Tandy and Ashburn triumph in epic Brands Hatch race

The start of the race. Pictures by PSP Images.

The start of the race. Pictures by PSP Images.

First published in Other Sport

Nick Tandy and David Ashburn completed a dream return to the British GT Championship with victory in the two-hour race at Brands Hatch on Sunday.

It came after a dramatic turn when long-term leader Phil Keen dropped down the order in the late stages.

Meanwhile, Marco Attard is on the brink of taking the 2014 championship after trouble for polesitter and chief rivals Beechdean.

At the start Andrew Howard exercised a little too much caution, and with Jon Minshaw also slow off the line, Ahmad Al Harthy slotted the Oman Racing Team Aston Martin into an early lead from the Trackspeed Porsche and Colin White's Aston Martin.

Jeff Smith was next in the second Oman car, followed by Jody Firth, Marco Attard, David Ashburm, Gary Eastwood, Paul White and Howard, now in tenth.

The Beeechdean car dropped to 13th place by lap three, the team reporting a brake issue that had limited running time in the warm-up.

They were, however, expecting the problem to resolve itself during the course of the race, but not before Howard spun down to 18th.

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Race winners David Ashburn and Nick Tandy leading in their Porsche 997 GT3 R

Meanwhile, the GT4 Beechdean car was leading its class from Andrew Jarman's Aston Martin and Paul McNeilly's Ginetta.

Al Harthy led the opening laps confidently, keeping Minshaw's Porsche a couple of seconds behind, whilst Smith in the second Oman car kept the Firth in check.

A few seconds back, title leader Attard held fifth, and a train of cars starting with Ashburn's Porsche.

The battle for third began to heat up after the first quarter of the race had been run, with Smith fighting a rear guard action against the attentions of Firth's BMW.

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(l-r) Ahmad Al Harthy & Michael Caine, Ashburn & Tandy. Rory Butcher & Geoff Smith

The other two Triple 8 Z4s were also in the thick of it, and an incident on lap 25 saw Derek Johnston off at Clearways and Howard in the pits, losing a lap in the process.

The stranded BMW also led to a safety car intervention, which closed the field up as the pit window approached.

Just as the safety car was pulling in, John Dhillon's Ferrari stopped on the Cooper Straight, and the field managed a third of a lap before falling into line behind the safety car once again.

When racing finally resumed, the pit window was just about to open.

Firth and Attard both pitted as soon as they could, handing over to Warren Hughes and Alexander Sims respectively.

Minshaw was next in, from second place, with Phil Keen taking the wheel of the Porsche, whilst Sir Chris Hoy handed the Nissan to Jann Mardenborough.

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One lap later Smith pitted the Oman Aston Martin and Rory Butcher jumped in the car, just as Hughes's BMW was limping around the circuit, moments after he had begun his stint.

There were no such problems for Sims's Z4, the Ecurie Ecosse car posting the fastest lap of the race so far.

Next out were two very quick drivers, Nick Tandy in the Trackspeed Porsche and Jonny Adam in the delayed Beechdean Aston Martin.

Nearly an hour had passed when the leading car pitted, Michael Caine taking the wheel of the Oman Aston Martin.

All stops had been made by lap 38, and this left Keen in the lead from Caine, Butcher, Tandy, Matt Griffin (Ferrari), Tom Onslow-Cole (Aston Martin), Alex MacDowall (Aston Martin) and Sims. GT4 was being led by Jake Giddins in the Beechdean Aston Martin from Devon Modell (Aston Martin) and Morten Dons (Ginetta).

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Caine closed the gap on the leader, and with just over two seconds separating Keen from the Oman Aston Martin, a battle was on for the race win.

Tandy and Butcher weren't out of the picture either, with the former in particular posting consistently fast times.

He was soon past Butcher, and set off in pursuit of Caine.

Behind the top four, Griffin and Onslow-Cole were staging a furious battle for fifth place, and the pair were being reeled in by Sims and MacDowall.

After being held up by Godfrey Jones's McLaren, Onslow-Cole slowed briefly, letting his immediate pursuers through, as Sims lined up an attack on Griffin.

With less than half an hour remaining, Tandy passed Caine for second place and with Sims poised to pass Griffin for fifth place, it seemed as though his Ecurie Ecosse team-mate Marco Attard would be all but guaranteed as the 2014 champion.

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With the race drawing to a close, Sims passed Griffin, then Tandy looked as though he was considering an attack on the lead.

Whether this was the case it didn't matter, for the Keen Porsche pitted with a puncture with five minutes remaining, rejoining in tenth place.

Tandy's eventual winning margin was 8.5 seconds over the Caine and Butcher Aston Martins, with Sims finishing in fourth place.

Beechdean led GT4 from lights to flag, with Modell taking second and Jamie Stanley third in the Fox Motorsport Ginetta.

 

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