RAM Racing collected a spectacular first win of the 2023 Intelligent Money British GT Championship season as drivers John Ferguson and Raffaele Marciello battled through a summer scrap in the latest two rounds at Snetterton this weekend.
After a difficult Saturday afternoon and an opening race of recovery, frowns soon turned to sheer joy as Ferguson picked up where he left off at this meeting last year to hold off a pack of rivals’ cars with a gritty defensive performance, claiming an astonishingly tense first victory of the season for himself and Marciello.
Heading to the Norfolk circuit sitting fifth in the drivers’ championship, the RAM Racing duo were greeted by scorching summer skies for Friday testing and were again on the pace throughout Saturday’s free practice sessions in preparation for the afternoon’s crucial brace of qualifying runs.
Ferguson had a certain top-eight qualifying result snatched away from him by two deleted laps for track limits that left him on row eight, while Marciello wrung the neck of car #15 to sit fourth in his session.
Sunny skies once again arrived for the first one-hour contest on Sunday, the Mercedes-AMG started by Ferguson from 15th on the grid. Ground was there to be made up, and he began to carve his way forward in a frenetic opening lap that moved the car four spots higher than its starting position after the first tour.
Bringing the car into the pits just outside the top 10, driving duties were handed to Marciello to attempt to make further progress in the competitive field. With a tough task ahead, the Swiss driver chased Jules Gounon’s similar Mercedes-AMG GT3 hard in the closing stages of the race, bringing the car home in seventh position in the Pro-Am class to bag more crucial points.
Race two brought more optimism from the off with a second row starting spot, pro driver Marciello this time given the wheel for the rolling start. A feisty start to the race by the reigning GT World Challenge Europe champion meant he threatened for second place at the first corner, but settled into a hot pace in third spot with the lead duo kept firmly in his sights.
Marciello soon started piling pressure onto second-place man Gounon after 20 minutes of running, looking for any way to usurp his European rival before the changeover. As the race rumbled on and mandatory pit stops arrived, Ferguson jumped aboard the Mercedes for the second half stint with Marciello sitting only two seconds from the overall race leaders.
What followed was an enthralling final 20 minutes, as when the race-leading Beechdean AMR Aston Martin was penalised for a short pit stop, the duel for second suddenly became the fight for victory and Ferguson wasted little time in boldly diving to the inside of Ian Loggie for the race lead at Murrays.
Ferguson then dug deep and put up a stunning defensive display for the remaining third of the race, with three rival GT3 cars filling his mirrors. Holding his line and unable to make a single mistake, such was the pressure to keep James Cottingham, Loggie and Simon Orange all in his wake, Ferguson held on to confirm a huge first win of the year for the RAM Racing team.
The results move Ferguson and Marciello to fourth in the GT3 drivers’ championship with three rounds left to run.
John Ferguson: “What a way to finish the weekend! I was told on the radio to settle for the podium, but I said ‘no I’m winning this race!’ Overall it was a disappointing start on Saturday to lose two solid laps in qualifying that could have meant we started seventh and fourth, so that made things more difficult. In race two we got into the pits well after a good stint by Lello and then Loggie was struggling, so once I found that space I was going down it. That’s what Senna did! I was just then making sure I was coming out of corners well, with no track limits, and it paid off it the end for an amazing result.”
Raffaele Marciello: “For me it was a good end to the weekend. It’s difficult to overtake at this kind of circuit, so it was a case of just chasing and following the guys in front before handing over to John. It was aggressive up front but the guys around us were actually quite fair and did nothing crazy. It’s a very nice win. There is still work to do with the balance of the car to give me more feel, but it’s good points and we take it race by race to improve our position.”
The team next head away for the only European round of the season, as the British GT Championship visits Portimão in Portugal for a three-hour race over the weekend of July 22/23.