Double Dutch Bus to the Garden of Motorsports
Youngest world champion? If TAG-Heuer’s timing is right and Red Bull has the package, the young Dutch treat might deliver this historical achievement in the near future.
A 34-car grid featuring no less than 19 GT3 entries will take to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium this weekend (July 10/11) for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship’s fifth round of the season and annual ‘away day’.
The 4.3-mile, 20-turn Ardennes venue oozes atmosphere and history, and also offers drivers of all abilities one of the toughest tests in motor racing. It’s these factors that have undoubtedly helped attract a number of new names for this Saturday’s two-hour points-and-a-half-paying encounter.
An additional BMW Z4 GT3 run by crack Belgian outfit Marc VDS & Friends Racing for Cancer featuring the talents of Pascal Witmeur and Bas Leinders should be at the sharp end. There are also two additional Aston Martin Vantage GT3s on the entry list courtesy of Aston Martin Brussels’ Michael Schmetz and reigning Belgian GT champion, Tim Verbergt, and Leonard Motorsport AMR’s Silver Cup driver pairing Stuart Leonard and Michael Meadows.
Elsewhere, series regulars Rosso Verde return with their Ferrari for Hector Lester and Benny Simonsen, while FF Corse’s similar 458 Italia features Ollie Hancock alongside Gary Eastwood.
There’s also a fresh GT4 entry following the arrival of Track Group’s Lotus Evora, driven by Adam Balon and Ben Clucas.
2015: THE GT3 STORY SO FAR…
Four rounds contested over three different distances have already been completed, but so competitive is this year’s entry that GT3 still awaits its first multiple winners of 2015.
Indeed, it’s consistency rather than outright pace that has proved vital to reigning Drivers’ champion Marco Attard and Ecurie Ecosse team-mate Alexander Sims establishing their slim 11.5-point lead atop the standings. Scoring big in the championship’s two points-and-a-half races, including a victory at Rockingham, helped them overcome a slow start at Oulton Park where their closest title pursuers, Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher, won the hour-long opener for Oman Racing Team.
As if to emphasise the point Triple Eight pairing Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne have yet to finish first this season but remain very much part of the fight thanks to their knack of picking up solid points’ finishes. Second place at Silverstone last time out suggests they’re in contention to make it five winners from as many rounds in Belgium.
Beechdean AMR’s former champions Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam have been at the sharp end all season but have so far struggled converting potential into big points. A victory on the opening weekend at Oulton, plus two pole positions, proves they have what it takes to close the gap.
AND WHAT OF GT4?
With plenty of points still up for grabs the destination of this year’s GT4 titles remains anyone’s guess, even if one pairing has come to the fore in recent months…
Indeed, Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn’s back-to-back victories at Rockingham and Silverstone’s two endurance events have helped them seize control of the Drivers’ standings. After letting their enthusiasm slightly get the better of them at Oulton neither Beechdean AMR youngster has since put a foot wrong en route to establishing a 31.5-point advantage over ISSY Racing duo Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw.
They, along with third placed Mike Robinson and Graham Johnson, chalked up the other two victories at Oulton, meaning three manufacturers – Aston Martin, Lotus and Ginetta – have shared the GT4 spoils thus far.
Looking to get in on the act at Spa-Francorchamps will be the Graham Coomes/Jake Hill peddled AmDTuning.com Porsche 911, which ran at the front for much of Silverstone’s three-hour race. The same can also be said of Academy Motorsport’s Dennis Strandberg and Will Moore in light of the latter’s impressive display in wet conditions last time out.
Mike Lynch, Avon Tyres Technical Manager – Motorsport, runs the rule over Spa-Francorchamps.
“Spa is our only trip abroad with the British GT Championship. The nature of the track and the weather bring unique challenges for the tyres. The long lap with very high speeds and the huge compression at Eau Rouge creates loads in the tyres not seen at other circuits on our calendar.
“Set in the Ardennes, the weather is unpredictable at best. The tyres might have to cope with track temperatures ranging from 10 to 40ºC, from dry, hot surfaces to wet and greasy – often on the same lap. However, the new-for-2015 tyre has been optimised to perform more consistently in all of these conditions. We can expect faster lap times and the racing to be even closer than last year.”
VETTEL WINS AT SPA—
SEBASTIAN VETTEL: “I don’t think we expected to be dominant here, and it surprised all of us actually; it’s a great result. I think we knew going into the race that our race pace, compared to Mercedes, maybe gave us a little in hand, but we didn’t know where we were compared to the others, especially Ferrari, and Lotus looked very quick in dry conditions also. It wasn’t clear if the rain was going to come at the end of the race, so we kept pushing, but the gap we had by that stage meant we were able to control the race from there and the last couple of laps weren’t too stressful.”
