TF Sport beats the odds to achieve third consecutive British GT win at Rockingham
TF Sport beat the odds to achieve a third successive race win in the second round of the Pirelli British GT Championship, Jonny Adam and Derek Johnston once again scaling the top step of the podium to extend their championship lead at Rockingham Motor Speedway (30 April-1 May).
Johnston and Adam carried confidence from their victory in Round 1 of the 2016 season at Brands Hatch and their times in free practice and qualifying at Rockingham, which isn’t known as an ‘Aston Martin circuit’, only reinforced their belief that another winning weekend was on the cards.
The #17 Aston Martin, third in first practice and first in the second session, could also be found at the very top of the timing screens in qualifying, but translating pole into a race victory would be a tall order with a 20-second success penalty – a consequence of their win at Brands Hatch – to serve during the mandatory driver-change.
At the start, Johnston briefly lost the lead on the Rockingham banking, but the Geordie gent held the shorter inside line to retake P1 on the approach to the first braking zone at the Deene Hairpin and immediately set about gapping the chasing pack in an attempt to negate the time he and Adam would lose in the pits.
The difference between Johnston and Liam Griffin in second place went up by the lap. Progress was only halted when the race leader encountered lapped GT4 traffic, but the lead continued increasing in clean air and Johnston’s 11-second advantage was just enough to ensure TF Sport maintained the initiative after the pit invasion, which commenced after 50 minutes.
Adam hopped aboard for the final half of the two-hour race and emerged from the pits in tandem with the Lamborghini of Adam Carroll.
The reigning British GT Champion was initially second, but capitalised on an unforced error and used his superior speed and skill to edge away from the competition, while also managing tyre wear on Rockingham’s notoriously abrasive surface.
Like Johnston before him, Adam drove impeccably to fend off the Lamborghini threat and he stroked the #17 car home to his second win in TF Sport colours and the team’s third consecutive victory.
Johnston said: “I was buzzing after qualifying and I didn’t sleep on Saturday night, but I’m really buzzing now! I was a little nervous going to the grid, but I then felt like the win was ours for the taking, so I got my head down and made of a point of not looking in my mirrors. Approaching the first lapped runners was a worrying point and I had to be cautious as tyres went off, but I just focused on maintaining my advantage.
“I never felt under pressure all weekend. Jonny (Adam) brings a calmness and a stability that I’ve never experienced before and I don’t have to worry about him when he’s in the car. I have had to up my game and the two wins we’ve achieved at Brands Hatch and Rockingham prove how well the team is working.”
Adam added: “Mega! We knew we had a really good shot before the race and I told Derek (Johnston) that if he pulled a ten-second gap, I’d do the rest. It was very close after the stop, but TF Sport gave me a very good car, the pit stops were bang on time and everything ran perfectly. You rarely get such flawless weekends. Derek did a superb job once again and for TF Sport to deliver such a quick package against the latest generation of GT3 cars is phenomenal.”
Mark Farmer, meanwhile, was the biggest mover on the opening lap, He made up seven places from the back of the GT3 field, but was forced in for an unscheduled stop to check for damage and to clear grass collected in a collision from his Aston Martin’s air intakes.
The Bath resident resumed in 24th position and he and Jon Barnes had it all to do to dispatch the GT4 contenders and then make headway in among their GT3 rivals.
The teammates battled to eighth in the final classification and the result was well received by all concerned, given that their Saturday (30 April) preparations had been considerably hampered by unconfirmed engine issues.
TF Sport Team Principal, Tom Ferrier, said: “With a 20-second penalty, I really didn’t think we’d win the race! Jonny (Adam) is a total pro and Derek’s performances in qualifying and the opening stint were nothing less than exceptional. We knew we would need ten seconds over the nearest Lamborghini to lead after the stops and Derek built that advantage so Jonny could do his thing in the latter half of the race.
“On the other side of the garage, engine issues curtailed Mark (Farmer) and Jon’s (Barnes) practice time. We replaced the engine overnight and found that we still had problems in the morning warm-up, so the car will be sent off for inspection. Mark drove superbly to make up seven places on the first lap and, if he had stayed where he was, we could have been on the podium, or in the top five at the very least. A lack of testing didn’t help and that wasn’t the drivers’ faults.”