GT Cup Championship rounds 10,11,12 at Snetterton Norfolk July 19/20th
It is not often that motor racing gets referred to as a game with two halves, but that is how it feels for the GT Cup defending Champion Jeff Wyatt following the latest rounds of this years Championship over the re-modelled Snetterton 300 circuit.
The majority of the GT Cup race weekends consist of free practice and qualifying sessions on the Saturday morning followed by a 45 minute pit-stop race in the afternoon, then on the Sunday another qualifying session in the morning with 2 x 30 minute sprint races in the afternoon.
Jeff and the Geoff Steel Racing team have entered some 33 GT Cup races since the start of the 2013 season, this year in a brand new BMW M3 E46 6 cylinder race car, with up until this past weekend only one component / mechanical failure, which was back at the 2013 Brands Hatch GP rounds when a lower suspension arm snapped entering the Druids hairpin causing a DNF. This weekend was destined to not go smoothly alas.
Following a successful 50 mins of Saturday free practice and qualifying Jeff reported the car to be in good shape and was confident that following a tweak to the handling a challenge for the class win could be mounted during the 45 min race in the afternoon. The race started well with Jeff right in the mix of his fellow GTA class runners with the running order jumping around from leader to 5th place in class depending on a combination of race performance, safety car periods and the mandatory pit stop. With 10 minutes to go Jeff found himself in a secure second place behind the debut 2 driver entry of Lee Mowle and Jeff Harding in their Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G50. Aware that these two were not and would not feature in the season long Championship battle, Jeff was reasonably happy to not over do his driving and therefore risk the all important race finish. Some 4 or 5 seconds behind Jeff were the similar Ginettas of Ben Tompkins in 3rd and then in 4th the Ian Payne driven machine. That was until the last lap, when the slight Clutch slip felt intermittently a few laps previously suddenly turned into a full blown performance sapping Clutch problem on the upward gear change when “drive” took what seemed like an age to engage. “ In the end I managed to hold off Ben and Ian by half a second, which is damn close ! another lap however they would have had a sitting duck in me. As things turned out during the rest of the weekend, I was very pleased and thankful for that valuable 2nd place pot “ comments Jeff.
With plenty of time during Saturday night available, the team went to work on removing the 6 speed sequential gearbox and fitting the new Clutch. However, after several hours work, the brand new Clutch just could not be persuaded to work properly, so the agonising decision to patch up as best as possible the failing old one was taken. Jeff took part in Sunday qualifying with fingers crossed. The result was a seriously compromised car performance, but the view by all in the team was that if the race car was driven carefully, both the 30 minute sprint races could be started and finished, thereby securing the valuable race finish Championship points. In this Championship all races count, with 25 points available to each of the class winners with only a one point drop with each place down the finishing order. Meaning a DNF is very costly, as was experienced by Mark Litherland, one of Jeff’s chief challengers, when a broken braking system cost him a classified finish in the first race.
The two 6th place class classified finishes in the sprint races, earned Jeff a total of 40 Championship points, meaning he heads into the next 3 rounds at Silverstone GP on 16/17th August still leading the GTA class alongside John Saunders in a Ginetta G50 on 268 points with 3rd place occupied by Mark Litherland in his E36 M3 with 248, suffering from his DNF.
“ All in all we got as much as we could out of this meeting, lets hope that is the last of our mechanical woes for this season, it was quite handy only 7 GTA cars turned up this weekend, otherwise the points drop would have been higher “ says a philosophical Wyatt
Go to www.gtcup.co.uk