2017 saw our first full years coverage for FinishLineSports.net that was launched in October 2016, this is our look back over some of the events we covered this year. January, still very much off season but of course a big show date in the calendar with Autosport International, where there were celebrations of 40 years of Williams, 50 years of Formula Ford, announcements and unveilings.…..
We also covered Bicester Heritage’s Sunday Scramble a must for all vintage car enthusiasts, the event which takes place at the former RAF Bicester, draws hundreds of people to look around the workshops which are thrown open to visitors. With marques on display including Alvis, Bristol, Gibern and Jaguar as well as modern supercars and aircraft such as a Tiger Moth, Piper J-3 Cub and Beagle A61 Terrier there was a wide variety to suit anyone’s tastes.
February saw us attending the launch of Force India’s VJM10, at the launch the car was sporting a silver and black livery, just weeks later with BWT on board as sponsors the car was in a vivid pink, a talking point throughout the season. A season that saw Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finish 7th and 8th respectively in the F1 Drivers Championship with the team finishing in fourth place making it their most successful season ever.
We also joined 750 Motor Club at their pre season track day where on track action was provided from a vast array of cars from Radicals to TVR’s to Formula Ford. Also on hand was Anthony Reid testing hot hatches as well as former Formula Vee champion Paul Smith who made the move into the RGB Championship this year.
Testing at Donington was BTCC drivers Adam Morgan and Aidan Moffat. The duo were happy with how their Mercedes A Class cars performed in the shakedown and went onto have a good season Morgan finishing in the standings in tenth place while Moffatt finished in thirteenth place.
March marked the start of the season and many series had their pre season media launches including Porsche Carrera Cup GB, BTCC and British GT.
In the Porsche Carrera Cup Dan Cammish was looking forward to getting his 2017 campaign underway and aiming for an unprecedented third Championship win, however his ambition was thwarted by Charlie Eastwood who took the 2017 crown, leaving Cammish 3rd place in the standings.
British Touring Car Championship media day saw the class of 2017 out on track at Donington with the likes of Andrew Jordan, Colin Turkington, Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden joined by Tom Chilton who rejoined the Championship after spending 5 years in the World Touring Car series and newcomer Josh Price who joined James Cole, Jason Plato and 2017 BTCC Champion Ashley Sutton at Adrian Flux Subaru Racing.
Meanwhile British GT kicked off their 25th season with their media launch at Snetterton, the maximum capacity grid saw ex BTCC driver Sam Tordoff join Barwell Motorsport driving their Lamborghini Huracan with co-driver Liam Griffin. Team Parker Racings Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris returned to the Championship with the Bentley Continental in their second season together, which would result in the duo taking the title at the Donington Decider in September, beating Barwell Motorsports Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen.
In April the Hankook 24Hr Touring Car Endurance Series rolled into Silverstone kicking off our season proper. The series saw success for Dutch squad Team Bleekemolen in their SEAT Leon TCR, completing the 24hr race in 549 laps. Also taking part was Sam Tordoff ahead of his debut in British GT. 2016 winners Team ABBA with Rollcentre didn’t have quite as much luck, suffering a broken crank seal, which required a complete engine change. The team managed to get the BMW M3 back on track just before the end of the race to huge applause from the rest of the pit lane.
April also saw the season opener of the Britcar Endurance series at Silverstone, a Ferrari dominated event with 6 FF Corse’s 488’s running, which saw Porsche Carrera Cup GB contender Dino Zamparelli and team mate Mike Wilds take the win in the first race. While in race two former European Le Mans Champion Johnny Mowlem partnered Bonamy Grimes again in the Ferrari 488 to take first place.
The World Endurance Championships returned to Silverstone in what was to be Porsche’s final year, and ahead of the calendar shake up which was to cause some controversy later in the year, when it was announced among other rounds, Silverstone was to be cut in 2018. This decision was later overturned after pressure from fans and drivers alike. In the European Le Mans Series it was success for United Autosport who took first place in LMP2 and first and third place in LMP3.
But it was Toyota who took the win in LMP1 with the #8 car of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima crossing the finish line just 6 seconds ahead of the #2 Porsche 919 of Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley, with the #1 Porsche taking third place, Porsche going onto bow out of the Championship with both Driver and Manufacturer titles. In LMP2 it was the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing that took the top step of the podium, While in GTE Pro the GT Ford of Ford Chip Ganassi, was ultimately successful. And the Ferrari 488 of Clearwater Racing took the honours in GTE Am.
Barwell Motorsport got their Championship campaign well underway at the British GT season opener at Oulton Park with Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw taking the win in both races flanked by sister car of Sam Tordoff and Liam Griffin in P2 in race one, with TF Sports Jonny Adams and Derek Johnston in third place, their first visit to the podium that weekend also finishing in second place in race two with TF Sports Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes in third place. Race two was called to a halt early after a large crash between Ian Loggie and Richard Neary caused a large amount of debris on the track.
