British GT News: The Donington Decider

bgt-logo 2Everything up for grabs at season finale

The Avon Tyres British GT Championship heads to Donington Park for the season finale with everything up for grabs on Leicestershire’s circuit’s famous curves over the weekend of September 13-14. All titles are yet to be decided, meaning thrilling battles in store across the GT3 and GT4 classes for both teams and drivers as well as the duel to win the Blancpain Gentleman Driver Trophy.

Donington’s 2.487 mile Grand Prix circuit has played host to the title deciders for the previous two years and once more it’s poised for an epic conclusion to end hard fought seasons throughout the field.

It’s a superb grid with over thirty entries with cars from Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Ginetta, McLaren, Lotus, Nissan, Porsche and Toyota but all eyes will be on the #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 of Marco Attard and Alexander Sims to see if Attard can convert his strong points lead into the GT3 Drivers’ title into the glory and the team can take their title too.

Attard may have the pressure on him, but a combination of Ecurie Ecosse / Barwell Motorsport and Sims will make sure he is focused on the job in hand.

“There’s quite a bit of pressure,” admits Attard who heads into the event with 148.5 points in his account. “We have a small buffer and that will help me to look – if not feel – more relaxed. Alexander and the team do a great job to keep me focussed and not get stressed about anything so we’ll have to see what happens.”

Team-mate Sims sits in second in the driver standings with 129.5 points by virtue of missing the two Snetterton one-hour races, so is therefore not in with a shout for glory, however the Oman Racing Team #4 pairing of Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine are in with a shout on 120 points apiece in their Aston Martin Vantage.
Caine has experience in being the underdog and looks to recent British GT history for evidence that anything can happen at the season finale.

“In 2012 we were lying fifth and won the championship there so anything can happen,” said Caine. “Donington is a good circuit, hopefully for the Aston too. It’s a two-hour race again so there’s plenty of potential for us.”

While the reigning champion Beechdean team and driver Andrew Howard can’t win a GT3 title, the sister car of Ross Wylie and Jake Giddings lead the GT4 standings with 192.5 points in their #407 Aston Martin GT4 Challenge.

Following in second is another Aston Martin, with the #49 TF Sport Aston Martin GT4 Challenge of Andrew Jarman and Devon Modell still in with a shout for the title, trailing by 29.5 points with 163 to their names.

While the points deficit leaves Jarman and Modell with it all to do, Modell is relaxed about the challenge.

“Nothing has changed for me going into Donington Park,” he said. “I’ve still got to go out there and win the race. Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie need to finish eighth or lower for us to win the title.”

Both driver standings may be a two car battle, but there are tightly contested Team Championships in both GT3 and GT4.

In GT3, after taking two podiums at Brands Hatch, the Oman Racing Team currently leads the way with 160.5 points. Behind them, both Ecurie Ecosse and Trackspeed pose threats, with 148.5 and 133.5 points respectively.

GT4 sees Beechdean on top again, with the team’s 192.5 points bettering Century Motorsport’s 179. In third, TF Sport’s 163 points could see them battle with Century for second.

Finally, the Blancpain Gentleman Driver Trophy sees a two way battle between Marco Attard and Andrew Howard, with Attard’s 163.5 points leaving Howard with it all to do as he trails by 30 points.

While the championship battles hit the headlines, even for the season finale, there’s some added spice to the mix in the entry list with some moves and shakes through the field.

Ollie Hancock will partner Gary Eastwood in the #18 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, whilst there’s a no points eligible return for experienced British GT drivers, Ron Johnson and Piers Johnson in the #19 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia. Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher will team up for #5 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3, with Butcher aiming for a second successive podium.

It’s not all change though, with recent Le Mans racer Alex MacDowall continuing to race alongside Phil Dryburgh in the #6 PGF – Kinfaun AMR Aston, with the duo impressing on their debut together at Brands Hatch. The impressive return from Nick Tandy and David Ashburn in the #31 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R saw a race victory last time out, and the #31 car will aim to repeat the feat at Donington.

Steve Tandy also racks up another appearance, this time racing for Team LNT alongside Mike Simpson in the #32 G55 Ginetta GT3, which like the #19 car won’t be eligible for points through entering the last event of the season.

There are also several returnees to the series, with Richard Lyons once again partnering Pasin Lathouras in the #29 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia. After missing the last few rounds, Matt Bell in the #23 United Autosports Audi R8 LMS Ultra will be re-joined by his regular team-mate, Mark Patterson. After Jann Mardenborough partnered Sir Chris Hoy at Brands Hatch, Wolfgang Reip makes his comeback to the #80 Nissan Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R GT3.

In GT4, APO resume their British GT campaign with Alex Osborne and James May in the #69 Porsche 911 GT4.

The Toyota G86 of James Fletcher and Stefan Hodgetts makes another appearance in the Invitational class, with the GPRM team continuing to drive the #86 car ahead of homologation and a possible 2015 campaign.

The final round of the 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship gets underway at Donington Park with practice and qualifying on Saturday 13th September with the two-hour race taking place on Sunday 14th.

Provisional Entry List
# Team / Entrant Car Driver Driver Class
1 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Andrew Howard Jonny Adam GT3
3 Rosso Verde / Hector Lester Ferrari 458 Italia Hector Lester Benny Simonsen GT3
4 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Ahmad Al Harthy Michael Caine (+75) GT3
5 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Liam Griffin Rory Butcher GT3
6 PGF – Kinfaun AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Phil Dryburgh Alex Macdowall GT3
8 Triple 8 BMW Z4 GT3 Jody Firth Warren Hughes (+75) GT3
13 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia John Dhillon Aaron Scott GT3
17 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 Humaid Al Masaoud Steven Kane GT3
18 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia Gary Eastwood Ollie Hancock GT3
19 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia Ron Johnson Piers Johnson GT3 *
21 Strata 21 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Paul White Tom Onslow-Cole GT3
22 Preci -Spark McLaren MP4 12C David Jones Godfrey Jones GT3
23 United Autosports Audi R8 LMS Ultra Mark Patterson Matt Bell GT3
29 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia Pasin Lathouras Richard Lyons (+75) GT3
31 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R David Ashburn Nick Tandy (+10) GT3
32 Team LNT G55 Ginetta GT3 Steve Tandy Mike Simpson GT3 *
63 Trackspeed Porsche 997 GT3 R Jon Minshaw Phil Keen GT3
79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 Marco Attard Alexander Sims (+10) GT3
80 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R GT3 Chris Hoy Wolfgang Reip GT3
88 Triple 8 BMW Z4 GT3 Lee Mowle Ryan Ratcliffe GT3
888 Triple 8 BMW Z4 GT3 Derek Johnston Joe Osborne GT3
42 Century Motorsport / Tom Oliphant G55 Ginetta GT4 Rick Parfitt Tom Oliphant GT4
43 Century Motorsport / A. Schjerpen G55 Ginetta GT4 Aleksander Schjerpen Morten Dons (+30) GT4
44 Team Parker Racing Porsche 911 GT4 Barrie Baxter Dan Cammish GT4
45 Geoff Steel / Declan Jones BMW M3 GT4 Jeff Wyatt Declan Jones GT4
46 Twisted Team Parker G55 Ginetta GT4 Adrian Barwick Bradley Ellis GT4
48 Fox Motorsport / Paul McNeilly G55 Ginetta GT4 Paul McNeilly Jamie Stanley GT4
49 TF Sport Aston Martin GT4 Challenge Andrew Jarman Devon Modell (+30) GT4
69 APO Porsche 911 GT4 James May Alex Osborne (+30) GT4
77 ISSY Racing / Oz Yuzuf Lotus Evora GT4 Oz Yusuf Gavan Kershaw GT4
407 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin GT4 Challenge Ross Wylie Jake Giddings (+30) GT4
86 GPRM Toyota G86 James Fletcher Stefan Hodgetts INV.
* indicates non-point scorers.

