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RJN Nissan wins stunning two-hour GT race by a nose

Sunday, June 24 2012

Jann Mardenborough and Alex Buncombe have won a stunning Avon Tyres British GT Championship race, after an epic encounter that saw a slipstreaming battle to the line and the podium positions separated by just two seconds. Playstation to GT racer Mardenborough drove a superb race under pressure from Ecurie Ecosse driver Oliver Bryant, who had his hands full of Beechdean's Johnathan Adam. The final three laps were completed with the cars nose-to-tail and Adam passed the BMW, losing out on the win by just 0.022 seconds.

After an extra lap under the safety car to help the drivers acclimbatise to the damp surface, the polesitting Motorbase Porsche led into Paddock Hill at the start as another shower covered the circuit. In the damp, John Dhillon spun the Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari as the second Motorbase car headed into second place. However Alex Buncombe was revelling in the RJN Nissan and made an audacious move at Clark Curve to lead into lap three. The Motorbase cars held third and fourth, from the Optimum Ginetta and Duncan Cameron in the Mtech Ferrari, at least until he spun at Paddock Hill. Behind, Trackspeed team mates David Ashburn and Jon Minshaw held off the rest of the field.

Returning to racing after a break, Luke Hines was enjoying his return, taking third place in the Optimum Ginetta and successfully challenging the leading Motorbase Porsche, all of this helping the Nissan to escape. Matters deteriorated for Motorbase, with Steve Parish spinning at Surtees on lap nine. Their other Porsche was under attack from David Jones in the Preci-Spark Mercedes and ended up off the road at Druids, with the leading pair also in trouble, running wide at Graham Hill bend. Damage to the Mercedes suggested contact with the Porsche, whilst the United Autosports Audi and JMH Nissan had also cleared Jones during the delay. Also in the wars were the Ferraris of Rosso Verde and Mtech, Hector Lester and Duncan Cameron having collided.

A drive-through penalty for the Mercedes confirmed that contact was made with the Motorbase Porsche. Meanwhile on the track, all of these incidents had left a lot of debris, calling for the safety car. It had barely reached the end of the pitlane before it was called out once more after the JMH Nissan hit the barrier between Stirlings and Clearways.

The race resumed with seventy minutes remaining and the pitlane window open. RJN led from Optimum and United Autosports, with the Ecurie Ecosse BMW sandwiched between two of the Trackspeed Porsches. The latter three pitted on the next lap, handing their places to the Jones Mercedes, Beechdean Aston Martin and WFR Ginetta. Over the next few laps the pitlane became a hive of activity, with the leading two cars leaving it as late as possible to make their mandatory stop. Hines came in on lap 34, at the halfway point of the race, with the leader pitting on the following tour, Mardenborough rejoining in a net first place but not too far ahead of the Ecurie Ecosse BMW.

Meanwhile an interesting battle was developing between the third-placed United Autosports Audi and Stephen Jelly in the Motorbase Porsche. The pair also had the Optimum Ginetta, Jon Minshaw/Tim Harvey Trackspeed Porsche and Beechdean Aston Martin in close company too. Murrells in the Ginetta passed the Porsche and took the fight to the Audi. However with so much to lose from a failed bid, it was inevitable that an attempt at Paddock Hill left Murrells vulnerable to Jelley later on in the lap and the Porsche was past at Surtees. Indeed, Harvey and Adam also passed the Ginetta. Next Jelley had another go at the Audi but ran wide at Surtees, leaving Matt Bell in the Audi with breathing space. However it was all academic as a pitstop error left them with a stop-go penalty.

Free of the Audi, Harvey immediately attacked Jelley and was through at Paddock Hill. Motorbase's misery was compounded by a stop-go penalty for a pitstop infringement on their part. This left three cars fighting over third but increasingly attention was being drawn to the leaders as Mardenborough was now little more than two seconds ahead of the Ecurie Ecosse BMW at the hands of Bryant, chasing their second win of the year.

Just as Mardenborough was coming under attack he was saved by a passing shower, which worked to the Nissan driver's advantage.  Back in third, Harvey's challenge ended with a late stop for a left rear tyre, handing the place to Adam, whilst Murrells was being chased by the Trackspeed car of Nicolas Armindo. Adam, however, was concentrating firmly on the road ahead, with a 16-second deficit to make up and just under half an hour to go.

As the sun came out, the gap between the leaders closed once more and before long the BMW had regained all of the time it had lost. As Bryant drew closer, Adam was gaining all the time and with 15 minutes left, a grandstand finish was on the cards. With less than ten minutes to go, Adam could see the BMW in front of him and with just a couple of laps to go took second in a superb move at Paddock Hill. On the last lap Mardenborough was vulnerable to an attack and in an incredible slipstreamer to the line, after two hours of racing, the Nissan driver took the win by 0.022 of a second!

The Ashburn/Armindo Trackspeed Porsche took fourth, some way back and with the Optimum Ginetta and delayed Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari in close company, thanks to a fine recovery drive from Aaron Scott. Meanwhile the Rosso Verde Ferrari wasn't much further behind, whilst the Parish/Jelley Motorbase Porsche and Minshaw/Harvey Trackspeed examples were over a minute behind, with the tenth-placed Preci-Spark Mercedes the last unlapped car. GT4 was won by Warren Hughes and Jody Fannin in the WFR Ginetta.

Avon Tyres British GT Championship Race

1, RJN Motorsport, Alex Buncombe/Jann Mardenborough, Nissan GTR GT3, 74 Laps
2, Beechdean, Andrew Howard/Jonathan Adam, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, +0.022s
3, Ecurie Ecosse, Oliver Bryant/Alasdair McCaig, BMW Z4 GT3, +2.185s
4, Trackspeed, David Ashburn/Nicolas Armindo, Porsche 997 GT3 R, +21.707s
5, Optimum Motorsport, George Murrells/Luke Hines, Ginetta G55, +25.644s
6, Scuderia Vittoria, John Dhillon/Aaron Scott, Ferrari 458 Italia, +25.833s
7, Rosso Verde, Hector Lester/Allan Simonsen, Ferrari 458 Italia, +35.261s
8, Motorbase, Steve Parish/Stephen Jelley, Porsche 997 GT3 R, +1:10.808s
9, Trackspeed, Jon Minshaw/Tim Harvey, Porsche 997 GT3 R, +1:14.325s
10, Preci-Spark, David Jones/Godfrey Jones, Mercedes AMG SLS GT3, +1:27.683s

The next major event at Brands Hatch is the HSCC Historic Superprix on 30 June - 1 July. Tickets are available in advance from £17, with free admission for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.