Yelmer Buurman claimed his first British GT Championship victory at Rockingham alongside Lee Mowle as a number of safety car periods and more penalties than you could imagine made for a chaotic two-hour race.
After issues in qualifying, the pair had started at the back of the field and that meant Mowle had to try and pick his way through the field and see how many places he could gain by the time the pit window opened with 60 minutes of the race to go.
His cause was aided by a pair of safety cars in the opening half of the race – after Shaun Balfe hit the wall having been tagged by a GT4 car, and the second for David Pattison being stuck in the gravel.
Those two helped him close up on the back of a field that was starting to stretch out at stages. He found himself running seventh by middle distance, in part thanks to a combination of electrical glitches in one TF Sport Aston Martin, a time penalty for the second TF car, and Rick Parfitt finding himself pointing in the wrong direction.
Up at the front, the battles were equally as fierce as Jon Minshaw – in the pole-sitting Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 – had his lead cut twice by the safety cars and after the second, he found himself being chased down by Graham Davidson in a hard-charging Jetstream Motorsport Aston Martin.
Davidson himself got into second place after a spot of luck of his own. Chasing down Flick Haigh – in yet another Aston Martin – she was coping with the Scotsman’s pressure well until a trip through the Tarzan Hairpin gravel dropped her down the order.
While Davidson couldn’t make it past Minshaw on track, his team-mate Maxime Martin came out ahead of Phil Keen as the latter had to serve a 20-second success penalty for his ‘win’ at the eventually abandoned second race at Oulton Park over Easter weekend.
Keen then had a worse time of it shortly after beginning his stint as a 10-second penalty for a pitstop infringement dropped him down the order. Interestingly the second Barwell car of Sam De Haan – who was running in the top five for the first hour – was forced into a retirement because of a clutch issue at his stop.
Back out on track it was another penalty making all the difference as the stewards kept a tight grip on track limits violations and Martin was caught out after one excursion too many and was called in to serve a drive-through.
That allowed the ERC Sport Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Buurman and Mowle a clear run to the end, safe from the squabbles behind – especially for third.
“We didn’t make any mistakes and there was a lot of mistakes made by other people today,” said Lee Mowle. “It was also a brilliant drive by Yelmer, he’s in the car all the time and he’s quick and a real talent so it’s nice to give him the car in a position where he can go on and do something.”
Team owner Keith Cheetham was equally pleased: “I’ve worked in motorsport for 10 years and I’ve just set up my own team and got our first victory so it’s a special day for us and for Lee who’s got his first overall victory in British GT.”
Darren Turner was the man trying to fend off a threat to his podium finish. The Beechdean AMR racer had had a productive stint, but was increasingly under pressure from the Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 of Callum Macleod – who was looming ever larger in Turner’s mirrors.
It appeared Turner was going to hold on to the final place on the podium, but Macleod made the decisive move on the penultimate lap of the race.
Macleod and team-mate Ian Loggie enjoyed even greater success later after the race as the TF Sport Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim and Derek Johnston was slapped with a 30-second time penalty for spinning Rick Parfitt in the Bentley. That dropped the pair from second to seventh and promoted Macleod and Loggie to second, with Turner and Andrew Howard taking third.
GT4: HHC remind field of their prowess
In this mammoth GT4 field it can be harder for teams to dominate a race, but HHC Motorsport proved why it won the drivers’ title with Stuart Middleton and Will Tregurtha last year.
This year – at the scene of their maiden win – Patrik Matthiesen and Callum Pointon showed HHC hasn’t lost that edge. Starting fourth, a lightning start pushed Matthiesen up to second and then applied the pressure to Charlie Fagg in the class-leading Tolman Motorsport McLaren 570S.
Fagg looked like he was going to hold firm against the Ginetta G55’s advances, but he got caught out in GT3 traffic and dropped two places as Matthiesen squeezed through – quickly followed by Dan McKay in the Equipe Verschuur McLaren.
Come the opening of the pit window and HHC pulled a tactical masterstroke, keeping Matthiesen out 10 minutes longer than the rest of the GT4 front-runners gave him enough track space to build up a decent gap and negate the 20 seconds of success penalty for being a Silver Cup entry.
Pointon came out of the pits holding onto his lead and was untroubled as he built up a 23 second advantage over the chasing pack to comfortably take victory in class.
Second place was up for debate for a time as Michael O’Brien – having taken over from Charlie Fagg – looked to have made the position his own but Jesse Antilla – in the Pro/Am UltraTek Racing Nissan 370Z was on a mission and moved from fifth to third in no time at all.
Try as he might to defend, O’Brien couldn’t fend off the Finn and had to accept third place.
He couldn’t hold onto the last place on the podium for long either as he’d slipped into the clutches of a three-car battle for third which was eventually won by Matt Nicoll-Jones in the Academy Aston Martin who had charged from seventh up to third after Will Moore’s pitstop.
Fourth place overall, and second in Pro-Am went to the second Nissan of Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman who themselves had a storming race on a weekend where the UltraTek team claimed its best result since joining the championship.
Plowman claimed fourth with a great move on the final lap of the race – great for everyone except O’Brien who unfortunately slipped down to fifth at the expense of Plowman. However, O’Brien and Fagg still lie second in the drivers’ championship, 12.5 points behind Matthiesen and Pointon.
The next round of the British GT Championship reverts back to two one-hour races, this time at hopefully a dry Snetterton on 26th and 27th May.