Quotes
Avon Tyres Motorsport General Manager, Paul Coates
We are proud to have continued supporting the British GT Championship and the British F3 Championship this year as title sponsors, relating to the company’s flagship brands Avon Tyres and Cooper Tires, respectively. National GT racing is not only highly competitive but also extremely accessible, giving fans the opportunity to see up-close a host of aspirational cars which are fine-tuned for racing purposes. We look forward to congratulating this year’s deserving champions.

Benjamin Franassovici, British GT Championship Series Manager:
Once more the Avon Tyres British GT Championship has provided epic action over the course of the year and we head to Donington with some thrilling title battles in store. It’s going to be a tense weekend for some as this is the final chance for 2014 glory, but this should provide superb action and entertainment for fans and competitors alike.

Jonny Adam, #1 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3
Brands Hatch wasn’t the best race for our GT3 crew. We had good pace over the weekend which we’d like to carry over into the final British GT round at Donington. The Aston Martin Vantage GT3 has been very competitive at every round this year so we hope to finish the year off at Donington with some silverware.

Benny Simonsen, #3 Rosse Verde / Hector Lester Ferrari 458 Italia GT3
This been a learning year, so we’ve just been taking one race at the time. Speed has been good recently so we’re hopeful we can carry that on to Donington. We just take it as it comes. I have never been around the GP track before, so look forward to that. The team always gone well around there and had great success there in the past, so hopeful we can do a strong result. We’re learned a lot this year.

Ahmad Al Harthy, #4 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3
It’s going to be a huge weekend at Donington. We know the chances of winning the championship are slim but to just be challengers going into the final round is a great feeling and shows what an incredible job everyone at the Oman Racing Team has done this year. We’ve had a fantastic season in British GT, it’s our first year with the Aston Martin and the car has been incredible from the word go. We’d obviously love to win the championship, that really would be a dream outcome, but if we can end the season in the top three it’ll be a great achievement. We know Donington will be tough, but we can’t wait!

Michael Caine, #4 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3
Donington is a good circuit, and hopefully it is for the Aston too. It’s a two-hour race again and loads can happen. In 2012 we were lying fifth and won the championship from there. It’s all the play for there, and that’s how British GT should be. It makes it exciting.

Rory Butcher, #5 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3
I really like Donington, it’s really fast and flowing, it suits the Aston. I think it will be really strong there, I can’t wait.

Jody Firth, #8 Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT3
Donington’s a high-speed flowing circuit, you’ve got to keep momentum through all of the corners, which can be a challenge. You’ve got iconic corners like the Craner Curves and of course the Old Hairpin; the Melbourne Loop is always a pleasure to drive too. I made my race debut at Donington Park; it was Formula Renault in 2005. I qualified eleventh, but was a tenth and a half off pole, that’s how tight it was! I’m expecting similar this weekend! Post Brands, Warren and I have a better understanding of the car and expect to move up the grid. I think a top six performance in qualifying is realistic. As for the race, well, I started tenth and got to fourth before the pit stops at Brands, so I’d like to bring it in no worse than third, even with the 75 kilos of weight.

Aaron Scott, #13 AF Corse Ferrari GT3
Donington is a fun circuit, fast and flowing, but the most difficult aspect is dealing with the traffic. Last year we had a great race, we finished sixth and set fastest lap. This year we want to get on the podium. John is driving very well at the moment and it could be possible.

Ollie Hancock, #18 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia
I am approaching Donington just like every other event and race, I’m in it to win it. I will prepare in my standard practise by watching some videos, looking at some data and probably, if I’m feeling athletic, a little run around the track. I think the biggest challenge of Donington Park will be the GP loop as I have not driven it for a few years so I will need a couple of laps to find my feet. I’ve driven thousands of laps at Donington and test there a few times per month in various different cars so I know most of the track well. I have no idea what to expect in qualifying, but I’m normally pretty good over long runs and look after my tyres well so I’d expect to move forward. I would love to do British GT next year, so we shall see what the winter will bring and I would invite any opportunities.

Ron Johnson, #19 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia
We’re approaching Donington with great expectations, having tested and raced the Ferrari 458 GT3 at Silverstone and Donington. The car is great, I think we have a good set up, and I am feeling confident. We will have to wait and see how that translates into a good race result though. The back part of the circuit from Redgate to Coppice is a fantastic fast flowing bit of track which tests the nerve and skill of a driver to keep the throttle flat where it may be possible. Sometimes, it is not! But it is a great challenge to explore where you can keep the pedal to the metal and stay on track and put in a fast lap time. I have always liked racing at Donnington. I seem to be best on fast flowing circuits, where time is gained from the fast flowing corners and late braking into the slower corners. We are always looking for a top ten finish, or better!

Piers Johnson, #19 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia
I watched the last race at Brands to see the grid of this year’s championship and it’s very competitive.The challenge of Donington is the combination of the fast flowing corners for the majority of the lap and followed by three slow corners with heavy braking, make it a challenge to get a good lap together and a set up for the whole lap. I personally like Donington, although I think my last win here was back in 2006 the first year of FIA GT3 in the Barwell Aston Martin DBRS9. It’s a circuit you can attack and be rewarded, apart from the loop! Ron likes the circuit and has good pace here. For us a good result would be a top ten.

Steve Tandy, #32 Team LNT G55 Ginetta GT3
Hopes are high. The Ginetta package is fundamentally very good and now the manufacturer are running the car I have high hopes for a fast reliable run with a good pro in Mike beside me. We just need to avoid being hit by the usual suspects! The challenge of Donington will be to get to grips with the GP loop. We all test a lot during the year on the short circuit but rarely the long one.

Mike Simpson, #32 Team LNT G55 Ginetta GT3
I am confident the factory Ginetta can have a strong race. My targets are high and I honestly think a top five is achievable. It is one of our local circuits and the car performs very well around Donington. The high speed aero is very good on the car, we will lack a little bit of punch out of the hairpins, but we should make this up in the first 2/3 of the lap. The Ginetta G55 GT3 has not had the best run in British GT, so my job is to turn the hard work by all at the factory and showcase the car’s performance and reliability at Donington Park.

Tom Oliphant, #42 Century Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4
I am approaching Donington very much the same as every other event with good preparation, high in confidence and ready to win. The main challenge with Donington is the old hairpin, it’s a corner that can make or break a lap and will be crucial with the run up the hill. The last time I raced at Donington was earlier in the year in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup where I won from the pit lane in changeable conditions. It’s a track me and Rick are very confident at and we expect to be challenging for the win. The season so far has been very unlucky for us.

Rick Parfitt, #42 Century Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4
I like Donington, we were quickest there at the media day and both myself and Tom go well there. The worry though is what bad luck happens next, we’re going to have a 1,000 horseshoes, 1,000 rabbit feet, a 1,000 clovers and cover the car in lucky charms and see what happens, maybe we’ll finish!

Morten Dons, #43 Century Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4
I’m always looking forward to get in the car again. With the long break after Spa, it feels like the season just started again and with our last minute loss of a quite secure podium at Brands last race, I’m really hungry for a podium result. Donington is a circuit with basically all types of corners. You have the really fast part at the beginning, some blind corners, and a few very slow corners, so putting all that together on one lap is going to be a challenge with setting up the car I think. I’ve been there for the media day at the start of the year. I hope we can make a top five qualifying result and then work our way to the podium doing the race.

Aleksander Schjerpen, #43 Century Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4
After the last race at Brands we have proven that #43 has the pace and are ready to fight for a podium again at Donington! We will prepare ourselves and the car to be ready, as we always do. I think the Ginetta and Century Motorsport should be well prepared for this circuit. I have done a preseason test day with Ginetta, and the media day, so I am quite new to the track. I have been new to all of the other tracks as well this year, so I think it should be good! Our season has been exciting and above expectations.

Barrie Baxter, #44 Team Parker Racing Porsche 911 GT4
Donington is one of the circuits on the calendar that I know and I’ve won there in historics many times, I like the car and knowing Donington eliminates the learning process.

