FF Corse duo Graham and Dan de Zille scored another dominant GTC class victory as the fight for the GT Cup title continued on an action-packed weekend at Brands Hatch.
The father-and-son duo produced a magnificent display with Graham reaching the mandatory driver-change window with the class lead in his Ferrari 488 Challenge and handing over to Dan.
The younger de Zille then held his nerve during a stint that included a late switch to wet tyres – following a downpour – to reach the chequered flag in the top spot.
It was the fourth win of the year for the duo’s #19 Ferrari 488 Challenge, which replaced the 458 Challenge car they’d begun the season with at Snetterton in July, and has provided Dan with two sprint-race wins in addition to the two enduro victories.
It was also a great reward for the Silverstone-based FF Corse team, whose mechanics had worked flat-out to fix event-ending damaged sustained by the de Zilles at the last event in a multi-car, first-corner accident.
Dan qualified and finished second in Saturday morning’s sprint while Graham repeated that result on Sunday before the pair claimed third in the enduro; their chances thwarted by a 20-second ‘success penalty’ at their pitstop; a result of their previous victory.
Laki Christoforou and Adam Carroll arrived at Brands Hatch leading the GTC points following five victories earlier in the season.
Laki qualified third for the opening sprint and finished there too as he was experiencing his first race on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit for almost a decade.
Unfortunately, his hopes of another victory in the enduro evaporated with a power-steering issue that put him out on the second lap.
He finished third in Sunday’s sprint and reached the enduro’s mid-race driver swap in the same position as he handed on to Adam, who was 5.5 seconds away from the lead once all the cars in the class had stopped with 18 of the 50 minutes remaining.
The Northern Irishman relentlessly reeled in the leader and reached the chequered flag just 0.8 seconds away from victory.
Laki and Adam hold second place in the GTC points and third in the overall standings. They are 34 points behind the leaders in each classification with 216 available from the remaining two rounds.
Graham and Dan hold third place in GTC and seventh overall, a further 54 points back, while FF Corse are second in the overall Teams’ Championship, 26 points away from the lead.
The penultimate round of the season takes place at Donington Park on September 21-22. The final event is at Snetterton on October 26-27.
Graham de Zille said: “It feels great to win again and on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit – a track I’ve not raced on since 1987. We’re so grateful to the team at FF Corse, who have worked flat-out to get our car ready after the damage we sustained in the crash at Silverstone, and while there were a couple of little things that were probably a carry-over of that damage, we sorted everything out. I was pleased with my pace in Sunday qualifying and the sprint race and I’d say this is the most competitive I’ve been after I was getting used to things at Snetterton and then was ill at Silverstone. I’m looking forward to the last two events.”
Dan de Zille said: “I’m pleased with the pace we’ve shown all weekend. We now have two enduro wins to go with my two sprint victories and there are lots of positives to take from the weekend. Just the fact that we were there was an achievement after what happened at Silverstone. The only nervy moment really was on Saturday when it started raining in the last 10 minutes of the enduro. I had quite a healthy advantage in the class so it was a no-brainer to pit for wet tyres. I knew I could hold on for the win that way, while I could easily have crashed if I’d stayed on slicks. The lap times were pretty similar to Adam [Carroll’s] in Sunday’s enduro too, which is pleasing.”
Laki Christoforou said: “I’ve been pretty pleased with my progression this weekend. I haven’t raced on Brands GP for many years, and last time it was in a Ford Escort. I improved my pace relative to Adam by a couple of seconds over the weekend and I reckon I’m as close as I can reasonably expect to be for an am driver against a true pro. Ultimately I leave with mixed feelings because we had the issue that put us out of the second race on Saturday, but the team fixed the car and Sunday was good with a third and a second. We’ve lost a bit of ground in the GTC title battle, but we’ll give it a good go at Donington.”
Adam Carroll said: “Ultimately, Brands GP suits other cars better than the Ferrari because it’s naturally quite a low-downforce car, and I think the results reflected that. Brands is quite an interesting circuit with a very abrasive surface and it’s not as easy as somewhere like Silverstone for a pro driver to make a difference, or to overtake, because it’s quite narrow. We’ve lost the points lead, but that’s motor racing. The important thing is that we’re in the hunt for the GTC and overall titles and the two tracks left are circuits we’ve won at already this season. I think it’s going to be an exciting climax for this championship.”
Tim Mullen, Sporting Manager, said: “Full credit has to go to the team, not just for what they’ve done this weekend in repairing Laki’s car after the issue on Saturday, but for working flat-out to get the #19 Ferrari fixed after the big accident at Silverstone. We knew Brands Hatch was going to suit some of the other GTC cars better than the Ferrari, so getting the win with Graham and Dan on Saturday was very good, and calling them in for wets when the rain came was absolutely the right call. We’ve had seven podiums from the eight races this weekend so that’s almost a perfect result, but the championship fight is getting more and more tense, so we’ll aim for even better at Donington.”