Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam began their 2016 British GT campaign with victory in this afternoon’s Brands Hatch season opener. The TF Sport Aston Martin pair were joined in the top-three by the pole-sitting Team Parker Racing Bentley of Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris, as well as Liam Griffin and Fabio Babini’s Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini, which was promoted to third post-race.
The result sees Johnston win his second consecutive British GT round after also triumphing at last year’s season finale, a victory for reigning champion Adam on his TF Sport debut, and Lamborghini’s Huracan GT3 secure its maiden series podium first time out. Four different manufacturers also filled the top four positions.
Those results might have been different were it not for a red flag that brought the race, which was scheduled to run for two hours, to a close with 23 minutes remaining after a lengthy Full Course Yellow period had earlier nullified the field for almost 40 minutes.
The opening laps saw Parfitt Jnr escape from fellow front row starter Jon Minshaw and his Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini. The Bentley was some way up the road when the Huracan came together with Wilson Thompson’s RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta GT4 and was forced to retire with suspension damage.
That gave Parfitt Jnr a huge advantage over a pursuing pack led by Liam Griffin, who’d moved his Barwell Huracan up from fifth on the grid to second overall ahead of Johnston and Lee Mowle’s BMW Z4 GT3.
But with just under 40 minutes gone a Full Course Yellow was triggered by a serious incident at Pilgrim’s Drop involving Phil Dryburgh’s Motorbase Performance Aston Martin, the Simpson Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 driven by Nick Jones and Matty Graham’s Generation AMR Macmillan Racing Aston GT4. All three drivers escaped unhurt, although the significant barrier damage caused by Dryburgh’s rolling Vantage GT3 required time-consuming repairs.
Indeed, the race was still under FCY when the pit window opened after 50 minutes. And it was TF Sport’s decision to delay Johnston’s stop that helped Adam leapfrog from third to first. The Scot was seven seconds clear of his nearest challenger having set a new British GT lap record for Brands - a 1m24.695s - when the race ended early.
Joe Osborne, who rejoined third before dispatching Fabio Babini at the restart, initially closed to within two seconds of Adam before falling back into the clutches of Morris once the Welshman had also passed the Lamborghini driver. The pair circulated together for several laps as Morris looked to make his move, but Osborne was having none of it and held on to finish runner-up on the road for the second season running at Brands.
However, a post-race penalty for overtaking Babini while the race was still under yellow flag conditions saw the AmDTuning.com BMW Z4 GT3 he shares with Mowle demoted to fourth in the final classification.
Babini held off Ross Gunn’s charging Beechdean AMR Aston, which had started last in GT3 but made significant ground with Andrew Howard aboard, to secure what would ultimately become third for the Barwell Lamborghini he shares with Griffin on its British GT debut.
Gunn was chased all the way by Jon Barnes’ TF Sport Aston, while Rob Bell set three consecutive fastest laps early in his stint aboard the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 650S GT3 that had lost significant time during its pit-stop after being backed up behind its GT4 stablemate.
Pete Littler and Jody Fannin brought their PFL Motorsport V12 Vantage GT3 home in eighth to secure points first time out, while Rollcentre Racing’s Richard Neary and Martin Short were the last of the GT3 entries running at the finish in ninth.
The race-ending red flag was required to extinguish a fire that had brought the #56 Tolman Motorsport Ginetta’s involvement to an early end.
Griffin’s drive from fifth to second helped him win the Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend Award, while the new-for-2016 PMW Expo Team of the Weekend Award went to Optimum Motorsport for their efforts to repair the Audi, which included a dash to Leeds and back on Saturday afternoon for a new R8 LMS GT3 floor.
Round two of this season’s British GT Championship takes place at Rockingham on April 30/May 1.
Derek Johnston, TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “We made a decent start and everything felt good. But half a dozen laps in I lost the rear end and it was really snatchy. I knew it was important to hold on and five or six laps later the car came back to me. We were perhaps fastest on track at that time before the accident happened. But we decided to roll the dice and stay out a bit longer, and it worked. Jonny’s made a massive difference to the team because of his knowledge of the car from working at Beechdean. Everyone’s raised their game as a result, including me.”
Jonny Adam, TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “We saved a set of tyres for the stint so it took a couple of laps to bring them in. I also had a bit of traffic but once everything was sorted the car felt so balanced. It’s been good all weekend to be fair. It was a bit surprising to come out of the pit-lane leading but we’d decided to wait until it had cleared before making the stop, which obviously helped.”
Rick Parfitt Jnr, Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “I feel robbed, to be honest. The stint was good and the start went exactly as I wanted it to. I got my head down and was able to build up a gap before maintaining it; we were driving to a target. When the Code 80 began I had something like a 10-second lead. But by the time I pitted it was down to one second, so it’s something that needs to be looked at. Then we couldn’t get to our fuel rig because the Maserati was parked at 45 degrees. So a catalogue of disasters, really. But I’ve got to take the positives. We came here hoping for the top-six and finished third, so it’s not too bad.”