The penultimate round of the 2015 British GT Championship arrived in Norfolk on the 22nd and 23rd August, with the GT4 title on the verge of being settled. Leading the way was the Beechdean AMR pairing of Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn, with the youngest pairing in the series being the most consistent in GT4 whilst challenged by Gavan Kershaw and Oz Yusuf in the ISSY Racing Lotus Evora. With the gap being 42.5 points coming into Snetterton, Beechdean AMR were favourites for the GT4 British GT title.
The previous enduro of the season at Brands Hatch was a telling sign that things aren’t predictable in GT4 as newcomers for 2015; Luke Davenport and David Pattison picked up their maiden British GT victory, behind the wheel of the Tolman Motorsport Ginetta. Their win had propelled them to fourth in the standings, but it was the team who finished runners up, who now have a bigger chance of catching ISSY Racing and Beechdean AMR. The pairing of Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson secured their second podium of season for Optimum Motorsport and they were confident of getting another podium in the Ginetta G55, as Snetterton had been a firm favourite with the Yorkshire manufacture. In terms of ISSY Racing, the pairing were hoping to bounce back in the backyard of Lotus, as Yusuf’s and Kershaw’s run of strong results took a blow at Brands Hatch. The team had history of going well in Norfolk and looked certain to make life as hard as possible for Beechdean AMR.
With plenty of competition throughout GT4 there was many teams and pairings on the grid who could secure victory. One of these teams was the Aston Martin squad, Academy Motorsport. The pairing of former Ginetta sportscar competitors Will Moore and Dennis Strandberg had been going well throughout the year and on more than one occasion had been in the fight for victories. The team who secured pole position at Brands Hatch can’t be forgotten about and that was Fox Motorsport. With Jamie Stanley a regular behind the wheel of the Ginetta G55, team mate Paul McNeilly stepped aside at Snetterton, allowing Fulvio Mussi to take up the honours and return to the series. The Brands Hatch race for Stanley and McNeilly unfortunately ended at Druids with retirement but with Mussi joining Stanley; it was going to be interesting to see how the duo would pair.
Lotus Do the Double Pole in Local Territory
Ten minutes qualifying sessions would set grids for race one and two at Snetterton, making things extremely close, however this wasn’t the case when the Gentlemen drivers of GT4 took to the track, as on home territory, the ISSY Racing Lotus Evora of Oz Yusuf went straight to the top of times. With returnee Fulvio Mussi in the Fox Motorsport Ginetta closing in, Yusuf upped the pace by producing a 1:58.725 which was good enough for pole by a margin of half a second. With Mussi pushing as hard as he could for second, it was staggering that the Aston Martin of Will Moore in third was a further half a second slower. For the GT4 Championship leaders, the Aston Martin in the hands of female driver Jamie Chadwick would qualify fourth for the first of two races, which could see the pairing of Chadwick and Gunn secure the championship. Completing the top five for race one was the Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55, with Graham Johnson behind the wheel and 1.105 seconds down the pole time.
Avon Tyres British GT Championship – GT4 Gentlemen Qualifying
- Oz Yusuf (No.77 – ISSY Racing – Lotus Evora) = 1:59.725s
- Fulvio Mussi (No.48 – Fox Motorsport – Ginetta G55) = +0.540s
- Will Moore (No.61 – Academy Motorsport – Aston Martin Challenge) = +1.034s
- Jamie Chadwick (No.407 – Beechdean AMR – Aston Martin Challenge) = +1.092s
- Graham Johnson (No.50 – Optimum Motorsport – Ginetta G55) = +1.105s
When the Pro drivers took to the circuit for the final ten minutes, the ISSY Racing Lotus was handed over to Gavan Kershaw and it was obvious that it was going to be hard for anyone to topple the Lotus Evora. As Kershaw went about his business, lapping a second quicker than team mate Oz Yusuf, Dennis Strandberg came close for Academy Motorsport, before slipping down the times to fifth. With it looking like another pole for ISSY Racing, the Brands Hatch winners, Tolman Motorsport, pushed their Ginetta G55 to the top of times with Luke Davenport setting the pace. Celebrations didn’t last long though, as Kershaw went a lot quicker, snatching pole with a 1:58.258. Davenport’s time was good enough for second, whilst Mike Robinson sneaked into third for Optimum Motorsport. Lining up again in fourth was the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin, this time driven by Ross Gunn, with their time only 0.942 seconds slower than Kershaw’s.
Avon Tyres British GT Championship – GT4 Pro Qualifying
- Gavan Kershaw (No.77 – ISSY Racing – Lotus Evora) = 1:58.258s
- Luke Davenport (No.56 – Tolman Motorsport LTD – Ginetta G55) = +0.042s
- Mike Robinson (No.50 – Optimum Motorsport – Ginetta G55) = +0.935s
- Ross Gunn (No.407 – Beechdean AMR – Aston Martin Challenge) = +0.942s
- Dennis Strandberg (No.61 – Academy Motorsport – Aston Martin Challenge) = +1.044s
Lights to Flag Keep Championship Hopes Alive
From pole position Oz Yusuf made no mistake in the ISSY Racing Lotus Evora, storming clear from the rest, leaving Will Moore chasing in second, ahead of the Fox Motorsport Ginetta of Fulvio Mussi. With the Beechdean AMR Aston of Jamie Chadwick losing a place to Graham Johnston, it already looked likely that the championship wouldn’t be decided in race one. Whilst Yusuf disappeared into a controlling lead, Mussi pushed hard in third to challenge Will Moore, but lap eight saw a mistake at Riches, costing the team time and positions. Lap thirteen would unfortunately then see the race come to an end for Mussi, with a broken clutch retiring the team, just before Jamie Stanley was meant to take over.
When pit stops were made between lap thirteen and fourteen, Gavan Kershaw and the ISSY Racing squad timed their stop to perfection, regaining their comfortable margin, as things intensified further behind. With Will Moore jumping into the pits on lap fourteen to hand over to Dennis Strandberg, Frederik Blomstedt joined in third for Century Motorsport, ahead of Mike Robinson fourth and Ross Gunn fifth. For the Beechdean AMR squad, a difficult stint for Jamie Chadwick put the team on the back foot and they looked to limit the damage with ISSY Racing running away out front.
One of the biggest moments in the GT4 race came on lap twenty-one, when the GT3 race leader collided with a GT4 backmarker. With the GT3 lead being fought between three around Coram, the Academy Motorsport Aston Martin of Mike Hart accidently pulled across the path of Alex MacDowall, resulting in a collision. As MacDowall’s car took to the grass, Hart spun in front of traffic, narrowly being avoided. Hart was able to recover and end the race in eighth, but the moment ruined things for MacDowall, as he lost the GT3 lead and never recovered to challenge.
Back at the front, Blomstedt drove superbly for Century Motorsport to drop Dennis Strandberg to third. The two teams would continue to run bumper to bumper for the rest of the race, allowing Mike Robinson to close the gap in fourth, creating a great tussle in the closing stages. With Robinson lapping faster, each driver had to watch their mirrors, with Strandberg lucky to have a GT3 car between him and Blomstedt with a few laps remaining. Whilst Kershaw took the flag on lap 32 in dominating fashion, Blomstedt grabbed second before Strandberg fought back and his patience paid off. The Academy Motorsport team took second on the run to the flag, forcing Century Motorsport to settle for third and the final podium spot, with Robinson fourth and Ross Gunn fifth.
Avon Tyres British GT Championship – Race One
- Yusuf/Kershaw (No.77 – ISSY Racing – Lotus Evora) = 1:02:29.742s
- Moore/Strandberg (No.61 – Academy Motorsport – Aston Martin Challenge) = 1:02:47.281s (30 Laps)
- Schjerpen/Blomstedt (No.43 – Century Motorsport – Ginetta G55) = 1:02:47.588s (30 Laps)
- Johnson/Robinson (No.50 –Optimum Motorsport – Ginetta G55) = 1:02:47.844s (30 Laps)
- Chadwick/Gunn (No.407 – Beechdean AMR – Aston Martin Challenge) = 1:03:01.796s (30 Laps)
Awful Weather Seals the Title
As conditions took a turn for the worse, torrential rain hit the Norfolk venue as the British GT cars lined up on the grid. When the lights went out, cars in GT3 went slipping and sliding; causing the faster GT machines to mix with GT4 from the get go. As ISSY Racing were on pole position, a slow getaway with no wet weather set up gave advantage to front row starters Tolman Motorsport, as Luke Davenport fired into the lead, followed by Kershaw and Dennis Strandberg. As drivers fought for positions in testing conditions, Jamie Stanley was the driver on the move, moving past Strandberg on lap three and then into second on lap five. When the Fox Motorsport Ginetta had made it a Ginetta 1-2 out front, Luke Davenport pulled out an advantage of over twelve seconds.
With pit stops being made around lap nine, the Pro drivers stepped out, handing things over to the Gentlemen drivers, as Gavan Kershaw handed over to Oz Yusuf with the team struggling for set up. As the team gambled on an early stop, this was short lived, with Will Moore crashed the Academy Motorsport Aston Martin at Coram on lap ten, triggering multiple pit stops. With David Pattison taking over from Luke Davenport, the Tolman Motorsport team reclaimed the lead but Fulvio Mussi was closing in. As Pattison found conditions trickier, the gap decreased with the Fox Motorsport Ginetta lapping a lot quicker, whilst Aleksander Schjerpen sat third for Century Motorsport.