CHRISTIAN HORNER, Team Principal: “It was a fantastic win for Sebastian and the team, which came down to the first lap. He had an average start, but managed to position himself well going through the first corner and he knew that the first run through Eau Rouge up the hill was going to be critical. He went for it, got in the tow and managed to make the move stick round the outside of Lewis and then got his head down and built up a great lead. For Mark, his clutch wasn’t good in preparation going to the grid. We did our best to tidy it up but he conceded a place to Rosberg off the start. Once he was comprised in his positioning within the pack, he wasn’t able to get a clean run through La Source and Alonso managed to get a run on him down the hill and pass him into Eau Rouge. Thereafter it was a matter of trying to find a way through, past the Mercedes and Ferrari ahead, but unfortunately whenever we got close enough we seemed to lose aero performance and so Mark couldn’t get close enough to make a move. We didn’t come here expecting to win today, so it’s great to get a victory to start the second half of the season”
Pos Driver Team 1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 2. Alonso Ferrari 3. Hamilton Mercedes 4. Rosberg Mercedes 5. Webber Red Bull-Renault 6. Button McLaren-Mercedes 7. Massa Ferrari 8. Grosjean Lotus-Renault 9. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 10. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 11. Perez McLaren-Mercedes 12. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 13. Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 14. Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 15. Bottas Williams-Renault 16. van der Garde Caterham-Renault 17. Maldonado Williams-Renault 18. Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 19. Chilton Marussia-Cosworth Fastest lap: Not classified/retirements: Driver Team Di Resta Force India-Mercedes Raikkonen Lotus-Renault Pic Caterham-Renault World Championship standings, round 11: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Vettel 197 1. Red Bull-Renault 312 2. Alonso 151 2. Mercedes 235 3. Hamilton 139 3. Ferrari 218 4. Raikkonen 134 4. Lotus-Renault 187 5. Webber 115 5. McLaren-Mercedes 65 6. Rosberg 96 6. Force India-Mercedes 61 7. Massa 67 7. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 25 8. Grosjean 53 8. Sauber-Ferrari 7 9. Button 47 9. Williams-Renault 1 10. Di Resta 36 11. Sutil 25 12. Perez 18 13. Vergne 13 14. Ricciardo 12 15. Hulkenberg 7 16. Maldonado 1
Buller closing in on British F3 title as Carlin ups the ante –
With half the season complete, the highly competitive 2013 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series returns to the UK this weekend (10/11 August) for three 30-minute races at historic Brands Hatch GP Circuit in Kent.
Following races at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, Fortec Motorsports’ Will Buller, has a solid lead of 21 points as he arrives back on home tarmac.
“Obviously every weekend is important, but Brands Hatch will be critical for me to make sure I’m heading to the Nurburgring in the best position possible. I’ve not been in such a strong position in the F3 series for several years, but I know what I have to do to win. We got good points at Spa, I couldn’t have asked for much more, but I’m aiming to leave Brands in a stronger position that I left Belgium.”
The County Down racer will be looking to defend from his two main title rivals, Jordan King and Antonio Giovinazzi. The two rookies are having a strong debut year in Formula 3 and, like Buller, have each taken a pair of wins from the first six races. Both drivers continue to grow in stature and arrive back in the UK brimming confidence after strong weekends at the home to the Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps.
This seasons other podium visitors are Jann Mardenborough, Sean Gelael and Felipe Guimaraes, all of whom endured difficult weekends at Spa-Francorchamps, GT Academy winner Jann surviving a scary clash with Carlin team-mate Nicholas Latifi at Eau Rouge in the first race.
Multiple series champions, Carlin arrive at Brands Hatch with two new drivers in its ranks. Joining regulars, King, Mardenborough and Latifi are Chinese racer, Peter Li Zhi Cong and the very familiar face of 2012 British F3 runner-up and Malaysian star, Jazeman Jaafar. Both drivers are making one-off appearances this weekend, with Li Zhi Cong testing the water ahead of a potential full campaign in the New Year.
Another title is up for grabs this year, that is the all-important National Class for non-FIA spec machines. Leading the way after a ‘perfect’ weekend at Spa was Chinese driver Sun Zheng, but the CF Racing man will have a swarm of West-Tec cars to contend with this weekend on a circuit he has never driven at before.
“We’re prepared for this weekend, but I haven’t driven there before so it will be a new challenge. We did well at Spa, I think we can do well again there (at Brands Hatch).”
Joining New Zealander Chris Vlok at West-Tec are the experienced duo of British racer Cameron Twynham and Emirati driver, Ed Jones. With Zheng now 44 points ahead of Jones in the standings, it will require a huge effort from the West-Tec driver to reel in his Chinese counterpart.
Track action gets underway on Saturday with qualifying at 11:15 and the first race of the weekend in the afternoon at 14:55. Sunday features two races, the first of which begins at 11:00, the final race of the weekend closes the meeting at 16:50.
Finally, a minute’s silence will be held on Sunday morning ahead of race two of the weekend to remember Jeremy Lord, the former British F3 Championship co-ordinator and head of British Formula 3 teams group FOTA, who passed away in June after a brief battle with cancer.
Buller masterful in wet first race at Spa
Will Buller #3 Fortec Motorsports (Race Winner)
“We had a difficult day yesterday with suspension issues. The race was good, I like the wet here and I’ve won here before, so I was feeling confident. I got into the lead and pulled out a nice gap. The car was great and I’m really looking forward to the race later, I think we’ll be strong now whatever the weather. I’ll start eighth in the next race, but I came from seventh in this one, so I’m pretty use to it!”
LATIFI SNATCHES DOUBLE POLE, AS CARLIN TAKE A QUALIFYING 1-2-3 –