British GT Championship – Race 1 – Full Report (GT2 & GT3)
Eleven From Thirteen

Oddly, no Ian McKellar today. Licence problems, we understand. “They sent me the wrong licence,” said a suitably aggrieved ‘Joons’. “They sent me one that says I’m a National A: I’ve never been a National A! I’ve enjoyed myself though – and I’ll be back next year. I don’t know what I’ll be driving, but I’ll be in a GT car.”

Paul Mace (his Porsche severely tweaked yesterday) joined Tech 9 – with the likeable James Murphy. The Irishman is supported by Goff Developments and PI Systems – and really enjoyed his Saturday at Silverstone..

Piers Masarati, with a clutch problem, apparently managed to spin the #25 Porsche as he left the pit apron before the race… but clutch bothers wouldn’t be quite so awkward out on the track.

“If we don’t win it (today), we’re definitely coming back next year,” said the jovial Chris Niarchos – on Embassy Radio, before the race.

He was hoping for a faultless run, and perhaps that first (and only) victory of the season, but it didn’t work out like that.

In front of a small crowd, it was a remarkably routine race – except that with a dry track, this time they didn’t all get through Copse intact. In some ways it was rather like the start of Petit Le Mans, except that the ‘middle man’ was the always positive Andrew Kirkaldy.

Phil Keen played James Weaver’s ‘up the inside’ role, while Tim Mullen was the man hung out to dry on the outside. Mullen finished the first lap in 13th, while Phil Keen had his moment at Becketts, and the Mosler finished lap 1 in 15th. Ben Collins had been ‘sniffing’ as early as Copse, and he finished the lap in second for Embassy, Caine third for Eurotech – and fourth was Piers Masarati! He’d been eight on the grid. Another to lose out was Anthony Reid in the Nissan, and the turquoise 350Z didn’t really feature for the next hour – and in particular the last 20 minutes.

The Jones brothers were ninth on the grid, and Godfrey ended lap 1 in ninth, despite all the misdemeanours up ahead – and Jones had several GT3 and Inv cars to battle through.

As far as the race for the lead went, the writing was on the wall as early as … lap 2, if not before. Kirkaldy led Collins by 3.7 seconds after two tours, 5.6 after three, 7.2 after four, and so on. The margin to the Porsches would have been well over 20 seconds when #35 stopped, had they not pitted well before Kirkaldy’s stop after 23 laps.

Cane had hung onto Collins’ tail, at least until the pair was caught by Mullen and Keen. These two were fourth and fifth by lap 5, at which point the Ultima retired, with the V8 only running on a couple of cylinders.

By lap 10 the two pairs left trailing by Kirkaldy were about to become one quartet, at which point Collins briefly escaped a little, as Caine defended. But it was inevitable – as inevitable as the fact that the #35 was going to win this one.

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Keen actually passed Mullen before he passed the Porsches – Caine on lap 13, Collins on lap 15.

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In GT3 and the Inv Class, Maserati led until lap 6, at which point Mullen came charging through, the clutch-troubled Porsche slipping behind Stuart Moseley in the #96 Motorbase Quaife 911 and Tim Harvey in RPM’s #19.

“That was a fantastic battle at the start with Stuart and Piers,” said old hand Harvey, “but I’m not sure how we cocked up the pitstop.”

Stuart Moseley was enjoying himself too: “I knew it was going to be an exciting race when Andrew Kirkaldy spun in front of me on the warm up lap. I had a great start into Copse, then when the Mosler went off at Becketts, I was second overall. Ben Collins got me after that, but I had a great stint.”

Moseley stayed ahead of all the GT3s until he pitted, he and Harvey having being joined by Masarati again, once the Jones Porsche had clawed its way through the GT3 leaders. There was a good battle going on behind these three, Adam Wilcox in the JMH Ferrari leading Damien Faulkner in the #23 Porsche.

Up ahead in GT2, Phil Keen was the first to pit in the Eclipse Mosler, after 22 laps, Kirkaldy and Collins pitting a lap later, Mullen one after that. That might have left Tim Harvey briefly leading overall, and he was the last runner to stop – which he managed to do too late (37 and a bit minutes). The car, now driven by Alex Mortimer, was called in for a stop / go penalty, from the lead of GT3 / Inv (hence Harvey’s comment above).

GT2 stops made very little difference, except that Chris Niarchos took on new rubber to get around the problems Tim Mullen had been suffering after his spin. That dropped Niarchos into the clutches of David Jones, who nipped past before the Ferrari was up to speed. Niarchos grabbed the spot (fourth) back though. That should have been fifth, but Steve Hyde had a spin under braking for Abbey, and backed into the gravel. “The marshals were great, they didn’t give up trying to get me out. I thought I’d better pit for a check over, having gone in backwards. Especially after the weekend we had, we didn’t want to risk another engine.”

Mike Jordan had latched onto the tail of Neil Cunningham and came close to threatening a pass a couple of times, the Aussie / Kiwi appreciative of the fact that no contact was made – and Jordan drifted back a little – before a late charge, which Cunningham repelled.

So Mullen and Niarchos, needing just a point, did more than enough to take second in the driver points, behind 11 time winners Kinch and Kirkaldy, while Embassy beating Eurotech to third was enough for Jonathan France’s team to seal second in the teams’, third in the drivers’. Mike Jordan may have just driven his last British GT race, one he ended in style with the car’s best lap of the race on the 40th of 42 laps.

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The team owner was reluctant to announce plans for 2006.

So what happened in the GT3 and Invitational classes? Rory Fordyce had emerged in second place ‘overall’, leading the ‘proper’ GT3s, behind Mortimer, who then took his stop and go. Phil Quaife moved past them both to take the class win, following on in the same vein as Moseley, after his fine drive.

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David Ashburn (this is Fred Moss, above) moved up from fifth ‘overall’ to third by the flag, in the repaired #20 Porsche, second in GT3, with Sean Edwards taking third in #36, then Andy Britnell in #23, Martin Rich and Fordyce following them home – for a Porsche 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. Marco Attard and Nick Adamas were first non-Ferrari in eighth.

David Ashburn took the Driver of the Meeting award - and he's only 58.

Phil Quaife: “It’s the first time I’ve won this year and I really enjoyed myself, but I’ve got to thank this guy next to me (Stuart Moseley).

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And so ends… a disappointing season? You can’t argue with the form of Nathan Kinch and Andrew Kirkaldy, with eleven wins (and 13 poles) from 13 starts. But the one hour format has become… a little stale? Porsches have dominated GT3, just as Ferrari has in GT2. Now it’s over to Stephane Ratel / Jonathan Palmer to prove what they can do: they couldn’t do anything together this year. What does 2006 hold in store? And who approached whom?

Last words to the Champions.
Nathan Kinch: "I'd like to thank the team and of course Andrew who has been a great team-mate. He handed me the car with a massive lead so all I had to do was bring it home today. I'd also like to thank Dunlop who have done a fantastic job for us this year."

Andrew Kirkaldy: "Yesterday's race went well for us and we were delighted to get our tenth win. To then go and get our 11th win today was fantastic. Nathan did all the hard work yesterday but I was kept pretty busy today so fair's fair! The car was exceptional today and has been all year; I couldn't have asked for a better season!"

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It’s appropriate that the reference to Dunlop is there (from Nathan Kinch). Let’s thank someone else while we’re at it. Belinda Edwards, you’ve been a fantastic GT coordinator. Thank you. And goodnight.
MC

With thanks to Graham Goodwin, Mark Howson, Paul Slinger, Steve Wood, David Lord, Peter May, Mike Hoyer, Jason Gore - and everyone else who has added something to our British GT coverage this year.

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