Barwell Motorsport – So Far So Good
Barwell Motorsport is a familiar name in British motorsport, but it’s only very recently that the team has been operating in dailysportscar’s orbit.

A class win in the inaugural Britcar 24 last year (in a Honda Accord) signalled some intent on the endurance racing front and, with the birth of the FIA GT3 Championship this season, the team is now firmly established on the sportscar racing ladder.

The obligatory three car effort in the FIA series has seen a trio of Aston Martin DBRS9s flying the flag this year, against BMS Scuderia Italia’s similar machines. So just how good has the racing been from an insider’s point of view? How does the new GT3 package work for a team looking to progress? And what are the next steps for Barwell Motorsport?

We asked Chris Needell, Commercial Director at Barwell Motorsport, to sum up the season so far.

“It’s been hard work but the racing has been great so far. We’ve learnt a hell of a lot about the Aston and the opposition.

“The equalisation has been handled very well, I think. The Viper is always going to be the best basic package and those cars and the Corvettes are really almost GT2 spec. cars. The organisers have now made it clear that they have done what they can to reel in the Vipers, and the concentration now is on making the other cars, including ours, faster.”

That has meant a rapid development process for the Astons with all six FIA cars now fitted with sequential gearboxes, plus a radically different aero package.

“The new sequential ‘box, which was fitted to all of the DBRS9s after Silverstone, has helped the gentlemen drivers to progress: there’s less chance of a mistake than there was with an ‘H’ pattern, but I don’t think it’s done anything for our overall speed.”

“The new aero package - a new rear wing and a front end derived from the GT1 car with a better splitter - has made a difference. I reckon that alone has been worth about three quarters of a second on an average lap."

Here are the revised front end and rear wing, on the #66 car at Oschersleben.

“Beyond the equalisation though the organisers really do have to do something about driving standards, not just in the races but in all the practice sessions. There are some guys out there who are racing hard in the free practice sessions and that’s just not on.”

The Spa race would see disappointment for Barwell on two fronts, the #22 car emerging from the first of the weekend’s two 60 minute races with heavy damage following an accident with Chris’s brother Tiff Needell at the wheel, and in the same race the Cocker / Machitski #44 car would be one of 10 to fall foul of a stewards’ ruling on the time spent at the pitlane speed limit. It would ruin the race for #44, the subsequent time penalty costing the team an overall podium finish.

Several teams, including GT veterans Larbre Competition, were caught out and Needell and Larbre’s Jack Leconte were amongst those who expressed dismay at the apparent miscommunication of an already complex regulation.

“It clearly wasn’t just us! I’m really disappointed with that. The boys had a great run and that cost us second place overall!”

So what next for Barwell Motorsport?

“It was always our plan to step up the ladder. The Aston GT3 project was just perfect for us and whilst we’re still looking to stay with GT3 in 2007, we’re looking at GT2 or GT1 options beyond that in 2008. Of course the ultimate objective is to race at Le Mans.”

So what about a continued presence in National GT racing?

“We’ve enjoyed the British races that we have done so far this year. At Snetterton (#66, below) it was just a case of AscarI’s second drivers being a little bit quicker than our second drivers. We’ll be out again with two cars for both the Silverstone and Brands Hatch races, but beyond that we’re waiting to see what SRO decides for next season.

“Obviously we’re interested in competing for overall wins and you’d expect me to say of course that the GT3 route is the right way to go for the British Championship.

“That’s not to say that a one class championship is the way to go. There are a lot of good and loyal GT Cup runners who are the backbone of the Championship and who should definitely be accommodated.

“SRO do however need to say that they are getting rid of GT2 if the momentum with GT3 is going to happen. I can see 10 – 12 GT3 cars doing the Championship in 2007, but if they scrape together a small GT2 field then we’re not really interested in doing a full series. We’ll certainly still look at selected rounds, but not the whole thing.

“If GT3 is a headline class then we’ll look very seriously at it: it will depend on clashes with the European series of course, but depending on the interest out there we might consider running a fourth car.

“Aside from that there’s no chance of us running in the Britcar 24 this year unfortunately. The date falls between Dijon and Mugello, but we would love to bring an Aston out there in 2007.”

So what are the prospects for the European Series next year?

“It’s still very early days of course, but for the 2007 European Championship I believe SRO is looking for more races. I’m actually happy with the current Championship (five race weekends) particularly with the number of gentlemen drivers involved: these can be very busy people and we need to keep the number of races under control.

“I absolutely agree though with the GT3 philosophy that seems to be emerging, that the cars are kept separate from the GT2s and GT1s. It works really well as a platform for drivers and teams looking to step up.

“That’s not to say that the package can’t be improved. The rule about having only eight team personnel is quite restrictive at times for a three car team. Any problem soon becomes a major one if you have restricted manpower.”

The final two rounds of the European Championship, at Dijon and Mugello, will see the three Aston Martins pedalled by Leo Machitski / Jonny Cocker, Tom Alexander / Michael Bentwood and Martin Rich / …….

“We’re talking to a few people at the moment about the last seat. I’d be happy to talk to anyone interested for those races and beyond.”

You can contact Chris Needell at Barwell Motorsport on 01372 457788
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