Rookies Retake Championship Lead With 2 Races to Go - September 10th, 2007

Rounds 11 & 12 took place at Croft in North Yorkshire, a circuit that Ben & Guy had never raced at before, but with a 5 point deficit to championship leaders & team mates Paul Drayson & Jonny Cocker they needed a good points haul to keep their championship hopes alive. And a good point’s haul they got with second place in both races ahead of their main championship rivals to take them back to the top of the 2007 British GT driver standings.

Round 11 took place on a hot Saturday afternoon with Guy starting the race from 3rd on the grid after a strong qualifying performance. As the lights went out he got a flying start into turn one snatching second from the Berlanga Ascari and dropped in close behind the pole position Ascari of the Jones brothers. As the cars came towards the end of the first lap however, Guy was gifted the lead as David Jones out braked himself into ‘Sunny’ and ran wide onto the grass. With clear track ahead Guy put his head down and with the Berlanga Ascari hot on his tails made the most of this kind gift by pulling out a 17 second lead over the chasing pack by the time the pit stops came around.

As the race passed the half way mark Guy pitted and handed the car over to Ben who would rejoin the track along with the pro drivers who were all making their best efforts to reduce the gap their slower team mates had left them to the #3 Aston Martin. Unfortunately a problem with the radio connections cost the team an extra 4 seconds in the pits and when Ben exited the pits the lead had been reduced to 11 seconds. Although Croft did not suit the Aston Martin as well as the lighter Ferraris and Ascaris, the team had done another great job of setting the car up to optimise the DBRS9’s abilities through the faster corners of the circuit so that the lost time in the slower complex and hairpin was minimised. With this in mind Ben set about maintaining the distance to the chasing pack but with 9 laps to go the well driven Ferrari of Allan Simonsen was hot on Ben’s tail. For a lap Ben managed to hold the prancing horse at bay but with so long left to run he decided it was best not lose time to his other pursuers by battling to maintain the lead and when Simonsen put his nose up the inside in to turn one Ben did not fight back. As the remaining 8 laps went by Ben maintained his pace to bring the car home in a respectable 2nd, not only securing the rookies 7th podium of the season but also closing the gap to the championship leaders to one point.

Round 12 on Sunday brought a slightly cooler day and an opportunity for the Aston Martins to shine in what would be much better racing conditions for the heavy 6-litre cars. Lining up 12th on the grid after a difficult qualifying, Ben was looking at a mammoth task ahead with several places to make up on what is renowned as a very tight overtaking circuit. Unfortunately the task was not made any easier as Ben was hit 3 times by 3 separate Porsches at the first corner leaving him down in 16th place by the end of lap one. Making his way back up to 13th by the end of the second lap Ben then set about the 12th placed Porsche that had rear ended him at the start, a task that became more and more frustrating as the laps unfolded. The driver ahead very skilfully knew where the chasing Aston Martin would be quicker and continually defended very well allowing the top 10 to pull away ahead of them. On lap 9 the safety car was deployed for an incident at the front allowing the pack to close back up. At the restart Ben made a move to the inside of the Porsche into turn one but the door was closed and as the pack neared the end of the lap realised that he must make the move to avoid further loss of time. With a very defensive Porsche ahead Ben saw his chance at the hairpin and lunged down the inside of the car ahead to take 12th place allowing him to push ahead and catch up with the leading group.

The team made the call 3 laps later to make the mandatory pit stop as Ben was being held up further by the 2 battling Berlanga Ascari’s ahead. With another swift driver change by the team Guy managed to get out in clean air and post some excellent lap times making up ground on those ahead. As the pit stop window closed the decision proved to be a good one as Guy lay 9th on track and clearly lapping quicker than those ahead. As the clock ticked by Guy caught the group of 7 cars ahead, all battling for 2nd place and set about making further ground. Lady luck was certainly on the teams side as several cars ahead started pushing too hard on warn tyres causing them to spin off.

Guy immediately put pressure on the Jones Ascari, which succumbed to him after a hair-raising spin at the first fast chicane (narrowly missing Guy’s car!) on lap 32. On the next lap all hell broke loose between the Mortimer Viper and the Burton Ferrari, which clashed heavily at the first corner, putting the Viper out and dropping the Ferrari back down the order. This promoted Guy up to fifth behind the Harris/Ferrier Porsche, but he wasn’t prepared to sit behind this car for long and scythed his way past on lap 34 to make it three Barwell cars in a row from second to fourth places.

The battle for the final two podium positions was then an all Aston Martin affair, and Guy closed in on Tom and demoted him to fourth on lap 36. Unfortunately for Tom, he then lost a bit of momentum and fell into the clutches of the Harris Porsche and Jones Ascari. These three cars all tried to go round the hairpin as one on lap 37, and discovered that there definitely isn’t room as contact was made and all of them were sent flying off in different directions. Unfortunately for Tom, the impact damaged his car sufficiently to lead to him having to pull off the circuit and retire with a puncture. This was a sad end to their race after great performances from both Michael and Tom.

With four laps to go, Paul looked reasonably secure in second place, but on this day Guy was an irresistible force to everyone he came up behind, and somehow Guy pulled out an incredible lap to get onto the rear bumper of his team-mate as they started the next lap. As the Barwell crew stood on the pit wall barely able to watch, the two Astons duelled it out at virtually every one of Croft’s corners. Both drivers gave their team-mates respect, however, and with Paul giving Guy room as they approached the final hairpin, it allowed Guy to take the inside line and move up to second place. Unfortunately for Guy the Lester/Simonsen Ferrari was again too fast for the Aston’s to compete with and with a 17 second advantage Ben & Guy had to settle for 2nd place, which was enough to give them a 1 point lead in the championship over team mates Jonny & Paul. With the Mortimer/Ellis Viper not finishing Ben & Guy also arrive at the final rounds with an 8 point advantage of them in third, with the fast Ferrari of Lester & Simonsen one point further back.

The final rounds of the season take the teams to Rockingham on 29/30 September for what should be a thrilling finale to this very close 2007 championship.


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