The 2016 season reaches a critical juncture for TF Sport this weekend (10-11 September), as the official Aston Martin Racing Partner Team is targeting title glory in the Pirelli British GT Championship finale, while also concentrating on bolstering its International GT Open attack.
TF Sport, founded in 2014, has come of age over the last 12 months; it concluded 2015 as the team to beat in both British and European GT racing and carried its winning momentum into the current season when it embarked on three victorious campaigns in the British GT Championship, International GT Open and Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup.
Geordie gentleman racer Derek Johnston and defending British GT Champion Jonny Adam were fastest out of the blocks at Brands Hatch and retained the initiative in the overall Drivers’ standings until the most recent round of the championship at Snetterton.
The Pro Am pairing consequently have an 11.5-point deficit to overturn in what is hailed as the ‘Donington decider’, but flying Fifer Adam is well acquainted with such scenarios and he takes confidence from the fact that TF Sport has left no stone unturned in its preparations.
“We are in a fortunate position because I’ve been over this territory before and understand the pressure that comes with it,” said Adam. “We’ve put in place a meticulous plan to make sure we have all the bases covered in the build-up and, so far, it has gone pretty smoothly. We’ve got good data from last year and we’ll have plenty of time in the simulator this week so there are plenty of positives in our favour.
“Derek lives just a few miles away from Donington and he knows this circuit like the back of his hand, plus he will have lots of support there on the day, which will make for a great atmosphere in the pit garage. This is also the third year an Aston Martin V12 Vantage has been in contention for the title, which just shows how competitive the car is.”
Barwell Motorsport’s Lamborghini pairing, Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen, were the ones to depose TF Sport at the top of the championship at Snetterton, but the Team Parker Racing Bentley of Rick Parfitt and Seb Morris remains a threat in third, making for a fascinating three-way fight for championship honours at Donington.
However, Barwell carries a 20-second success penalty and TF Sport’s #17 entry of Johnston and Adam will have to remain stationary for 15-seconds during the compulsory driver-change – it will be important to capitalise on this five-second difference, but TF Sport’s title combatants know they can call upon the sister #11 Aston Martin of Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes if support is needed.
“Overall it’s great for the championship and the fans to have three different crews and three different manufacturers going into the final round with a chance of winning the title,” said Adam. “That makes it a tougher task for us, but as we saw last year anything can happen on the final day of the season and hopefully we can get the little bit of luck that we need to claim the big prize.”
In the International GT Open, Euan Hankey and Salih Yoluc are no longer just a threat for victories after breaking their race wins duck on TF Sport’s home turf at Silverstone in July.
The pair have been formidable all year long but the fates have frequently conspired against them, so their Silverstone win was somewhat belated.
As a legacy of their Silverstone victory, the Anglo-Turkish pairing carry a 15-second success penalty into the first race at the Red Bull Ring, but consistency is a top priority between now and the end of the season, when TF Sport hopes to seal a top three result in the final championship classification.
TF Sport Director, Tom Ferrier, said: “We approach this weekend like any other and we will be racing as quickly as we can with the view of winning. There are no tactics as such because all we can do is win – the rest is down to our competitors – but we know it’s going to be difficult to overcome the 15-second success penalty with the #17 car. Fortunately, Derek (Johnston) excels at Donington Park and that makes it the best circuit for a title decider for us. We will just have to see where we are with ten minutes of the race remaining.”
Ferrier continued: “It’s also hard to reach the top step of the podium in the International GT Open because it’s not strictly Pro Am. We felt we should win a race this season and the Silverstone result was fantastic, especially as it vaulted Euan (Hankey) and Salih (Yoluc) up to fourth in the standings. Strong results could put us in the frame for the top three in the championship and that would be cracking. The International GT Open weekend is more of an unknown than British GT, but the drivers did enough laps around the Red Bull Ring in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, where they finished third, within sight of second. We’ll stay consistent and hopefully loom around the podium places.”
Action Photo: Photo courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography
Grid Photo: Marc Waller