Feathers Motorsport [FMS] continued its fantastic start to the UK-based 2023 GT Cup Championship with another trio of podium finishes, this time on the famous Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, in Kent. Two third places in the GTH Class (for GT4 specification cars) on the opening day of the double-header meeting, and a second position on Sunday morning’s Sprint race, means the team now leads the class standings after two events and has maintained its 100% podium record for classified finishes.
The Northamptonshire-based squad, along with drivers James Guess and Tom Canning, could also have added a third victory of the season to its list of achievements. But an unfortunate misunderstanding behind the Safety Car in the final race of the weekend led to several teams – including FMS – being disqualified from Round 8.
Four-race GT Cup meetings (of which there are six in 2023) comprise of a qualifying session on both days, followed by a 25-minute sprint race for the ‘Amateur’ driver in the team. There is then a 50-minute pit-stop race later in the afternoon which includes ‘Pro’ drivers – where the grid position is defined by the fastest lap in the preceding Sprint.
Guess opened the weekend’s podium account with a fine third place in Saturday morning’s Sprint race – Round 5 of the championship. Having qualified fourth, James then charged up to second initially before settling for third as the pack jostled out. The nature of the multi-class series means that cars out of position are frequently moving through the pack, and as such Guess found his opportunities to catch the second-placed Mercedes limited. Ultimately, he ran out of time.
Guess’s fastest race lap defined the grid position for the Saturday afternoon Pit Stop race, where FMS started fourth. Guess took a conservative approach to the 50-minute race and ran fourth for most of his stint, before sending it up the inside of a Mercedes at Druids hairpin to take third place. A long pit stop, thanks to the 25 second pro driver penalty and the 15s further addition for second place last time out, meant Canning emerged from the pits in fifth. But a Safety Car period before Guess’s stop meant that all the time advantage earned in his stint was lost and Canning could climb no higher than third following the lengthy stop.
Guess started the second sprint race on Sunday morning from fifth on the grid, but put on an inspiring show for the Spring crowd. Racing past a McLaren at Graham Hill Bend on the outside, he carried his momentum all the way along Cooper Straight and repeated the manouvre on the third-placed Mercedes at Surtees.
He wasn’t done though, and fired up, he chased down the second-placed Make Happen Racing Mercedes and overtook it on the run to Paddock Hill Bend, again on the outside.
The final Pit Stop race of the weekend was messy for all concerned. A crash at the front of the field caused an immediate Safety Car, and another GTC car slowed down along Pilgrims Drop. Several drivers thought the McLaren GT3 had a technical issue and passed it under yellows, only to be disqualified in a post-race inquiry, FMS among them. But that should not detract from an outstanding on-track performance.
Guess fought tooth-and-nail throughout his stint before handing over to Canning at half distance. Once the 95s stop was complete, the former British GT4 champion emerged from the pits in sixth. He fought back up to fourth place before another Safety Car period neutralised the race until five minutes to go of the planned 50.
When the green flag dropped, a gaggle of six GTH class cars began a dice for the lead that starred Canning. Moving up to third past a McLaren down the inside of Paddock Hill Bend, he took second at Druids and then the lead, audaciously, at Westfield on the penultimate lap. And while this was ultimately all for nought, his performance and that from his Saturday Pit Stop race earned him Driver of the Weekend – the second time an FMS driver had won it in as many meetings.
“You could say we haven’t finished off the podium so far this season, and as a team we deserve to be able to make that claim,” said Guess. “We’ve come into this season with the target of minimising drama and maximising potential, and we’re on track to achieve that. We are leading the championship now, and so we need more of the same approach next time out at Snetterton.”
Canning added: “The car was lovely to drive, and I felt like we deserved even more from the weekend than we were ultimately awarded. James was superb again all in all four races and as a team we get better with every outing. It’s genuinely fun to go racing with Feathers Motor Sport and the whole team deserves the success it is achieving.”
Team principal Simon Rose said: “We’ve moved into the GTH Class championship points lead and on balance I feel that is where we deserve to be. The drivers were excellent once again and the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 was on form thanks to the hard work put in by Inspire Engineering, and of course the support from Aston Martin Racing. The disqualification in the final race of the day was unfortunate, and in the confusion, it was an easy and understandable mistake to make. But rules are rules, and we must take away the positives and move on with the knowledge that we have a very competitive proposition for the rest of the season.”
Guess and Canning lead the GTH Championship standings by 21 points with a total of 130, and are fourth in the overall championship, 14 points behind the leaders. Feathers Motor Sport is currently sixth in the Team Championship. The next round takes place on the Snetterton 300 circuit in Norfolk, on 3-4 June.