Some very interesting and jumbled sets of lap times have come out of the first day of track action at the second round of the British GT Championship from the Snetterton 300 race track in Norfolk today.
With eleven Aston Martin Racing cars again competing within the thirty six car grid spread across both GT3 and GT4 with the latter also being split between the Pro-Am and Silver Cup classes, early action within this mornings two Free Practice sessions saw some more early pace setting from the AMR teams.
On a greasy but drying track first thing this morning, it was the #2 TF Sport Vantage GT3 of Nicki Thiim and Mark Farmer who headed the timing screen with the #99 Beechdean AMR car of Marco Sorensen and Andrew Howard not far being in P3. In GT4, it was the #11 Beechdean AMR car of Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher who were flying the flag with an overall P4 with the #97 TF Sport GT4 of Tom Canning and Ashley Hand again showing early pace.
As the track dried for the final Free Practice of the morning, again the #2 TF Sport car headed the AMR bunch and again just ahead of the #Beechdean AMR GT3 in P4 and P5 respectively. In GT4, whilst times had quickened - positions on the timing screen had dropped with the #97 again the fastest.
With Snetterton being another race double header, that obviously meant that each car's Pro and Am driver each submitted their own time to determine their respective starting position for each of tomorrows races.
For race 1 (with the amateurs starting), the #47 TF Sport GT3 of Graham Davidson and Jonny Adam will start form the second row of the grid in P3 having finished just 0.303 behind the pole setting BMW. The #96 Optimum GT3 of Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis is P6 with the #99 Beechdean AMR finally beating the #2 TF Sport to start race 1 in P11 and P12 respectively.
In GT4 Am Qualifying, it appears that circuit owner Jonathon Palmer's loathe of track limit abuse came very much into play with multiple laps times being removed by Race Control. The #95 TF Sport car of Patrick Kibble and Josh Price was not one of those for them to secure a P3 start in class eight places ahead of the next AMR in P11 with the #35 Optimum car of Connor O'Brien and Jack Butel.
For tomorrows second race, it will be the turn of the Pro drivers to take the start and it will be a return to the front for the #2 TF Sport car of AMR factory driver Nicki Thiim who claimed that accolade by just 0.055 of a second from the #72 Barwell Lambourghini. The teams sister #47 car starts P7 with Jonny Adam and the #99 Beechdean AMR of third AMR factory driver Marco Sorensen in P8. Bradley Ellis' #96 Optimum car completes the AMR grid in P11.
In the GT4 Pro class and with the exception of the #97 TF Sport car which starts in P2, if you want to see another Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4 then you will sadly need to look towards the rear of the grid with five AMR cars making up the final eight cars on grid. The issue here was that the #35, #75 and #95 cars were all hit with track limits (which presumably would have been their 'fastest' runs.
As with every GT race in the Championship - anything can and indeed usually does happen - we only have to look back to the opening rounds at Oulton Park to see that and it will be interesting to see what lessons have been learned from the drivers, especially the younger GT4 ones in order to channel their obviously driving talent into something that has restraint and control. With most of these youngsters also under the Aston Martin Racing Driver Academy - support and advice is never too far away!
Race 1 starts at 11:10hrs and Race 2 at 15:25hrs Photo credits - Jacob Ebrey / Optimum
Three old cars from Aston Martin Racings past are presently competing this weekend at the Spa Classic in the Endurance Racing Legends entry list of thirty three cars.
Two much raced AMR DBR9's of both Dominik Roschmann and Nikolaus Ditting join the Franz Wunderlich/Peter Praller ex JMW Vantage GT2 for two - thirty minute races on Saturday around something of a rather damp looking Spa circuit.
This meeting is their second of the season after a season opener at the Espíritu de Montjuïc from Barcelona in early April. Photo credit - Spa Circuit
Some great career opportunities have been posted this week by Prodrive for various job positions directly associated with the Aston Martin Racing FIA World Endurance Championship programme.
Full details of everything on offer can be found HERE
Also, Worcestershire based Academy Motorsport are presently looking for experienced No.1 or No.2 mechanics for their own Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4 programmes both in the British GT Championship and GT4 European Series. Interested parties should contact team owner Matt Nichol Jones directly.
After something close to a total disaster for them at the opening meeting of the ADAC GT Masters Series at Oschersleben circuit at the end of April, German based PROsport Performance (running their Aston Martin Racing based programmes under the PROpeak Performance banner) will be looking to improve their 'game' as the next round of the series from Most in the Czech Republic this weekend.
