So, it has come down to this. After nine races and a trip overseas, the British GT Championship title is down to two teams and one race – a two-hour blast round Donington Park to settle the GT3 title.
In one corner is the Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 of Rick Parfitt and Seb Morris. The pair have momentum on their side after demolishing the field on their way to win number three of 2017 at Brands Hatch while both suffering from a variety of illnesses – food poisoning for Seb, and a flare up of Crohn’s disease for Rick – that would put lesser people out of action.
It’s that strength that has seen them pull 10.5 points clear of nearest rivals Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen, who took a pair of victories in the season-opening double-header at Oulton Park in their Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3, and Rick is feeling calm ahead of Sunday’s title showdown.
He said: “I’m feeling super chilled, probably the most relaxed I’ve ever been before a race – that might be because I’ve been gigging for the last two nights and I’ve got about six hours sleep!
“The car is feeling good this weekend, Donington isn’t our best circuit – despite what others might say – but there isn’t as much pressure on us because all we need to do is be second. Okay we have a 20 second success penalty to serve in the pits, but they have to win whereas we can finish second. We just have to stay the course, box clever and I’m sure we’ll do well.”
In other years, Minshaw and Keen’s four victories would have seen them go into the last round of the season with a comfortable lead, but consistency has been a real issue for the experienced British GT pair. If they weren’t on the top step of the podium, they weren’t on any step of the podium and those dropped points have seen them assume the mantle of ‘chasing party’.
However, Keen and Minshaw are never better than when they have to perform, and the dominance of their victories this year has shown the rest that they can never be ruled out. With an advantage on pit-stop penalties, Team Parker has 20 seconds because of victory at Brands Hatch, they’ll be expected to do well this race.
Jon told BritishGT.com earlier in the week that he’d rather be chasing than being chased. He added: “I’m very relaxed and not taking anything for granted. Even if we don’t win the race we can still take the title, but then it all depends on what Rick and Seb do. They’re the ones who need to stop us.”
With the tight battle in GT3, it is important not to forget that there is still a battle raging between a pair of Ginetta G55 GT4 crews both of whom would be first time class champions.
The hot seat is currently occupied by Stuart Middleton and Will Tregurtha. The HHC Motorsport pair, who hadn’t completed a single GT race prior to this season, have a 25-point lead in the championship with just 37.5 points available.
Those 37.5 points give Lanan Racing’s Alex Reed and David Pittard the sliver of a chance of snatching the title away. Reed and Pittard have been front-runners for the majority of the season, but when it mattered former Ginetta Junior front-runners Middleton and Tregurtha got the results in the bag.
Pittard, though, says the pressure is on Middleton and Tregurtha to do that again this weekend. He said: “We’re in the best position to be honest, the pressure is on Stuart and Will to get a good result. They have to run a clean race and make sure they don’t make any mistakes that could lose them points. For Alex and me, we can just be calm and let the race come to us – there’s no pressure.
“I’ve been feeling like a caged animal over the summer break, I just wanted to get out racing again – I’m hoping I can remember how to drive the car!
Whether the Lanan pair can stunt the HHC crew’s front-running pace is a question that will only be answered after tomorrow’s race, but with the teams running identical cars there’ll be no talk of BoP…