Bridlington racer Marshall claims GT race victory at Spa
Bridlington's Ashley Marshall starred in the fourth round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship, teaming-up with Jack Brown to secure an outright GT4 race victory for Balfe Motorsport.
Qualifying brought dry conditions that would remain for the remainder of the race weekend with Ashley and Jack proving a closely matched driver pairing once again as they recorded a time good for fourth position in the GT4 class, second in the Silver rankings.
The start of the race was somewhat chaotic, with Richard Neary involved in a multiple car incident that eliminated himself and two others from the event even before the first corner. With the safety car out, this was actually good news for both Balfe Motorsport racers, as in the melee at the start, Ashley had vaulted to sixth overall with just the #57 BMW of Will Burns ahead of him in the battle for the class win.
The start incident had however seen the #90 GT4 sustain some damage to the right rear, and this made Ashley’s task all the harder with the car keen to rotate right, to the left less so. In addition, a shattered passenger window soon after from gravel trap debris made throttle application somewhat temperamental courtesy of the broken glass entering the driver's footwell.
Undeterred, Ashley pressed on, initially content to shadow Burns ahead as he had no real pressure from behind having gapped the #3 McLaren. Soon however, he changed tactics and started to apply the pressure and sure enough, heading into the 15th lap, he forced Burns deep into La Source, undercut the BMW racer and executed a perfect pass into Eau Rouge. Ashley was able to pull out a three-second margin before pitting and handing over to teammate Jack.
Resuming in the lead, Jack and the team understood that the Aston Martin factory racer was close behind in the #27 GT4. Whilst maintaining the lead as long as possible was the aim, the team knew that with the slightly damaged McLaren, they could not hold the position to the chequered flag. Jack did a great job at the head of the class, but when the inevitable pass for the lead came, he wisely gave space and continued his own race.
Inexplicably, however, Turner went on to get another track limits violation and with just a handful of laps to go, was awarded a drive-through penalty, which became a time penalty instead at the end of the race. This handed Ashley and Jack the GT4 race win, the first-ever race win for an emotional Ashley, who said: "My first ever race win comes at SRO Speedweek and at Spa Francorchamps! These fast and flowing circuits seem to suit my driving style. It was a very eventful race for us and these wins never come easy as there’s always issues to contend with beyond our control, and this very much was the case today.
“I could see Will ahead in the BMW and I could see that he was struggling, missing the apex on multiple occasions. In the end, I gave him a dummy into La Source and got the cutback and was able to pass into Eau Rouge which was fantastic
“The win could have been easier as unfortunately we had damage from the start which knocked the tracking out and we then had to contend with the steering wheel at an angle and a lot of vibration down the straights. Then we had one of the GT3 cars into the gravel and this hit the car, shattering the passenger window and this created more issues with extra drag on the straights and with glass in the footwell, a sticking throttle. The car became a handful as the tyres went off and with the other issues and so many times I nearly went off."