The GT Cup series started its season in style at Donington Park. Boasting a 38-car grid, the biggest the series has ever seen, the competition was hot right through the field. Featuring familiar faces and newcomers to the series, there is no way to predict how the remainder of the season will pan out after a thoroughly entertaining first round.
The biggest GT3 grid since the class’ inception in 2020 saw five thoroughbred machines ready to do battle.
Race 1 saw Team Abba Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver Richard Neary fend off a first corner attack from John Seale and quickly pull out a 14-second advantage over Richard Chamberlain who moved into second place.
Chamberlain was a frustrating roadblock for a queue of GT3 cars featuring Michael Igoe, Grahame Tilley, and John Dhillon. Igoe, not content with sitting behind the Orange Porsche, lunged up the inside at Redgate corner and immediately set the fastest lap of the race. A late-race safety car caused by Richard Marsh saw the gap close up but Neary scythed his way through the traffic and maintained a 2-second advantage to the flag to claim the first victory of the season.
Igoe came home second with Tilley third in the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3.
Saturday’s endurance race saw Neary lead away once again and fend off Igoe after the lap one safety car. Igoe made his move with 41 minutes to go and began easing out a lead gap over the Mercedes driver.
Lucky Khera meanwhile ran comfortably in third place keeping a 2.5-second gap back to Stuart Proctor in his McLaren.
Once the pitstops came around it was Phil Keen who would take over the WPI Lamborghini Huracán GT3 and cruised to a 16-second advantage over second-placed Lewis Proctor in the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3.
Will Tregurtha meanwhile had taken over from Grahame Tilley and was extremely fired up in his Nissan GT-R and for the final 10 minutes got a great look at the back of the JMH Lamborghini. No matter what he tried, he could not get past Abbie Eaton who drove a great defensive race to hold off Will by just two-tenths of a second and take third place.
Sunday’s Sprint race was rather similar to the 2020 race. Sam Neary once again at the wheel but this time he only won by 30 seconds rather than a minute, an impressive feat nonetheless. Especially seeing as the weather played havoc over the final lap as snow started to fall drastically reducing the grip available.
Lucky Khera continued his strong form to claim second place ahead of Grahame Tilley in third. It wasn’t to be for Igoe who retired with mechanical issues early on in the race. He was keeping Neary honest early on but once he dropped out, Neary was clear to cruise to the flag.
The final race of the day once again saw the chrome green and black Mercedes take the victory. Igoe did his very best to put his Lamborghini in the right position but the extra pitstop penalty time cost them dearly. By the time Keen emerged from the pits, Neary was already rounding the Old Hairpin. Keen was resigned to second and followed Neary home, 18.1 seconds after the Mercedes crossed the line.
Meanwhile, behind them, it was Tregurtha once again chasing down a Lamborghini. This time it was Phil Quaife in the Scott Sport car having taken over from John Dhillon. With Tregurtha setting multiple fastest laps in succession, it was only a matter of time before he was through and into the final podium position where he would stay.
It wasn’t the dream start for SB Race Engineering with their new Brabham BT62 hitting technical issues before Race 1. The team calling on their trusty Ferrari 488 Challenge to take its position but it was a touch out of place within GTO.
Moving over from the Britcar Endurance Championship, it was RAW Motorsport who took two class victories despite running off track in all four races. Race 1 was handed to them on a plate after John Seale (racing in GTO for Donington) made an optimistic move on a backmarker into the chicane and beached himself backwards in the gravel, gifting the Radical boys their first class win.
Seale would get redemption in Saturday’s enduro with Abbie Eaton performing a defensive masterclass in her GT3 debut to fend off a charging Will Tregurtha in the mighty Nissan. She just held on to claim third overall and first in class. Sunday’s sprint race saw Seale retire with mechanical issues that would ultimately end their weekend.
Richard Chamberlain returned for a full campaign in his ever-improving Porsche 935. Saturday was one to forget for him, however. Race 1 ended in retirement after mechanical issues and race 2 was over before it started after he spun into the gravel at Redgate on the first lap. He did win GTO in Sunday’s sprint race but that would be the last sighting of the Orange Porsche for the weekend.
The class with the fewest cars didn’t see the same degree of action as GT3 & GTO but nonetheless, it was a masterclass by Warren Gilbert and Jensen Lunn in the Topcat’s Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo.
They didn’t take long to adapt to the raging bull and took three class victories from the four races. Slightly assisted in race 1 when Fraser Smart spun at the chicane and Chris Kemps left front wheel came off but an impressive performance nonetheless.
