Racing alongside BTCC convert Rob Collard, the Lamborghini duo took pole and then cruised to a pretty much perfect win at the season-ending Silverstone 500 to take their first title in style. Speaking to GT REPORT, Mitchell said it was an ideal way to cap off what had been a strong season.
He said: “It was a great race and a good way to win the title because we qualified really well by putting it on pole and then we led quite a bit of the race and won by a decent margin.
“It was nice to win it convincingly and, you know, I think it proved that we really deserved to win the title. We’ve been right at the front all year and made no real big errors and that’s what you need to be able to win championships.
“We had a great performance at Silverstone and it wasn’t too scrappy, it was quite a clean race for us as we managed to get out of that midfield battle and get up the front and kind of battling for the top two places the whole race so it was a lot of relief across the line and really pleased for the team!”
It was that control that put them in such a good position. Despite admitting there was a small thought in the back of his mind that they might not leave with the title, by controlling everything they could, it allowed the Scot to put his mind at ease.
He explained: “There’s plenty of unknowns and things you can’t control but the main thing was that we did the best job possible with all the things that we could control and put ourselves in the best position to be able to win the championship with good preparation and a good qualifying. Then it was down to just doing the job on Sunday.
“Once we qualified on pole and I saw that the rain just managed to stay away, which made it more of a simple race. I was relatively confident going into the race with the speed we showed in qualifying and luckily the pressure was off us for a lot of the race because Sam [De Haan] and Patrick’s [Kujala] RAM Racing car wasn’t directly behind us the whole race.
“If it had been a closer battle on track then it would have been more nervy but I think after the first big long stint, we had opened up a decent gap over them and obviously we knew they had the success penalty from the round before.
“Once it was halfway through the race I thought we had a really good chance of winning this, whereas up to that point your kind of just focused on each little step and you’re not really thinking of the end goal.”
One of his closest rivals for the title was in the second of the Barwell Huracáns – Phil Keen. Taking on British GT’s most successful driver, in terms of wins, was never an easy prospect but rather than forming a rivalry with the Lamborghini factory driver, Mitchell learned a lot from his fellow Pro.
“We’ve got on very well as a team all year which is always nice because you never want to have a rivalry within the team that turns sour,” he added.
“I’ve always got on very well with Phil and he’s been a big help to me as a young driver coming through with Barwell, he’s been with the team a long time and he’s very experienced in the Lamborghini. It’s really brought me on as well, I’ve enjoyed going up against him this year and being able to share the track with him.”
There was a rivalry of a different nature with RAM Racing’s Patrick Kujala. The closest in the points to Mitchell and Collard, the competition with the Finn had an added dimension in the fact that they’re both team-mates in GT World Challenge Europe, with Mitchell in Barwell’s Pro-Am entry and Kujala in the Silver Cup entry.
Despite both battling fiercely for the title, the pair never let it affect the friendship they’ve developed.
“We’ve got a good relationship, me and Patrick, I’ve known him a little bit over the last couple of years because he’s come in to do some Pro-Am races with Barwell when I’ve been in the Silver car. This year I’ve spent a bit more time with him due to being team-mates in Europe, and all season we’ve been very supportive of each other when we’re both racing a Lamborghini but then also winding each other up when we’re in the other cars!” He said.
“Even the morning of the [Silverstone] race, he tagged me in a post on Instagram. It was that famous video of Ayrton Senna saying he would go for a gap because he was a racing driver and saying that he [Patrick] was going to do that in the race! There’s always been a bit of banter but also healthy competition that was nice to have all year.”
There’s also been a strong relationship formed with co-driver Collard, who moved to GT racing for the first time in 2020 after years in the BTCC. For Sandy, racing alongside Rob continued his long-running habit of racing with members of the Collard family – an experience he was delighted to have.
“Rob’s someone I’ve watched racing since I was very young because I grow up as a big fan of the touring cars so yeah I was excited to be able to race alongside him. I was team-mates with Ricky Collard, one of his sons, when I did Formula 4 and Ricky came into the team at the Spa 24 Hours as well,” he said.
“I’ve got on with the Collards really well this year and Rob’s done a great job in adapting to the new type of car and to change his technique. Silverstone, I would say, was his best performance all year which was great because when it really mattered he put on a great performance and he said himself that Silverstone isn’t his favourite place to go after some heavy crashes in the BTCC. But he’s put his Silverstone curse behind him now I’d say.”
Collard’s driving, and the pair’s partnership, has been able to develop remarkably quickly – despite the COVID-19-impacted calendars – simply because of the amount of driving they’ve done together. As well as a British GT campaign, they raced together alongside Leo Machitski in GTWCE and at the Spa 24 Hours – where they took a class victory – and it’s that experience that Mitchell believes has helped them get to where they are.
He said: “To come off the back of winning the Spa 24 Hours two weeks before the British GT finale, and then go into that race was fantastic. Driving-wise – but also confidence-wise – we came in on a real high and we also hadn’t had the whole month dwelling on, or worrying about, the last round of British GT we were just able to focus on each race as it came.”
With a chaotic season now at its end, Mitchell finally has time to look ahead to 2021, but added that nothing has been confirmed yet.
“There’s a couple of things that have been mentioned, but nothing concrete. For sure I’ll be back racing in a Lamborghini GT3 again, I’ve been part of the junior programme for nearly three years now and my relationship with Lamborghini is very good. I’d love to be able to continue that on further, and ideally be a factory driver at some point if that opportunity arises.
“For sure I’ll be back next year, not sure what championship and team-mates and things like that. But looking forward to a bit of the off-season and I’m sure after a couple of weeks I’ll be raring to go again!” He concluded.
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