GT3: BENTLEY BOYS BLOW TITLE RACE WIDE OPEN AT BRANDS
Yesterday’s wet qualifying session played to the strengths of erstwhile championship leaders Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen, whose Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini had sealed a commanding pole while their chief rivals’ Bentley managed only sixth.
However, Sunday’s dry track and warm, sunny conditions would favour the latter.
Minshaw led away from pole but was soon fending off James Littlejohn’s Macmillan AMR Aston Martin, which had lined up alongside. The V12 Vantage shadowed the Huracan closely before pouncing when Minshaw ran wide heading into Graham Hill Bend while negotiating GT4 traffic.
Further back, Parfitt Jnr spent the first 20 minutes working his way past Derek Johnston, Liam Griffin and Mark Farmer, and was in position to undercut Minshaw at Graham Hill Bend three laps after Littlejohn had done the same.
A brief Safety Car period to remove Will Moore’s broken-down GT4 Aston Martin bunched the field, but when racing resumed with 85 minutes remaining it wasn’t long before the Aston Martin and Bentley began gapping their rivals. The pair were never more than three seconds apart before an ECU issue sidelined Littlejohn just before the pit window opened on the hour.
Parfitt Jnr duly pitted at the first opportunity to hand over to Morris. Other teams’ decisions to wait another lap before swapping their Ams with Pros helped the Welshman emerge from the stops with a 26s lead, which had grown to 33.8s by the chequered flag after an untroubled run through the final hour.
Littlejohn’s issues promoted TF Sport’s #11 Aston Martin to second before the stops after Mark Farmer passed Liam Griffin’s Barwell Lamborghini and then Minshaw during an entertaining opening stint. But the #6 Huracan’s earlier pitstop, after Griffin also passed his team-mate, was enough to vault Sam Tordoff into second ahead of Jon Barnes, who’d taken over from Farmer.
Minshaw also lost a place to Derek Johnston before the stops, which left Keen in fifth behind Jonny Adam after the driver changes. The pair circulated in close formation behind Tordoff and Barnes during the closing stages, although no-one could get close enough to make a pass.
Duncan Cameron and Richard Neary enjoyed a close fight throughout the opening stint, which the Team ABBA with Rollcentre Racing driver ultimately won before the pit window opened. Their respective co-drivers continued to scrap thereafter, with Adam Christodoulou’s Mercedes-AMG ultimately beating Matt Griffin’s Spirit of Race Ferrari by just 0.455s.
Two penalties – one for a Safety Car infringement and another for speeding in the pits – as well as a 20s success penalty for winning at Spa restricted Team Parker’s second Bentley, driven by Ian Loggie and Callum Macleod, to eighth ahead of Mike Brown and Matt Manderson’s Aston Martin.
A particular set of results would have seen Minshaw and Keen clinch their maiden GT3 Drivers’ title at Brands Hatch. Instead, Parfitt Jnr and Morris’ victory has helped them turn a 12-point deficit into a 10.5-point lead ahead of the final round at Donington Park where 37.5 points will once again be available. Of course, the Bentley’s win ensures it will also incur a 20s pitstop success penalty while the #33 Lamborghini competes handicap free…
Matt Griffin claimed the Sunoco Fastest Lap Award while Farmer’s performances during yesterday’s tricky wet qualifying session and opening race stint earned him the Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend prize.
GT4: STUNNING DRIVE NETS JONCK, PHILLIPS AND MACMILLAN AMR MAIDEN WIN
Macmillan AMR made up for their GT3 disappointment by claiming a first British GT4 victory at Brands Hatch after two standout drives by Jan Jonck and William Phillips. Tolman Motorsport’s David Pattison and Joe Osborne also fought through to finish second ahead of HHC Motorsport’s Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton, who extended their championship lead.
But there was disappointment for Lanan Racing’s Alex Reed and David Pittard whose podium chances, and title hopes, were hit by a broken steering arm.
GT4 served up a cracking race from start to finish, with multiple cars and marques often squabbling for the same front-running positions. Black Bull Garage 59’s Sandy Mitchell led from lap two until the pitstops after relieving pole-sitter Will Moore of first, but behind the battle was soon raging as the Academy Motorsport driver repeatedly repelled the advances of Pittard, Niall Murray’s Century Ginetta and Middleton.
The action was briefly quelled by a Safety Car, dispatched when Moore’s race came to an early end after his Aston Martin crawled to a halt on Hawthorn Hill, but when it resumed the racing was just as fierce.
That was mainly thanks to Phillips who spent the early laps climbing from 10th to fifth before joining the lead fight as the Safety Car was called. Murray passed him at the restart but the Macmillan AMR driver regrouped and had soon dispatched the #43 Ginetta and Middleton.
