Invitational Ginetta wins Rockingham opener
30 May 2009
A race of high drama and attrition at Rockingham brought a new race victor in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship in the shape of the Barwell Motorsport Ginetta G50Z driven by Joe Osborne and Olly Bryant.
With the car running in the Invitational Class, there were also new championship leaders in Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen, whose Rosso Verde Ferrari finished second overall, won the GT3 class and claimed a maximum points haul.
The Zytek-engined Ginetta was making only its second appearance in the championship, and was being driven by Osborne for the first time, but that did not stop Joe from planting it on the pole, nor from leading the race from the start and for the duration of his stint at the wheel.
"We always knew the start would be critical," he said. "My first three laps were real 'qualifying laps' to pull a good gap of about four or five seconds over Dan Brown's Mosler, and then I settled into a pace I could drive at consistently."
Seventeen-year-old Brown in the Rollcentre/Momo car did well to keep in touch with Osborne, and indeed to narrow his lead to under one second as the pit stops approached. However, he threw away any chance of victory with a spin at the hairpin just after inheriting the lead when Osborne pitted to hand over to Bryant. Bryant regained the track with a huge advantage over the new second-place car, the Beechdean Aston Martin of Andrew Howard and Jamie Smyth.
Second-stinter Smyth didn't hang on to second for long, passed firstly by the VRS Ferrari of Phil Burton/Adam Wilcox and then by the Rosso Verde 430, with Simonsen at the wheel and gunning for a blazing finish after solid work from the start from Lester.
With ten laps to go, Simonsen was only three seconds behind Wilcox and there ensued a mighty battle for the GT3 class lead, settled in the Dane's favour four laps from the flag when he blasted around the outside of his rival into the Deene hairpin and held station, now on the inside for the Yentwood right-hander.
"It was an extremely hard race because of the heat," said Simonsen, "but everyone was struggling with it, not just us. A few people dropped out, which helped our situation, and then I was able to pick off a few towards the end."
Up ahead, Bryant was being given pit signals to speed up lest he also fall into Simonsen's clutches.
"When the gap started coming down I had to up my pace a bit," said Olly, "but I had to be very careful not to slide off the track in the process. The car was good but we still need to do a lot of work to it to make it a bit kinder on its tyres."
With the G50Z not yet homologated and running as an Invitation Class entry, it was Lester and Simonsen who emerged on top in championship terms, despite finishing four seconds adrift at the chequered flag.
Wilcox and Burton were delighted with third overall and GT3 class second. Burton made a blinding start to pick up three places on the opening lap, and handed over to Wilcox with the Ferrari a solid fifth.
"Adam did a fantastic job to lead the class until three minutes from the end," said Burton, "and the team did a great job in preparing a reliable car. After all the bad luck we've had this is a great boost."
Howard and Smyth continued their season-long progress up the leaderboard with fourth place overall and the final slot on the GT3 podium, with Brown and his new driving partner Gregor Fisken next up, ahead of the Chris Hyman/Paul Warren Chad Ferrari and the RPM Ford GT of Philip Walker and Michael Bentwood, which finished a lap down after an unscheduled pit stop following a collision at Brook with the GT4 Ginetta of Gary Simms.
Erstwhile championship leaders Craig Wilkins and Aaron Scott went out after 21 laps when their Viper broke a driveshaft. Other mechanical casualties were the Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin MTECH Ferrari and the Jones brothers' Preci-Spark Ascari.
GT4 category points leaders Nigel Moore and Jody Firth scored their fourth class race win from five starts with an untroubled drive in their Team WFR Ginetta. Their closest rivals, Simms and Hunter Abbott, were in trouble right from the start, Gary losing time with a fourth-lap spin which dropped him to the tail of the field.
As Moore romped away into the class lead ahead of Ian Stinton's Stark Racing Ginetta, Simms did his best to make up the deficit until the 21st lap collision which holed his car's radiator and ended his race.
Moore took over to win by a lap from the Stinton/Mike Thomas car, a confidence boost ahead of the 17-year-old's looming Le Mans debut.
"Jody made an excellent start to the race," said Moore, "He pulled a decent gap and all I had to do really was to stay out there and finish. The team did really well, the car was excellent."