The remaining victory was taken in Saturday’s enduro by Chris Kemp and Stuart Hall finishing a lap clear of the Topcat’s car in ninth overall despite a five second time penalty for track limits.
Gilbert / Lunn leave Donington as the championship leaders after this performance, certainly ones to watch as the season progresses.
2020 championship runner-up, Sam Randon set about his redemption by claiming three wins across the weekend along with experienced co-driver, Richard Marsh. Currently third in the championship standings only 19 points behind the leaders, they are well within the fight at this early stage.
Race 1 was their downfall as Marsh spun off through the Craner Curves and into the gravel by the Old Hairpin. This brought out a safety car and ended the race for the camouflage Porsche.
The remaining class victory was claimed by Charlotte Gilbert who had quite the opposite weekend and was not classified for any of the remaining three races due to a multitude of issues from contact to mechanical problems, a rather mixed weekend for the Topcat’s squad.
Andy Robey made his full-time return to the series, this time switching his rumbling BMW for the growling Mantis. Based on his performance, there was no evidence he was new to the car. Claiming four class podiums throughout the weekend leaving him ninth overall in the standings but second in class GTB to the Team HARD Porsche.
Nick Phelps impressed on his Porsche debut by taking two class podiums in the 911 GT3 Cup with the remaining two podium spots being collected by 2018 champion, Chris Murphy in his trusty Aston Martin V8 Vantage before he switches to the BMW M3 GTR later on in the season.
A lot of excitement was brewing for GTH and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Three different class winners and seven teams made the podium over the four races.
The double winner was Feathers Motorsport with James Guess and Darren Turner sweeping Sunday’s races and claiming a further second place in Saturday’s sprint race. Being business partners, that relationship already established between the duo has been key to their success during round one. Now sitting fourth overall and leading the GTH class points by 19 points over the reigning champions, Simon Orange and Joshua Jackson in their new Orange Racing powered by JMH McLaren.
The champions also had a successful weekend by claiming the Saturday enduro with Orange at the wheel and three podiums courtesy of Orange on Saturday and Jackson who took over the car on Sunday. A ninth-place finish being the only blot on their copybook from a respectful first weekend in the new car with their new team.
The first race of the season was claimed by Deranged Motorsport courtesy of Oli Brown. There was nothing deranged about their performance, however, starting the season in style by winning ahead of James Guess, both of whom were piloting Aston Martin Vantages.
British GT fan favorites, Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher got to see their team’s debut race meeting. Moh Ritson partnered with Tom Rawlings and they chalked up two podium finishes between them. An intense fight in Saturday’s enduro saw them put on a defensive masterclass from the Balfe Motorsport McLaren driven by Callum MacLeod and take second just half a second clear of the former British GT race winner.
The remaining podiums were scored in Sunday’s endurance race appropriately by Enduro Motorsport with Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton steering the Mercedes. Century Motorsport claimed the final podium with David Holloway and Adam Hatfield driving their new Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
With Orange / Jackson seeing success in GTH, it was no surprise that they also managed to claim four podiums in GTA with their trusty Ginetta G55. Taking three wins and a second place in the first race of the weekend. Only the Topcat’s Lamborghini heads them in the driver’s standings for this particular car by just a solitary point.
Only Craig Wilkins in the Scott Sport Ginetta could prevent them from sweeping the weekend’s races. Not that he had it his own was as Jackson was swarming over him through the closing stages but ultimately it would be Orange in the McLaren who passed Jackson and cost him time who helped Wilkins to the flag first. All three cars were separated by just one second showing how close they really were.
It wasn’t a bad showing from Wilkins either (who was partnered with team owner, Aaron Scott) with two further second places and a third in the final race which sees them seventh in the overall standings and second in class GTA to Jackson / Orange.
Alex Stevenson and James Kellett got off to a solid start in their Century Motorsport Ginetta with a second and a third-place finish in both endurance races. The only other pairing to secure multiple podiums in class.
The remaining rostrum placings were collected by Fox Motorsports Ian Duggan / James Townsend and by MakeHappen Racings Chris Hart / Stephen Walton.
The GT Cup series returns on the 1st of May to headline a one-day thriller on the Brands Hatch GP circuit.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION TO KEEP THE WEBSITE RUNNING AND ALLOW THE GT REPORT TEAM TO CONTINUE TO BRING YOU EXCLUSIVE CONTENT.
NEW PRINTS AND CANVAS AVAILABLE IN OUR SHOP: