BARNES AND GORNALL SCORE FIRST VICTORY AT ROCKINGHAM A dramatic Bank Holiday weekends' racing saw Jon Barnes and his Brookspeed Team Trimite team mate James Gornall score their first race victory in the British GT Championship at Rockingham in...
BARNES AND GORNALL SCORE FIRST VICTORY AT ROCKINGHAM
A dramatic Bank Holiday weekends' racing saw Jon Barnes and his Brookspeed Team Trimite team mate James Gornall score their first race victory in the British GT Championship at Rockingham in Northamptonshire.
After a lengthy 6 week break, Brookspeed Team Trimite arrived at Rockingham feeling very optimistic and confident of being able to score some more valuable championship points. The championship organisers had also announced some amendments to the equalisation of the various GT cars in the championship in the week leading up to Rockingham, with all of the Dodge Viper teams being allowed to remove their 48mm air intake restrictors to help them claw back some of the advantage that the Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, Aston Martin's and Porsche's were enjoying at Oulton Park and Knockhill.
There was also more drama before any competitive running at Rockingham, with some major amendments to the results of race 2 at Knockhill. Jon and James had originally finished 6th in the race, but after reviewing video evidence, the Clerk of the Course decided to exclude cars 22, 23, 42 & 1 from the race for overtaking under yellow flags, promoting the Brookspeed Team Trimite drivers into 2nd place in the race and in the overall British GT Championship table.
Sunday arrived and it already seemed as though the rain had decided to settle in for the duration of the weekend. James took to the circuit to qualify the car for the first race with the rain falling very heavily. On a sodden track with new wet tyres, James stayed out for the duration of the session and achieved a time of 1:36.74 to put the Viper an excellent 3rd on the grid.
With another fresh set of wet tyres, Jon settled into the damp seat for qualifying session two. With even more standing water than in the previous session, a 1:37.42 put Jon 7th, over 1 second faster than any other Dodge Viper could manage. In the final minutes of the session cars began falling off the track in all directions, and a number of yellow flags prevented Jon from improving his time further.
The rain continued to fall very heavily throughout Sunday afternoon and the standing water on the circuit had deepened significantly. After discussions with many drivers and teams, it was clear that most did not want to start the race in the appalling conditions. The organisers decided that the field would do two sighting laps behind the safety car and then a decision would be made whether or not to abandon the race.
The Brookspeed Team Trimite Viper formed up behind the safety car in its best ever qualifying position with James at the wheel. With only two Lamborghini's ahead, things were looking very promising for the team. As the cars exited the last corner for the second time, the safety car pulled into the pits and the race was underway. The leading Lamborghini of Leo Machitski had already stretched away from the chasing pack along the Start/Finish straight, but James was soon chasing him down after overtaking the second placed Lamborghini of Oliver Morley. James hounded Machitski until a water related gearbox problem caused the Lambo to lose drive, and subsequently the race lead. With the race now under his command, James settled down into a consistently quick pace and was building a significant lead over the 2nd placed Dodge Viper of Team RPM.
The pit window had opened and a number of cars behind James had already pitted so that their faster "A" drivers could take over. By this time a number of cars had already fallen foul of the track conditions and were littering the gravel traps. The team noticed that the Safety Car had been scrambled and was waiting for the race leading Viper at the pit exit, so they immediately called James in for the pitstop to hand over to Jon. The timing of the Safety Car period could not have been better as James was just approaching the pit entrance. The hand over to Jon was as seamless as ever and Jon rejoined the race in the middle of the pack. It took a few laps for the order to settle down after pit stops and the safety car period, but Jon emerged still running in 1st place with 16 seconds between him and the 2nd placed #21 Team Modena Lamborghini. With around 30 minutes of the race remaining, Jon had caught two back marking Ferrari's and a Lamborghini that were busy battling over 11th position. Jon finally got past the battling cars with the assistance of blue flags and flashing headlights, and he was then able to put a safe cushion between his Viper and the second placed Lamborghini. From there, all that was needed was for Jon to maintain his pace and the win was there for the taking. As the seconds ticked away the chequered flag was waiting at the finish line and the team were amassed on the pit wall. The Rockingham "bowl" seemed to fall silent until the blue & white car finally emerged at the exit of the last turn. A spontaneous cheer erupted from the wall as Team Trimite took their maiden victory, and also rocketed the #40 Viper into the lead of the championship!
