Beechdean AMR close on British GT points lead with strong finish at Silverstone

Beechdean AMR closed on the British GT Championship lead with a hard-fought fourth-place finish at the longest and most gruelling race of the year; the Silverstone 500.

Drivers Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn were among the pace-setters across the Coronation weekend in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 as the great British weather did its best to turn race preparations upside down.

Some of the most difficult driving conditions ever experienced by British GT drivers on Saturday – brought about by incessant heavy rain – led to qualifying being cancelled and the grid instead being set based on drivers’ fastest times in final practice.

This meant #97 started fifth overall and fourth in Pro-Am and it maintained position as Team Principal Andrew – the 2013 and ’15 British GT champion – took the start.

He was up to fourth overall when an early safety car led to almost everybody diving for the pits for a driver change with just 20 minutes of the three-hour race complete.

Once aboard, Ross maintained the the duo’s push for victory; the 2015 GT4 Champion showing immense pace to move into second place with a number of classy passing moves.

Andrew’s second taste of race action proved ultra-consistent; the High Wycombe driver running inside the top three throughout and keeping the leaders well and truly in sight.

But just as Ross began to prepare to climb aboard for his final stint; which would likely result in him emerging into a three-way fight for victory, the race was turned on its head with 50 minutes to go when an incident on track scrambled the safety car.

Andrew circulated at slow speed behind the safety car as he waited patiently to reach his mandatory 80-minute minimum drive time, but rivals who had began their stints earlier – and thus also reached their 80-minute mark sooner – were able to pit first and re-gain the lost time before green-flag running resumed; something he had no control over.

When Andrew’s turn to hand over to Ross did come, the result was that the Thame racer emerged seventh with just 28 minutes of the three hours remaining.

Fired up for battle, the Aston Martin works driver began picking off his rivals one-by-one, setting the race’s fastest lap during his charge and climbing to fourth with five minutes left.

A huge push brought him onto the tail of the podium car and – ultimately – to within 2.4 seconds of victory. But while the champagne was not to be sprayed by he and Andrew; their championship position was significantly enhanced.

Not only are they now joint-second in the overall standings, and third in Pro-Am, they have reduced the deficit to the series lead to just 7.5 points with five rounds remaining. Beechdean AMR hold third in the Teams’ Championship.

The next round; a two-hour ‘enduro’ at Donington Park, takes place on May 27-28.

Andrew Howard said: “We absolutely had a podium car at the very least today, but sometimes the racing gods decide it’s not going to be your day, and while it feels a bit like that right now, we did at least bag some very good points. That’s extremely pleasing because we have one of the oldest cars on the grid, but the Aston Martin has proven both at Oulton Park and here that it still has what it takes to keep us right at the sharp end. After qualifying was cancelled on Saturday, I went home and did a couple of hours in the sim and I definitely think the consistency of doing that’s paid off today. Ross drove brilliantly, the team were flawless on both calling the race and the pit work, and it’s only the timing of the safety car that prevented us from having a really good go for the win and the championship lead.”

Ross Gunn said: “I’m pretty disappointed to finish fourth; but when you’re disappointed with fourth, it’s because you know you had a better result there for the taking and shows you the level you’re operating at and the mindset you’re operating in. I’ve been pleased with the Aston Martin this weekend and Andrew’s done a couple of mega stints to keep us in the podium positions all the way. Then we get a safety car and we have to wait longer than most other cars to pit because Andrew needs to make his drive time or we’ll get a penalty. It’s just one of those unique things about these longer races. But the pace has been strong, I’ve set fastest lap and made a few strong passes in circumstances where it’s not been easy. Onto Donington next; another track where the Vantage has been quite good so we have a lot to stay optimistic for.”