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GT Cup Paddock Diary

At Snetterton season finale

The DSC Editor doesn’t get to many UK national race meetings nowadays, a packed international calendar and the ever present possibility of disembowelment by Mrs DSC Editor if he gives up a ‘free’ weekend sees that prospect filed under the heading ‘potentially painful’!

Last weekend though there was the opportunity to drop in on the GT Cup meeting at Snetterton, the 2016 season finale for the Bute Motorsport series sharing the billing with a packed programme of single seater and Radical SR1 action, plus the debut of the British Prototype Cup.

Snetterton, whilst not a personal favourite, was where it all started for me (in writing terms at least!), my friend and now ex-colleague Malcolm Cracknell entrusted me, and Mark Howson with covering a British GT race in simply terrible weather.

Bad enough that from my position on the pit wall, following progress via an F3 team’s timing screens I couldn’t see the incident that befell Bobby Verdon-Roe in the TVR Speed 12 when the car went off the sodden track onto the even more waterlogged infield, the run over the kerbs dislodging the rear floor of the TVR and then acting as a very effective plough, the car ending up stranded it’s front end a good few feet off the ground on a ramp of dislodged earth.

The race meanwhile was won by the Hayles Racing Viper of Tim Harvey and Rob Wilson, beating off the Lister Storm of Mike Jordan and DSC co-owner David Warnock.

Third overall that day was a GT2 spec Porsche, Kelvin Burt and Marino Franchitti en route to the GTO class Championship in a Porsche 996 GT3-RS run by Parr Motorsport and, rather bizarrely, the first familiar face that I encountered in the pit lane was none other than Parr’s owner Paul Robe, still very active indeed in the Porsche racing market with success in the Carrera Cup bolstered by other racing, including a full season entry in GT Cup for customer Andrew Baker in the Flying Lizards-esque liveried #55 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.

There were others in the pitlane from the same era of British GT, now (long time) husband and wife Warren and Charlotte Gilbert, owners of Topcats racing, Charlotte, then Osborne, was a very able GT driver back in the day, earning the nickname ‘Sweary Mary’ from the DSC crew after a fine run in the ProMotorsport Marcos Mantis at Rockingham was ruined by technical failure, the in-car camera capturing Charlotte’s very human reaction!

Their garage housed a trio of cars, the team’s Mosler not competing this weekend, a customer Lamborghini Gallardo though, and one of the team’s now Chevy V8 engined evergreen Marcos were both out to play, Topcats one of the real hero efforts of British club GT racing.

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FF Corse, another of the powerhouses of the National (and increasingly international) scene were there too, an immaculate Ferrari 458 Challenge for Bonamy Grimes and his driving coach and co-driver Johnny Mowlem, recently retired from international racing but still very much involved in the racing efforts of a number of carefully selected gentleman driver clients.

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Grimes has clearly been listening carefully, he set pole position, ahead of a number of theoretically faster cars, for Sundays race, and kept the Ferrari in the mix for Mowlem to attack the race, and win after a fine run to the front. Not bad for a retiree eh J-Mo?

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En route to the win Johnny had to pass an old friend, Kevin Riley’s team campaigning his ex factory Lotus Evora GTE for Gareth Downing, this one of the pair of cars, campaigned by JetAlliance that Johnny had raced in the ILMC and at Le Mans.

More recent additions to the GT racing scene are the father and son combo of David and Jordan Witt, David still racing a GR8 built by his own company, Jordan now equipped with a full house GT3 spec Bentley Continental GT3 that would clinch the overall Championship on Sunday after a fighting comeback from a major first lap off-track moment, the race win out of reach with a hefty pit-stop time disadvantage, but a full 50 minutes of attacking driving saw the Bentley take the crown.

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The overall Teams Championship though went to the JMH Automotive Audi R8 squad, the car owned by Nigel Hudson, this despite a technical problem sidelining the car in the Sunday afternoon race.  The effort featured yet another British GT veteran, Adam Wilcox was 2004 Cup class Champion back in the day in a Ferrari 360 Challenge for the now long-defunct DRM Racing, Adam has pushed hard for further on track success suffering dreadful luck in the latter days of his British GT Championship campaigns, another title is long overdue.  And a mark of the cameraderie of this paddock, a replacement gearbox for the Audi was delivered from the stocks held by United Autosports.

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The race also included a pair of very pretty McLaren 650S Challenge cars for factory customers, featuring Matt Bell and Warren Hughes on driver coaching duties and Ex Virgo Motorsport Team Manager Chris Warne, now in charge of the McLaren GT Test team, on the ‘cans’.

The GT Cup paddock is a cheery place to spend time, a popular stepping stone for some, and a highpoint in their club racing career for others, a refreshing reminder of the way that National racing used to be, mildly packaged, welcoming diversity and, glory be, an entire day at the track without the phrase Balance of Performance being mentioned even once!

Pics by Mick Herring