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BGTC: Snetterton: Jon Barnes weekend summary

BARNES AND GORNALL STORM TO SNETTERTON VICTORY! A fantastic race win on Saturday and an impressive 2nd position in Sundays' race from 14th on the grid, allowed Jon Barnes and James Gornall to extend their lead in the 2008 British GT ...

BARNES AND GORNALL STORM TO SNETTERTON VICTORY!

A fantastic race win on Saturday and an impressive 2nd position in Sundays' race from 14th on the grid, allowed Jon Barnes and James Gornall to extend their lead in the 2008 British GT Championship!

Friday morning at Snetterton in Norfolk arrived very wet and soggy for the first practice sessions of the weekend. Brookspeed Team Trimite had done a great job in repairing the Viper's bodywork damage from the second race at Rockingham, and the team were eager to fire up the car and get onto the circuit to defend their lead of the Championship.

Now accustomed to driving in the typically awful British summer weather, James took the wheel on a set of worn Avon wets for the first hour long practice session. With a very good wet set-up still on the car from Rockingham, there was very little fine tuning to do and the session was spent letting Jon & James find the limit of the car around the fast Norfolk circuit. Jon set the best time of 1:19.44 to put the Viper 2nd fastest overall.

In the second practice session before lunch, the car was running well despite even worse track conditions. Jon was in the car setting very fast lap times, but on his 11th lap a GT4 class Ginetta turned in on Jon as he entered the Esses, making contact with the right rear wheel of the Viper and damaging the rim, causing an instant puncture. Jon was able to keep the car on the sodden tarmac and limp back to the pit lane.

Despite the damage being confined to the wheel rim, and with another hour long test session available in the afternoon, the team decided to spend the remainder of the day checking over the rear quarter for signs of damage. This was not exactly as planned, and was very frustrating for both drivers who were eager to get more mileage under their belts in the ever worsening conditions.

Saturday morning's official free practice session was another cold and wet affair. James drove the car for the first 25 minutes of the session, but his stint at the wheel was disrupted by obscene amounts of standing water on the track and a red flag. Once James was called into the pits, Jon took the wheel and immediately set a time of 1:22.90 to put the team up to 3rd fastest overall. However, Jon was called back to the pits after just 3 laps, and again the team decided not to risk sending the car out for the remaining 40 minutes of the session, despite the track conditions improving.

So the afternoons' qualifying sessions began with James taking to the track for the 'B' driver session. A short break in the rain meant that the track conditions had changed since James drove the car in the morning, with the surface being more damp and greasy than fully wet. With a brand new set of Avon wet tyres fitted, James struggled with a total lack of grip and only managed to put the car 9th fastest with a 1:21.27. A very frustrated James handed the car over to Jon for session two.

Jon took to the track still confident that he could get the new tyres to work in the greasy conditions, however, it was obvious after a couple of laps that the car was almost undriveable, and as the time ticked away in the 'A' driver session, Jon was only able to set a 1:20.44 to put the Team Trimite car a lowly 14th.

Jon said, "That is the most embarrassed I have ever felt in a race car and easily the worst qualifying sessions for James and myself this season. I simply couldn't get the new wets to grip in the greasy conditions and I even spun off the track when the car lost grip going in a straight line! The car actually felt like it had dry weather slick tyres fitted - that's how undriveable the car was! The car was set up really well for the wet weather that we had at Rockingham and here at Snetterton during testing, so I really hope that we can trace the problem and get the handling back to normal in time for this afternoon's race.

The team and both drivers agreed to switch back to an old set of wet tyres for Race 1 on Saturday afternoon after the problems with the new wets in qualifying. The tyres were a set that had been used for qualifying at Rockingham and they had also completed all of the testing at Snetterton, a total of around 1.5 hours of running.

The heavens had opened once again prior to the start of the race and from 9th place on a wet grid, the team knew this race would be a hard fight to score some points and keep the championship fight alive.

A further complication to proceedings at Snetterton was the presence of the Matech Ford GT, the car currently leading the FIA GT3 European Championship was making a one-off appearance in the British Championship with the 2007 British Champions, Alex Mortimer and Bradley Ellis at the wheel. The Ford had been blisteringly quick throughout warm-up and qualifying and was eligible to score championship points.

On the first lap of Saturday's race James had a great start and moved up from 9th to 6th position. The old set of wet tyres had brought the cars handling back to normal and James soon set about reeling in the leading pack. By lap 10, the Trimite car was running in 4th, and holding on to the lead three cars, when the Safety Car was deployed for an accident amongst the GT4 class cars. With the pit window opened after two laps behind the Safety Car, the majority of the field filed into the pit lane, James included. An impeccable pit stop and driver change saw Jon emerge as the 4th car out of the pits.

As soon as the safety car was in, Jon was hot on the heels of the Team RPM Viper of Oliver Bryant. Jon passed the Viper at Sear corner and the next lap round Jon also passed the Ferrari of Championship rival Michael Cullen at the same corner. This put Jon into a fantastic second position, and despite the conditions worsening, Jon vowed to chase after the race leader, Luke Hines in the #16 CR Scuderia Ferrari who was over 9 seconds ahead.

In just 15 laps Jon managed to close the gap between himself and the race leader to just 0.5 seconds and he then made his way past the Ferrari with an overtaking manoeuvre up the inside on the Revitt straight, and out braking his rival into the Esses. With just 7 laps remaining, Jon had built up a considerable lead over the Ferrari and it appeared that he only needed to keep the car on the circuit in the dreadful conditions to score the team's second victory of the year. On the final lap however, the charging Ford GT of Bradley Ellis emerged from the spray to challenge Barnes for the race lead. Despite a last gasp lunge down the inside of the Viper at the final corner, Jon was able to hold on to the race lead and score an emphatic victory for Brookspeed Team Trimite and extend his and James's lead to 13 points at the top of the Championship.

A quiet night in on Saturday was much needed after the emotional race victory. Jon and James both knew that with the forecast for dry weather on Sunday and a grid position of 14th, there would be much hard work to come the next day.

When the garage shutters were rolled up on Sunday morning, the team were greeted with the unfamiliar sight of a warm, dry track! With a quick change to slick tyres and a dry car set up, Jon took to the track for the ten minute session to bed in new slick tyres and brake pads. A time of 1:10.24 put the car 8th fastest with more pace to come.

A dry track and 14th place on the grid would make race two a very hard fight, buoyed by Saturday's victory however, nothing was impossible. At the race start, Jon got a great run on the rest of the field and overtook the other Viper's around the outside into Riches, the first corner. Jon was then able to switch to the inside line for Sear and he drove past two Ferrari's down Revitt straight. This brought the Trimite Viper up from 14th to 9th and onto the tail of a train of 3 cars led by Adam Wilcox in the VRS Ferrari. Jon soon despatched of ex-British Touring Car Champion Anthony Reid and then passed the 2005 British GT Champion, Jonny Cocker in the #9 Lamborghini with a daring move around the outside into the Esses. With debris on one of the corners, the Safety Car was then brought onto the track on lap 9, bunching up the field.

Once racing was underway again, 5th place man Wilcox in the #12 Ferrari was lunged by Luke Hines's #16 Ferrari at Sear. The two cars touched and began to spin, Jon just managing to avoid becoming part of the accident by slamming on his brakes and slicing up the middle of the two cars! Jon then spent 4 laps chasing down James Sutton in the #14 Ferrari, before being called into the pits early to hand over to James. James took the wheel in a typically faultless stop and returned to the track. Whilst the team waited for the race order to clear up after the pit stops, James set a fast pace and emerged running 3rd with Alex Mortimer in the Ford GT and Hector Lestor in a Ferrari ahead.

As Lestor's pace dropped off, James made the move for 2nd place and was catching Mortimer at 0.5 seconds a lap. James depleted the Ford's lead to just 2 seconds, and with 9 laps remaining the two cars were catching traffic. James was held up behind a Ginetta and Mortimer stretched the gap to 4.1 seconds. With only three laps remaining and marginal fuel levels due to running the mighty 8.3 litre V10 unrestricted, James backed off to consolidate the excellent 2nd place.

Again, the whole team were overjoyed to score a podium finish from such a lowly starting position, both drivers showing excellent speed and maturity to overtake 13 cars and still bring the Viper home without any damage. With a massive haul of 18 points at Snetterton, Jon and James now hold a commanding lead of the British GT Championship with 47 points in total and a 16 point gap back to 2nd place.

Jon said, "There have been a number of difficulties this weekend but James, myself and Andy our engineer have worked our backsides off to keep the car at the top of the Championship. After the awesome performances in both races here, I hope that everyone in the team has realised that we can win this Championship."

"We now need to take what we have learnt here and come back stronger at Thruxton, our home race at the end of the month. Another two podiums there is definitely what I will be aiming for and I hope to see as many people as possible at Thruxton on the 28th/29th of June to support us!"

-credit: jonbarnes.com

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About this article
Series GT
Drivers Anthony Reid , Adam Wilcox , Luke Hines , James Gornall , Oliver Bryant , Bradley Ellis , Jon Barnes , Jonny Cocker , James Sutton