By lap fifteen, Tolman Motorsport and Fox Motorsport ran nose to tail out on track and it wasn’t long before Fulvio Mussi overhauled Pattison for the race lead. With Century Motorsport third and Beechdean AMR fourth, good news was on the cards for Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn for the championship, with Gavan Kershaw and Oz Yusuf being handed a drive-through for speeding in the pit lane. As conditions never improved and visibility became extremely difficult, a decision was made to halt the race with thirteen minutes remaining, but not before David Pattison spun out of second, slipping to third behind the Century Motorsport Ginetta. The podium would see victory for Fox Motorsport, as Mussi and Stanley recorded their first win a pair, whilst Ginetta locked out another Snetterton podium with Century Motorsport, ahead of Tolman. Just outside the podium, Ross Gunn got the celebrations underway for the Beechdean AMR GT4 pairing, as fourth confirmed them as class champions for 2015. With Optimum Motorsport coming home in fifth, the Yellow and Blue Ginetta of Anna Walewska and Rob Garofall scored the University of Bolton squad their best result of the year with sixth.
Avon Tyres British GT Championship – Race Two
- Stanley/Mussi (No.48 – Fox Motorsport – Ginetta G55) = 48:09.909s (18 Laps)
- Blomstedt/Schjerpen (No.43 – Century Motorsport – Ginetta G55) = 48:17.725s (18 Laps)
- Davenport/Pattison (No.56 – Tolman Motorsport LTD – Ginetta G55) = 48:54.949s (18 Laps)
- Gunn/Chadwick (No.407 – Beechdean AMR – Aston Martin Challenge) = 46:13.335 (17 Laps)
- Robinson/Johnson (No.50 –Optimum Motorsport – Ginetta G55) = 46:16.409 (17 Laps)
The final round of the 2015 British GT championship will take place at Donington Park on the 12th and 13th September, but for Beechdean AMR, they have nothing to worry about. After losing the opportunity to secure the title during race one with ISSY Racing securing the honours, Chadwick and Gunn made up for it in race two. By keeping calm, their fourth place finish was enough to wrap up the GT4 title with a round to spare and create a historical moment, with Jamie Chadwick becoming the first female driver to win a British GT title, whilst also breaking the record as the youngest to lift a title at 17 Years and 95 days, beating the record of Jonny Cocker, set in 2004 at 18 Years and six days. For Ross Gunn, this was his first title since graduating from Single Seaters and at eighteen years old, shows alongside Chadwick that experience isn’t always the answer. The win for Beechdean AMR also means the team are two times GT4 Champions, after claiming the title with Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie back in 2014. Since then Jake switched to JWB Motorsport in GT4, whilst Ross progressed into the McLarens ranks, with VonRyan Racing in GT3.
Whilst it seems that everything is wrapped up in GT4 heading to Donington Park, that isn’t the case. In terms of the overall championship, Yusuf and Kershaw might have lost out for the title, but they are leading the way in the GT4 Pro/Am standings. Sitting on 160 points with one race remaining, Kershaw and Yusuf are under pressure from Optimum Motorsport, with Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson closing in on 140.5 points, after finishing fifth in race two. With these two teams challenging for Pro/Am honours, the two will also be clashing for the overall runner up spot, as ISSY Racing are only four points ahead, with 37.5 points on offer for the win at Donington Park. The pairing of Luke Davenport and David Pattison for Tolman Motorsport are also in the hunt for either the Pro/Am honours or second overall, but chances are slim with the pairing having to secure race victory and ISSY Racing and Optimum Motorsport non-scoring.
Avon Tyres British GT Championship – GT4 Drivers’ Standings:
- Chadwick/Gunn (No.407 – Beechdean AMR – Aston Martin Challenge) = 164.5 Pts.
- Yusuf/Kershaw (No.77 – ISSY Racing – Lotus Evora) = 126 Pts.
- Johnson/Robinson (No.50 –Optimum Motorsport – Ginetta G55) = 122 Pts.
- Davenport/Pattison (No.56 – Tolman Motorsport LTD – Ginetta G55) = 108.5 Pts.
- Strandberg/Moore (No.61 – Academy Motorsport – Aston Martin Challenge) = 87 Pts.
Avon Tyres British GT Championship – GT4 Pro/Am Standings:
- Yusuf/Kershaw (No.77 – ISSY Racing – Lotus Evora) = 160 Pts.
- Johnson/Robinson (No.50 – Optimum Motorsport – Ginetta G55) = 140.5 Pts.
- Davenport/Pattison (No.56 – Tolman Motorsport LTD – Ginetta G55) = 136 Pts.
- Strandberg/Moore (No.61 – Academy Motorsport – Aston Martin Challenge) = 114 Pts.
- Griffin/Giddings (No.47 – JWB Motorsport – Aston Martin Challenge) = 80 Pts.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs