Donington Park played host to a sensational, action-packed finale to the 2012 British GT Championship, where it was United Autosports’ Zak Brown and Alvaro Parente that took the race win, but Motorbase’s Michael Caine and Daniele Perfetti that scooped the 2012 drivers title.
For the second year in a row, a team with no race wins to their name was victorious in the championship race, but the dramatic climax that led to this occuring was like nothing the series had seen before.
Polesitter, Nico Pronk led the field onto the opening straight, but by Redgate the Dutchman had succumbed to the straight-line power of Brown’s McLaren MP4-12c. A flurry of overtakes followed throughout the twenty-six strong field and RJN Motorsports’ Alex Buncombe made the most of being the only ‘Pro’ starting, carving past his rivals to fifth from a lowly fourteenth grid slot. While Brown continued to lead, he was soon joined by 2010 Champion, David Ashburn (Trackspeed Porsche) , and the fast starting Andrew Howard in his Beechdean prepared, Aston Martin V12 Vantage.
Within the space of the next lap, Brown conceded the lead to Howard, before Buncombe, continuing his march through the order, got past both of them and left his rivals in his wake. Perfetti was now on a fight back after losing some places on the opening laps and having the race of his life, seizing every opportunity ahead.
As the first half of the race developed, positions settled and Charles Bateman, Brown’s team-mate in the second United Autosports McLaren emerged as the man most likely to challenge Buncombe, who by lap seventeen had a lead of over nine seconds. David Jones in the Preci-Spark Mercedes AMG SLS was making short work of the cars ahead and with his tyres up to optimum temperature made chase for the lead pair.
Elsewhere, Lawrence Tomlinson pushed the Team LNT Ginetta G55 hard, and was mixing it with a train of cars than included the Ferrari of Hector Lester (Rosso Verde), the BMW of Alasdair McCaig (Ecurie Ecosse), and the Porsche of Ashburn.
Beechdean boss, Howard had lost his earlier pace due to a suspension issue on the 007 Aston and was limping around the circuit in thirteenth place. Eventually the team retired the car on safety grounds, despite Jonny Adam’s attempts at wrestling the car up the order. Worse news was around the corner for the other Aston Martin though. Cyber Racing – AMR’s Phil Dryburgh had a big off at Coppice on lap nine and retired beached in the gravel.
Once the pit stops had been completed, RJN Motorsports’ Nissan was still ahead on the track, gifted a bigger lead by the combination of a spin on one of Bateman’s last laps before handing over to Matt Bell, and the success time adjustment of 28 seconds for winning the previous race at Silverstone.
However, on his second lap out of the pits, the first of several moments that would dictate the title occurred. Race leader, Mardenborough felt a problem in the suspension of his Nissan GT-R heading down the Craner Curves and the driver slowed to prevent a puncture, crawling back to the pits; Godfrey Jones now in the Preci-Spark Mercedes took over the race lead.
Motorbase’s Michael Caine was now second and United Autosports duo Matt Bell and Alvaro Parente lie third and fourth respectively. Parente would become more of a feature in the race as he blitzed the lap times of those ahead of him; a time of 1:29.679 on lap 41 the fastest of the race overall, and half a second quicker than 2011’s pole position time in similar conditions.
Championship conundrums were frantically being calculated down the pit lane, except at RJN where Mardenborough sat patiently in the RJN car, still in the pits. Joe Osborne, now in for Steve Tandy pitted to take a one second stop-go penalty for a too short pit stop by his Trackspeed team.
Next, another race changing event occured. Speedworks’ Piers Johnson, languishing outside the top twelve in the Corvette Z06r, had a brake failure at McLeans and was fired backwards into the gravel; a short safety car period was the result and it bunched the field up tightly, allowing Parente to not just get past Bell, but Caine and Jones too, a position the Portuguese driver wouldn’t relinquish until the flag. At this stage, the Championship looked like it was heading the way of MTECH’s Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron by just half a point.
Hoever, the next turning point all but ensured the championship would head the way of Dave Bartrum’s men. On the exit of the Melbourne Hairpin, Ecurie Ecosse driver Olly Bryant fired the Ecurie Ecosse BMW up in the inside of Jones’ Mercedes and won the position under braking for final corner Goddards; in the process though, Bryant tapped Griffin’s Ferrari into a spin that would drop the MTECH driver down to tenth and out of the title race.
Bryant continued in fifth, but was swiftly handed a one minute stop-go penalty by the race director that would halt the title challenge of driving partner McCaig, now just a bystander on the pit wall. Bryant duly took his penalty and rejoined eleventh, where he would remain.
Up front Peter Kox, now in the red Reiter Lamborghini was up to third, a truly storming recovery drive from the fifteenth place, lap down place his team-mate Pronk had handed him the car in. Unable to match Kox’s speed, Bell eventually dropped to third, but in doing so would complete a very successful day for his Anglo American team.
With the cars of Parente and Kox ineligible to score points this weekend as the were only racing this weekend, points for a race win fell to Bell and Bateman, lifting them to third in the championship, just behind Ashburn. The Trackspeed driver’s team-mate Phil Keen had a strong race to fifth behind Caine’s Motorbase Porsche, but ahead of the Jones’ Mercedes.
Stephen Jelley’s Motorbase Porsche was a solid seventh, a strong finish following a tough opening stint for team-mate Steve Parish. Double winners Joe Osborne and Steve Tandy finished eighth after a struggle with tyre wear, and Mike Simpson brought the Team LNT Ginetta home in ninth place after a hard fought race. Griffin and Cameron’s Ferrari rounded out the top-ten, leaving them fourth in the points.
With GT4 honours sorted at Silverstone, bragging rights were down to claiming the race victory this weekend. Having a meticulous weekend, even by their standards were Team WFR’s Jody Fanning and Warren Hughes. A quick start by Fannin ensured the #55 Ginetta was in the lead, and the pair soon had a record eighth GT4 victory handed to them.
Jota Sport’s Mark Ticehurst and Owen Mildenhall failed to complete the first half of the race, pitting on several occasions with mechanical issues striking the new for 2012, MX-5 GT4. Century Motorsports’ Ginetta faired slightly better, Zoe Wenham completed the driver changeover, but team-mate Dom Evans soon pitted with the rear of his G50 on fire, a driveshaft issues a suspected but unconfirmed fault.
This left Fannin and Hughes to cruise to victory, just a lap down on the Ferrari GTC entry from FF Corse. The Silverstone-based squad’s Gary Eastwood and Ryan Hooker saw off the competition in the GTC class from David Witt and Ray Grimes and took the class title as well as the Donington race win.
Zak Brown, United Autosports (First in GT3):
“Winning the race was great. Alvaro is such a star and he drove a superb race. I was happy with my stint. I got a great start and managed to take the lead. I couldn't hold it for long, but I managed to bring the car home in the top five. Matt and Charles also had a great race so it was a fantastic day for the United Autosports team.
Alvaro Parente, United Autosports, (First in GT3):
“Zak had a great start and was driving well. He was able to put me in a good position to challenge for the win. I had some fights with others on the track, and it all went my way today and I was able to control the race. It
is a great result for the team”.
Daniele Perfetti, Motorbase Porsche (Championship winners):
“It feels great. I wouldn’t have thought we’d be here halfway through the season. We started with high hopes, had a few moments and we never won a race. Its important to finish and collect the points, everyone always says that, but its true. It’s a pity to not have won the race, but it is fantastic, stressful and really enjoyable. The team have done a great job and that starts with David. It’s great to have someone fantastic on top.”
Michael Caine, Motorbase Porsche (Championship winners):
“It’s great for the team, it’s great for the car. We’ve had an indifferent year really, but it’s great to win. I had problems hearing the team, didn’t know where I was in the championship and I let Kox past as I knew he wasn’t in the points, but the two McLarens hit me and knocked my steering out, so I was relieved to finish. I only knew we’d won when I crossed the line and the guys were leaning over the pit wall. Motorbase put so much effort in and I owe them a championship for all the effort Dave has put into my racing. It’s great that they’ll have it on the side of the truck now!”
David Bartrum, Motorbase:
“Tim Harvey was in the pit lane at Brands pre-season and I said I think I’ve got the pairing, I think I’ve got the pairing – we’ve got the pairing! It means an awful lot, it was a big decision for me as a business to give up Carrera Cup and say, we’re going to do British GT. We arrived here and were immediately made to feel very, very welcome. They’ve got a great group of people working on the series and a great set of competitors. To arrive here and see so much quality, Aston Martin, Mercedes, BMW, Ferrari, McLaren, and to race against them and win… that’s not a bad first year for the team. I’m over the moon for my guys who’ve worked very hard all year, as have our drivers. I might have a few touring cars for sale actually – this is a great place to be.”
Full race positions are available here: http://bit.ly/SLG5TL
Final 2012 championship points:
1. Daniele Perfetti/Michael Caine Motorbase 130.5pts
2. David Ashburn Trackspeed 127pts
3. Charles Bateman/Matt Bell United Autosports 121pts
4. Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin MTECH 119pts
5. Alasdair McCaig Ecurie Ecosse 115.5pts
6. Jann Mardenborough/Alex Buncombe RJN Motorsport 108.5pts
7. Steve Tandy/Joe Osborne Trackspeed 93.5pts
1. Jody Fannin/Warren Hughes Team WFR 243.25pts - CHAMPIONS
2. Zoe Wenham Century Motorsport 159pts
3. Dominic Evans Century Motorsport 132pts
4. James May/Alex Osborne APO Sport 104.5pts
1. Gary Eastwood/Ryan Hooker FF Corse 62.5- CHAMPIONS
2. David Witt/Ray Grimes Jordan Racing 38.5pts
Full points: http://bit.ly/Mi5AsA