More disappointment at Silverstone

Silverstone was the venue for the second two hour race if the season in the 2007 Avon British GT Championship and after engine problems prevented Ben and team mate, Guy Harrington capitalising on a front row start at Brands Hatch the pair were hoping their luck would return at the home of British Motorsport.

However, from the start of free practice it was obvious that this stop – start circuit was going to suit the nibbler mid and rear engine cars more than the heavier front engine Aston Martins, but, with a few minor adjustments to the car set up, by qualifying on Saturday the team had closed the gap slightly to the quicker Ferraris, Ascaris and Lamborghini. As the qualifying format for the two hour races is different from that of the normal one hour races Ben was selected to start the race with Guy having 2 sets of tyres with which to set the qualifying time. Unfortunately the heat of the track was relatively high and Guy struggled to find grip in the tyres as the session developed. In the early stages he managed to post a time quick enough for seventh on the grid but as the session went on the lighter cars were able to improve as the Aston tyres went off and the pair were bumped down the order. By the end of qualifying Guys time put the championship front runners in 13th position for the start of Sundays two hour race and with a lot of work to do to maintain their recent podium run.

“It is a little frustrating to be starting in the midfield considering where we are in the championship but I am confident we have good race pace between us to make up some positions”, said Ben afterwards. “Two hours is a long time and a lot can happen in a race so I wouldn’t count us out of a podium position just yet”.

With this in mind the team worked hard on devising a strong race strategy to make up for the marginal lack of pace and with the experienced Barwell pit crew drilled and ready for action spirits were high in the team that good points could still be obtained with some hard work.

Sunday morning was greeted with the dampness of a few heavy showers in the night and with the forecast uncertain the team planned for every eventuality discussing tactics for further rainfall during the race. Morning warm up came first and at 9am Ben pulled out of the garage on wet tyres. Mark Lemmer, team manager had requested that Ben do one sighting lap and then come in for slicks so that we could gather data on the level of grip on a damp but drying track. After a few hairy moments Ben brought the car back into the garage after the session had finished, but was confident that should there be any rain in the race he had learnt enough not to let it ruin their chances of a result.

At 11.45, and with clouds looming, the twenty-six car field lined up for round 8 of the 2007 Avon British GT championship and as the lights went out Ben made a great move up into 9th as they approached the first corner. “There was a lot of jostling and two cars ahead touched forcing me to take to the outside of the track where there is very little grip. I ran wide but held on to re join the track back in 11th,” said Ben. Over the next 2 corners he re-passed two cars and then the Damax Ascari of Keating pulled off with mechanical problems leaving Ben in 8th. At Abbey hairpin Ben capitalised on a back log of cars at the apex to go round the outside of the Team Berlanga Ascari of Eric Zwart and took 7th place. The pace of the car was good and Ben was looking to take 6th place away from team mate Paul Drayson when the #6 Viper of Ellis tipped the #2 Aston of Alexander into a spin at the exit of the Luffield. In an attempt to avoid the spinning car in front Drayson slowed and Ben caught the rear of the #1 Bio-fuelled Aston.

At first there appeared to be no damage and Ben continued to push hard for another lap, but soon liquid was appearing on the screen and Ben radioed into the pits that he had a leak from somewhere. As there were no warning lights on the dash yet Ben continued to keep pushing, but it was apparent on lap three that there was a problem and Ben returned to the pits for the team to inspect the car. After a quick inspection it was determined that the contact had damaged the oil cooler and the problem was terminal forcing a very early retirement from the race.

“The car felt perfect, the team had done a great job to get the engine back in after the problems at Brands Hatch and it was set up perfectly”, said Ben afterwards. “It is so frustrating to retire so early on when I had so much pace, I think I was up to 5th before being forced to retire and with the car feeling so good we would have been in the hunt for another podium without a doubt.”

Ben & Guy were forced to watch the race unfold with the rest of the team in the garage, not the most satisfying place when you should be out on track. Fortunately the team were able to maintain their unbeaten podium run with third place for the #1 car of Drayson & Cocker.

Despite another non point scoring race Ben is still only 5 points behind championship leaders Mortimer & Ellis and with 60 points still available there is a realistic chance of taking the title.

The next round is at Thruxton in Wiltshire on 25 & 26 August.

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