After eight rounds spanning 13 hours of racing, the 2019 British GT Championship comes down to the wire as the GT3 and GT4 titles are set to be decided by 120 minutes of intense battling at Donington Park this weekend (14 and 15 September).
The last time the championship didn’t go down to the now traditional #DoningtonDecider was in 2010 when David Ashburn won the title at the penultimate round in the Trackspeed Porsche. This year is shaping up to be a cracker as five crews do battle for the GT3 crown, while six pairings fight it out for the GT4 overall title — with selections of those title contenders also competing for the Silver Cup and Pro-Am prizes.
1. Adam Balon/Phil Keen (Barwell Motorsport) 122
2. Jonny Adam/Graham Davidson (TF Sport) 116
3. Sam De Haan/Jonny Cocker (Barwell Motorsport) 110.5
4. Ollie Wilkinson/Bradley Ellis (Optimum Motorsport) 88.5
5. Shaun Balfe/Rob Bell (Balfe Motorsport) 88.5
After the two pairs of one-hour races at Oulton Park and Snetterton, it would have been a very brave person to suggest the title wasn’t going to go to Barwell Motorsport’s Phil Keen and Adam Balon as they scored two wins, a podium and a fourth in the first four races. It seemed for all the world that Keen would finally break his duck and secure his first British GT drivers’ title.
However, after that strong start the duo haven’t been seen on the podium since. In the next four races, the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo drivers went on a string of 7th, 5th, DNF’d and fourth in the penultimate race at Brands Hatch – denied the chance of a podium after a last-lap clash with team-mate Jonny Cocker.
That string of underwhelming results has left them heading into the final test leading the championship with 122 points — just six ahead of TF Sport’s Jonny Adam and Graham Davidson.
The two Scots have been on almost the opposite journey to the championship leaders over the course of the season. Making a relatively slower start to the season — albeit with a podium in the first Snetterton race — as they adapted to the new Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3, the pair exploded (metaphorically) into form with a comprehensive victory at the first trip to Donington in June.
Add to that another conclusive win at Brands Hatch and the pair head to Donington — a track Davidson said he loves racing at — with form on their side, especially with Adam eyeing a record-extending fourth title.
There is one negative to hold against the Aston crew, and that’s the 20-second pitstop penalty they have to serve courtesy of their Brands win. Keen and Balon have no penalty time to serve so the ball is initially in their court.
Although, they all have to keep an eye behind them as the second Barwell pairing — Cocker and Sam De Haan — are only 5.5 points down in third. They took a third back in June at this circuit so know what it takes to get a positive result. That said, it’s safe to say they’ve had the definition of an up-and-down season. As well as the highs of an Oulton Park win and podiums at Donington and Snetterton, there’s also been the lows of a seventh at Spa and two eighths at Brands and Silverstone. They need to make sure they’re on the up again if they’re to take the crown.
Behind them are two crews matched on 88.5 points and needing to win — with the three ahead having stinkers — to have any chance of victory. That said, Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis — in fourth with Optimum Motorsport — have already wrapped up one title this year after securing the Silver Cup and Ellis is a British GT champion himself having won the top prize in 2007 in a Team RPM-run Dodge Viper, so they’re no strangers on how to claim glory.
The fifth and final contenders have had a remarkable rise up the ranks after a less than ideal start to the season. Balfe Motorsport was forced to withdraw from the opening weekend at Oulton Park with electrical problems in its McLaren 720S GT3. Since then, a haul of three podiums and a top five finish has powered Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell up the field and in with a shot — albeit they have the hardest task of all the contenders, having to take their first win of 2019 in the toughest circumstances.
1. Ashley Hand/Tom Canning (TF Sport) 117.5
2. Dean Macdonald/Callum Pointon (HHC Motorsport) 109
3. Seb Priaulx/Scott Maxwell (Multimatic Motorsports) 105.5
4. Jordan Collard/Lewis Proctor (Tolman Motorsport) 97.5
5. James Dorlin/Josh Smith (Tolman Motorsport) 84.5
6. Kelvin Fletcher/Martin Plowman (Beechdean AMR) 80.5
In a record year for the GT4 class, there’s not four, not five but six crews all in contention to take the crown and it is impossible to pick a favourite with how tight the battles have been in the category throughout 2019. The proof of that is the fact that 37 points separate the top six, with just 37.5 still to play for.
While not the outright favourite, the form pairing going into the finale is the TF Sport pairing of Tom Canning and Ash Hand. After a race one DNF, they certainly picked up the pace as the season went on with a win and three podiums in the last five rounds leading up to the #DoningtonDecider. As well as form, the history books favour Canning and Hand — the GT4 championship leaders heading into the final round have never had their advantage overturned.
If that remains the same this year it won’t be through lack of trying. 8.5 points behind in second is the HHC Motorsport pairing of Dean Macdonald and Callum Pointon, like the Aston Martin drivers, these two have also taken a win and three podiums but a Spa retirement in their McLaren 570S GT4 denied them the opportunity to be in an even stronger position.
Talking about dents in title bids, Seb Priaulx and Scott Maxwell were on course to lead heading into Donington, but a post-race penalty for a pitstop safety violation dropped them to third in the standings, 12 points down on the leaders.
Fourth in the standings — and the last of the crews that could do the double of overall and Silver Cups — is the first Tolman Motorsport McLaren in the standings with Jordan Collard and Lewis Proctor 13 points ahead of the second Tolman pairing of James Dorlin and Josh Smith. The two crews have taken a win and a handful of podiums each in a strong season for McLaren teams generally.
The final pair in contention for the crown is also the only Pro-Am pair in with a shot thanks to their 100% finishing record throughout the season — Beechdean AMR’s Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman. While they already have a hand on the Pro-Am title — being 29 points ahead of Michael O’Brien and Graham Johnson — they would need a miracle to become the first Pro-Ams since Johnson and then teammate Mike Robinson to lift the GT4 trophy. Sitting 37 points down on fellow Vantage racers Canning and Hand, they need all five pairs ahead of them to not finish — a big ask.
British GT’s #DoningtonDecider gets started at 13:15 UK time (14:15 CET) on Sunday 15 September, with all the action streamed live on GT REPORT.