Aston Martin GT4 Challenge series leader Andrew Jarman scored a trio of podium finishes on his debut at the famous Spa Francorchamps circuit topped off by a superb win in the final race of a weekend’s racing which supported the Blancpain Endurance Series SPA 25 Hour Race.
For this special event, the Aston Martin GT4 Challenge was joined by the DutchGT series, providing a grid of over 40 cars and a superb spectacle for the thousands of spectators who made the annual trip to watch the SPA 24 Hours Race.
Famous for its changeable weather, the Belgium circuit was true to form as qualifying go underway for the three weekend races in damp and changeable conditions. The Stratton Motorsport driver, enjoying his first experience around a wet Spa, showed continued form in the difficult conditions to put his No12 GT4 Aston Martin 2nd on the grid for the first sprint race.
Sprint Race 1
The conditions were very wet for the start of the first 20 minute sprint race. The field was immediately jumbled by the standing start with many cars struggling for traction.
Starting from P2 on the grid, after a difficult getaway in the difficult conditions, Jarman was running 3rd at the end of the first lap with ex-British GT Champion Calum Lockie leading the way in front of Jarman’s Stratton Motorsport team mate Olivier Bouche.
Over the next few laps, the front three maintain their positions with Jarman now holding a comfortable gap to 4th place and mixing it with the DutchGT drivers. But the Stratton Motorsport driver was unable to catch the front two by the flag, taking a well-deserved podium and a great start to his weekend.
By the time the Endurance Race got underway on late Friday afternoon, the sun had finally decided to make a welcome cameo at the circuit. The track was hot, dry and with a conventional GT rolling start, the GT4 Challenge field was back in slightly more familiar territory.
A clean start followed the lights going green, with everyone negotiating La Source without any major incidents. As the pack settled into the race, Jarman was down in 7th after contact in the early stages of the race forced him wide at the bus stop chicane. As the mandatory pit window opened, the #12 Aston Martin pitted for tyres with Jarman staying in the car as the sole driver in the car for the weekend.
Back out on track, he soon made up ground and moved up to third someway behind the Barwell Motorsport car of Jan Andersen. But as the final minutes of the 1 Hour race ticked away, Jarman continued to close the gap and by the final lap, was insight of the Barwell car.
Pushing to the limit, the Milton Keynes racer was just 4 seconds behind as they approached the famous Blanchimont corner with only the bus stop chicane left before the finish line. Heading into Blanchimont, Jarman was right on the limit, running wide on the exit kerb but with points key to his championship campaign, he made the wise decision to avoid a last corner dive down the inside and instead crossed the line to take his 2nd podium of the weekend and valuable championship points.
Speaking after the race Jarman said:
“We didn’t have a great start to the race, I had some contact in the chicane which pushed me off the track and put me down the order but I’m pleased I managed to work my way back up to the podium.
I knew I was catching Jan (Anderson) and tried everything I could in the final lap to close the gap, I pushed too hard through Blanchimont and ran wide on the exit and it was too much of a risk to send it up the inside on the final lap but I’m delighted to get another podium this weekend”
Sprint Race 2
The second 30 minute Sprint race took place on a wet, but drying track. The start, once again from a standstill was very tricky for the drivers to manage, particularly when combined with a very short hold period before the lights going out.
As the lights went out, Jarman in the #12 Stratton Motorsport car leapt to the front from his 3rd place grid slot. By the end of lap one Jarman had pulled out a 2 second lead and was running an impressive 6th overall out of the 43 car field.
With the track drying rapidly, Jarman was soon into conservation mode to save his tyres which had been used for all of the previous races and qualifying and now well worn. With the gap to second place down to 3.7 seconds, a quick flying lap soon stretched his lead back up to comfortable 5 seconds. In the final stages, heavy traffic once again reduced Jarman’s lead but with pace in hand he was able to keep the gap and as the 30 minute race came to a close, the Stratton driver took a superb win much to the delighted of his team and supporters.
Talking after the race:
“What a weekend, it’s been an amazing experience and to finish with a win is the perfect end to a very memorable weekend. Spa is one of the most historic circuits in the world and one every driver wants to win, to do it on my first attempt is a mega result.
I knew with the track drying that we could be in trouble with the tyres having done the first two races already so I just managed the gap throughout the race, it was a great start and had it not been for a drying track I would have loved to take the fight to the Dutch GT guy’s but I’ve got to think about the championship, maybe next time!”