In the German national GT3 only series, the team did managed to take the chequered flag in both races with the Maxime Martin/Daniel Kielwitz #99 AMR Vantage GT3 only to have the car later removed from the official results on the grounds of individual technical infringements after each race. Race 1 was with a non connected fire extinguisher and race 2 was with being found to have over boosted the engine beyond that of it homologation at some point during the race.
The sister #98 car of Hugo de Sadeleer and Valentin Hasse Clot faired no better really, stopping on the start/finish line with a technical issue in race 1 (and being declared as finishing 1 lap down to the race winners) before also being non classified in race 2 for the same reason above.
During the running of each race, it was clear that their two new Vantage GT3's were struggling with pace compared to their more established rivals and the team will be hoping that their tireless work behind the scenes both at base and at Prodrive, together with some testing at the circuit two weeks ago will help them make up for this performance shortfall.
Team Principle Christoph Esser said ""We turned over every stone, so to speak. Several points were already good, but there was also a lot to improve. We have tackled this together, and as a result, we have grown together better as a team. We want to benefit from that in Most."
Still relatively fresh from his share of winning the last round of the World Endurance Championship race from a snow hit Spa Francorchamps circuit two weeks ago, AMR factory driver Martin will arrive in the Czech Republic having spent two days testing his GTE car at Monza ahead of this event.
"The track at Most is quite interesting, it is very technical. There are some really nice and above all fast corners. However, as in Oschersleben on this track it will be very difficult to overtake. The Vantage GT3 has a lot of potential, but we need to work it out step by step. It's a new car, the team is new to the championship, so we have to work and make steady progress. The test went well. We've learned a few things, so I think we can take a step forward on race weekend" he said.
Free Practice starts the proceedings again on Friday before Qualifying and each race on both Saturday and Sunday.
Having had to compete as a sole entry in the Invitational Class of the GT4 European Series with their older 2016 generation of Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4 at the first two rounds of the series this year, Generation AMR SuperRacing have finally taken delivery of their TWO new 2019 specification AMR Vantage GT4's this week.
Seen giving both cars a run out at a track day at Silverstone today, in-car footage shot by team principle James Appleby of driver Matt George driving showed an obvious delight in both with finally getting behind the wheel of AMR's latest creation.
All being well, one of these cars (with the other as a spare) will feature at the next round of the GT4 European Series at Paul Ricard at the end of May. We would imagine that co driver and main financier to the team, James Holder will have at least one test in the car before that race weekend. Photo Credits - James Appleby
Hopefully enjoying some better weather than last time out, Aston Martin Racing's two GTE Pro cars are presently in the midst of a final two days of pre 24 Hours of Le Mans testing at a collective gathering of fellow World Endurance Championship GT teams at Monza in Italy this week.
With drivers Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen, Maxime Martin, Darren Turner and Jonny Adam certainly there today and with reserve driver Ross Gunn now flying in, testing at this fast sweeping circuit will give them all a good insight into the full acceleration, hard braking with a few complex corner sequences thrown in between that the Circuit de La Sarthe shall present to them in June for both the Official Test Day at the start of the month and then again two weeks later at the main event.
Both factory GTE Pro cars are sharing the circuit alongside the likes of the BMW Team MTEC, Spirit of Race, AF Corse, Gulf Racing and the Dempsey Proton team (Ford were testing at Snetterton today and the Porsche GT team will test at Monza next week) and this will be the last opportunity that many drivers and crew will get ahead of the count down to the finale of this Super-season next month. Adam has been out of the factory car since Le Mans last year (although he has been racing with the TF Sport crew in GTE Am until pre Spa two weeks ago) and Turner has only raced with the #95 car at Sebring earlier this year since Le Mans last year.
Having raced at Le Mans before with the then GTE Am entry from Beechdean AMR in 2017 and again at the AMR Festival last year in the brand new Vantage GT3, the years Test day will be his first involvement with the full GTE Pro team at the circuit.
The British GT Championship heads up the A11 to Norfolk this weekend and the second round of the national GT Championship with yet another double header of two one hour sprint races ahead of them with both races having the same eleven Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3's and GT4's as last time, all still looking for some (or some more) silverware to take home.
In the almost four week gap since the opening races at Oulton Park in April, all the AMR teams have been out testing either at Snetterton itself or at another circuit to be raced at later on the calendar in order to improve upon performance and discipline after something of a chaotic opening meeting.
