BARNES CLAIMS FIRST BRITISH GT PODIUM FINISH AT KNOCKHILL Jon Barnes and his Brookspeed Team Trimite team mate James Gornall scored their first podium finish in an action packed weekend of racing in the British GT Championship at Knockhill in ...
BARNES CLAIMS FIRST BRITISH GT PODIUM FINISH AT KNOCKHILL
Jon Barnes and his Brookspeed Team Trimite team mate James Gornall scored their first podium finish in an action packed weekend of racing in the British GT Championship at Knockhill in Scotland.
THE RACE WEEKEND BEGAN WITH JAMES AND JON BREAKING-IN THE VIPER'S FRESHLY REBUILT 8.3 LITRE V10 ENGINE DURING FRIDAY'S TEST SESSIONS. IN THE FIRST SESSION, BOTH DRIVERS RAN ON OLD TYRES AND WERE UNDER STRICT INSTRUCTIONS NOT TO REV THE ENGINE ABOVE 4000RPM. THE SESSION PASSED WITHOUT ANY MISHAPS, ALTHOUGH THE DRIVERS WERE UNABLE TO SET A LAP TIME THAT TRULY REFLECTED THEIR PACE.
IN THE SECOND SESSION THE DRIVERS WERE ALLOWED TO INCREASE THE REVS TO 5500RPM AND WITH THAT, THE #40 VIPER MOVED SHARPLY UP THE TIMESHEETS. JON WAS BEHIND THE WHEEL SETTING COMPETITIVE TIMES, BUT HE LATER CAME COASTING INTO THE PIT LANE, REPORTING A SEVERE LACK OF DRIVE AND GRINDING NOISES FROM THE TRANSMISSION AFTER A SHORT RUN OUT OF THE FINAL CORNER. THE CAR WAS PUSHED BACK TO THE PADDOCK WHERE IT WAS LATER DISCOVERED THAT THE DIFFERENTIAL HAD BROKEN, AND MACHINED ITSELF BEYOND REPAIR. WITHOUT A SPARE ONBOARD, THE TEAM BEGAN HUNTING FOR A REPLACEMENT AND EVENTUALLY THEY GRATEFULLY RECEIVED A SPARE FROM FELLOW DODGE VIPER RUNNERS, TEAM RPM.
Saturday arrived dry and fairly bright, with the warm-up session spent breaking-in the replacement differential. The team eagerly awaited an opportunity to run at full pace, and finally got the chance to do so when James, as "B" driver took the car out for the first qualifying session at midday. James posted a time of 51.88 seconds, initially putting the car into the top three but as the session time elapsed, the team were bumped down to 6th.
Jon then took over for the "A" driver session which determines the starting order for race 2. In a chaotic session that was red-flagged halfway through , Jon's time of 51.84 seconds eventually put the car a slightly disappointing 10th. The car was taken back to the awning and the team began preparations for what was to become an epic race 1.
James took the wheel for the start and held onto his 6th position on the way into the first corner. The back of the circuit was still damp from an earlier rain shower, and as James came back into sight towards the end of the opening lap he was in an excellent 4th place, having safely negotiated the damp parts of the track. Over the next few laps James chased the leaders hard, but he eventually lost a place to the #2 Team RPM Viper. During the next 20 minutes of his stint James's progress was hampered when the safety car was brought onto the track no less than 3 times after various accidents left cars in dangerous positions on the circuit.
After 23 minutes of the race and during yet another safety car period, the pit window opened. Quick thinking by the team brought James in early from 4th place for the driver change. An impeccable pit stop allowed Jon to exit the pits right on the back bumper of the #2 Team RPM Viper - Jon radioed the team while exiting the pits to check if the circuit was now under 'green flag' racing conditions and once the team had confirmed this was the case - Jon sliced straight up the inside of the rival Viper into the damp Carlube corner. After another handful of laps Jon was promoted up into 2nd position when the #9 Tech 9 Lamborghini Gallardo came into the pits for it's driver change. Jon was then on a real charge and was catching the leading #16 CR Scuderia Ferrari 430 of Luke Hines and Jeremy Metcalfe by a second per lap, but Jon himself was being caught by the #5 Trackspeed Porsche of Richard Williams.
A further safety car period negated the gap that Jon had over the Porsche as the pack bunched up. According to the regulations, when the safety car period has ended, the car will switch off its lights and pull into the pit lane. It is then the responsibility of the field of cars to maintain their speed and position until they cross the start/finish line, when racing can resume. Unfortunately the over eager Trackspeed Porsche passed Jon and the three GT4 class backmarkers ahead of him before the start/finish line to take 2nd place. The Porsche was then called in for a drive-through penalty, handing 2nd place back to Jon. The leading Ferrari had been gifted a healthy cushion at the restart while the rest of the field were stuck behind the the slower GT4 class cars and it was now half a dozen seconds up the road. Jon drove faultlessly over the final laps on very worn tyres, and crossed the finish line to score Brookspeed Team Trimite's first ever podium in the British GT Championship with a superb second place. The jubilant team and drivers celebrated on Saturday evening, although not too hard as they all knew that there was still hard work to do in race 2 on Sunday.
The #40 car returned to the circuit for race 2 with Jon at the wheel. From 10th place, with the "A" drivers out first, the team knew that this race would be a very hard fight. Jon was displaced in the first few laps by a charging #1 RPM Viper and the Trackspeed Porsche. With the car still lacking the pace of the Ferrari's and Lamborghini's, Jon drove a sensible and mature race from midfield, knowing that if he could hang on to the lead pack, there would be casualties and the team could capitalize and gain positions. Jon did a solid job, holding position until the pit stop and driver change at the halfway point.
The pitstop passed without fault, and after James had been racing for just 5 laps there was a safety car period. The prolonged stoppage meant that the whole field closed up and put James in an ideal position to pick off the other "B" drivers. Released from the safety car period in 8th place, James moved up to a very hard fought 6th place. In the dying minutes yellow flags were out for an accident at the back of the circuit, and the race was eventually red flagged.
Jon said, "The results that we have achieved this weekend are absolutely superb. We knew that this weekend was going to be very tough as the Viper is not suited to this tight, twisty and bumpy circuit at all. We have now proven that we have the goods to get onto the podium and I believe that our first British GT win is not too far away. Everyone involved with this team should be very proud - this weekend we actually scored the highest amount of points of anyone in this championship which is pretty astonishing! I am really looking forward to the next rounds of the championship at Rockingham at the end of May."