Team Russia by Barwell regulars, Leo Machitski and Jonny Cocker, paired up with British GT Demon Tweeks duo, Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen, to contest the prestigious Blancpain 24 hours of Spa last weekend. After a brief diversion to the Am Cup class for the previous round of the Blancpain Endurance Series, the 6 hour ‘into the night’ race at Paul Ricard, we switched back to the Pro-Am class for the championship’s blue riband event. After a relatively drama-free 24 hours, the Vi Holding/Demon Tweeks-backed car crossed the finish line 4th in the Pro-Am class and an incredible 8th overall out of 57 starters! The Team Russia by Barwell Z4 was the second non-factory backed car to pass the chequered flag, only being beaten by the sister Barwell-run car of Ecurie Ecosse, which is a testament to the great efforts of everyone involved!
The week leading up to the race saw the team enjoy spectacular weather, but in true Spa style, they knew this wouldn’t last. Not long before the race was due to commence, the heavens opened and Pro driver Jonny Cocker had a tough task on his hands in the opening stint. The weather continued to vary in the first few hours of the Blancpain battle, which saw several competitors change to slicks, but a bold strategy (aided by some ‘inside knowledge’ from a local contact!) by the Barwell crew meant that they remained on wet tyres. This strategy paid off, and the combination of Jonny’s experienced driving and the spot-on tyre calls, meant the Team Russia by Barwell BMW Z4 GT3 was placed 2nd in Pro-Am and 5thoverall after just three hours!
As the Ardennes circuit began to dry, the team eventually made the move to slicks, but with the cold and damp conditions the Z4 struggled to gain effective grip and temperature within the tyres and dropped down the Pro-Am order. The team did not become despondent and with the sheer determination from all drivers, they managed to fight back and shadow the sister car of Ecurie Ecosse to work their way back up through the most competitive GT field seen at the race for many years.
Cocker, Keen and Machitski were all familiar with the Spa 24 hours, but although Jon Minshaw is an experienced historics driver and has competed at Spa before, this was the first time he would contend in an endurance race in a modern car! But his lack of night racing was not made evident, as he managed to guide the Demon Tweeks backed Z4 thought the twists and turns of the Belgian circuit with ease.
The success of Team Russia by Barwell was not only down to the great stints steered by all four drivers, but the flawless pit stops by the well-drilled Barwell Motorsport crew contributed immensely to the smooth running of the BMW. Apart from an issue with a loss of lights caused by a suspected problem with the electrical control unit (a common issue suffered by most BMW Z4s during the race), which was changed by the pit crew with less than a minute time loss, the car ran faultlessly and the drivers brought the car home without a scratch on it, much to the delight of the team!
Team Russia by Barwell with Demon Tweeks have only a couple of days rest before they head off to Brands Hatch for the next round of the British GT Championship this weekend (1st/2nd of August). Then the final round of the Blancpain Endurance Series will be held at Nurburgring in Germany on the 19th and 20th of September.