Team Modena Battle Through at Brands
Brands Hatch delivered a good result for Team Modena's two Lamborghini Gallardo's this weekend as the Avon Tyres British GT Championship visited the Kent circuit. Ben de Zille Butler and Guy Harrington taking sixth in race one after being in the heat of the battle for the final podium position for much of the race, while on Sunday Rachel Green, on her Team Modena debut, and Piers Johnson, finished fifth after starting at the very back of the grid.
The Sunday result for Rachel and Piers was all the more sweet as a gearbox problem saw them miss Saturday's qualifying and race as the team returned the unit to their High Wycombe base to be repaired. With their Gallardo back on song the next day, consistent and rapid lapping saw them take a well-deserved result.
"To get a result for the number 21 car was superb after the work we had to do on the gearbox," said Team Principal Graham Schultz, "and we could have finished higher, but it was a great result for Piers and for Rachel on her first drive in the car - she is really pleased. The Saturday result for Ben and Guy was good for them and their confidence."
Ben and Guy qualified their Team Modena Lamborghini Gallardo seventh and eighth on the grid for the weekend's two races at Brands Hatch. Both drivers recorded times under the current GT3 lap record at the circuit - set by Team Modena's Antonio Garcia in 2007 - and were confident ahead of the races.
Ben was in the Gallardo for the first of the two 15-minute sessions, and set a good time early on, only to be forced to pit with a puncture. He rejoined with five minutes of the session left, and improved on his time to finish seventh quickest on 1m31.671s.
"I'm pleased with the time," said Ben, "we are competitive with last year and that is the quickest I have gone this weekend, but everyone else was quicker as well. Seventh is there and thereabouts and we will be in the mix in the race.
"Having lost time with the puncture I was left with five minutes to get a time, and you have to get the tyres up to temperature first. I had to push hard in a couple of places and could maybe have been quicker, but the car feels great for a one-hour race, it is pretty effortless to drive round here and we can run that pace for most of the race.
In the second session Guy, using the same tactic as Ben, delayed leaving the pits for a time at the beginning of the session to emerge on a clear section of track, and lapped quick enough to be third overall early in the session. A brief stop to adjust tyre pressures saw him back on track, and as times tumbled in the closing seconds of the session Guy recorded a best lap of 1m30.775s - good enough for eighth overall.
"I had a little of understeer that we have not had before this weekend, maybe conditions have changed," said Guy, "but other than that the car feels really good and we can work with starting eighth."
A strong start from Ben saw him gain two places in the first half lap, running a strong fifth in the early phase of the race before the pit stop window opened. Ben pitted on lap 17, from second position on the road, having battled the car in fourth during the final part of his stint.
"That was awesome - I have a smile on my face!" said Ben. "I knew I had to get past the two Vipers in front early on otherwise I would get caught up with the Ferraris, so I was pleased to gain those places. One got back, then overshot on the next lap anyway and I went past.
"Towards the end I was all over one of the Ferraris, he was defending fairly, but was costing me two seconds a lap and the car behind caught us. That was a good enjoyable race - we have something to build on for tomorrow."
A great pit stop from the team saw Guy emerge third of the cars that had stopped, and once the race settled down he was in a group of cars battling for that position. An opportunistic move saw him take advantage of battling cars in front to again nose into third on lap 32, ending the race sixth - Ben and Guy having had their strongest race performance to date after a run of bad luck.
"We made at two places in the pits," said Guy, "and after that battling with the other cars, and at one point was closing on the guys in front, thinking second was possible. I got a Viper down through Paddock Hill Bend, and that is a move I'd like to see gain on the video!
"It was good to get a finish, and I think we can do even better tomorrow."
Seventh at the end of the first lap, Guy was part of a seven car battle for the mid-top ten positions, a train of cars battling for lap after lap. Rachel was up to 13th by the end lap four, in her first British GT race, and set about bridging the gap to the rest of the field after she had fought her way through the dicing GT4 class runners, having started last due to missing qualifying on Saturday
Rachel pitted on lap 18 to hand over to Piers, Guy filling the slot in the pits as Piers pulled away to re-join the race. Ben was immediately in trouble with the number 11 Gallardo he shares with Guy, and retired on the circuit with another engine failure.
"I had some good dicing and it was going well," said Guy. "The car was good in the corners, then I got tapped from behind by a Ferrari at Druids and that put me into a slide and I lost two places. After that it was a case of keeping with them - but a frustrating result over all, but the team did a great job as always."
Once every car had made a pit stop Piers was in ninth, and a Safety Car period allowed him to close right up on the pack. They resumed racing with 14-minutes remaining, and Piers gained places and was challenging for fifth on the final lap, yellow flags denying him the chance to go past at Paddock Hill Bend, one of the circuit's key overtaking points. A last lap move inside an Aston Martin was emphatically rebuffed, and he came home sixth, to be elevated a place in the final results when a car ahead was given a time penalty. The car's performance was a great result and a fine reward for the team's work in getting the Gallardo onto the grid.
"It was unbelievable," said Rachel, "the GT4 cars were three-abreast in front of me and I couldn't get past them, and I could see the GT3 cars pulling away. It was hard work to get past them, and then it was a case of being consistent.
"Piers did a great job and I have points in my first GT race, and my thanks go to the team for all the work they did to get the car out today. Lots of cars fell out today, but it is thanks to their efforts we finished so high up."
"That was good," said Piers, "the Safety Car helped us at the end, but you win some and lose some with Safety Cars and today it helped us. The traffic at the end was difficult but I managed to get past a few people, but I got stuck behind the Aston who was making it very difficult to pass. I had a go into Surtees, and we had a bit of a ding-dong, and I though 'better not'. Rachel did a good job and got her head down when she had some clear road."
Next race: LMS - Nurburgring, Germany 15-16th August