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GT Cup

Bute Motorsport GT Cup Championship, Donington – Race Reports
Johnson Crowned As The season Ends In Style

Race 1

Saturday’s race saw Derek Johnston in the Greypaul Racing Ferrari 458 preserve his Championship advantage, whilst also preventing Jordan Witt from saying that the Chevron took a lights-to-flag victory. 

An early move on the entry to Redgate saw Johnston briefly lead but “I went in too tight and ran wide so he snapped back inside, then we were fighting for three laps or so which was great fun.  I do like racing with Jordan, he is a good lad.  But then I had to ask myself what the hell I was doing, the plan was to take it easy for the Championship.  The plan seems to go out of the window as soon as the race starts though, especially when everything felt as good as it did.”

Johnston came home some 13.7 seconds down on Witt, but safely ahead of Lee Mowle and Kevin Riley.  Mowle had been a potential threat in the Optimum Motorsport Ginetta GT3, lurking around two seconds down, but he tried to line up a move on Johnston the last time into the Melbourne loop and span.  He was able to recover to finish without losing any places however and crossed the line ahead of Riley’s Mosler.  “I haven’t driven the car since June so it was a case of settling into a routine, but I thought I would have to try something on the last lap!  The paddle-shifting is working now and the brakes are perfect so there are no longer any excuses for me.

"The Chevron probably has a second on the Ferrari and me but I think I have another half second in me.  For Race 2 when the Chevron has 50kg ballast, the Ferrari 30kg and me 10kg, things could be a bit tighter.”

Jordan Witt was pleased with getting another win for the GT3-spec Ginetta.  “It hasn’t been easy; qualifying was tough as it was really damp.  I ended up leaving the track three times trying to put in a quick one and only managed it on my last lap by a tenth, so I was lucky in some respects. 

"In the race I had brake fluid leaking onto the pedals and we had a problem under the dashboard where the steering column hadn’t been tightened properly so it was moving up and down, but even with that I was able to get the win.”

Colin Broster took an easy win for ABG Motorsport in Group 3, making Chris Bentley’s push for the Championship even harder.  Broster had tried to entertain himself by muscling in on the M3 battle in Group 2, which was taken by Peter Seldon over Don Grice.  “Two more races to go, nothing to lose so I’m just going to go for it!” said the ABG man.

Race 2

Johnston had declared that he was determined to not let the racer’s instinct carry him away but instead try to keep the Championship title foremost in his thoughts. “All I have to do is finish this race and I should win the Championship, but then that was the plan for yesterday and I nearly forgot it!  Yesterday I went a second quicker than I’ve gone here before so everything is looking good.”

His resolve was soundly beaten by his nerve though as the field took the start in pleasant sunshine, the Ferrari pulling clear of pole-sitting Witt and slotting neatly into an early lead.  Mowle lost ground on Lap 1, dropping to almost last place when the engine stalled as the car locked its brakes, but he then drove a steady race and pulled the GT3 Ginetta back through the pack to finish fourth.  Mowle had even threatened to take the last podium place off Riley’s Mosler for a number of laps.  “The Mosler was just unbelievably fast on the straights, especially off the start, he was just gone!”

It was Jordan Witt that retook the lead on Lap 3 and he was then able to pull steadily away from the Ferrari to take his second win of the weekend.  A strong second place was enough for Johnston to take the Championship title; his Group 2 rival Bentley had been unable to trouble Colin Broster who took the Group 2 win again.

Matt Seldon took the wheel of the #23 BMW that had been driven by Peter Seldon yesterday and he too had put the Mosler under some pressure before he lost the power steering coming into the Esses on Lap 4 and pitted.  The mechanics traced it to a fuse responsible for the power steering and ABS that had simply jumped out of the dashboard.  Once the issue was found, the car was sent out to ensure that pushing the fuse back in was all it would take and a confirmatory lap proved it had been successful.  The team added some braces to the belt though by installing a new fuse bracket ready for Race 3.