The team with most to improve is Tom Ferrier's TF Sport team with his two Vantage GT3's and two Vantage GT4 cars after they suffered something that he would later described as being close to a "total @@##%$* disaster" after all his cars were returned damaged with multiple DNF's, simply mistakes being made and unnecessary penalties being applied for the most basic of reasons - everything that all added up to the most woeful of meetings for them.
With all his cars now suitably restored to something close to a factory finish, Ferrier will certainly be hoping that all his drivers have listened and learned from their mistakes at Oulton Park and have taken themselves to somewhere where they can now start to use their natural speed and ability to get some valuable points onto the board by the end of the weekend to get their season started.
Optimum Motorsport is another team that have been piling in the test mileage after their race 1 podium finish with drivers Bradley Ellis and Ollie Wilkinson having also travelled around Europe to test at Snetterton two weeks ago as well as in Belgium and Germany last week as part of their dual BGT/GT Open campaigns this year. Not to be outdone, their two GT4's have also been testing at Snetterton and more recently at Brands Hatch as those four drivers look for those fractions of a second around a lap that will ultimately equate to a podium finish at some point this season.
Beechdean AMR have just returned from another round of their Le Mans Cup campaign at Monza last weekend so team boss and gentleman driver Andrew Howard will be fully dialled into that car ahead of Snetterton as he rejoins AMR factory driver Marco Sorensen in Norfolk. The #99 GT3 and #11 GT4 car of Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher from the Beechdean team were the only other AMR car other than the Optimum GT3 to secure a podium finish at either race at Oulton Park.
Finally but by no means least are the two GT4's from the Matt Nichol Jones' Academy Motorsport team. Again running a dual BGT/GT4 European Series campaign this year, the team are certainly becoming very acquainted to the make up of their two new cars from Prodrive as they and their effectively three novice GT racers become more familiar with the performance characteristics of the new Vantage and also that of the series having made their step up from lesser powered GT/single seater racing. Each running in the highly competitive Silver Cup class, all the stops will have to be pulled out for them to have any chance this early in the season against more seasoned campaigners - but then motorsport can be a funny sport sometimes!!
Looking at the 36 car entry list for Snetterton, there are no changes to the eleven AMR entries and will run again as follows:-
#2 TF Sport GT3 Mark Farmer / Nicki Thiim #47 TF Sport GT3 Graham Davidson / Jonny Adam #96 Optimum GT3 Ollie Wilkinson / Bradley Ellis #99 Beechdean AMR GT3 Andrew Howard / Marco Sorensen
#11 Beechdean AMR GT4 Kelvin Fletcher / Martin Plowman Pro-Am #35 Optimum GT4 Connor O'Brien / Jack Butel Silver Cup #75 Optimum GT4 Patrik Mathiasen / Mike Robinson #61 Academy GT4 Ben Hurst / Micah Stanley Silver Cup #62 Academy GT4 Will Moore / Alex Both Jones Silver Cup #95 TF Sport GT4 Patrick Kibble / Josh Price Silver Cup #97 TF Sport GT4 Ashley Hand / Tom Canning
Saturday 18 May 09:30 – 10:30: Free Practice 1 11:40 – 12:40: Free Practice 2 15:50 – 16:00: Qualifying – GT3 Am 16:04 – 16:14: Qualifying – GT3 Pro 16:18 – 16:28: Qualifying – GT4 Am 16:33 – 16:43: Qualifying – GT4 Pro
Pitstop windows (both races) GT3: 22-32 minutes GT4: 28-38 minutes
Minimum pitstop times (pit-in to pit-out) GT3: 75s | GT4: 110s
All Silver Cup-entered GT4 cars will serve an additional 14 seconds and carry 20kg extra ballast.
It will also be interesting to see if the SRO have permitted any adjustment in performance to the Vantage GT3 after obviously suffered from a lack of power and acceleration out of the corners. Ferrier was certainly hopeful of this when they were last at the circuit testing or whether Prodrive have managed to provide them with a different engine mapping system that will allow these cars to use what they already have under the bonnet but just more effectively.
Today sees the ACO confirm the final variation of drivers entered to race in next months 24 Hours of Le Mans.
For the two car full season Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTE entries in the GTE Pro class, we were just awaiting the confirmation that both Darren Turner and Jonny Adam would be returning to the #95 and #97 cars respectively - something that has indeed been confirmed today.
