Nathan Kinch and Andrew Kirkaldy have extended their lead in the British GT championship after taking victory in the opening race of the weekend at Thruxton.
With team-mates Chris Niarchos and Tim Mullen unable to take the start of the race following mechanical problems at the start of the warm-up lap, the Scuderia Ecosse duo saw the pressure on them reduced immediately and Kinch was able to lead away at the start from Andrew Thompson in the LNT TVR and Gavan Kershaw in the debuting Cadena GTC Mosler.
By the end of the lap, Kinch was sitting out front from Thompson, although Kershaw had slipped down to fifth having lost out to Patrick Pearce in the second TVR and Neil Cunningham in the Embassy Racing Porsche.
However the charge for Cunningham wouldn't last long as a puncture on lap two, caused by contact with the TVR of Pearce, saw him forced to pit for a tyre change. On the same lap the GT3 Porsche of Sam Edwards started spewing oil on the run through Allard.
That would have a major effect on the front of the field on lap six, as Kinch spun his Ferrari allowing Thompson, Pearce and Keen to move into the podium positions. The TVRs quickly swapped positions as Pearce dived down the inside of Thompson into the first corner, with Keen soon following suit to put the Eclipse Mosler into second place, with Thompson third and a recovering Kinch in fourth.
Keen quickly set about challenging Pearce for the lead, and on lap nine the Mosler was ahead on the run up to Club, with Pearce outbraking himself in the TVR and running wide over the chicane. However before Keen had a chance to build a lead out front, the safety car was placed on standby as the Cadena Mosler spun and as the clerk of the course made the decision to call the safety car onto the track, the majority of the field made the decision to dive into the pits and complete the driver changes.
As soon as the pits opened, Keen, Pearce, Thompson and Kinch all dived into the pits, but the Embassy car remained on track with Cunningham forced to stay out as a failed radio system left him out of contact with his team on the pit wall. That decision was to prove costly as the Kiwi pitted on the following lap, with the safety car also coming in at the same time – meaning the #55 car was almost a lap down by the time Ben Collins returned to the track.
The driver changes, and a busy Thruxton pit-lane saw the positions alter drastically in a matter of laps, with Warren Hughes emerging at the head of the field in the TVR with Andrew Kirkaldy in the lone Ferrari now sitting in second place. Steve Hyde had dropped from first to third in the Mosler, with Michael Bentwood having benefited from a great stop from the RJN Motorsports team to jump up to fourth in the Nissan 350Z.
Kirkaldy was soon right on the tail of the leading TVR and having battled from Club right through to Segrave side by side, the Ferrari finally found a way through on the run up to Club. From there, Kirkaldy eased himself away at the front to take another victory with Hughes maintaining position to give LNT an impressive second following the disappointment of Knockhill a week ago. Jonny Kane battled up the order past both Hyde and Bentwood to give LNT a two-three finish with Bentwood bringing the Nissan home in a superb fourth place.
Ben Collins, on a charge in the Embassy Porsche, left the team wondering what might have been by securing fifth with Hyde completing the top six.
Mike Jordan and Michael Caine, who had struggled during qualifying, failed to finish after engine problems.
In GT3, Keith Ahlers and Oliver Bryant took a popular victory in the Team Aero Morgan after benefiting from a puncture for the Tech 9 Porsche, which had looked good for a win at the hands of Dimitris Deverikos and Piers Masarati. The current championship leaders held a strong lead until Masarati was forced to pit, allowing Bryant through to take the win, with Tim Harvey charging through the field to help Motorbase Performance to second.
Despite the problems, Tech 9 were still able to finish third.