The paddock then moved to Rockingham at the end of the month for what proved to be a controversial weekend when Spirit of Race Drivers Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin lost their top of the podium place to Team Parker Racings second place duo Seb Morris and Rick Parfitt. A much later post race ruling on contact between Griffin in the Ferrari 488 and Morris in the Bentley Continental was deemed to have been avoidable giving Griffin an unfair advantage. The move meant Griffin was penalised 26 seconds, enough to give the win to Morris and Parfitt. the Safety Car was deployed after #63 Autoaid’s/RCIBInsurance Racing’s Ginetta went into the gravel. With MSA rules stating that a Safety Car must pick up the leader and despite Griffin leading on track the incurred penalty meant he was actually 5th in timings, thus the Ferrari was allowed to pass the Safety Car joining the back of the field immediately gaining a five second lead, quickly allowing the Spirit of Race team to finish with a 25.052 second lead on the Bentley of Seb Morris, with Jack Mitchell coming in third just ahead of the Barwell Lamborghini’s of Minshaw and Keen in third and Tordoff and Griffin in 4th. On the Spirit of Race Ferrari being allowed to pass the Safety Car Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici said the following: “What happened today with the Safety Car procedure was very unfortunate but, given the letter of the regulations, not something we could have controlled. We follow the MSA’s regulations which state the Safety Car must pick up the race leader, which in official timing was not the #21 Spirit of Race Ferrari. Race Control therefore had no choice but to wave it by. Applying in-race time penalties contributed to this but these are the rules by which we and others race under the MSA’s jurisdiction. Today we found an anomaly, which will be investigated fully. One way or another there must be changes to avoid this situation from arising again.”
In GT4 William Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton took their first podium for HHC Motorsport, while Team ABBA with Rollcentre took the GT3 AM prize.
In Formula 3 it was a 1-2 for Carlin with Enaam Ahmed, topping the podium in race one flanked by Cameron Das in second place and Douglas Motorsport’s Callan O Keefe in third. Race two saw Cameron Das achieve a maiden win in the series, with Omar Ismail in second place for Chris Dittman Racing and former British GT Champion Jamie Chadwick in 3rd place.
May found us returning to Silverstone for the Blancpain GT Endurance Series with another win for Grasser Racing’s Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli, and Christian Engelhart. The 3 hour race saw the team take their second endurance win of the season in a hard fought race with just over half a second between them and second place sitters Franck Perera, Jimmy Eriksson and Maxi Buhk of Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport. AKKA ASP’s Michael Meadows, Edoardo Mortara and Raffaele Marciello took third place after starting on pole.
In Pro-Am the #333 Ferrari 488 of Rinaldi Racing was disqualified after failing to take a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane, putting an end to the fight between them and AKKA ASP’s Gounon. Meanwhile the #77 Lamborghini of Barwell Motorsport took the lead crossing the line with the Aston Martin of Oman Racing Team with TF Sport shared by Jonny Adam and Ahmad Al-Harthy coming in second with AKKA ASP in third. The AM class winner was the #488 Ferrari of Rinaldi Racing shared by Pierre Ehret and Rino Mastronardi with #888 Ferrari of Kessel Racing of David Perel, Marco Zanuttini and Jacques Duyver took second place. Completing the podium was Matias Henkola, David Schiwietz, and Henry Walkenhorst in the BMW M6 of Walkenhorst Motorsport.
At club level May saw he HSCC Historic Festival take place at Silverstone. The popular event drew a large entry, a highlight was former Le Mans winner Richard Atwood take to the wheel of a Porsche 928 in conjunction with Porsche Cars GB to celebrate the 40th year of the 928. Atwood eventually brought the 928 home in 3rd place and plans to make improvements to the car ready for the next race at Cadwell Park. Richard Tarling proved successful in a very wet Historic Formula Ford race the conditions giving him the distinct advantage, but only narrowly beating Michael O Brien who came in second with Ben Simms in third place. In Formula Junior Sam Wilson did the double, while Richard Smeeton took third place in both races. Andrew Kirkaldy, a replacement for Martin O Connor who was racing at Spa, won both the Pre 80’s Endurance and the Guards Trophy, while in the Pre 80’s Endurance Challenge Kirkaldy took the win in the Chevron B19.
British GT moved on to Snetterton with wins for Minshaw and Keen, their 3rd race win of the season. Race two saw Jonny Adam and Derek Johnston take an historic 11th win, equalling the most British GT3 wins of Hector Lester and David Ashburn. Black Bull Garage 59’s Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell took the win in GT4, their first of the season.
Soon enough we were into June which found us joining Williams Racing for their 40th Birthday fan event which was held at Silverstone. The celebrations included on track action by some of their heritage cars, driven by some big Williams names, including Felipe Massa and the teams heritage division driver Karun Chandhok. Fans were able to join in pitwalks where the great and good of Williams, past and present were in attendance including Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Keke and Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber and Riccardo Patrese to name but a few. While cars on display included the beautiful March 761/7 to the iconic 6 wheeled FW-08 to the highly anticipated inclusion of Nigel Mansells FW14B, which took to the track for the first time in 25 years.
A huge crash at Croft resulted in both Jeff Smith and Luke Davenport being cut from their cars and airlifted to hospital. Aron Taylor Smith was also involved in the incident at Barcroft corner and received medical attention on site. The horrific clash resulted in Jeff Smith receiving extensive medical care which meant not only did he miss the rest of the 2017 season, with son Brett stepping up to take his drive at Eurotech Racing, but it was recently announced that Smith would not be able to compete until autumn of 2018, due to the recovery time from further surgery, taking him out of the BTCC for next season also.
Meanwhile in British GT at the Blue Ribbon Silverstone 500 event It was an emotional weekend for Rick Parfitt Jr and Seb Morris when they took the win, Parfitt Jnr dedicating his win to his late father.
In his final British GT race as he steps back to concentrate on his team management role, Martin Short along with co-drivers Team ABBA with Rollcentre Racing’s Richard Neary and Adam Christodoulou finished in 5th place.
In GT4 it was Adam Balon and Adam Mackay in the Track Club McLaren who took the win.
Images ©Andy Fitzpatrick ©Allison Remzi