The opening round of the British GT took place over the Easter Bank holiday weekend. After the media day which showcased the new liveries and the announcement that Sir Chris Hoy would be racing in the 2014 season, it left much anticipation and excitement for all involved. For the first time in the British GT the Bentley Continental GT would compete in its first race, driven by Steve Tandy and James Appleby and the ex-BTCC driver Tom Onslow-Cole would also compete in the British GT for a full season for the first time too.
The grid was at full capacity at Oulton Park with a total of 32 cars and 11 manufacturers making the start up of the opening round. This year Aston Martin racing are celebrating their 10th anniversary which the British GT has seen an influx of 9 Aston Martins entering in both GT3 and GT4 classes.
Prior to the first race of 2014, last years winner Beechdean Aston Martin was fastest in the official pre-season test at Donington Park. The No 001 Beechdean Aston Martin was fastest in Free Practice one and No 8 Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT3 was fastest in free practice two.
The racing weekend started with 34 cars participating however two cars were unable to take part in race day, including FP2 topper No 8 Triple 8 BMW Z4 GT3 driven by Joe Osbourne and Lee Mowle. This was down to extensive damage caused by an accident with the No 12 Trackspeed Porsche which had come off track and hit the barrier early on in the free practice session. The Porsche had been left on the corner and the No 8 BMW driver had nowhere to go.
The opening session of the British GT comprised of two one hour races. On Pole for race one was No 4 Oman Racing team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and second went to defending Champions No 1 Beechdean Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
No 4 Oman Racing Aston Martin managed to lead the race into the first corner and held the lead. The M Sport No 17 Bentley had to make a pitstop on lap one which resulted in him dropping to the back of the grid. Berg driving the No 17 Bentley soon managed to climb the field moving into 21st position within 15 minutes. With a quarter of race distance completed the top 5 was No 4 Aston Martin, No 1 Aston Martin, No 79 BMW, No 888 BMW and No 29 Ferrari 458 Italia.
There was drama for the No 79 BMW who had to retire from third as the car had a mechanical failure. After the No 17 M Sport Bentley managing to make head way the car started to drop down to 23rd. No 2 Bentley had to also make a pitstop dropping them down the field into 26th place.
The defending GT4 winner Rick Parfitt Jnr stopped at clay Hill dropping him further back down the order which resulted in him not completing the race. The GT4 class was being lead by No 407 Beechdean driven by Ross Wylie. As the safety car headed out on track at the mid way point all racers took to the pits for their mandatory pit stop of the race. No 4 still maintained the lead after the pitstop ahead of No 888 BMW, No 29 Ferrari and No 23 Audi. No 1 Aston Martin had dropped to 5th after its pitstop. Sir Chris Hoy handed his No 80 Nissan GTR over to his team mate in an impressive ninth place. This was a great result for Hoy as it was his first race in the Nissan.
With only fifteen minutes remaining No 4 driven by Caine was still in the lead boasting a one second lead ahead of No 888 BMW. The last few minutes remaining in the race saw No 1 Aston Martin overtake No 23 Audi to take third place. The race leader remained ahead, No 4 had a lead of nearly 4 seconds ahead of No 29 Ferrai Italia. The No 18 Ferrari driven by Barff had contact damage with only 5 minutes remaining which lead to them pitting from 8th place and finishing in 24th. The no 888 BMW had to serve a stop go penalty dropping him down into 7th position.
The first race of the season ended with No 4 Aston Martin taking the win ahead of No 29 Ferrari, No 1 Aston Martin. No 23 Audi in fourth and No 6 finishing off the top five. The GT4 Class was won by Beechdean No 407, followed by No 77 Lotus Evora and No 49 Aston Martin in third.
It was an eventful race in parts for some drivers with many having to make pit stop after mechanical problems or retirements from the race.
Race two started with No 79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW shooting into first place ahead of No 1 Beechdean Aston Martin and No 13 Ferrari 458. The front runner had pulled a one second lead in the space of six minutes. The No 17 M Sport Bentley was running in fourth place ahead of pole position No 4 Oman Racing Aston Martin. The GT4 winner of race one had an issue on the first lap and dropped right to the back of the field.
Within the first 15 minutes the lead that No 79 BMW had built up started to diminish. Johnny Adam in the 001 Aston Martin started to hunt the first position.
The first retiree of the second race was No 12 Trackspeed Porsche 997 who only completed ten minutes of the hour race. The No 42 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 came off track and hit the barrier with twenty minutes completed while running in fourth position in the GT4 Class. This resulted in a safety car taking charge of the track and bunching the field up. At this point the top five runners were No 79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW, No 1 Beechdean Aston Martin, No 17 M-Sport Bentley, No 13 AF Corse Ferrari 458 and No 5 Oman Racing Aston Martin.
No 38 Aston Martin was given a 10 second stop go penalty for a pit lane infringement. Running in 8th position due to the penalty No 38 dropped to 11th. After the pit stops the lead changed to No 23 United Autosport Audi ahead of No 18 AF Corse Ferrari, third was the No 79 Ecurie Ecosse. First and second collided with each other and resulted in them retiring from the race. Handing the lead back to No 79 BMW, Trackspeed No 33 Porsche in second and No 17 M Sport Bentley in third. This collision once again brought out the safety car with only fifteen minutes of the race to go. No 13 Ferrari and 45 BMW then suffered 10 second stop go penalties for pit lane infringements.
The safety car left the track with only 5 minutes remaining on the clock. It was a mad dash to the end. The win went to No 79 BMW, second No 33 Porsche and third No 1 Aston Martin in third. Sir Chris Hoy brought the Nissan GTR home in 14th position. The winner of the GT4 Class was No 49 TF sport Aston Martin, followed by No 43 G55 Ginetta G55 and third went to No 77 Issy Racing Lotus Evora.
The opening race weekend was full of drama and our photographer Steven Roe was present at the event and has captured the stunning machines competing in the championship and a weekend showcasing Aston Martin racing for their 10th year of motorsport anniversary.