The two GTE Am cars from both Aston Martin Racing and TF Sport remain with the same driver line that competed last time out at Spa Francorhamps so Euan Hankey shall remain with TF Sport to see out the super-season that he started with them last May and they are the only AMR runner to have any reasonable chance of a Championship title at the end of the day
All four cars are also due to be at the Le Mans Test Day on Sunday 2nd June with AMR reserve driver Ross Gunn also pencilled in to assist with the two GTE Pro cars.
As a final point of note, we see that the entry filed by the Red River Sport guys has now been elevated to third reserve ahead of the main event in just four weeks time. The chances of them actually competing must now however be fairly slim from a logistical reason alone.
Lola again proved her worth at the weekend with another race win at the second race meeting of the Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends Series at Monza, Italy.
This time racing in support of the European Le Mans Series, nineteen previously homologated prototypes and GT racers conducted battle around the sweeping 3.6mile circuit within the Royal grounds in Milan.
Belgium racer, Christophe D'Ansembourg was again there with his Lola Aston Martin DBR1-2 to claim another win in race one (mirroring what he achieved in the opening event of the season at Paul Ricard) after having to battle up the leader board from P4 after a bad start having Qualified P2.
Competing in the INV class aboard his ex Miedecke Racing AMR Vantage GT3 was Austrian Alex Lienau who unfortunately found that he had prepped his car with the wrong gearbox ratios prior to the meeting to make difficult to make full use of his V12 power. Despite this and other technical issues during the race he still managed a P15 finish.
Race 2 of the weekend was apparently even more eventful than the first with D'Ansembourg clashing (literally) with the Michel Frey Lola Judd to put the #008 LMP1 car out of the race on lap 15 out of the 22 laps completed by the winner.
In the GT class, Lienau continued what he could do considering the Achilles heel that he had presented himself with to finish the race again in P15.
The Series will reconvene at Many Cours in France for the next two races that will feature at the Historic French Grand Prix meeting at the end of June. Photo credits - Masters Historic / Lienau
Despite his fastest laps of the Monza circuit in GT3 Qualifying on Saturday morning, you could have argued that team boss Andrew Howard sounded a little despondent in his hopes for rain for the duration of the two hour - second round of the 2019 Le Mans Cup from Italy at the weekend.
Starting from P8 in the GT3 field, Howard however took the start of the race and survived something of a fraught opening lap amongst the thirty one car LMP3/GT3 entry. Whilst the top two Ferrari's and Mercedes AMG sped off into the distance, Howard quietly set about doing what he could do considering his own Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT3's performance to start picking off individual cars to move up to P6 in class by the end of the first thirty minutes of racing.
A few laps later, a great move on the #35 Mercedes saw Howard move up yet another position moving up to P5 just ahead of the mandatory pit stop window at the hour mark. Howards earlier hope for rain was beginning to have some degree of possibility as track forecasts evolved as the laps ticked by and he pitted the #99 car just ahead of mid distance to hand over to co-driver Ross Gunn.
Just after most cars had completed their stops a Full Course Yellow was called by Race Control in order to recover a stranded LMP3 on the far side of the circuit by which time Gunn had already collected another scalp for the team to move up to P4 in class.
With little over twenty three minutes remaining, dark clouds and bolts of lightning were becoming visible around the circuit as the expected storms approached and the pre storm gloom descended around the track. Finally, with just fifteen minutes of the race remaining the rain began to fall and it would become a game of chance of where your car was relative to pit entry as the track became wetter by the minute.
Ten minutes left and most of the grid came into pit lane as another FCY was called for a spun car but is quickly recalled to allow a five minute dash to the flag. Sadly for the #99 crew, the rain and indeed the latter FCY came too late for Gunn as he had pitted under green loosing himself significant time to the Spirit Of Race Ferrari ahead of them for the final step of the podium.
Still, thats still another credible points finish for the Beechdean team as they now look forward to the next two races of the championship at Le Mans in June with a race on both Thursday and on Saturday morning ahead of the full World Endurance Championship 24Hr race. They also move up to P3 in the GT3 Championship some way it has to be said behind the two dominant Ferrari's of Kessel Racing and Luzich Racing.
In the meantime, its a quick visit to Snetterton next weekend for the second round of the British GT Championship with Howard being joined again by factory AMR driver Marco Sorensen.