Third then became second when Pittard – who had been hassling Mitchell for the lead – was forced into the pits with a broken steering arm. Lanan were able to repair the car, albeit at the expense of several laps and a points-paying finish.
Mitchell pitted just ahead of Phillips, and their respective co-drivers Ciaran Haggerty and Jonck rejoined the fray with the order unchanged. The Aston Martin was clearly faster, but its Danish driver was content to bide his time before making a successful lunge at Druids with just 15 minutes remaining.
While Jonck scampered clear, Haggerty was left to defend from a hard charging Osborne whose co-driver Pittard had started sixth but dropped behind the Silver-graded crews during the opening stint. But not even the Tolman pair’s 10s success penalty could hold back Osborne who, having set the fastest time in qualifying, continued to lap quickly once aboard in the race.
Indeed, having first picked off Tregurtha and track-club’s Adam Balon, and then benefited from Jacob Mathiassen’s stop/go penalty, the McLaren set about bridging its 14s deficit to Jonck and Haggerty. Osborne arrived on the latter’s tail with just over 10 minutes remaining and dispatched him at Druids before attempting to reel in Jonck. But the Dane was equal to the challenge and eventually took the chequered flag 2.4s clear.
Tregurtha also found a way past Haggerty on the penultimate lap, although the Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren’s afternoon would end in the Paddock Hill Bend gravel trap after Haggerty lost control on the final lap. That handed fourth to track-club’s Mackay and Adam Balon, who finished second in Pro/Am behind Pattison/Osborne, while Nick Jones and Scott Malvern’s Team Parker Porsche claimed its best result of the season in fifth.
Rob Boston Racing, Adam Gore and Jason Baker ended an impressive British GT4 debut in sixth, Mitchell and Haggerty were classified seventh despite the latter’s accident, and Murray/Mathiassen recovered from their 20s stop/go penalty – incurred for an unsafe pitstop release – to claim eighth.
The UltraTek/RJN Nissan driven by Tim Eakin and Kelvin Fletcher was ninth, while Adam Hatfield and Benjamin Wallace’s Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta rounded out the top-10.
Today’s results help HHC’s Tregurtha and Middleton carry a considerable 25-point lead into Donington’s season finale on September 23/24. Lanan’s Reed and Pittard are the only other crew still in title contention but must finish no lower than second to have any chance of overhauling their Ginetta rivals.
Rick Parfitt Jnr, #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “We had a strategy to run low tyre pressures that would give us better pace as the race progressed, and it worked a treat. Initially I couldn’t make any moves but as the stint wore on and others started to struggle our tyres came into their own, which allowed me to apply pressure and force mistakes. We didn’t expect the points to change around like they have, and especially after qualifying yesterday. But everything came together today with a bit of luck and some good strategy. Of course, we’ll now have the success penalty at Donington whereas the Lamborghini won’t, so perhaps the 10.5 points aren’t quite the considerable advantage they appear on paper.”
Jan Jonck, #42 Macmillan AMR Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4: “I knew after free practice that we’d (William Phillips & I,) both be quick, but we didn’t quite have the wet qualifying set-up to show it in the mixed conditions. I still thought a top-five was possible, especially as Will is great at overtaking: I was definitely expecting to be in a good position when I took over the car. Then, when I came out behind the leader, I thought ‘we’re in with a chance now.’ It’s tough to pass around here but then I saw the guys behind were catching and knew they’d be with us in two or three more laps. That was one of the best, and also most important, overtaking moves of my career!”
ABOUT THE BRITISH GT CHAMPIONSHIP
For 25 years the British GT Championship has been an intrinsic part of the UK’s national motorsport fabric. But, having undergone a number of changes throughout that quarter-century, it’s difficult to envisage an era more competitive than the current GT3 and GT4 format.
First organised by the British Racing Drivers Club in 1993, the BRDC National Sports GT Challenge (as it was known until 1995) featured grids of wildly different machinery loosely grouped into vibrant classes comprising sportscars and saloons.
Today, under SRO Motorsports Group’s guidance, British GT grids comprise 30-plus GT3 and GT4 specification supercars tuned to varying degrees of race preparation. Both classes take their cues from road-legal models – examples include Ferrari, Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Porsche – that have been developed specifically for the track.
GT racing is traditionally seen as an endurance discipline, and British GT honours that by mandating two drivers per car. Driver changes take place during pit-stops, when tyres are also replaced and fuel added. Race durations vary and can last one, two or three hours.
In 2017, British GT celebrates its 25th anniversary.