Parfitt Jnr and Morris crowned British GT3 champions as Murray stars for Century #DoningtonDecider

Rick Parfitt Jnr, Seb Morris, Team Parker Racing and Bentley all claimed their maiden British GT3 titles at Donington Park earlier today, while TF Sport’s out-going champions Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam signed off in style by winning the two-hour enduro.

Adam took the chequered flag 6.9s clear of TF Sport’s sister Aston Martin driven by Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes, while Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen – who were the only crew able to deny Parfitt Jnr and Morris the crown – completed the podium finishers a further 4.1s behind. That was before a post-race investigation determined the Lamborghini had overtaken under yellow flags, which left no choice but to exclude it from the results.

HOW THE TITLE CHASE PLAYED OUT

Much was made pre-race of how the Bentley’s 20-second pitstop success penalty might affect the outcome of this year’s title. Instead, the odds had already swung firmly back in Parfitt Jnr and Morris’ favour well before the driver changes began.

The race started with pole-sitter Mark Farmer maintaining position at the front while behind Minshaw successfully took second from Johnston. Parfitt Jnr was more cautious, though, and dropped to fifth behind Barwell’s second Lamborghini driven by Liam Griffin.

Finishing in those positions would have seen the #33 crew successfully overturn their 10.5-point championship deficit, but as the leaders exited Fogarty Esses on lap two the rear of Minshaw’s Huracan broke away and into a spin, dropping it to the tail of GT3.

It was now advantage Bentley, even if Parfitt Jnr was still tucked up behind the other Lamborghini. At least that was until the Team Parker driver completed an opportunistic move through the Craner Curves by nipping down the inside of Griffin who was occupied by slower GT4 traffic.

Up ahead TF Sport’s Johnston was content to follow team-mate Farmer safe in the knowledge that the #11 Aston Martin would incur a 10-second success penalty during its pitstop. And sure enough the order switched in the #1 V12 Vantage’s favour when Adam rejoined with a five-second lead. From there the out-going double champion controlled the pace over the final hour to claim his and Johnston’s second win of the season.

Parfitt Jnr pitted from third but, with 20 seconds extra to serve, was always going to drop down the order. What might have surprised him and Morris was the sight of Barwell’s #33 Lamborghini just ahead thanks to Minshaw’s storming recovery drive, which at least gave Keen an opportunity to pounce should any of the front-runners falter. Another fastest lap – his fourth of the season – helped the Lambo close to within five seconds of Barnes by the finish.

Morris, meanwhile, passed debutant Ben Green during the final hour to finish fourth on the road before pulling into the pits post-race where he was greeted by a jubilant Parfitt Jnr and their Team Parker Racing crew.

Sam Tordoff, who along with co-driver Griffin had to serve an extra 15-second pitstop success penalty, recovered to also pass Green’s JRM Advanced Engineering-run Nissan GT-R NISMO, which was making its first British GT appearance since 2014. Earlier, Charlie Fagg underlined the heavier, Silver Cup-entered car’s potential by tracking Parfitt Jnr and Griffin before the stops.

Ian Loggie and Callum Macleod were seventh in their Bentley, with the but there was disappointment for both Team ABBA with Rollcentre Racing Mercedes-AMG classified eighth. However, there was disappointment for the Century Motorsport Ginetta which failed to finish.

Morris and Parfitt Jnr also added this year’s GT3 Pro/Am title to their overall championship, while the latter claimed the Blancpain Gentleman Driver Trophy and, with it, one of the Swiss manufacturer’s limited edition chronographs.

Johnston’s hand in TF Sport’s one-two was also recognised with a much bigger timepiece after he was named Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend for the first time this season.

While new champions were crowned, it was also a day of record breaking achievements in both classes. Parfitt Jnr became the first driver ever to win both British GT’s GT3 and GT4 titles after claiming the latter in 2013, while Jonny Adam broke the championship’s record for most GT3 wins. The Scot, who this year also became a reigning British GT, Blancpain GT Series and Le Mans champion, now stands alone on 12 victories, one more than Phil Keen, Jon Minshaw and David Ashburn.

The British GT Championship returns at Oulton Park for the start of its 26th campaign on Easter Bank Holiday Weekend – that’s March 31-April 2 – next year.

DRIVER QUOTES:

Jonny Adam, #1 TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “The race was perfect, Derek’s [Johnston] stint was nice and clean and it was a nice team effort. We’ve been 1-2 all weekend, from free practice, through qualifying and into the race. The car felt so hooked up. It’s a bit of a shame because I think we could have come here, if we had had a stronger mid-season, with a chance of the title but today’s performance shows the car is still quick. It’s nice that Derek’s got another win. That’s two victories this year but it’s nice to finish on a win.”

Rick Parfitt Jnr, #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “I honestly never thought I would be in GT3, let alone be GT3 champion. This is something I will absolutely cherish for the rest of my life. It is without doubt the most competitive domestic GT series in the world. To win here, you have to be bloody good and you have to be consistent. Team Parker are a fantastic team.

“Seb [Morris] is a fantastic team-mate. Everyone jokes that we are the dream team. From my perspective I think that we are and irrespective of results, we have such a good time together and this is a combination of everything working in perfect harmony. It has been a great, great season.

