After a brilliant season opener at Oulton Park in April, the British GT field descended on the Rockingham circuit last weekend. The oval speedway and infield played host to a single two-hour endurance race.
Qualifying on Sunday afternoon was dominated by the Trackspeed Porsche team, with all three cars taking the top 3 spots on the grid.
The spot-liveried #31 Porsche took pole, with the time of 1:22.569 set by Nick Tandy.
Closely followed by Phil Keen (#33) – championship leader, and race two winner at Oulton Park, with a time of 1:22.644.
The tartan #32 Porsche of Gregor Fisken and Richard Westbrook were only two hundredths of a second behind, putting the top three within a tenth of each other at the end of qualifying.
Full qualifying results can be seen here.
Race day at Rockingham was a world away from the cold, windy season opener at Oulton Park. Temperatures were hovering comfortably around 25°C, and sunny skies all around.
From the rolling start, the front row held steady, with the #31 and #33 Porsches holding their position into the hairpin. However the race was brought behind the safety car on lap2, after the #23 United Autosports McLaren found itself retired after an incident on the third corner with the #10 M-Sport Audi.
The #33 Porsche of Minshaw capitalised on the restart, jumping past team-mate David Ashburn in the #31 car, with Minshaw putting a large gap between them by the end of the lap.
Third place starter Gregor Fisken found himself in the jaws of a train of cars soon after, seemingly struggling compared to his team-mates out front.
The Jay Palmer in the Vita4One Ferrari found himself marooned in the gravel, after fighting with the #15 Fortec Mercedes of Ollie Webb, who had moved through the field swiftly.
Back out front, David Ashburn found himself facing backwards in the #31 Porsche, after the #79 Ecurie Ecosse Z4 of Marco Attard both accidentally passed the Porsche under yellow flags, and knocked him into a spin. As a result, the stewards excluded the Z4 from the results. The damage from the collision also ended what was looking to be a promising weekend for the pole-sitting Porsche.
Pitstops at the midpoint of the race shuffled the field around, with some drivers electing to stay out on longer stints. Out front, Richard Westbrook took the seat in the #32 Porsche, and Phil Keen took control of the #33 car.
And soon after, Westbrook usurped the lead from Keen, who had a broken throttle body, slowing him down significantly.
The M-Sport Audi R8 of Warren Hughes took second place quickly, after seeming to have run a race of his own from the start. With the throttle body problem now leaving Keen struggling on track, the team saw it best to withdraw from the race.
After Keen’s retirement, third place was awarded to the Beechdean Aston Martin of Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam. However, a steward review at the end of the race left them with a penalty that would leave them in seventh position at the flag.
This left the United Autosports Audi R8 of Mark Patterson and Matt Bell to take third spot at the flag.
Holding his position for the remainder of the race, Hughes in the M-Sport Audi took second position, which is a huge leap forward from a troubled race at Oulton Park, and also the first GT podium for the WRC giants of M-Sport.
The tartan Porsche, however, was the first one home, giving Trackspeed their third win in as many races. Though this one must have been bittersweet – with their three cars starting at the front of the grid, and only one making it to the end. Yet, the team doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, with Silverstone 500 around the corner on the 25/26 of May, I’m sure we’ll see just as much action as this time.
Full race results can be found here.
Photos and story by Nat Twiss, May 2013
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