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British GT storms Rockingham
British GT storms Rockingham

After the season opening round at Oulton Park in early April, British GT was back at Rockingham Motor Speedway along with the regular support races for an excellent weekend of racing.KSN-Motorbase-Jack Mitchell

Following the events of round one, a number of drivers and teams were looking to make up some valuable points. Last year’s champions were looking to assert themselves back up from of the grid following a mediocre round at Oulton. They backed up their strong form in practice by sticking the number one BMW Z4 on pole position for the 2 hour endurance race.

A BMW may had headed the qualifying time sheet, but the car best suited to Rockingham’s twist and turns seemed to be the Aston Martin which would line up in the following four places – two of which were run out of the local Motorbase/Oman Racing stable (third and fifth respectively).

FF Corse would qualify 11th with the efforts of Adam Carroll and Kent’s own, Gary Eastwood.

With the Saturday practice and qualifying being run in the dry, the conditions changed drastically come Sunday morning warm up. Persistent rain plagued the morning with most drivers making what they could of the short warm up just encase the race began in damp conditions. Fortunately, the rain clouds would clear and with the help of the support races, the track would virtually dry right up, just in time for the main event.

From the drop of the green flag, 2013 GT3 drivers champion, Andrew Howard could take the lead from the lone BMW, with the rest of the Astons queuing behind the lead pair. Howard could not make anything of the fresh air and would eventually lose the lead just twenty minutes in to the stint,  and quickly tumbling out of the top five in just the following few laps.KSN-Hill-0353-Jack Mitchell

Motorbase would then take up honours of lead Aston with Ahmad Al Harthy in the #2 car pressuring Attard all the way up til pit stops. The number five Motorbase Oman racing machine ended the first stint in a solid third, within distance of the lead battle. Time success ballast would take effect during the stops with the BMW having to hold for an extra ten seconds which handed the lead to the  number two, which was now at the hands of Daniel Lloyd, with the number five holding stations after the stops.

Eastwood, having started the number 18 FF Corse Ferrari handed the car over to Adam Carroll for the final stint in an impressive sixth, but unfortunately his efforts were all in vain as Carroll tangled with a back-marker late in the race – yet able to continue, the team were excluded from the results. This incident would trigger a safety car, but just moments before, Lloyd cracked under the pressure of Sims, who has closed the gap back up in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, sliding wide and handing him the lead.

With the safety car re-tracked, Sims used the backmarkers to his advantage and managed to gap the chasing Motorbase Astons – Which would start to squabble over the final podium positions, yet having to hold off a charging Lewis Plato in the mighty SLS GT3. Through a hectic final few laps, with gaggles of GT4 traffic, Lloyd and Griffin would bring the cars home for a double podium for Motorbase’s Oman racing which helped solidify their promising runs at Oulton Park.

In the GT4 class, Tunbridge Wells based, Jake Hill made his British GT debut for the AMD Tuning Porsche team partnered with Graham Coomes, they qualified their 911 7th in class, and baring contact with another GT4 Ginetta mid-way through the race, forcing an extra pit stop, they claimed 9th in class, and a top 20 overall.

Formula 4 would get their usual three race weekend, supporting the British GT weekend, with three very different races playing out. Local racer, Tom Jackson approached the weekends off the back of a trio of solid race results from Oulton Park, which left him firmly up the sharp end of the championship table. Once again, using experience gained from last years run in the championship, Tom managed to secure a top ten starting position for race one, in eighth, but race one would only last so long as the field rushed in to the tight turn two, and a clash amongst the leaders caused a multi-car crash which involved Tom. This ended his race respectively.KSN-TJackson-Jack Mitchell

Race two for F4 started on the Sunday morning on a very wet track, which for Tom would be a huge help since he would be coming from the back of the grid (due to the previous DNF). After a stunning first lap, Jackson found himself on the tail of the top 10 from the 16th starting spot, this progress would rapidly continue as he kept posting strong consistent laps, and kept it on the tarmac while others explored the tracks run off areas.

Before he knew it, Jackson was up to second position with the leader now falling back in to reach as the track slowly started to dry. Tom slowly increased his pace lap by lap, while leader Michael O’Brien struggled to find speed Jackson would only miss on race victory by 0.7 seconds by the end, but given an extra lap or two, the outcome would had fallen in his favour given his pace!

This result would also be Tom’s best recorded in Formula 4 beating his previous best which was at Oulton last time out, of fourth. Unfortunately, Race three was set on fastest laps from both of the first two races, but with Tom not completing a fast lap in the dry race one, and with a wet race two, this mired Jackson down at the back once again. With the track now back to being dry, passing would be much more difficult no one told Jackson this. He would again storm through the grid and claim an impressive fifth position come the end of the race. Despite the adversity he faced all weekend, coming away with two very well deserved top-5s, keeping him in the top-5 in the championship standings.KSN-Rudd-Jack MitellLike the Formula 4, the VW racing cup shared three races throughout the weekend, in very similar conditions. Local team, Team HARD once again brought their eight-strong army of cars to attack the VW field. The team saw success last time out at Oulton with Howard Fuller pulling off three podium finishes with numerous top 10s. Unfortunately, Fuller couldn’t find the same speed come qualifying, lining up just outside of the top 10 .Team HARD did get two cars firming inside the top-10 with Michael Epps and local boy, Simon Rudd. Laura Tillett lining up mid-field in 17th alongside team mate, John Stevens.

Race one would become a struggle for the Team as Simon Rudd took his turn leading the HARD charge, running eighth early on, but encountered mechanical issues which put him out of the running. Epps would get shuffled to the back of the top ten, Laura Tillett would battle hard, but ultimately get left to claim 21st. Bobby Thompson would be the highest place car for the team in 9th from his 13th starting position.

Race two would see the team cars fight to hold station and secure another set of solid results – Michael Epps jumping in to 8th, in front of Thompson who scored another 9th place. Tillett would again get caught in the fighting mid field and score another finish of 21st, but the story of the race came from Simon Rudd. After starting 29th due to the mechanical in the first race, Rudd could only go forward and so he did charging through the field, passing half of it on the way to 14th place.

While picking his way through the pack in race two, Rudd posted the tenth fastest time of the race which lined him up tenth for the final race of the weekend. Rudd would use this to post another solid top-15 finishing spot in 14th, while up front, Howard Fuller had found his form and charged up to the front, worrying the podium runners with a close fifth position. Michael Epps rounded out a very consistent weekend with 10th, Thompson in 12th, and Tillett scoring her weekend best of 18th, just in front of Stevens. Fuller, Thompson and Epps all now sit firmly in the championship top 10 for Team HARD, with the teams Kent based racers holding 14th with Simon Rudd and 16th with Laura Tillett.