A great victory for Rob Collard and Sandy Mitchell secured them the Intelligent Money British GT Championship title in emphatic style in a dramatic season finale at the Silverstone 500.
It was action right to the end in GT4 too, as TF Sport‘s Jamie Caroline and Dan Vaughan pipped their team-mates to the secondary class title in their Aston Martin.
GTC victory went the way of championship returnee Ryan Ratcliffe, who partnered with Justin Armstrong in a Team Parker Racing Porsche Carrera Cup.
Pulling away cleanly from pole position, Collard pulled off a solid first lap despite coming under pressure from a rapid James Baldwin who gained two places off the start in his Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren 720S.
Collard didn’t have chance to build his lead though, as the safety car was called for just five minutes into the race following a strange incident for Nick Jones. Not picked up properly in the coverage, it appeared as though the Mercedes-AMG GT4 driver had either a suspension or tyre failure coming out of Becketts, which spun the car directly into the path of Mia Flewitt’s Balfe Motorsport McLaren.
With track staff clearing away the two cars, Barwell pulled the trigger and pitted both Collard and team-mate Adam Balon to make the first of their three mandatory stops as well as swapping in Mitchell and Phil Keen respectively. While they were the first, the majority of the GT3 field pitted at some point during the 15-minute safety car.
Once it finally came back in, the two Lamborghini Huracán GT3s quickly dispatched the non-pitting GTC Ferraris and James Dorlin’s Newbridge Motorsport GT4 Aston to move into the lead.
That’s when they proceeded to pull away, with Mitchell allowing Keen to go through into the lead – Mitchell and Collard not losing the title if Keen and Balon finished ahead. They occasionally shared the lead with the rapid RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Yelmer Buurman and Ian Loggie because of the nuances in all their pit strategies, but it appeared the Barwell entries were going to lock out the top two places.
All of that started to change just after the halfway mark. With Keen handing back to Balon, the #72 started to slip backwards as Balon lacked that last bit of pace compared to cars around him. Passed first by Brendan Iribe in the #77 Optimum Motorsport McLaren 720S, Balon found himself under pressure from title rival Sam De Haan in the second RAM Mercedes.
Balon was doing an admirable job keeping De Haan behind, until the latter attempted a rather too optimistic move going into Stowe. De Haan tried to dive up the inside of Balon going into the right-hander but came from far too far back to make the move stick. The end result was a spin for Balon and De Haan being slapped with a 10second stop/go which effectively knocked them both out of title contention.
That was then definitively confirmed by Collard – racing on Silverstone’s Grand Prix layout for the first time – being almost metronomic in putting in clean, trouble-free laps to build up an impressive lead. Indeed, he was helped by a three-way battle for second emerging between Loggie, Lewis Proctor’s Optimum McLaren and Iribe which allowed the Lamborghini to disappear up the road.
Just as the scrap started to heat up, though, it seemed to almost dissipate away as Iribe was lucky not to hit the barriers at Village having spun going into the corner after putting two wheels on the grass. Then, after Proctor handed over to Wilkinson, the Optimum machine also had a spin as Loggie closed the door on Wilkinson heading onto the Wellington Straight, there was no contact but Wilkinson took to the kerbs to try and squeeze through, which unsettled the car and sent him spinning.
As well as partially benefitting Collard and Mitchell, all that chaos helped Baldwin and co-driver Michael O’Brien. Pitting from the back of the chain of cars battling for second, a marvellous out-lap from O’Brien – passing both Buurman and Iribe’s co-driver Ollie Millroy – quickly put the McLaren up to second and within a second of Mitchell’s Lamborghini, who had pitted a lap later. On warmer tyres, O’Brien had a great chance to snatch the lead away but the Scot proved too quick on his outlap and quickly pulled clear.
His confidence in going flat-out on his cold Pirelli tyres proved crucial as he cruised the last 25 minutes of the race under little pressure to ensure they took the title with a flourish and an eventual winning margin over more than seven seconds.
Winning the title by 19.5 points – overcoming a deficit of six to Kujala and De Haan heading into the decider – was all thanks to avoiding trouble as their rivals fell away. After their forced spin, Keen and Balon could only recover to ninth – a position behind Kujala and De Haan as the title was taken out of their grasp thanks to the penalty.
In the race itself, O’Brien and Baldwin missed the chance to try and move up to third in the championship as they finished third on-track. After failing to pass Mitchell for the lead, O’Brien dropped time to the cars around him and – in the final minutes of the race – lost third as Buurman pulled off a cracking overtake as he took his third podium of the season and the Pro-Am title alongside Loggie.
With the focus very much on the battle for the title, 2 Seas Motorsport almost snuck their way in to fourth and fifth as a quiet but incident-free race for the #11 of Al Faisal Al Zubair and Martin Kodric, finished a handful of seconds clear of the #9 of Angus Fender and Dean Macdonald.
Sixth went to WPI Motorsport as Michael Igoe and Andrea Caldarelli always tended to stick roughly to that position but did benefit as Millroy lost sixth late on as he was forced to restart his McLaren after hammering into the kerb on the inside of Maggotts which appeared to short out the 720S’s electronics. A quick reset did allow Millroy and Iribe to complete a swashbuckling afternoon in seventh, ahead of Kujala/De Haan and Keen/Balon.
Rounding out the top 10 was the Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS of Sennan Fielding and Richard Williams as the former came out on top in a great battle with Team ABBA Racing’s Sam Neary. The latter car having to serve two penalties during the race.
The battle for the GT4 title went down to the final lap as the crown swung between both TF Sport cars and the two HHC Motorsport McLarens during the course of the race.
An absolute rocket start from Jordan Collard in the #58 McLaren powered him into an early lead, having started from seventh on the grid, and into early championship contention.
His, and co-driver Patrik Matthiesen’s, cause was helped when both the TF Astons were given stop/go penalties for driving through a red light at the end of the pitlane in their first stop under the safety car.
But, if anything, that seemed to fire up the Vantage racers as Connor O’Brien, in the car he shares with Patrick Kibble, powered onto the back of Collard in the final hour and started to put the pressure on the McLaren racer knowing he had to pass the McLaren to stand any chance of winning the title.
Lap after lap, the two highlighter yellow Astons stood out as they battled both Collard and each other. That squabble persevered even through the final round of pitstops as Caroline took over from Vaughan and proceeded to take the fight to Kibble, who had tagged in for O’Brien.
Closing in on the final 10 minutes, all of that shook around. First Caroline squeezed his way past Matthiesen’s McLaren coming out of Chapel and then hung him out wide going into Stowe to ensure he retained the position. Then, coming out of The Loop, Kibble relegated Matthiesen down a further place – despite the Norwegian trying to fight back around Luffield.
With the two TF Sport cars running one behind the other, Kibble tried to chase down Caroline but through traffic the former couldn’t close down the gap quickly enough. In the final minutes, Kibble had less than a second’s deficit to his team-mate but couldn’t make any move to pass him.
His inability to make a move, sealed the title for Caroline and Vaughan as they kept their cool to take second in GT4 and yet another class title for their TF Sport team. Second in the championship went to Collard and Matthiesen as the few extra points – and how tight the standings were heading into Silverstone – propelled them ahead of Kibble and O’Brien.
The title battle played out behind what proved to be an extraordinary drive for eventual class winners Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke and Rob Wheldon in the Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4. The Pro-Am pair were always running in the top three throughout, having benefitted from having to serve less time in each stop because of their Pro-Am rating, but remained pretty quiet at the front as they went about their business.
They ultimately moved into the lead as the Newbridge Aston Martin of James Dorlin and Alex Toth-Jones, which didn’t stop under the early safety car, had to make two of their mandatory stops in the final hour – dropping them to sixth.
Moved up to the lead, Gordon-Colebrooke put in clean laps right until the end to take his first win in British GT. It was also the first win for championship debutant Rob Wheldon who won the European Le Mans Series LMP3 title this year for United Autosports.
Ryan Ratcliffe ensured his return to British GT was a successful one after securing GTC victory alongside Justin Armstrong after a race where they avoided the incidents and mishaps which befell their rivals.
Having been slower than the Ferraris throughout the weekend, the Team Parker Racing duo came to the fore as they kept themselves out of trouble.
First to come to grief were their team-mates Karl Leonard and Tim Bridgman as the former was pushed off-track on the opening lap by Mike Brown’s Ultimate Speed Aston Martin GT3 going into Luffield. Stuck for a time in the gravel trap, the pair couldn’t recover the time lost and then finally retired before the halfway mark with a mechanical issue on their Porsche.
Next to fall away was Simon Green Motorsport’s Ferrari 488 of Lucky Khera, Lee Frost and Ross Wylie. The team started strongly, but a 13-minute stop to make a repair on the car dropped them out of contention.
Ratcliffe and Armstrong then had another stroke of luck as John Dhillon and Phil Quaife – early leaders in the class – lost a number of laps in the final hour as they were at the wrong-end of a tangle with Giacomo Petrobelli in the GT3 TF Sport Aston Martin which required an eight-minute pitstop to fix.
Combined with a relative lack of pace for the Laurent De Meeus and Jamie Stanley driven FF Corse – as well as a few minor incidents which set them back – and the Team Parker duo just had to remain on the asphalt to secure well-earned silverware.
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