Beechdean AMR denied Donington win but stay in British GT title hunt
Beechdean AMR were denied a first win of 2023 by circumstances beyond their control on Sunday, but remain in contention for the British GT Championship after taking a big points haul at Donington Park.
The team’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 held a commanding advantage approaching the halfway point of the two-hour race following a storming stint by Andrew Howard, but a delay in the pitlane restricted co-driver Ross Gunn’s charge to fourth spot.
Aston Martin works driver Ross had shown glimpses of the Vantage’s pace by setting the fastest time in official practice on Saturday while he and two-time series champion Andrew combined to qualify the #97 machine a season’s-best third.
Come raceday, Andrew evoked memories of his 2013 and ’15 titles as he battled hard to move into second place on the opening lap and then made a demon late-braking move into Foggy’s Esses after 10 minutes to seize the lead.
He built up a four-second lead by the 45-minute mark, but saw his advantage eroded when the safety car was dispatched 10 minutes later.
More misfortune was to follow, however. Andrew headed for pitlane at the earliest opportunity after reaching his mandatory 62-minute drive time.
However, with a car already stationary in the adjacent pit stall and obscuring his entry to the Beechean AMR bay, he was forced to overshoot his mark had to be pushed back into position to enable refuelling.
With another car then parking in the bay in front, the Vantage GT3 was blocked from exiting cleanly and had to be pushed back even further in order for Ross to drive around it and into the fast lane.
The estimated 10 seconds lost in doing this led to the #97 car dropping to fourth place.
Try as he did once the safety car pitted with 25 minutes left, Thame driver Ross could not pass his nearest rival and finished fourth for a second-straight race – this time just 0.6s off the podium.
Andrew and Ross’s result puts the pair fourth in the Drivers’ points with three of seven rounds completed. Beechdean AMR hold third in the Teams’ standings.
The next round takes place at Snetterton, Norfolk, on June 17-18 and will be a ‘sprint’ event with a pair of hour-long races paying out valuable championship points.
Andrew Howard said: “The key difference for us this weekend was the additional grip from the resurfaced track. Whilst the grip helped everyone it certainly seemed to bring the best out of the Aston Martin. After so many years it was nice to be leading a race again and just a shame to not get a bigger haul of points for the championship.”
Ross Gunn said: “Beechdean AMR gave us a really strong Aston Martin this weekend and Andrew’s been on fire. His stint was phenomenal – the closest he’s been to me all year on outright pace. He was assertive at the start as well as with the move for the lead and if everything had stayed green, we’d probably have won. Instead we had a crowded pitlane, almost no room to get into our pit area or out of it because of where the other cars were positioned and we ended up losing loads of time. It’s bad luck, but we’ve bagged good points and we know we should be in contention to win everywhere for the rest of the year.”