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RPM wins wet Donington race

19 July 2009

Alex Mortimer and Philip Walker claimed the first win of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship season for the RPM Motorsport team at Donington Park, timing their pit stop to perfection to steal a march on their rivals in a wet two-hour endurance round of the championship.

A solid fifth-place finish ahead of their chief title rival saw championship leaders David and Godfrey Jones extend their points advantage slightly with three rounds remaining.

The first endurance round of the 2009 series was always going to cause problems for some of the teams and their exotic machinery, but in the end it was the weather which had the biggest effect on shaping the race. A violent downpour minutes before the off meant the event had to get underway behind the safety car.

The pole position MTECH Ferrari of Duncan Cameron led the way for the first 18 laps, until 17-year-old Dan Brown in the Momo Mosler - battling against a broken windscreen wiper in increasingly poor visibility - took up the running after a steady charge up from the fourth row of the grid.

Then the heavens opened again and the safety car came back into play for three laps. On the second of them, the RPM Ford GT dived for the pits for its refuelling stop and driver change, Walker handing over to Mortimer after running a solid sixth. Crucially the Ford was able to get back on track without losing a lap.

Brown's Mosler was one of the last of the frontrunners to pit; it did so from the lead on lap 36, and from that point on Mortimer took over in front and never looked in much real danger of losing the victory.

"We had always planned an early stop," Walker said, "and we were close to the window when the safety car came out and that made the decision for us. It was just as the most torrential rain came down, so it was perfect timing."

The closing stages were not comfortable for Mortimer, however, as he had bearing down on him the MTECH Ferrari, now with Matt Griffin at the wheel. The Irishman had joined the race sixth after the stops and drove superbly to pick off the cars ahead, snatching third from the clutches of the Craig Wilkins/Aaron Scott Viper with seven laps to go and second from the Paul Warren/Jose Balbiani Chad Ferrari two laps later. The gap to the leader proved too great to breach, however.

"Duncan had an absolutely fantastic stint," said Griffin, "but we had a very tight window in which we could pit and unfortunately for us that meant we couldn't pit under the safety car. I think I was about 60 seconds behind Mortimer and by the end it was down to eight."

Griffin's performance earned him the Sunoco Driver of the Weekend Award.

Third place came back to Wilkins and Scott four laps from the end when the Chad Ferrari struck a problem; Balbiani nursed the car home fourth, about 20 seconds ahead of the Jones brothers' Preci-Spark Ascari.

Alan Simonsen and Hector Lester finished in sixth, a lap in arrears, with the only other classified GT3 finisher the Mosler, which covered only 58 of the 81 laps because of engine problems. The VRS Ferrari of Adam Wilcox and Phil Burton was the only machine not classified: its engine expired after 16 laps.

There was another fine GT4 class win for Jody Firth and Nigel Moore - their eighth of the season - in the Team WFR Ginetta G50. Championship newcomer Century Motorsport led the way initially, courtesy 17-year-old Ben Hetherington, with Nathan Freke finishing the drive with a fastest lap-setting performance spoiled only by having to serve a drive-through penalty for a pit stop rules infringement.

The ABG Motorsport-prepared KTM X-BOW enjoyed a trouble-free run to eighth overall in the hands of Marcus Clutton and Phil Keen.


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