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British GT: Spa-Francorchamps, Friday Snippets

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A quick tour of the British GT garages between Free Practice and Qualifying found teams and drivers in a very laid-back mood and enjoying the unexpectedly fine weather. Amongst them was Colin White, who was returning to the #40 IDL-CWS Ginetta G55 GT3 after missing the Snetterton round in favour of the Nürburgring 24 Hours. “It was a late deal to go to the Ring,” he explained. “An Australian driver was due to race in the Porsche, but had to pull out. He’d already paid the deposit, so that saved me some money.

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“It was looking like a really good package as we came here [Spa] to test before going to the Nürburgring, so I thought I’d get some practice in for this weekend as well. However, the Russian driver crashed the car here, meaning I didn’t get to drive, and then the American driver crashed out at Midnight in the race; so I only got one stint of 80 minutes!”

The Ginetta had ended the Snetterton meeting buried in the Coram tyres after a high-speed off, so how was it now? “It’s had some new bodywork and new suspension, and the tracking was a mile out in Free Practice – and then we lost some more time sorting out an oil leak – but we’ve got a pretty good set up now and the car felt good at the end of Practice. We’ve got the same set-up now as the works car that Tom [Sharp] raced in VdeV, and I think we’re just going to improve for the rest of the weekend.”

The Horse Power Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 had also come a cropper at Snetterton and was now sporting a new livery; “That’s because it’s a different car!” said Team Owner Tom Ferrier. “The car that crashed at Snetterton is back at Prodrive – we don’t yet know if it can be repaired – so this is our spare.

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“This car raced as the Strata21 Aston at Snetterton, as Paul White had already done a deal to rent his car for the Ring 24 before he decided to race it in British GT – so he hired this off us for Snetterton – but he’s got his car back and we need it here. Oh, and the engine from the crashed car is now in one of the Oman Racing cars this weekend!”

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The TF Sport GT4 Aston of Andrew Jarman and Devon Modell had had an untroubled morning and Ferrier said that the aim was for top-three in both qualifying sessions. “We stayed an extra day at Snetterton to test and found some good improvements,” he said.

All was well over at Nissan GT Academy Team RJN, with Bob Neville quite happy with things so far. “It’s good to have Wolfgang back with us,” he said. “He couldn’t make the Spa 24 test day, so this will hopefully make up for that. We can’t win the title this year, so it’s not an issue having Alex here, and our times are good this morning. Chris is still finding his way round, as he’s never been here before, but he’s making progress.”

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Birthday boy Jody Firth was enjoying his day, but seemingly feeling his age; “I seem to have got slower overnight!” he said. “I’m not ill or anything, but just feel…..slower. The car’s running great and we’ve not had a problem other than a puncture for Warren.”

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Triple Eight racer Joe Osborne was a bit bemused by the way the track changed between the first and second sessions; “The track felt ‘green’ in the second session, even though it was drier and there was more rubber down!” he said. “We’ve not yet had a new-tyre run, but I was straight into the 2:22s in FP1 and reckon I could have done a 2:19-something had I put new rubber on at that point. In the second session, I couldn’t do any better than 2:24. I know some teams put new rubber on for the second session and still couldn’t go quicker than they had earlier!”

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Garage 6 seemed to ‘The Garage Of Doom’, with it being shared by the #3 Rosso Verde Ferrari and the #41 Optimum Ginetta – the two major casualties from the morning. Despite their misfortunes, however, the signs were that both cars may yet make it out for Qualifying; “I’m not sure what the problem was, but the team think they’ve sorted it,” said Benny Simonsen. “I’ve never done a lap here before and it would be nice to do at least one, even if it is up against the likes of Toni Vilander in Qualifying!”

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The Ginetta, meanwhile, was being hurriedly put back together and Matt Draper was told to suit up ready for the forthcoming session.

MH