4th Podium Finish After Engine Problems

Having impressed the team in Friday & Saturday Free Practice with further improvement to their pace Ben & Guy were looking good to be challenging the times of the 'Pro' drivers in the series. Unfortunately a blown engine in the second qualifying session cost them their best chance of drawing away from the rest of the field in the 2007 British GT championship.

There were mixed fortunes for Ben & Guy at Barwell Motorsports home circuit at Brands Hatch last weekend. Having both been on the podium twice in the Caterham last year both drivers were looking forward to taking the lead of the British GT Championship back from the team mates Paul & Jonny. Friday & Saturday testing saw both drivers continue the fast learning curve they have experienced as the season has progressed and the team were confident that the two GT rookies could challenge for front row times in both qualifying sessions. Guy got off to the great start expected and in qualifying one put the #3 Aston Martin on the front row of the grid alongside the Dodge Viper of Mortimer & Ellis - setting up a potential repeat performance of Ben & Guys first victory in the championship at Donington earlier in the season.

Lady luck was not to be shining on the green Aston Martin, however, when Ben got in the car for qualifying two. Having secured a provisional pole with his first 'banker' lap Ben was looking at a front row challenging time on his second flying lap when he suffered a small loss off power entering the back straight. As the car exited Hawthorns there was further loss of power and an enormous cloud of smoke appeared behind the car. Ben was forced to pull off the track and watch as the remainder of the field circulated setting times that would push the #3 back to 12th place on the grid for Race 2. The news was not good once the car was back in the paddock as it became apparent there would be no quick fix and the car would not be out for Race 1 later the same day.

After some quick calls by Mark & Chris of Barwell the team managed to locate a spare engine at Prodrive (150 miles up the road) and a van was deployed to collect it with the aim of having it changed in time for Race 2 on the Sunday. Whilst the crew for #3 Aston Martin removed the damaged engine Ben & Guy watched as their competitors raced hard to take advantage of the missing car from the front row of the grid. The Dodge Viper of Mortimer & Ellis took their first win of the season with a lights to flag victory closely followed by the sister DBRS9 of Tom & Michael which pushed Ben & Guy to 3rd in the championship. Unfortunately the other sister DBRS9 of championship leaders Paul & Jonny was taken out by the Jones brothers Ascari early in the race.

With a great effort from the Barwell crew to get the new engine in, which saw the team not getting to bed until 4am, Ben & Guy were fired up for Race 2 in with the main aim to retrieve as many points as possible to maintain the championship challenge. Having made 1 position up before getting to the grid - thanks to a Porsche being given a time penalty for overtaking under red flags in qualifying - there were only 10 more cars to overtake for the win. As the lights went out Ben made a great run up the inside of the Trackspeed Porsche of Phil Keen only to lose the place again as the Damax Ascari breaked hard in front on the run into Paddock. Over the opening few laps Ben could not find a way past and on lap 4 the charging Ascari of the Jones brothers was in his Mirrors. "On the run into Hawthorns they were all over the back of me so I took a defensive line which forced them to drop back slightly as we arrived at Westfield. As I turned in I saw the grey Ascari out of the side window and realised they had made a late challenge, (the same move that had taken Paul out of the race the day before) so I was forced to back out to avoid them" said Ben .This caused him to lock up and run wide off the track. "Upon rejoining the tyres were covered in pickup and I struggled to keep the car on the track. Then under breaking into Clearways I locked up again because of all the dirt on the tyres. This flat spotted the front left tyre and for the remainder of the race the vibration was terrible".

As Ben's stint in the car progressed he gradually picked his way past 3 of the Porsches and was gaining on the battling Damax & Jones Ascaris, setting the cars fastest lap in the process. At the half way mark Ben was pushing well and the potential for Guy to bring the car home in the points was looking good. As if the luck could get any worse as Ben attempted to pass the backmarking Team Cadena Lotus on his in lap they tangled, "I was all over the back of the Lotus and through the first 5 corners he had been shown the waved blue flags, as we came into Westfield he appeared to slow and move to the left so I dived through, but at the last minute he turned in on me and I tapped him into a spin in front of me. As I braked to avoid further impact the Cole brothers Mosler took the pace from me".

So with half an hour to go Ben handed the car to Guy and once the pit stops had been completed they were sitting in a point scoring 7th position. Guy continued to push hard with the vibration from the tyres still hindering the potential pace. Despite this Guy maintained the pace as he was consistently the fastest man on the track. One by one he picked off the cars in front and with 10 minutes to go was 5th behind slower team mate Tom Alexander in car #2. The next time past the pits Guy was up to 4th but with 20 seconds to third placed CiM Ferrari it looked like that would be the best the team could hope for.

But the story still had another twist. Out in front was the Sister DBRS9 of Paul, which was looking strong for another race win with a healthy cushion of 9 seconds over the Dodge Viper of Alex Mortimer. However, as the #1 Aston Martin came up to lap Mortimer's team-mate, Saggers, on lap 29 the slower Viper, being shown several waved blue flags, promptly defended the inside line into Druids and then Graham Hill. It appeared that he was fighting for a place, and he continued to battle weaving from side to side on the small straight between Graham Hill and Surtees corners. All of this was naturally costing Paul huge amounts of time as the other Viper closed in, and so he attempted a passing move on the backmarker going into Surtees, only for the two cars to collide and break the steering on Paul's Aston. His race was over and the lead had been gifted to the Ellis/Mortimer car. Saggers received a fine and race licence endorsement for his part in the whole sorry affair, but the damage to Paul and Jonny's race victory, and Championship leading aspirations, was done. Just to recap and summarise this incident, the race leader had been eliminated in an unnecessary incident with a backmarker, handing the win to the backmarker's team-mate..

Although bad news for team mates Paul & Jonny this then promoted the #3 car to third enabling Ben & Guy to continue the team's 100% podium finish record this season. With Tom & Michael bringing the #2 car home in an excellent 5th place the title race now looks even tighter at the top with 2 points separating the top 3 cars. Ben & Guy arrived at Brands Hatch with a 3 point deficit to the top spot but despite missing out on some valuable points in Race 1 they are now only 2 points adrift in 3rd.

Chris Needell (Barwell Commercial Director) was pleased with the result, "Both Ben & Guy are continuing to up their game at each event, and they have now scored four podium finishes out of their last four race starts, a result which they would very likely have also achieved if they had been able to take part in Saturday's race".

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