Down to the Wire
So far this year the Avon Tyres British GT Championship has been the closest fought championship in UK motorsport and with just four races remaining the title race is wide open. Who will be crowned British GT Champion? The races at Croft could be the deciding factor with a British motoring icon going head-to-head with an American supercar, and one Italian and one other British marque looking to spoil their party.
At Thruxton two weeks ago the bio fuel Aston Marin DBRS9 of Jonny Cocker and Paul Drayson was the dominant force scoring their second win of the year in race 1 and finishing just behind their Barwell Motorsport teammates Guy Harrington and Ben de Zille Butler in race two. Cocker and Drayson left Thruxton with a two point lead over Alex Mortimer and Bradley Ellis, which doesn't sound like much but in British GT terms that's about as good as it gets - it has been that close all season at the top of the championship table.
While the Aston Martin was the car to have at Thruxton, the Team RPM Viper of Ellis and Mortimer stayed in touch, scoring two podium finishes. The double race winners are confident of a return to the top step of the podium at Croft to put them back in front of the championship chase.
Harrington and de Zille Butler are both in their rookie season after moving up to British GT from Caterhams. The pairing have certainly adapted well to the awesome 6-litre V12 Aston and six podiums, including wins at Donington Park and Thruxton, have underlined their claim to British GT honours in their first season.
The Team Eurotech Preci Spark Ascari KZ1R of Leicester based brothers David and Godfrey Jones has been the dark horse at every event. The Jones brothers are the only team to have scored championship points in every race so far this season and this has kept them in touch with the leading three cars. An alternator failure at Thruxton cost them valuable points but they managed to bring the British built Ascari home in the points for the 10th time. An overall victory has eluded the team so far but the Jones brothers have shown they have the pace to secure their first British GT win, so look out for the grey Ascari this weekend.
The CiM Ferrari 430 of Hector Lester has been a double race winner this season, thanks in part to the calibre of the teammates Lester has been driving with, but certainly don't underestimate the pace of the likeable Ulsterman. Reigning British GT Champion Tim Mullen was Lester's partner for the two wins at Oulton Park and at Silverstone, while Allan Simonsen drove at Brands Hatch and at Thruxton. The Dane was challenging Jonny Cocker for the lead in the second race but Thruxton was particularly hard on the Avon tyres used by the Ferrari and an electrical problem during the pitstop delayed Lester even further.
The third Barwell Aston Martin of Tom Alexander and Michael Bentwood is tied on 40 points with Hector Lester and the Donington Park winners are looking for a return to form at Croft after a run of bad luck has blunted their challenge for the British GT title.
A fourth Aston Martin DBRS9 run by Cadena Motorsport joined the grid at Brands Hatch. The 2007 British GT3 Team Champions switched from the Lotus Exige to the Aston and at Thruxton the team scored a 6th and 4th placed finishes and a podium certainly beckons this weekend.
The VRS Motor Finance Ferrari 430 of Phil Burton and Adam Wilcox is another front running car, with two pole positions and a podium finish to their credit. Like the CiM Ferrari, the team struggled with tyre wear at Thruxton, something that shouldn't slow them down at Croft.
Oulton Park race winner Oliver Bryant switched to the Damax run Ascari, partnering the rapid Phil Keen at the Brackley based team. The pace shown by the pairing at Thruxton didn't translate into championship points but this is a car to watch out for this weekend.
Bryant's former teammate Matt Harris has been joined in the Tech 9 Porsche 997 by BTCC front runner Tom Ferrier. The addition of a new aero kit has improved the performance of the Porsche but a gearbox problem didn't help the team get to grips with the fast sweeps of Thruxton. However Croft should be more to the teams liking.
The GTC championship race has been as closely fought as the main GT3 class. While the quantity of cars has been depleted this season there is no doubting the quality of the teams taking part. The RSS Performance Porsche 996 of Graeme Mundy and Jamie Smyth is leading the way with two wins and seven further podium finishes to the teams credit. Such is their determination to win the title, Smyth and Mundy completed the entire last race at Thruxton stuck in 3rd gear, an impressive performance that netted them six championship points.
The Beechdean Motorsport Ferrari 360 of Andrew Howard and Aaron Scott is the main threat to the leading Porsche and three wins have put the team in contention, despite a number of mechanical and electrical problems that blunted their championship charge mid season.
The Richmond Racing Ginetta of Richard Hollebon and Nick Marsh took their first podium finish at Thruxton to the delight of the entire British GT paddock.
The race for the British GT Championship will certainly go down to the wire and the question over who will be victorious this weekend is certainly too close to call. What can be guaranteed is superb sportscar racing action during the two 60-minute races.