Eastwood/Carroll win breathless British GT opener at Oulton
Gary Eastwood and Adam Carroll’s FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia emerged victorious from an action-packed first Avon Tyres British GT Championship round of the season at Oulton Park today after holding off the advances of both Oman Racing Team and Triple Eight Racing.
In GT4, Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson came out on top after a tough fight with Ross Gunn/Jamie Chadwick and Terry Langley/Mike Hart.
Back at the front Eastwood was forced to play second fiddle to Liam Griffin’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 throughout a first stint that featured a fantastic 10-way, five-make tussle for the podium positions covered by no more than six seconds following a first lap Safety Car period.
Something had to give and it did on lap 12 when the lead bunch attempted to lap Salih Yoluc at Hizzy’s Chicane. Andrew Howard’s Beechdean AMR Aston span in avoidance of the recovering Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650S and was collected by Ahmad Al Harthy.
That elevated the chasing pair of Derek Johnson and Alistair MacKinnon, but their promotion was short lived when the RAM Racing Mercedes SLS AMG caused what was adjudged to be an avoidable incident along The Avenue that also eliminated Jon Minshaw’s Barwell Motorsport BMW and badly damaged the sister Ecurie Ecosse Z4 of Marco Attard.
The necessary Safety Car appeared just as the pit window opened after 25 minutes when both Griffin and Eastwood opted to stop. Good work from the FF Corse crew had Carroll strapped in and away just ahead of Rory Butcher, and the two would remain at the head of the field once racing resumed.
Lee Mowle’s Triple Eight Racing BMW Z4 GT3 was 11th when the accident occurred but picked its way through the carnage and busy pit-lane to somehow emerge third in the hands of Joe Osborne.
Those three would battle hard over the remaining laps, Osborne passing Butcher before setting off in pursuit of Carroll. He’d get within 0.6sec of the Ferrari before losing out in traffic to a resurgent Butcher in the closing stages. Carroll, for his part, underlined what might have been in reserve by setting fastest lap on the final tour to win by just over a second.
Mat Jackson finished fourth on his British GT debut after Oman Racing Team co-driver Phil Dryburgh steered clear of the first stint melee. Hector Lester and Benny Simonsen were next up in the Rosso Verde Ferrari ahead of the battle-scarred Ecurie Ecosse BMW.
Mike Simpson was catching Jackson’s Aston Martin when he was pinged for overtaking under the Safety Car just before crossing the white line. Their Team LNT Ginetta GT3 eventually came home seventh ahead of Jarman/Fannin, Parfitt Jnr/Oliphant and Al Harthy/Lloyd.
Debutant Andrew Watson had looked like challenging the front-runners over the opening laps after moving from fifth to second. But his first British GT race would end in the Island barriers after an over-enthusiastic pursuit of Griffin.
GT4 started as a slow-burner but ultimately served up a classic battle. Oz Yusuf and the ISSY Racing Lotus Evora GT4 looked to have things under control after building a sizeable cushion before the Safety Car period, but only emerged from the pits in sixth.
Aleksander Schjerpen’s subsequent lead didn’t last long after his Century Motorsport squad incurred a drive-through penalty for a short pit-stop. That set up a ding-dong battle between Mike Robinson’s Optimum Motorsport Ginetta and Aston Martin pair Ross Gunn (Beechdean AMR) and Mike Hart (Quantamatic Racing) who scrapped tooth and nail over the final stint.
Gunn and Hart’s door handle banging antics at Old Hall eventually allowed Robinson, who shares his car with Graham Johnson, to escape for a comfortable 4.7secs victory. The Gunn/Chadwick Aston got the better of Hart/Langley’s similar Vanquish GT4 by only half a second.
AmDTuning.com’s Graham Coomes and Shaun Hollamby brought their Porsche 911 home fourth ahead of the recovering Schjerpen/Birch Ginetta and Kershaw/Yusuf’s Lotus.
Gary Eastwood, FF Corse (GT3, P1): “It got a bit messy behind us at the start but I tucked in behind Liam after a good, fair getaway and then it was a really good race. Adam drove a fantastic stint and the guys called me in at the right time; it was a good call from the team. So we went out, got in front and won it! We were always going to try for the win and it’s a lovely feeling when you get it.”
Adam Carroll, FF Corse (GT3, P1): “We came out of the pit-stop in the lead. There was a little bit of confusion under the Safety Car but once it settled down and we were able to get racing again, it was very close. The car had some bumps and scrapes, but wasn’t as bad as others! But it went our way, the team worked hard and the car was reliable. I think the cars are very close and there’s going to be some great racing this year.”
Liam Griffin, Oman Racing Team (GT3, P2): “It went well. I think you expect it to be quite busy out there – the first one of the season, I think everyone got a bit excited. But we got away nicely, got a bit of clear air. Getting mixed up with some backmarkers held us up a bit. But, race-wise, the car was brilliant. The team has done a great job and Rory set it up perfectly for me, so we had a good run at it.”
Joe Osborne, Triple Eight Racing (GT3, P3): “It’s easy to forget we started P13 so suddenly when you’re challenging for the lead and you finish third it seems a bit disappointing, but it was a brilliant result for Lee and the team. GT4 traffic we knew was going to mad this year, there’s lots of them, but I feel a little hard done by as I was alongside the guy and he pulled across the front of me. I had to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident and Rory (Butcher – Motorbase Aston) came past me. The car is great and feels fast, race two we start higher up the grid, let’s see what we can do from there.”
Graham Johnson, Professional Motorsport World Expo / Optimum Motorsport (GT4, P1): “I think before qualifying we thought we might get a win, but neither Mike or I had a great session and we were where we were. We’ve both been racing a long time and that experience showed today. We had good pace, and although I didn’t know we’d get a win, we looked strong when I pitted and it looked promising for a podium. I think when we saw we jumped a place in the pit stops we knew then that Mike could win because he was quicker than the guy in front. As it happened, he got a penalty, which made it even easier, but I think we would’ve done it anyway.”
Mike Robinson, Professional Motorsport World Expo / Optimum Motorsport (GT4, P1): “In qualifying we weren’t where we wanted to be. I think Graham and I were both aiming higher than that; pole might have been out of reach this weekend, but we were certainly targeting a top five. Graham did a fantastic first stint and did a lot of the hard work for me, then Optimum did such a great stop for us. I looked in the mirror as I left the pit and saw we’d just got the jump on the Beechdean Aston; I knew they’d done a fantastic job and I couldn’t let them down with any mistakes. Thankfully the car was good, it felt nice and consistent and I got my head down and built up a lead. Really pleased with the result, more of the same hopefully in race two.”
Race two starts at 16:00 local time when the RAM Racing Mercedes will take a five-place grid penalty for causing avoidable contact. Meanwhile, the #12 Von Ryan Racing McLaren has been excluded from the meeting for Yoluc’s part in a race one incident.