The car and a jubilant team were able to dry out overnight and thankfully Bank Holiday Monday morning arrived dry, but still very windy.
During the 10 minute morning warm-up session Jon took the wheel to scrub in a set of new slick tyres in case the weather stayed dry for the race. Jon brought the car back to the pits after completing just two laps, keeping the slicks as fresh as possible for the race.
Jon took up his 7th position on the grid for race two with slick tyres fitted. On the rolling-up lap behind the Safety Car, the pole-sitting Tech 9 Lamborghini of Jason Templeman spun at the hairpin while trying to warm his tyres. He was unable to take up his correct grid position and instead started just in front of Jon in the Viper. At the exact moment that the lights went out at the start of the race, rain began to fall heavily. The race got underway and Jon took advantage of the first banked corner to sweep underneath the cautious pack ahead, up into 5th place. As the cars scrabbled for grip around the twisty infield section of the track, an over excited Templeman in the Lamborghini lunged inside Jon, losing control, sliding sideways and causing Jon to take avoiding action over the wet kerbs. With the Lamborghini now on the grass, Jon tried to coax the Viper back onto the circuit, only to lose control of the car on the kerbs, spinning back across the track and hitting the right rear corner of the car on the tyre wall on the inside of the circuit. Although it was a big impact and there was significant rear bodywork damage, Jon immediately spun the car around and back onto the circuit, losing just 12 seconds to the race leaders. Rather than pitting to check the car over, Jon bravely decided to stay on circuit to try to make up as much time and as many positions as possible before the pitstop and driver change. Despite the continued rain, damage to the car and poor handling, Jon was able to claw his way past the GT4 class cars and he began catching back up to the train of Ferrari's, Lamborghini's and Viper's at up to 4 seconds per lap! By the time the team called Jon into the pits on lap 17, Jon had made his way past 15 cars, back up into the points positions in 8th!
The driver change was the first opportunity for the team to see the full extent of the damage. James took the wheel but was not allowed back onto the track until the scrutineers were satisfied that the car was safe to continue racing. The rear bodywork was impinging on the tyre which potentially could have caused a puncture. A significant amount of duck tape resolved the problem and James screeched out of the pit lane. Over two minutes stationary had undone all Jon's work and James was now two laps down on the race leader with a significant gap to the cars ahead. Despite this, James continued the fight back, consistently lapping faster than the cars ahead. As the weather became ever more unsettled a few teams decided to make an extra pit stop to change to wet tyres, allowing the Brookspeed Team Trimite car to pick up a couple more positions. James was able to bring the car home a very hard fought 13th.
The team now have just 9 days to get the Trimite Viper ready for Snetterton, where Jon and James will be out to score more points and defend their 3 point lead in the British GT Championship.
Jon said, "This was a weekend of fantastic highs and terrible lows! It felt superb to score our first win in such awful conditions on Sunday and I must say a huge thanks to James, Andy, Mike and the rest of the team that worked so hard to help us achieve the race win."
"Mondays race, however, was a very different story. I was doing my best in the tricky conditions on the opening lap to stay out of trouble because I knew that once the race settled down I would be very fast. Unfortunately I basically got caught up in somebody else's accident and the car sustained heavy rear bodywork damage. Once I got the car back onto the circuit, I was one of the fastest cars despite the damage! I only lost 5 seconds to the race leader during my 17 lap stint, and that time was mostly lost when I was fighting my way past the 15 cars, back up into 8th position. Again, more bad luck was to come at the pitstop with the repairs that we had to carry out before James was allowed back onto the track. Had we been allowed straight out, I am sure that we could have scored another podium finish."
"We have many positives from this weekend and we are still leading the championship. We should be strong at Snetterton and I will certainly be going there looking to make up for the accident this weekend."