Seb Morris, #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “It’s not been a bad year! We’ve had a few wins, a few podiums, a few fastest laps and a big old pot at the end, which is always nice. Rick [Parfitt Jnr] has quite frankly driven maybe even better than me in terms of mistakes, he hasn’t made one all year. He has come on tremendously since last year, he is very chilled out when driving and Team Parker have delivered an unbelievable car. Boys, well done! We haven’t put a foot wrong, Bentley have been a massive help and have given us a fantastic car alongside M-Sport, Team Parker and all our sponsors. To win this championship you have to put every link in the chain together and I think we did that this year.”

Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson claimed their first British GT4 victory of the season, and with it second in the championship, after claiming their first victory aboard PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport’s McLaren at the Donington Park season finale earlier today.

However, it was the HHC Motorsport pairing of Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton who took home the major prize by securing this year’s Drivers’ and Teams’ crowns. In doing so they also became the youngest crew ever to win a British GT title.

The pair held a comfortable 25-point advantage heading into the #DoningtonDecider and when their only rivals – Lanan Racing’s David Pittard and Alex Reed – came to grief in the early stages of the two-hour enduro, their title was confirmed. Century Motorsport’s #43 Ginetta driven by Jacob Mathiassen and Niall Murray completed the podium after starting 13th.

Second place in the season finale was also enough to hand Tregurtha and Middleton this year’s Silver Cup crown, whilst Johnson and Robinson’s race-winning performance netted them the Pro-Am championship.

HOW IT UNFOLDED

The race got underway with the GT4 field making it through the first few corners without incident. However, contact between the In2Racing machine of William Phillips and Black Bull Garage 59’s McLaren of Akhil Rabindra at the Melbourne Hairpin saw the latter run into race-ending issues just over a lap later.

On the next tour, the #53 UltraTek Racing Nissan driven by Richard Taffinder lost control on spilt fluid. Its race came to an early end nestled in the barriers at Redgate.

Tregurtha ran fourth in the early stages with Reed’s Lanan Racing entry eighth, but the championship battle was soon to be decided by an unfortunate on-track clash.

Will Moore’s class-leading Academy Motorsport Aston Martin, which also started on pole, had run into technical gremlins, which dropped the car down the order. Reed arrived just as the pair were exiting the Old Hairpin, and when the Vantage ahead suddenly slowed the Ginetta was left with nowhere to go. The resulting contact sent Reed into the gravel and retirement after sustaining heavy damage to the front-left corner.

Thus, the celebrations could begin for HHC Motorsport whose Ginetta had also moved up to third behind Andrew Watson and new leader Johnson. Moore’s race was finally run shortly after when the continuing issues resulted in his and co-river Matt Nicoll-Jones’ retirement.

As the pitstop window loomed so the order changed once more with the second place car of Watson slowing out of McLeans, which enabled Tregurtha to pick up another place whilst Adam Balon in the track-club McLaren took fourth from Tolman Motorsport’s David Pattison.

The 15 and 10-second pitstop success penalties for #56 and #55 didn’t affect their positions as Joe Osborne and Stuart Middleton replaced Pattison and Tregurtha at their respective wheels. The Silver pairing of Watson and Sandy Mitchell dropped to fifth in class through the pitstops, while track-club’s Balon and Adam Mackay emerged as the main beneficiaries when the latter jumped up to second. Robinson, meanwhile, emerged from his pitstop with a handsome 13-second lead once the cycle had shaken out.

Having set a new GT4 qualifying record on Saturday, Osborne continued to show impressive pace en route to the Sunoco Fastest Lap Award and new class benchmark of 1m36.753s. He quickly made his way up to third by overtaking champion-elect Middleton before then relieving Mackay of second. But his and Pattison’s pursuit of the GT4 Pro/Am crown ended soon after when a brake issue pitched the McLaren into the gravel and retirement.

Middleton subsequently closed in and passed Mackay before Mitchell did likewise a few laps later.

The Century Motorsport Ginettas, with Mike Simpson in the #111 and Niall Murray in the #43, were enjoying a good scrap for fifth with 15 minutes to go, but that would soon become a battle for the final podium spot. First, an engine issue dropped Mackay out of contention, and then Mitchell suffered a puncture in the closing stages. Ireland’s  Murray, in only his second race in the series, ultimately impressed with a charging drive, hauling the Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 from eighth to third in GT4, joining team mate Jacob Matthiasson on the podium.

The Team Parker Racing Porsche Cayman of Nick Jones and Scott Malvern thus inherited fifth, Abbie Eaton and Jake Giddings moved up to sixth in their Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta, and seventh became the property of In2Racing’s McLaren driven by Marcus Hoggarth and Jesse Anttila.

There was still time for one more position change, however, when Murray secured intra-team bragging rights by passing Simpson for the final podium spot. By contrast Robinson saw out the final few laps without incident to take victory, whilst Middleton came home to joyous title-winning celebrations.

Indeed, not only did Tregurtha and Middleton claim the GT4 crown, but they also became British GT’s youngest ever champions. At a combined 35 years and 160 days they broke the record previously held by Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn who were 160 days their senior when winning the GT4 title at Snetterton in 2015.

Behind the top-eight, In2Racing’s William Phillips and Matthew Graham came home ninth after early drama, with the Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta of Chris Milford and Adam Hatfield rounding out the top-10.

Elsewhere, it was a tough day for UltraTek Racing who saw both its cars retire. However, after a night spent repairing and rebuilding Tim Eakin and Kelvin Fletcher’s Nissan 370Z following a hefty shunt in qualifying, the squad was presented with the PMW Expo Team of the Weekend Award.

The British GT Championship returns at Oulton Park for the start of its 26th campaign on Easter Bank Holiday Weekend – that’s March 31-April 2 – next year.