The Team Russia by Barwell BMW Z4 GT3 contested the opening rounds of the British GT and Blancpain Endurance Series championships during the first two April weekends, but suffered from an awful run of bad luck at both events. Three times in a row the car was the innocent victim of being ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’, and was put out of contention.
In the Easter Bank Holiday Oulton Park British GT encounter, the Demon Tweeks-backed duo of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen showed very strongly in both one-hour races but were denied the chance to claim what would have been two very strong points-scoring finishes, including a very possible race win. In race one Jon was sitting in eighth place, just five seconds behind the leader, when he was left nowhere to go but into the back of the sister Barwell-run Ecurie Ecosse Z4 as Marco Attard braked hard to avoid two cars spinning across the track in front of him. This punctured the car’s radiator and he was forced to switch off the engine. Then in race two, Phil was absolutely flying in third place after a great qualifying effort, and setting up what would have been a very strong challenge for victory. He then came up to lap a backmarker who moved right across the bows of the Demon Tweeks car and braked hard, resulting in Keen being powerless to resist clipping the back of this car and then unfortunately crashing out of the race.
The Team Russia By Barwell entry was then taken over by drivers Leo Machitski, Timur Sardarov and Jonny Cocker for the first round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Monza last weekend. At a classic ‘power circuit’ with huge straights the low power/high downforce BMW Z4 is never the strongest car, and with the super fast Ferrari 458s being the most popular machine amongst an incredible 60-car grid, we were always going to have a tough time trying to score decent points here. But Jonny did an incredible job in qualifying, setting the fastest ever Z4 lap in official qualifying around Monza (beating BMW factory star Maxime Martin’s previous record) and shading all of the other seven BMWs entered, including the Team Brazil Pro-class car which won the previous weekend’s Blancpain Sprint Series race. Such was the dominance of the Ferraris and other higher-powered cars, however, that this was still only good enough for 13th in Pro-Am class! Certainly a case of the GT3 Balance of Performance not working as it should.
Unfortunately the team never got the chance to show how high up the order they could have reached in the race, as Leo was hit from behind after the first chicane on the opening lap, and the contact caused a puncture and damaged the rear suspension. This was repaired by the Barwell crew in the pits garage, but many laps were lost in the process. The race was thus turned into an extended test session for Leo and Timur, and after Sardarov was hit by a Ferrari and sustained another puncture towards the end of his stint, the car was retired from the race.
We will certainly be hoping for better rewards for everyone’s hard work and effort in the next events of these championships, at Rockingham (British GT) on May 3rd and Silverstone GP (Blancpain Endurance) on May 24th respectively.