Jon Barnes and James Gornall in the Team Trimite Brookspeed Dodge Viper came away from this past weekend's meet with a 25 point championship lead. The pair are now tantalisingly close to the title after scoring a 3rd and 1st place in the two Thruxton races.
The Avon Tyres British GT championship is building a reputation for fast, exciting and dramatic racing. As the cars took to the extremely fast Thruxton circuit near Andover in Hampshire for rounds 9 and 10 of the championship, this meet was to be no exception.
Round 9 saw the pairing of Allan Simonsen and Hector Lester claim their first victory of the 2008 in the Christians in Motorsport Ferarri F430, over six seconds ahead of Craig Wilkins and Aaron Scott in the ABG Motorsport Viper who were in turn a further 2.8 seconds in front of championship leaders Jon Barnes and James Gornall in the Team Trimite Brookspeed Viper.
The British GT Championship has had some very wet races this year but in Hampshire the conditions were sunny and the track dry. CR Scuderia's Jeremy Metcalfe lead away from the line and by the end of the first lap had opened up a four second lead. Steve Clark in the RPM Dodge Viper had started in third but spun on the first racing lap dropping him well down the field. Metcalfe on the other hand made the best of the drama behind him creating his cushion.
Gornall meanwhile had his Viper up to 4th place and set about gaining 3rd from Paddy Shovlin in the CR Scuderia Ferrari F430 which he achieved three laps later.
In the GT4 class Nigel Moore was leading in the Team RPM Ginetta but he spun on lap 8. Meanwhile the Tech 9 Lamborghini Gallardo of Leo Machitski spun at the Chicane after contact with Phil Burton in the VRS Motor Finance Ferrari F430. The Gallardo tried to rejoin but was going no further with collapsed right rear suspension. The safety car was brought out and the two stranded cars were collected.
It took nearly 20 minutes to clear the stricken Tech9 Lamborghini which meant the pit window opened under safety car conditions.
All but one of the cars entered the pits at the same time creating a very busy pit lane. Cars collided and mechanics were hit in the confusion, one upshot being Cadena Motorsport's Aston Martin was given a drive through penalty but instead chose to pull out of the race in protest.
Simonsen in the CiM Ferrari jumped six places to grab the lead, with Adam Jones in the Modena Lamborghini in 2nd , Barnes in the Viper was lurking in 3rd.
Barnes put the Brookspeed Viper in 2nd but a hard charging Scott in the ABG Motorsport Viper took 3rd and then 2nd as Barnes battled with ABS failure.
The second race of the weekend started well with Michael Bentwood in the 22GT Racing Aston Martin leading the field away from Simonsen in the CiM Ferrari in 2nd and Scott in the ABG Motorsport Viper in 3rd.
Simonsen tried to make a pass on Bentwood through the right/left complex, but the pair collided and the Ferarri spun off the track and into last position. Scott meanwhile got a good run on the delayed Bentwood claiming first place with relative ease.
The race was red flagged just 10 minutes in after a massive crash involving Bradley Elllis in the RPM Ginetta. The accident between the Ginettas of Rob Austin and Ellis on the very fast run into the last corner resulted in the Team RPM Ginetta careering off the circuit and hitting the marshal's post, eventually coming to rest around 40 metres later in a cloud of dust and debris.
The marshals dove for cover and escaped harm while Ellis clambered from the wreckage and was taken to hospital in Winchester where he was diagnosed with a chipped bone in his neck.
After a 30 minute clean up exercise the race restarted with the pit window to open after 10 minutes of racing. The grid formed up as they had finished the first part of the race with the ABG Viper of Scott at the front.
Scott pulled away from Bentwood at the start but a loose undertray forced the car into the pits and eventual retirement giving Bentwood the lead. The leaders came in to the pits right at the end of the 15 minute pit window where Tom Alexander would emerge in the lead but not for long as he would later spin at the Complex. Barnes, now at the front of the field ahead of Metcalfe and Lester went on to claim the third victory for the Trimite Brookspeed team.
There was some confusion about the win as the Brookspeed Viper and the third placed CRS Ferrari were both demoted a spot for pit lane speeding.
As a result on the Podium, Hines / Metcalfe celebrated the win, with Gornall / Barnes in second and Cullen / Shovlin in third. However the subsequent appeal against the decision was successful and No.40 Viper collected maximum points.
Rounds 11 and 12 will take place in just two weeks at the Brands Hatch GP circuit. Gornall and Barnes will have the opportunity to tie up the championship if all goes well for the pair.