Paul McNeilly, #48 Fox Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4
We tested at Donington a few weeks ago, I felt quite strong so we’re hoping to go there and carry on the good result to the last round. We all like Craners, you need to keep committed and keep it flat through there. It’s a good track, it suits the Ginetta and so we’ll keep our fingers crossed. Another podium would be good to carry it on to next year, and try and start next year in a strong position.

Jamie Stanley, #48 Fox Motorsport G55 Ginetta GT4
We always set out this year as a learning year with Paul and the team after joining the series new this year. So to finish the season with a few strong results to take us into the winter break is the aim, and then to come back fighting for the championship next year.

Devon Modell, #49 TF Sport Aston Martin GT4 Challenge
We have to win the race, that is the sole aim and all that matters and we’ll see what happens from there. It will certainly be an interesting race this weekend. The Ginetta and Lotus will be very good through the corners, but it’s a circuit where we can utilise the Aston Martin’s speed and produce a lot of overtaking, but hopefully we won’t need to do that as we’re hoping to drive off into the distance. Having tested at the circuit a few weeks ago, I believe that the Aston is the best package, as it has the speed and looks after its tyres very well, which falls into our hands towards the latter half of the race. At every race this season we’ve showed that we have a great race set-up and have been able to climb to the front very quickly, but we will be hoping to qualify on this front to give us an extra helping hand. Overall, I’m looking forward to this weekend and can’t wait to get out there.

Marco Attard, #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3
Donington is another great circuit however the BMW would prefer not to have the Melbourne Loop included! We’re looking forward to the race and hope to get the results that we need. Qualifying last year wasn’t too bad there so we are hoping to be at the front end but the Astons and the Porsches are very strong there. Last year the Ferrari was strong as well so it could be an interesting weekend! There’s too much pressure but to be honest we have a small buffer and that will help me to look if not feel more relaxed; I hope. To be fair Alexander Sims and the team do a great job to keep me focussed and not get stressed about anything. The season has been great fun and high quality of competition.

Alexander Sims, #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3
We won’t approach the race particularly differently to the others this year. It’ll be a case of trying to get maximum points and finish the year in style! The season has been so much fun. The fast flowing first half of the lap is quite different to the Melbourne Loop with its tight hairpins so that brings its own challenges to finding the optimum set-up. I’ve not done much running at Donington recently, just a test day in Formula E on the GP track and one in the Z4 on the National circuit. It’s quite a few years since I’ve raced here though. I really don’t know how competitive we will be though yet.

Ryan Ratcliffe, #88 Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT3
After a tricky qualifying and great result at brands, I’m looking forward to Donington. If we can get the car hooked up for qualy and get a good grid position, then I’m confident about a good result. The challenge with Donington is always the circuit condition; with the airport next door the track is very slippery and constantly evolving. I’ve always gone well at Donington, so I’m confident of a good performance again there. I know the competition this time is a lot tougher than previous years, but I’m still confident that Lee and I can get a strong result.

Derek Johnston, #888 Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT3
Donington is my home circuit. I won’t hold back there, I’ll be going for it.

Joe Osborne, #888 Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT3
I’m in a buoyant mood. Derek is mega around Donington and I was on pole here last year, so we should be pretty strong. We’ve got to end on a high after a really very disappointing season. The first half of the lap flows really well, then the GP loop is all about technique. You need to be controlled and look after the brakes too, they can really take a pounding round there. My first car race was at Donington and it was one to forget after I barrel-rolled a few times at turn one. Last year I qualified on pole by a pretty healthy margin, so it’s been a mixed bag. Qualifying is hard to call, but I think if Derek and I can qualify well, we’re a potent package for the race win. Nothing but a podium will suffice at Donington.

About the Avon Tyres British GT Championship:
The Avon Tyres British GT Championship celebrates its 21st season in 2014 with arguably the most prestigious and stylish sportscar grid of any national motorsport championship in the world. The 2014 season visits six UK venues with one international event held at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium.

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