British GT Opener at Oulton Park rounds 1+2
After months of testing and preparation, the first round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship took place over the Easter Weekend at Oulton Park, Cheshire. With both 22GT Racing and driver Jon Barnes both making a welcome return to the prestigious championship after several years, expectations were high. With an early retirement in race one, the team and their Aston Martin Vantage GT3 came back to finish race two in seventh place.
Having started from 16th on the grid, due to a disappointing qualifying session caused by a puncture, gentleman driver Mark Farmer was ready to move upwards through the grid. However, contact with Salih Yoluc’s McLaren 650S on the first lap through Cascades meant an early retirement, and the first of the 2015 season for 22GT Racing.
Race two brought significantly more positive results, with 2008 British GT champion Jon Barnes lining up in 9th place due to a last minute grid shuffle. Barnes, keen to ensure at least one finish for the team was still quick to gain a position, passing Oman Racing’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 on his first lap – slotting in behind the Barwell/Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 for the following 13 laps, during which he set the teams fastest lap of the race (1:37.301 – Lap 7), until the other Barwell Z4 driven by Phil Keen went off at turn two – and into retirement.
As the pit window opened, Barnes had gained two places – moving from 9th position up to 7th before pitting and handing the race over to Mark Farmer with nineteen completed laps. During an impressive pit stop of only 1:13.111, the TF Sport Aston and an Oman Racing Team car got ahead, moving 22GT down to 12th place once again. However, by the end of Lap 21, Farmer had gained three places, taking him up to 9th place. Oman’s Vantage GT3 retired on Lap 26 followed by the TF Sport Vantage GT3 on Lap 29, meaning 22GT moved up to 7th as Mackinnon’s RAM Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 closed the gap – initiating a fierce battle for 7th place, with a gap of only 0.23 seconds at its closest. After nine laps of looking for opportunities, Mackinnon pipped Farmer with only three seconds left on the clock. However, his move had exceeded track limits so Farmer was able to settle back into 7th place during the final lap – as the chequered flag fell on 22GT’s first finish of 2015, giving them their first twelve points for the season.
Jon Barnes said “Despite the months of hard work, unfortunately the track conditions during practice, the puncture for Mark during qualifying, followed by the incident in the first turn of Race 1 made for a very unsettled and chaotic weekend. The opposite of what you want after several years away from British GT, and certainly not what Mark wanted as this was his first ever weekend in a GT car!
However, the way we turned things around and the performance in Race 2 was really encouraging. It was some great work by the team – being able to repair the car from the damage in Race 1. I am glad I was able to make progress up to 7th position before handing over to Mark at the halfway point; Mark then drove an excellent race, despite being hounded for 25 minutes – to be able to maintain 7th and snatch us our first championship points of the season – so a satisfying result in the end. Now we look forward to the next round at Rockingham at the beginning of May.”
More information on this event will appear soon.
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