The retirement of the blue M3 promoted Don Grice’s example to the Group 2 win, and if bonus points were provided for sideways action out of the hairpins Grice would have amassed quite a haul! “The car has been fantastic, coming down through Craner Curves it is an absolute joy, phenomenal!  We have altered a few things with the flat shift a few weeks ago and tested it at Oulton Park last Tuesday. 

"It all seemed good and today has confirmed it; it is right on the nail now.”

Race 3

Jordan Witt made it a hat-trick of wins with another fight back against an early-leading Johnston, but even he had his doubts for the last race of the season.   “Derek really went for it this time and it was hard work to catch up.  I definitely had a race on my hands this time, I think it was a 1:30 every single lap so I can’t complain about that!”  He made his move on Lap 4 however and went on to pull out a 17 second lead over Johnston, Mowle coming home third after a strong run in the GT3 Ginetta.

Kevin Riley was a late starter from the pitlane and had to catch the field up and then pick his way through to finish fourth, but seemingly with the car still not running correctly.  A last lap spin at Craner Curves caused a scare for him but he had enough pace left to pick up the pieces and get home before Group 2 winner Don Grice crossed the line.  On the last lap it had appeared that Matt Seldon would have taken Group 2, and indeed fourth overall, but a sheared oil tank led to the resurgent M3’s unfortunate retirement.

The ensuing oil on the track from that incident may well have determined a Group 3 battle that had raged for most of the race.  Colin Broster had been kept far more honest this time by Chris Bentley and David Barker.   On lap 11, just as Broster had begun to assert his advantage, he was tagged by Witt’s Chevron at the Old Hairpin as the race leader lapped him, pitching the Porsche through the gravel trap.  With the clock running out, Bentley and Barker went through, Barker re-taking the Group lead from Bentley at Coppice. 

Broster rejoined eight seconds back and despite a spirited charge he couldn’t quite get his lead back.  There was drama on the last lap however, Barker relaxing his guard and Bentley pouncing up the inside into Redgate and braking late, re-taking the lead.  They lapped as one, Broster gaining all the time until the final trip through the Melbourne loop. 

Barker explained: “On the second-to-last lap I am sure I saw the one minute to go board so on the next lap I slowed but there was no chequered flag and he came through!  I knew where Chris [Bentley] was quicker and where I was quicker and then on the last lap he outbraked himself into the last hairpin and I took the chance to go for the inside.  He must have recovered quicker than I expected because I didn’t see him come back but my left rear might have made contact with his right rear.”

Barker continued for the win, with a light smoke haze from the rear left tyre seeming to confirm his suspicion. “This is my first GT Cup weekend and I had a difficult qualifying because the car was cutting out.  It is my first time racing in this car so I was just getting used to it and trying to get comfortable.  We had a big problem in Race 2, we aren’t sure what but we had big loss of power.  It was fine for this race though and we had a great battle and were into the 39’s which I’ve not done before.”  Broster managed to take second off Bentley too as the black Porsche regained the track on the exit of the Melbourne hairpin.

2012 GT Cup Champion Derek Johnston confirmed Witt’s view of the race.  “I went faster in that race than I have ever gone. I know what this car does against the Chevron so I know I have to just go in those early laps because he will come back at me.  I had a brake problem in the race - warning lights all over the dashboard.  It was pretty scary really; it felt like it was braking on one wheel!  As far as getting the Championship goes, I always set out to do that.  I had a hip replacement in January so it has been a hard year and at some circuits it has been really painful but here we are at the end of the season and we’ve done it!”

An interesting and varied season was brought to a close in fine style on a lovely day at a fantastic circuit and no-one can deny that Johnston is a well-deserved Champion.  Thoughts already turn to what 2013 will bring and with permission for National B-licence entries having just been granted and the foundations of the calendar already looking to be in great shape, the signs are already there that the competition will be really hot next year. 

Paul Slinger