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Ecurie Ecosse stretches British GT title lead with victory at Brands

Sunday, August 02 2015

The reigning champion Ecurie Ecosse team has taken victory in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship two-hour race at Brands Hatch today (Sunday), after a tense battle with the Triple Eight squad in an incident-filled encounter.

Andrew Howard powered the pole-sitting Beechdean Aston Martin into an immediate lead at the start but Lee Mowle challenged in the Triple Eight BMW as Ross Wylie followed in the VonRyan McLaren and began to put the BMW under pressure heading into the second tour.

There was an early incident between Rick Parfitt Jr's Ginetta and Gary Eastwood's Ferrari, delaying both drivers, then Wylie and Mowle collided, sending the McLaren off the track. Meanwhile behind Howard and Mowle, Marco Attard held back the pack in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, with the TF Sport Aston Martin of Andrew Jarman, and Oman Racing car of Liam Griffin enjoying a good scrap as Jon Minshaw closed on the sister Oman car of Ahmed Al Harthy. Jarman closed on Attard as they lapped traffic, and attacked at Clearways. The pair collided, sending the Aston Martin off into the gravel.

The race then began to settle into a rhythm, with the leading pair lapping in close company, then a gap to Attard in third, who now had a small gap to Griffin, Al Harthy and Minshaw. But shortly afterwards a safety car was called to clear an incident between the VonRyan McLaren and the Preci-Spark Mercedes at Stirlings, which left both cars stranded in the gravel.

The Beechdean car timed the restart perfectly to leave the Triple Eight BMW a long way behind, with both clear of the Ecurie Ecosse Z4, and Attard having to fend off the attentions of the Aston Martin of Griffin and BMW of Minshaw. An error at Paddock Hill was enough to see the Aston through into third place, moments before the sister car of Al Harthy pulled out of the race. There was further bad news for Parfitt, who hit the barriers at Sheene Curve, ending his difficult afternoon.

When the pit window opened, Howard was first to stop, joined by much of the top ten, aside from Minshaw. The Beechdean car would have to stop for longer, since the squad won at the previous round at Spa, forcing them to take an extra 20 seconds in the pitlane. Minshaw pitted on the following tour and the Team Russia squad would lose 15 seconds for finishing second in Belgium.

When the pro drivers headed out, the leading order was: Joe Osborne (Triple Eight BMW), Rory Butcher (Oman Aston Martin), Alexander Sims (Ecurie Ecosse), Matt Bell (TF Sport Aston), Jon Barnes (22GT Aston), Jonny Adam (Beechdean Aston), Phil Keen (Team Russia BMW).

The field was then bunched when Jamie Stanley's GT4 Ginetta spun at the exit of Druids and was stranded in the middle of the track. At the restart Osborne made a perfect getaway whilst Butcher had his hands full with Sims trying to find a way past. Barnes joined the queue, but was forced to take a penalty in the pits, as was Keen back in eighth place. Barnes' race ended several laps later with heavy contact with the barriers at Druids but safely emerged from the stricken car.

Before Barnes' incident, Sims increased the pressure on Butcher, and forced his way through at Graham Hill, losing the Aston Martin several places in the process. This brought Bell's Aston into play briefly, but he began to fall further back and concentrated on keeping the gap to Adam and Carroll static.

Sims then set his sights on the leader and the gap came down to under a second as Osborne tried his best to hang on with half an hour remaining. He drove a very wide BMW, soaking up the pressure to keep the Ecurie Ecosse car behind for many laps, before Sims made a few attempts to unsettle the leader at Surtees. He got alongside Osborne out of Graham Hill when the latter came a little unstuck lapping a backmarker with nine minutes remaining, and took the lead, stretching his advantage over the next few laps, eventually taking the flag 3.6 seconds ahead. Osborne headed Bell, Adam, Carroll and Butcher, with Benny Simonsen just holding Keen at bay for seventh place.

In the GT4 class, Will Moore's Aston Martin took the category lead from the Ginetta of Paul McNeilly, as Aleksander Schjerpen's Ginetta and Oz Yusuf's Lotus followed. The two Ginetta's battled early on as Yusuf and Graham Johnson's Ginetta looked set to pounce. Sure enough, McNeilly lost out to both before spinning into the gravel at Sheene curve.

Yusuf was first to pit, handing over to Gavan Kershaw, just as Johnson was looking ready to attack. When the leader pitted, Johnson's team-mate Mike Robinson headed the class, followed by Dennis Strandberg (Academy Aston Martin), Stefan Hodgetts (Toyota GT86), Ross Gunn (Beechdean Aston) and Gavan Kershaw (Issy Lotus). Then the Toyota pitted under the safety car, promoting Gunn into a podium position.

Meanwhile Luke Davenport was storming through the field in the Tolman Ginetta, and took the class lead with just over half an hour remaining. In the latter stages Jake Hill brought the AmDtuning Porsche into contention. However he collided with Strandberg, promoting Gunn to third place.

British GT Championship Race
1, Marco Attard/Alexander Sims, Barwell Motorsport/Ecurie Ecosse, BMW Z4, GT3, 76 Laps
2, Lee Mowle/Joe Osborne, Triple Eight Racing, BMW Z4, GT3, +3.600s
3, Derek Johnston/Matt Bell, TF Sport, Aston Martin Vantage, GT3, +4.849s
4, Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam, Beechdean AMR, Aston Martin Vantage, GT3, +6.272s
5, Gary Eastwood/Adam Carroll, FF Corse, Ferrari 458 Italia, GT3, +10.254s
6, Liam Griffin/Rory Butcher, Oman Racing Team, Aston Martin Vantage, GT3, +22.876s
7, Hector Lester/Benny Simonsen, Hector Lester/Rosso Verde, Ferrari 458 Italia, GT3, +44.508s
8, Jon Minshaw/Phil Keen, Team Russia by Barwell Racing with Demon Tweeks, BMW Z4, GT3, +44.688s
9, Alistair MacKinnon/Lewis Plato, RAM Racing, Mercedes AMG, GT3, +1:20.494s
10, Ross Wylie/Andrew Watson, VonRyanRacing, McLaren 650S, GT3, +4 Laps

The result means that Ecurie Ecosse stretches its title lead over Beechdean and Oman Racing Team with three rounds remaining, whilst Beechdean's GT4 advantage over the non-finishing ISSY Racing squad is extended.

The next major event at Brands Hatch is the Lotus Festival on 15/16 August. Tickets are available from £10 with free entry for under-13s. For more information please call 0843 453 9000 or click here.