Avon Tyres British GT ready to Rock

The Avon Tyres British GT Championship makes a welcome return to Corby’s Rockingham Motor Speedway for the second event of the season with the May Day two hour endurance race on May 4/5.
Just two weeks after the eventful season-opener at Oulton Park, 30 cars drawn from nine marques are ready to tackle the challenges of the Rock in what has become surely the best national GT championship in the world.
Rockingham presents an altogether different race format from the season opener with a two-hour endurance race, featuring a refuelling stop in its midst.
Oulton’s two hour-long races saw a win for Aston and the new Motorbase-managed Oman Racing Team in race one with the #4 combo of Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine in their Vantage and race two glory for the Barwell-bred Ecurie Ecosse #77 BMW Z4 of Marco Attard and Alexander Sims.
The race one winning #4 Aston took seventh in race two to leave Al Harthy and Caine in top spot heading to Rockingham, with the #1 Beechdean Motorsport Aston pairing of 2013 championship winner Andrew Howard and team-mate Jonny Adam poised just a point adrift.
The points situation could have been very different heading to Rockingham, as race two looked to be going the way of the United Autosport #23 R8 LMS Ultra of Mark Patterson, which was leading the #18 FF Corse Ferrari, before the over-ambition of the latter resulted in the retirement of both cars.
It’s not only the Aston, BMW, Audi or Ferrari to have demonstrated race winning pace potential, but Porsche and Bentley too. Race two at Oulton saw a storming Jon Minshaw in the #33 Trackspeed Porsche he shares with Phil Keen, such that Minshaw’s challenge for the lead contributed to his being awarded the Blancpain Gentleman Trophy ‘Driver of the Weekend’ award.
Certainly looking for better weekends from the second meeting of the year will be Triple Eight and Trackspeed. Both teams saw one of their cars damaged in a practice incident at Oulton.
Elsewhere, the #17 M-Sport Racing Bentley of Steven Kane which has looked so pacey will miss Rockingham, but is scheduled to return for Silverstone, and the #21 Strata of Paul White and Tom Onslow-Cole has morphed from a Nissan GT-R into an Aston Martin Vantage.
British GT has added attention this year with the presence of a certain Sir Chris Hoy, with the six time Olympic gold medallist contesting the season in the #80 Nissan Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R with team-mate Alex Buncombe. Hoy outlined his will and determination for success on four wheels as well as two at Oulton, and his development into a true race driver is fascinating to see.
In terms of frontrunner predictions, the layout and track surface of Rockingham should suit the Porsches say the speculators, meaning all eyes will be on the Trackspeed pace in GT3 with the #12 and #33 cars and the Team Parker Racing #44 in GT4.
The GT4 grid is particularly strong in depth in 2014 with eleven cars drawn from five marques for Rockingham. At Oulton, class wins went to the #407 Beechdean Aston of Ross Wylie and Jake Giddings and the #49 TF Sport Aston of Andrew Jarman and Devon Modell, whilst two of Oulton’s three safety car periods were caused by Century Motorsport’s #42 car with Rick Parfitt Jnr suffering from a car-stranding fuel pump failure and Tom Oliphant having a visit into the tyre wall.
The sister #43 Century Motorsport Ginetta of Morten Dons and Aleksander Schjerpen took a debut podium in race two of the opener, but faces quite a battle from Ginetta stable, not only from the sister Century car, but also the #41 Optimum Ginetta of the championship’s only female, Tania Mann and Matt Draper, the Fox Motorsport #48 pairing of Paul McNeilly and Jamie Stanley, the #55 Academy Motorsport Oli Basey-Fisher and Matt Nicoll-Jones combo and the #46 Twisted Team Parker car of Adrian Barwick and Bradley Ellis.
Rounding off the GT4 challengers, Lotus made their mark in their return to British GT after a spell away from the series with ISSY Racing with Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw in the Lotus Evora GT4 scoring a second and third in class at Oulton, whilst the #45 AGB Motorsport team are yet to confirm who will partner Declan Jones in the M3. Porsche make an appearance too, with the #44 of dominant 2013 Formula Ford Champion Dan Cammish and gentleman racer, Barrie Baxter.
Action at Rockingham starts with free practice and qualifying on Sunday 4th May with the two-hour endurance race starting at 13:55 on Monday 5th May.