Ashley Hand & Tom Canning clinched the British GT4 title in today’s two-hour season finale at Donington Park (September 15) by surviving late pressure from behind while being made to sweat by a charging championship rival ahead.
In traditional GT4 fashion, the battle to be crowned champion went down to the wire. A record six crews were in contention for the overall crown heading to Donington, with Canning and Hand topping the table on 117.5 points. When the race got underway they looked to be on course for a relatively straightforward run to the chequered flag, with Aston Martin Academy ace Canning delivering a perfect opening stint at the wheel of the #97 Vantage.
Aston Martin Academy driver Ash Hand and team-mate Tom Canning secured another podium finish at Brands Hatch to strengthen their hold on the British GT Silver GT4 Championship and the overall GT4 Championship as the series in the penultimate round.
It was a race against the clock to get the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 on to the grid as the team discovered a fuel leak, thankfully the issue was fixed, and Hand could join the grid ready for the start of the race.
Starting from second place, Hand made a lightning start to take the lead of the race on the opening lap. While Hand would get to work to build his lead, a safety car period neutralised the field.
During the pitstops, the team had an added 20-second penalty for their race win at Spa-Francorchamps, dropping them down the order, Canning fought hard to return to fourth place as the chequered flag came out and later promoted to third place due to a time penalty on the third-placed car.
The result meant another podium finish for the TF Sport duo, leaving them with an 8.5 point advantage in the overall GT4 Championship and a 12 point advantage in the GT4 Silver Championship as the series heads to Donington Park for the final round next month on 14/15 September.
Aston Martin Academy driver Ash Hand scored his first victory in British GT as Tom Canning and himself took the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 to class victory at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit, securing the team’s first victory in the GT4 class of the British GT Championship since 2014.
Qualifying saw Hand and Canning finish sixth place in qualifying amongst the twenty-five car GT4 field.
Come race day and Hand took the first stint in the Vantage AMR GT4, brilliantly working his way up to second place on the opening lap, with the sister TF Sport car following closely behind.
The 25-year-old would keep a strong pace throughout his stint, only losing one place before the pit-stops and driver changes.
With Canning now in the driver’s seat, the #97 Aston Martin emerged back on track in second place.
Towards the closing phase of the two-hour race Canning was lapping quicker than the leading McLaren and by the penultimate lap was threatening a move to take the lead.
On the penultimate lap heading into the Bus Stop chicane, Canning jinked to the left of the McLaren, taking the outside line, and putting himself on the inside for the next left-hand corner. The McLaren unsighted moved across and made contact.
As the pair moved out of the way for one of the GT3 cars Canning was now in the lead, while the McLaren was forced to retire with radiator damage.
One lap later and the #97 Aston Martin AMR GT4 took the chequered flag claiming not only the first class win in five years for TF Sport, but also their first-ever double GT4 podium finish.
The result moves Hand and Canning to within 7.5 points of the GT4 championship lead, in third place. The duo leads the GT4 Silver class drivers’ championship as the series heads to Brands Hatch on 3-4 August.
Ash Hand #97 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4
“We went to Spa-Francorchamps a few weeks ago and completed a test. Just going there and being at somewhere so iconic, where there have been so many famous races and so much history, it is just a special place to be. So, to go there and take the victory make it even more special.
“Everything went well for us from start to finish, we worked really hard to make sure we could go into the race weekend and win.
“We had no other option really, other than to win, we needed the points in terms of championship.
“Because there is such a large gap in points between first and second, and second and third, we knew that we had to take the full points from the weekend, and that’s exactly what we did.
“We were so committed to taking the 37.5 points and so focused on the goals that we set out at the start of the season, that we wanted to be in the lead of at least the Silver championship by the end of Spa.
“So to go and do that is just an amazing achievement, to actually execute the plan and meet your goals that you set out to do earlier in the season,It’s nice, and its put us in a great position for the rest of the year.
“We are now third in the overall championship and first in the silver championship, we’re more than happy with where we are now. We’re just 7.5 points off the lead of the overall championship, which is nothing, so we are in a fantastic position.”
Ash Hand on TF Sport team-mate Nicki Thiim
“To have someone like Nicki Thiim in the team, he’s a very special driver from all angles, you look at him compared to the other drivers on the grid and there is no one else that does the same sort of job as him.
“He goes out of the box and sets the fastest time straight away, he’s committed with his overtaking, he’s just a different breed of driver.
“So, to have him to lean on at race weekends is an amazing thing to have. You always know that if you go to him for advice, it’s always going to be good advice as he’s been there, he’s done it, and he’s done it well.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“I’m very happy with the GT4s and it couldn’t have gone better. They had strong pace all weekend and after some bad luck this year, it’s excellent to have them both get a deserved result.”
Ash and his team mates combined qualifying saw them start the two hour race at Donington in 9th place.
They soon found the rhythm in the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and became one of the quickest GT4’s on track, moving through the pack. They managed to work their way into 4th in GT4s.
It was once again a very strong performance from the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and TF Sport. They are now top five in the overall GT4 standings and come away from the weekend with another solid points haul with no penalties to carry forward to Spa.
The team had mixed conditions throughout the practice sessions, however it dried up just before qualifying.
Ash was unfortunately held up on his flying lap which made life difficult on the Sunday starting in P9. Due to the Podium finish from the last race they also had a 15 second success penalty.
During the first hour of the race they managed to climb the leaderboard and worked their way into the top 5.
Tom managed to get the team into first and the team held on to win their first race of the season.
On Saturday we showed we had the ability to set a very strong pace. This helped give us confidence going into qualifying.
In Race 1 Ash started the race in 14th, dropped to 18th at the start after a BMW span across the track in front of him. However Ash managed to climb his way back up to 14th with very strong race pace. After the driver change Tom managed to take the car up into the points by finishing in P9.
In Race 2 Ash and Tom managed to start at P2 and maintain this as their finishing position to claim their first podium of the year.
All of the hard work the team put in behind the scenes paid dividends and we were proud to be a part of that.
Now we look forward to the next race at Silverstone on the 8th and 9th June.
The launch of the new British GT season opener where Ash had his first race weekend in the new Aston Martin Vantage GT4 with TF Sport. Me and my racing partner Tom Canning topped the times in both Friday practice sessions and then 4th in both Saturday sessions giving us confidence going into qualifying.
In the first race, Ash, was hit near to the end of his stint putting him in the garage for the remainder of the race and therefore Tom didn’t get the chance to drive in Race 1. In Race 2 Tom started the Race P5 on the grid knowing we had the pace to get a podium or even a win. He had a good start and broke away with the front pack pressuring them constantly. Then still early in his stint he had contact with another car dropping him right to the back! He had good pace coming back before Ash took over for his stint where he continued the climb up the field. We finished the race 9th in class.
After a tough start to the race we did not let our heads drop and pulled it back to make the best of a bad situation. The team, TF Sport, did an exceptional job all weekend.
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