Chris Niarchos and Tim Mullen claimed victory in the opening race of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship season to give Scuderia Ecosse a winning start to life with the Ferrari 430 GT.
With the Emotional Engineering Monaro and the GTC class Ferrari of Oliver Morley failing to make the start, 21 cars blasted away from the line when the lights went green, with Luke Hines using all the knowledge gained from his time in the BTCC to defend from Niarchos as the Scuderia Ecosse driver tried to find a way past the Panoz.
However, Niarchos would find himself losing out at Old Hall as Phil Keen took full advantage of the Ferrari running wide to slide into second in the Eclipse Mosler. However it wouldn't be for long, as the new Ferrari 430 quickly retook the place – allowing Niarchos to set off in pursuit of Hines' Panoz.
The leading two soon started to pull away, with Keen holding third and Godfrey Jones fourth and David Ashburn fifth in the Trackspeed Porsche – leading the GTC class challenge. However, the Team Tiger Marcos was fixed on the tail of the Porsche and as the pair crossed the line at the end of lap three, Chris Beighton used all the track – and more – to take fifth going into Old Hall.
As the laps passed, Hines and Niarchos continued to pull away from third placed Keen, with the Panoz forced into increasingly defensive lines as Niarchos tried to find a way past. Lapping the Richmond Racing Ginetta on lap ten allowed Niarchos to close right up to the rear of the Panoz with the red car shadowing the orange one until both came into the pits on lap 14 to complete their driver changes.
Behind the front two, Keen was holding a lonely third with Jones an equally lonely fourth in the Team Eurotech Porsche. Beighton was fifth in the Marcos ahead of Ashburn, although the Trackspeed driver would lose time just before he pitted to hand the car to Ryan Hooker after spinning on the exit of Lodge corner. The Team Aero Morgan was seventh overall and third in class with Ian Stinton inside the top eight in the Data Protection Solutions Prosport.
The pit-stop would see Tom Kimber-Smith emerge ahead of Tim Mullen in the battle for first, but the pressure on the Panoz would be even greater than before as Mullen immediately started posting the quickest lap times of the race to close onto the rear bumper of the Team LNT entry – eventually taking the lead on lap 20.
From there, Mullen would simply drive away from the Panoz to secure a comfortable win for the defending champions, the Ferrari lapping two seconds a lap quicker than the Panoz in the closing stages to take the win by 20.029secs after easing off on the final lap.
Lee Caroline would take third in the Eclipse Mosler, the best part of a minute off the second placed Panoz, with the Jones brothers having to settle for fourth. One of the stars of the second half of the race would prove to be veteran Ian Flux, who would bring the Rollcentre Racing Mosler he shares with Kevin Riley through the field to secure fifth, setting the third fastest lap in the process.
The ageless Marcos of Chris Beighton and Jon Finnemore claimed GTC honours and fifth overall, with a comfortable advantage of nearly 25 seconds over second placed Stinton by the finish – the DPS driver putting in a fine performance as he went solo to claim a podium – with third going the way of the Hooker/Ashburn Porsche after Hooker overcame his team-mates spin to claim a top eight overall finish.
Alex Mortimer and Bradley Ellis took ninth in the RPM Porsche, with David Dove and Callum Lockie securing the final place in the top ten after Keith Ahlers suffered a spin in the Morgan on the final lap – team-mate Oliver Bryant having done his growing reputation no harm with another strong drive during the early stages.
Race one – top ten: