli tyres played a major role in OD Racing’s decision to join the championship with Audi.

Gilbert, meanwhile, previously competed in European F3 and the Formula 1-supporting GP3 Series before successfully switching to GT racing at the start of 2016. The Malaysian-born Australian finished third in last season’s Porsche Carrera Cup Asia standings and also claimed a class podium at December’s Motul Sepang 12 Hours.

The 22-year-old will contest both the 2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup and Blancpain GT Series Asia campaigns with OD Racing, who will announce Gilbert’s co-driver for the latter championship in due course.

OD Racing director Cornelius Ee views this season as a fresh start for the team after a tough 2016.

“We hoped to finish 2016 with a better result than what we ultimately achieved, but that is racing and it was a steep learning curve for us,” he said. “For 2017, however, we have secured what we hope to be a race-winning car with the Audi R8 LMS GT3, and we have a talented line-up of drivers who I’m sure can deliver results for our team. The whole team is feeling re-energised and we are all committed to bring home great results this year for ourselves and our partners.”

OD Racing becomes the second Audi team confirmed for this season’s inaugural Blancpain GT Series Asia campaign after Phoenix Racing Asia announced its two-car programme in January. They’re joined on the GT3 grid by the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes-AMG, McLaren, Aston Martin and Lamborghini.

The team will test its new Audi at Sepang International Circuit on March 13/14 ahead of Blancpain GT Series Asia’s opening round of the season there on April 8/9.

2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia Schedule

April 8/9 Sepang, Malaysia
May 20/21 Chang International Circuit, Thailand
June 24/25 Suzuka, Japan
August 19/20 Fuji Speedway, Japan
September 23/24 Shanghai, China
October 21/22 Zhejiang, China

See you at the chequered flag.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Images courtesy of SRO Motorsports (c)