TF Sport saw off a hugely competitive field to win the 2016 Pirelli British GT Teams’ and Drivers’ titles with Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam, who translated a dominant pole position into a second place result in the highly anticipated ‘Donington Decider’ (10-11 September).
Three teams, three manufacturers and three crews entered the final round of 2016 with a shot at the title and TF Sport would do everything in its power to take top honours at Donington Park, where Johnston achieved his maiden British GT win and Adam sealed the championship crown in 2015.
Rain saturated the East Midlands on Saturday morning and TF Sport thought it wise to hold its cars in the pits while the wet weather persisted during the first of two free practice sessions, well aware that an incident could easily destroy its championship ambitions.
But while TF Sport initially gambled on a dry qualifying, rain continued lashing Donington Park into the afternoon and the Redhill-based outfit saw FP2 as an opportunity to conduct wet weather balance checks.
It was only then that defending Champion Adam and Am co-driver Johnston clocked up any meaningful mileage, but both were satisfied with their setup and this was evident when they lit up the timing screens and achieved a comfortable pole position during their respective qualifying segments.
The teammates’ speed boded well for Sunday’s (11 September) two-hour British GT finale and a super-confident Johnston would use a tremendous start to pull out a one-second lead over Alasdair McCaig’s Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 650S on the first tour.
In contrast, the #11 car of Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes was a casualty of a typically chaotic opening lap, contact sending him spearing off the road and into the wall at Hollywood.
The Safety Car intervened and negated Johnston’s lead, but the Tyneside-raised racer showed himself to be a strong and composed leader, safely navigating his way through a tightly-bunched GT4 pack before stamping his authority and drawing out a healthy advantage over the chasing McLaren.
The top three – Johnston, McCaig and Jon Minshaw – were split by five seconds, when the title-contending Lamborghini crashed out of third position at the bottom of the Old Hairpin, relieving TF Sport of some pressure in its pursuit of the championship title.
A strong finish inside the top six was all that was required, but Johnston pushed the envelope to build a convincing lead that cancelled out his and Adam’s 15-second success penalty, ensuring his Pro teammate emerged from the stops in P2.
The sole remaining TF Sport V12 Vantage was some six seconds adrift of the race-leading McLaren immediately after the driver-changes and the gap grew to ten seconds as Adam concentrated on bringing his car home and keeping the pursuing Bentley of Seb Morris and Rick Parfitt Junior at arm’s length.
The Scottish ace finished the job in fine style, breaking the GT3 lap record by a full second on his way to a solid second place, sealing the 2016 Pirelli British GT Teams’ and Drivers’ titles for TF Sport and his gentleman teammate Johnston, and setting a new record as the first driver ever to defend a crown in the headlining GT3 division.
“There was pressure throughout the year, but for Aston Martin Racing to place me with TF Sport, which I knew to be a very good team, was really exciting for me,” said Adam. “Derek (Johnston) has put in quick stints at every stage of the season, he has worked so hard both on and off the track and he stepped up to the mark.
“I have to take my hat off to Tom (Ferrier), because TF Sport is arguably the best team I have ever driven for – the detailing of the cars and the capability of everyone involved is phenomenal – and it’s fantastic for Aston Martin to achieve another title – the third in four seasons for the V12 Vantage – with a strong customer team that believes in the product. Tom has given us the right kit to do the job and I’m made up for the team.”
Johnston added: “We did everything we had to do this weekend; both me and Jonny (Adam) grabbed pole, TF Sport gave us a fantastic car, we worked through our morning warm-up programme and did exactly what was required in the race itself. Jonny has been pressing the importance of getting a 20-second gap all week and I was determined to do it – I’ve never concentrated so hard! Every braking zone and every corner was about building an advantage and if I wasn’t on such a high right now, I’d be exhausted! My first win from last year gave me belief and a desire to up my game, but Jonny pushed me on and TF Sport did everything perfectly. To be British GT Champion is a dream and I never thought I could come this far.”
TF Sport Director, Tom Ferrier, said: “It’s absolutely brilliant, if not a bit surreal, because winning the title was a long shot coming into this weekend. However, we did everything we had to do to achieve it, because there were no mistakes and Derek (Johnston) and Jonny (Adam) drove incredibly well. The main aim is always to enjoy the racing, so it amazing to win the British GT Championship. We couldn’t have done it without having good drivers on-board and a strong association with Aston Martin Racing. Everything has gelled very nicely.”
Car Photos courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography
Grid Girl Photos courtesy of Marc Waller