Barwell Motorsport took its first win of the 2020 Intelligent Money British GT Championship season as Sandy Mitchell and Rob Collard benefited from a pitlane traffic jam to come out ahead of the polesitting Jenson Team Rocket RJN entry.
In GT4, a great dummy and move down the inside going into the quick Hawthorn corner gave Matt Cowley and Jordan Albert their first victory in Academy Motorsport’s Ford Mustang.
James Baldwin got the perfect start in the Rocket McLaren 720S GT3 as he pulled clear of Collard at the start and proceeded to dominate at the front – lapping more than half-a-second clear than the rest of the field on every tour round the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.
Indeed, his speed was so quick that by the time the race ticked down to the halfway mark, he was more than 30 seconds clear of the field. However, it was just a few minutes later that the race was flipped on its head.
A safety car to recover Nick Jones’s beached Team Parker Racing Bentley – which was involved in a collision with Jordan Witt who was trying to lap Jones in his 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren – saw the now compressed field jump into the pits en masse as soon as the pit window opened. While RJN and Barwell both performed their stops perfectly, Michael O’Brien – who took over from Baldwin – was caught behind a recovery vehicle which was making its way down pitlane slower than the speed limit.
Not caught out by the Land Rover was Mitchell who managed to leap his way out of the box ahead of both it and O’Brien and out into the lead.
Despite another safety car – to pick up pieces of debris from a HHC Motorsport McLaren which suffered from a spectacular tyre failure heading down Pilgrims Drop – Mitchell threaded his way through the squabbling GT4 traffic to hold onto until the chequered flag.
It wasn’t through lack of trying on O’Brien’s part though – attested to by the 0.649sec deficit to the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 at the flag – but the McLaren ace caught traffic at all the wrong times around the narrow Kent circuit and could never close in enough to make a move.
Third on-track went to the McLaren of Angus Fender and Dean Macdonald who had an at times frustrating afternoon in their 2 Seas Motorsport entry. Early in the race Fender spent more than 20 minutes – alongside team-mate Jordan Witt who was just behind – trying to get past the stubborn Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Ian Loggie who was pulling off a defensive masterclass in his RAM Racing machine.
Eventually, it was Witt who found the decisive gap in Loggie’s defence and both McLarens steamed through but they’d lost too much time to close in on the leaders before the pit window opened.
At the chequered flag, RAM Racing had finished fourth with Loggie and Yelmer Buurman trailing Fender and Macdonald, but the latter duo were handed a 40-second penalty post-race for an unsafe release which promoted Loggie and Buurman onto the podium and dropped the 2 Seas car down to 11th.
The second RAM entry of Sam De Haan and Patrick Kujala took fifth after De Haan got the better of WPI Motorsport’s Michael Igoe in the opening stint. It wasn’t an easy finish for Kujala though, as Franck Perera took over the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 and proceeded to charge his way onto the back of the Mercedes, but the Finn just held on to keep Perera behind.
Seventh went to the debuting Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS of Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding which had a relatively quiet day of it, with the Team ABBA Mercedes of Richard and Sam Neary taking eighth – despite the former getting into some grief in his stint as he spun then GT4 leader Connor O’Brien after a clumsy attempt to lap the Aston Martin at Druids.
Behind Witt and Mitchell, Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam rounded out the top ten with Howard having a clean run but showing signs of rust having not raced since this time last year.
The easiest way to sum up GT4 is to say Academy Motorsport fought off TF Sport to secure its first win with the Ford Mustang. The reality is a bit more complicated than that.
After a great start for O’Brien in the polesitting #95 TF Sport Aston Martin, he ruled the roost at the head of the class as he put in consistently quick laps to stretch away from team-mate Dan Vaughan in the #97, who was fighting off Sam Smelt in the rapid Toyota Supra.
Late in the opening hour, Smelt found his way past Vaughan in a Speedworks Motorsport car that appears to be kinder on its tyres than some of its class rivals. Running second for a time, he quickly found himself into the lead just before the 60-minute mark as O’Brien was spun out of the lead by Neary.
But then, what appeared to be a strategy error cost Speedworks a shot at victory. With the GT4 pit window opening just as the safety car was called for to recover Jones’s Bentley, both the TF Sport Astons and Albert in the Mustang immediately pitted while Smelt was told to stay out.
The amount of time he lost running behind the safety car on his in-lap dropped his co-driver James Kell down the order – who lost more time as he ran wide and onto the grass through Sheene’s which dropped him to his eventual finishing position of fifth in class.
Although, you wouldn’t forgive Speedworks for thinking a podium might have been available considering how aggressive the fight ahead was becoming.
After a great dummy from Cowley on Vaughan’s team-mate Jamie Caroline promoted him up into the lead, the biggest hotspot on the track turned to the battle for the other two podium places as Caroline and Patrick Kibble – who took over from O’Brien – scrapping with Ben Green in the Century Motorsport BMW.
The trio went three-abreast going down the start-finish straight with all of them rubbing on each other. Both the Astons got ahead of Green going into Paddock Hill Bend – with Kibble taking a swipe at Green on the run into Druids – but then real chaos unfolded.
On the final lap Kibble appeared to have got past Caroline going into Paddock Hill, but Caroline quickly dived back to the inside as they reached the right-hander and clipped Kibble’s rear-right wheel – sending the latter into the gravel and a DNF.
Caroline hung on to take second with Green taking a podium on his return to the championship, racing alongside Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke.
HHC took some solace by taking fourth in the #57 raced by Chris Wesemael and Gus Bowers. The duo were battling with Jordan Collard and Patrik Matthiesen for a lot of the opening hour, but found themselves released into clear air after Collard’s tyre let go with just under 40 minutes remaining.
Behind the Toyota in sixth was the second of the Century Motorsport BMWs, with O’Brien and Kibble classified seventh despite not taking the flag.
However, that all changed after the race as Caroline and Vaughan were given a 40-second penalty for the contact earlier which dropped them to sixth in class. That meant Green and Gordon-Colebrook took second, with the #57 being promoted onto the podium.
Balfe Motorsport rounded out the GT4 class with Euan Hankey and Mia Flewitt losing time late on after Hankey suffered a puncture, suspected to be caused by the shards of carbon fibre that littered the track after Collard’s retirement.
The next round of the British GT Championship is a three-hour encounter at Donington Park on September 19&20.