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14-07-2008

Trimite Champions!

Rounds 11 & 12 of the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Brands Hatch

Friday Testing:
On Friday morning, the championship leading Trimite team readied themselves for another difficult weekend. Since Thruxton, the ABS issue had been a constant problem and remained unresolved. The car had also been fitted with the new sequential gearbox, kindly loaned to us by Robin Mortimer of Team RPM.

The first session of the day would be the first opportunity to see how the car had taken to the new gearbox and whether the ABS could be resolved. After the first couple of laps it became clear that neither were going to cause us any trouble, with the ABS fault clearing itself and a time of 1:31.74 putting the car 3rd fastest.

The rest of the day was spent letting Jon & James adapt their driving style to suit the new sequential gearbox, and the feedback was glowing from both drivers.

Saturday Morning Free Practice:
After the progress made throughout Friday, there was little to be done to the Trimite Viper by way of fine tuning throughout the 75 minute session on Saturday morning. An improvement of nearly half a second to 1:31.20 was very good progress and the team took the car back to the awning.

Qualifying One:
James took to the Brands Hatch GP circuit for the first qualifying session. From the times throughout Friday and Saturday morning it was clear that we had a good shot at setting the pole time and this is what James pushed hard for. A clear lap enabled James to set a 1:30.71 to take provisional pole, only to be displaced in the dying minutes by the #15 CRS Ferrari. 2nd overall was still our best qualifying result to date.

Qualifying Two:
Jon took the wheel for the second qualifying session and very early on set a stunning time of 1:30.46, the fastest time of the weekend so far. After a few more laps, Jon quickly recognised there wasn’t much more time to find in the car and pitted to save the race tyres. At the end of the session his time was good enough for a very respectable 3rd place behind the #23 CiM Ferrari and #1 RPM Viper.

Race One:

James took the Trimite car to the grid for a warm afternoon race, forming up on the front row. At the start, the top three cars held position for the first two laps, but on the third, James seized the lead at Paddock Hill Bend from the #15 CRS Ferrari, and was followed through by the #14 car.

James was chased hard by the Ferrari for the duration of his stint, but drove impeccably to maintain the lead. As the pit window opened, James was catching a group of GT4 back-markers and was called in from the lead. A customarily prefect stop from the Brookspeed mechanics and Jon rejoined in 4th place.

As the first of the lead cars to stop, Jon now had to drive hard to ensure the opening laps of his stint were fast enough to pass the cars ahead of him while they were stationary in the pit lane. After seven flying laps, Jon had passed all three CRS Ferraris to regain the lead of the race. A fast and consistent pace saw Jon open up a sizeable lead over the chasing pack, battling amongst themselves for 2nd place.

A clean drive to the end saw the Team Trimite squad take their fourth victory of the season and a hard fought ten championship points. Due to the order of the finishers behind Jon, now only the #23 CiM Ferrari was in contention to beat us to the championship title, needing to win the remaining three races and the Trimite car not to finish at any. All that remained to seal the drivers’ championship was to score a single point on Sunday.

Sunday Warm-up:
After the jubilation of another win on Saturday, news came through that an anonymous appeal had been lodged as to the legality of our differential. This meant that the Team Trimite mechanics had to dismantle the entire rear end of the car to remove the differential for inspection. After the inspection the appeal was thrown out and the result upheld as the differential was entirely legal.

However, with the car now in pieces, a large part of the set-up progress made on Friday had been undone and the mechanics were up late into Saturday night re-installing the differential.

The usually inconsequential ten minute warm-up on Sunday was now vital to check that the car ran well. A time of 1:33.55 put the car 7th and Jon commented on how unstable the car felt. The team returned to the awning to diagnose the issues.

Race Two:

Following the warm-up, it was clear that the drivers’ task of scoring a single point from a starting position of 3rd was going to be difficult, undaunted, Jon lined up for the rolling start. Jon immediately seized 2nd place and set about chasing the sole remaining championship contender, Allan Simonsen in the CiM Ferrari. However the #1 RPM Viper of Oliver Bryant was determined not to let the Trimite car get away, despite significant damage to his rear diffused, Bryant chased hard for eight laps until he was eventually black flagged.

Now with some room to breathe, the mighty Viper continued the hunt, until on lap 16, Simonsen pitted from the lead with a problem and retired, handing Jon the lead, and the championship. For three further laps Jon commanded the race in typical fashion, pushing hard to build up a lead before the pit stop.

On lap 19 Jon was called in to hand over to James, who rejoined in fifth. Over the next five laps, blisteringly quick laps put James back in the lead of the race; however, the team were to be denied a trouble free run to the finish. James radioed to the pit wall that he thought the car had a rear puncture but wasn’t certain. The team were ready in the pit lane with a spare wheel but James stayed out to clarify the issue. Due to the instability of the car James was dropping down the order and eventually nursed the car into the pit lane from 9th. The nearside rear wasn’t punctured but loose due to a part failure, a new rim was quickly fitted and James was back on his way.

Another lap completed and James was running 7th with a sizeable gap to 8th place. From here, he just needed to bring the car home to seal the championship; however there was another twist to come. The nearside exhaust manifold had broken, possibly from contact with another car, which meant the engine was venting red-hot exhaust gas into the sill of the car and the cockpit. As the bodywork started to melt, it filled the cockpit with smoke and James was struggling to see or breathe but with only a few minutes remaining battled on to bring the car home.

In the dying minutes, "team manager of car 40 to race control" appeared on the timing screens and our hearts sank. The race commentators joked that this was only to congratulate us on winning the championship, but no such luck. The team were fined £250 ($500) for changing the rear wheel with the engine still running, a minor oversight but crucial nonetheless.

Still the drama had not finished, as the car cruised down the pit lane there was a distinct possibility of it catching fire and the team were ready to drag an exhausted James to safety.

Back at the awning, champagne was uncorked to crown the 2008 Avon Tyres British GT Champions, Jon Barnes & James Gornall!

The team would like to extend their sincerest thanks to all at Trimite for making this possible and to Robin Mortimer at RPM for lending us the gearbox. We knew we’d get there!

The next round of the British GT Championship takes place at Silverstone on Sunday 17th August with the first two hour race of the season.