Sunoco Challenge pairing a British GT3 success

18th April 2016

TF Sport’s and new pairing 2010 Sunoco Daytona Challenge winner Derek Johnston and 2016 Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner Jonny Adam started their 2016 British GT3 season with a fine first win at the Brands Hatch 2hrs endurance race.

Starting from 3rd on the grid Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam were confident they were in for an exciting race although they felt that the new, for British GT, Bentley GT3 with Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris had the upper edge in terms of ultimate lap times. However, at the end of an incident packed and cut short race it was Derek and Jonny who stood on top of the podium. Jonny also got the Sunoco Fastest Man award earned from setting the fastest lap time of the race in the GT3 class as he smashed the earlier British GT3 lap record at Brands Hatch with a lap time of 1m24.695s.

Derek Johnston who won both the UK and the European Radical series in a Radical SR8 in 2009 was quite shocked to learn in October 2009 that he had also won the inaugural Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge and would be racing a Daytona Prototype at the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona!

Derek who had not been racing many years previously put himself through an intense physical training programme to be prepared for the big race but nothing that he had done earlier could have prepared him for the intimidating 31 degree banking at Daytona at 195MPH. Derek did however extremely well in the Kevin Doran run Dallara Daytona Prototype and got the honour to take the chequered flag in 10th position overall despite losing several laps during the Rolex 24 At Daytona due to gearbox issues.

Derek summarised his experience as: “Driving in Daytona is like climbing Everest, scoring the winning goal in the World Cup and having a number one record at the same time”.

Since then Derek had a couple of years in Radical, Ferrari Challenge and GT Cup before switching to British GT3. As a successful businessman and owner of the construction company MSW his aim, after finishing the 2015 British GT3 season on top of the podium, is to be in a position to fight for the 2016 British GT3 title. With pro-driver Jonny Adam partnering Derek in the TF Sport run Aston GT3 the pairing is very strong and with both having gained experience from racing in the Daytona Prototype class at the Rolex 24 At Daytona they both know how important the saying 'to win you first have to finish' is.

Jonny clinched the 2015 British GT3 title together with Andrew Howard driving for the Beechdean Aston Martin factory supported team and whilst that was of course his main focus for 2015 he realised halfway through the season that he had a good chance of winning the Sunoco Whelen Challenge. Having trailed BMW factory driver, British GT3 competitor and early Sunoco Whelen Challenge points leader Alexander Sims up until the Spa British GT round Jonny and Alexander were, in an intense battle to get fastest laps and pole positions for those vital extra points for the Challenge. Jonny, always cool under pressure prevailed and pulled ahead in the Challenge when Sims had a disastrous weekend at the BGT Snetterton round. After that he then never looked back and clinched the 2016 Sunoco Whelen Challenge and the British GT3 title at the same time.

Jonny Adam sums up: “2015 was a magical year for me. I won the British GT3 title, became an Aston Martin factory driver AND won the 2016 Sunoco Whelen Challenge. Although I had done the Rolex 24 At Daytona in an Aston GT3 I always dreamt of doing the race in a Daytona Prototype to be able to win the big race outright. When I realised that I had won the Sunoco Whelen Challenge it was really a ‘dream come true’. I was paired with Dane Cameron, Eric Curran and Indycar driver Simon Pagenaud and with the Whelen sponsored Action Express run Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype I knew we had a great chance of actually be able to fight for the win. Had it not been for a driveshaft failure loosing us 12 laps we would have been on the lead lap and in for a good chance of winning the iconic race – we definitely had the pace”.

Jonny continues: “However, I’m very happy having been given the opportunity to race at the Rolex 24 At Daytona thanks to Whelen Engineering and Sunoco Race Fuels and although the driveshaft failure lost us the opportunity to win, 6th overall is not bad at all. Also, when the driveshaft went, of no fault of myself, I was in the car running strongly in second – a great feeling! It was an amazing experience and I enjoyed every moment of the whole Sunoco Whelen Challenge – if I got the chance to do the race again I would not hesitate a second. When I got the call to be the pro-driver alongside Derek in the TF Sport run Aston Martin GT3 in the British GT Championship I got very excited as we had both won the Sunoco Whelen Challenge so I knew that Derek had had the same experience as I. For an AM driver Derek is definitely amongst the fastest and most experienced AM drivers on the grid in 2016”.


Jonny will outside of British GT also contest the World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series, Blancpain, Le Mans and Nurburgring 24 Hours.

It is early days yet but with the combined experience of former Sunoco Challenge winners Derek and Jonny, the first win in the bag and the experienced TF Sport running the Aston the duo are looking very good to challenge for the 2016 British GT3 title!

Previous winners of the Sunoco Whelen Challenge (renamed in 2014 from the Sunoco Daytona Challenge) include: Derek Johnston in 2009; Ross Kaiser in 2010; Felipe Nasr in 2011; Ivan Bellarosa in 2012; Bradley Smith in 2013; Phil Keen in 2014 and Jonny Adam in 2015. The big question is who will go to Daytona in 2017? Participating series in 2016 are: British GT3 class; Radical Endurance Pro class; and Radical Euro Masters.


The only snag for both Derek and Jonny is that they cannot take part in the Sunoco Whelen Challenge again due to the rules prohibiting drivers that have previously raced a Prototype at the Rolex 24 At Daytona to participate.


About the Sunoco Challenges

The 2016 season Sunoco Whelen Challenge is provided in partnership with Whelen Engineering in the USA and Anglo American Oil Company in the UK. The prize consists of three test days at the ROAR Before the Rolex 24, and a race seat in a Whelen sponsored Prototype in the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona twice around the clock race. Also included in the prize are flights, accommodation and a dedicated Sunoco Whelen Challenge race suit, with the chance to step on to the top of the podium and bring home the much coveted Rolex Daytona watch! The qualifying championships for the 2016 race season are: British GT3, Radical Team Challenge (pro drivers only) and Radical European Masters (Classes SR3 & SR8) - it is only drivers in these series which are deemed likely to be able to handle a Prototype at plus 190mph on the famed 31° Daytona banking.

The 2016 season Sunoco 200 Challenge provides a winner, from additional Sunoco fuelled Championships to the Sunoco Whelen Challenge, with a race seat in the Sunoco liveried Ford Mustang during the 200-mile endurance race on the Friday before the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The qualifying championships for the 2016 race season are: Britcar, F3 Cup, GT Cup, Radical Solo Championship, MINI Challenge, Atom Cup, British GT4 and NEW for 2016, British GT3 (AM only). 

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