The Team Russia By Barwell squad finally had some better luck on its side in the second events of the British GT and Blancpain Endurance Series championships, at Rockingham and Silverstone respectively. This time we didn’t get assaulted by any wayward competitors and knocked out of the race, and our BMW Z4 GT3 was able to claim fighting finishes in both races.
At Rockingham’s 2-hour British GT encounter, the Demon Tweeks-backed entry of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen notched up its first points of the season with an eighth place finish. After their combined qualifying efforts put them sixth on the grid, Jon was pushing hard in the early stages of the race and moved the Z4 up to fourth spot right on the tail of the leading trio. In his efforts to claim third place unfortunately he ran wide at the first hairpin, which dropped the car back to eighth before he handed over to Phil. Keen lapped quickly as soon as he joined the track, and was at the back of a four-way pack disputing fifth position for the remainder of the race, as the duo once again showed their race-winning potential.
Last weekend the car was out in its Blancpain livery again, with the Vimetco Extrusion/Black Ocean-supported machine being driven at Silverstone by Leo Machitski, Timur Sardarov and Jonny Cocker.
After a very positive recent test day on the Grand Prix track, the Team Russia By Barwell drivers’ hopes were high for a good run in the 3-hour race. Jonny backed this up by posting some very fast times in Saturday’s practice sessions, as he put the car inside the Pro-Am class top three and overall top 10 (out of 62) positions.
Sunday, however, was much cooler with showers threatening to disturb the morning qualifying session. A light shower then hit the track right at the start of the first 15-minute session, but dry slick tyres were still the order of the day and Timur coped extremely well with the slippery conditions. Rain hit harder before session two, as the skies became more and more unpredictable. Again it dried up, however, and the team made the decision to put Leo on a set of new tyres to get a reasonable qualifying lap in the bag as ‘insurance’ against the rain returning for the final period when all the Pro drivers would be out. It looked like this might prove crucial as moisture came out of the clouds once more at the start of Jonny’s session, but then quickly disappeared again! Cocker was thus left with one set of new slick tyres to have a shot at qualifying, but encountered bad traffic on his run which cost him over one second on his previous testing best and restricted the car to 12th in class.
Unfortunately Leo did then take a hit during his opening race stint, as he battled hard to make up time and places, when a Pro class Ferrari forced him off the track and into the spin. But Leo, Timur and Jonny recovered well and finished just outside the points in 12th place. Leo put in a very strong performance over the first hour, handing over to Timur who again didn’t put a wheel wrong as he shadowed the sister Barwell-run Ecurie Ecosse Z4 of Alasdair McCaig throughout his stint. Jonny then put on a charge and overtook the Ecosse BMW on his way to bringing the car home.
The next events for the car are back at Silverstone this weekend for British GT’s 3-hour race, and then a trip to France for the Blancpain crew for the Paul Ricard 6-hour ‘into-the-night’ race on June 20th.