After boasting their biggest ever entry for Donington Park, the GT Cup championship arrived at Brands Hatch having one-upped itself. A capacity grid of 46 cars took to the track on super-Saturday after GT World Challenge Europe cancelled its UK round, leaving GT Cup as the headline act. This meant a one-day format with two 50-minute endurance races rather than the usual two-day format in which is commonly used by the championship.
With only three weeks to go until the British GT season-opener, also at Brands Hatch, a few of the teams decided a little extra practice was in order. WPI Motorsport, Team Abba Racing, and Balfe Motorsport all returned from Donington but this time was joined by Barwell Motorsport, Team Parker Racing, and G-Cat Racing who all sought after that precious extra track time.
Race 1 didn’t lack action with plenty going on at all times throughout the 50-minute enduro. Sam Neary placed his Mercedes-AMG GT3 on pole position with Michael Igoe alongside in the WPI Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo. However, before the race even began, Igoe hit trouble. Brake issues forced him into the pitlane before the formation lap where he would ultimately start the race from.
Richard Neary led away from pole and set about building up as big of a gap as possible due to the 20-second pitstop success penalty he carried over from his Donington success.
The two Barwell Lambos behind only had 5 seconds extra in the pits but kept Neary honest through the opening stages which included a safety car after the Saker Rapex spun at Hawthorn bend.
In a costly error, Team Abba Racing pulled Neary into the pits far too early which dropped him down the order and handed the advantage over to experienced amateur, Leo Machitski.
Only a few minutes later and Neary was back into the pits, this time with a rear left puncture. Luckily the pit window was open this time around but the slow in-lap had already lost them a lap and left no chance for Sam to make up the deficit.
Meanwhile, Simon Green Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo pilot Lucky Khera was in race mode applying massive pressure to the back of the Scott Sport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo of John Dhillon and managed to muscle his way past into Surtees with an aggressive maneuver.
Back upfront, it was Machitski who emerged from the pits in the lead with teammate, Adam Balon continuing to follow him in second place. Despite being classed as Bronze drivers, they looked set to bring their raging bulls home in a one-two for Barwell.
Lucky Khera meanwhile had other ideas, after suffering a spin at Graham Hill bend, he couldn’t get the Lamborghini underway again and brought out the second safety car of the race, bunching up the pack and bringing the Pro drivers back into play.
Immediately on the restart, Balon dropped back to fourth after Phil Quaife — having taken over from Dhillon — and Lewis Proctor, who took over from his dad Stuart Proctor, got past him by the time they reached the hairpin at Druids.
What followed was an intense battle to the flag with the top three close enough to be covered by a blanket. Machitski was starting to get very aggressive in his defense and moving around the circuit leaving no options open for Dhillon to get through. So he got creative and gave Machitski a nudge into Surtees which also allowed the ever opportunistic Lewis Proctor to get through. But Proctor wasn’t done yet, performing the overtake of the day around the outside of Quaife at Hawthorns and cruised off to win the race.
Quaife came home second but the action behind was really hotting up. Machitski now had Sam Neary behind him trying to unlap himself and Adam Balon not far behind. The defensive antics caused Sennan Fielding — who was substituting for Will Tregurtha — to close up and pass Balon heading onto the final lap.
Coming to the line, Fielding, Neary, and Machitski ran three-wide through Sterlings ultimately causing the Lamborghini to get balked into Clearways by GTH traffic. Fielding managed to run alongside him but Machitski wasn’t having any of it and put the Nissan onto the grass just millimeters away from the pit wall. Not only this but deliberately driving into the back of the Nissan after the chequered flag and then forcing him off track at Druids left Machitski with a disqualification from the race and a ban for the second race.
Race 2 was a much calmer affair with the Neary duo making up for their poor Race 1 by winning by 29.3 seconds over second-placed Adam Balon. Michael Igoe also looked to make amends for his earlier disappointment but it didn’t look good starting from 44th on the grid. This didn’t phase him as he and Phil Keen scythed their way through the field and took an unlikely third place, ultimately helped by the safety car caused by Grahame Tilley.
In a class once again seeing four runners, GTO was hotly contested all weekend long.
Race 1 saw Richard Chamberlain in the beloved Porsche 935 start first in class but the RAW Motorsport Radical RXC of Steve Burgess got the jump at the start and ran strongly for the opening portion of the race. Enjoying the Grand Prix Loop and their high-downforce car, they ran in third overall until the pitstop phase of the race.
Chamberlain meanwhile ran in sixth overall until his car lost turbo boost pressure and he was forced into the pits and into early retirement, a big disappointment for the Porsche man after showing strong pace in qualifying.
John Seale in the JMH Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo had struggled at the initial start but managed to get into a rhythm at the safety car restart and started to claw back the lost positions. With both Seale and the Radical facing a 20-second success penalty in their pitstops, the class win would have to be decided out on track.
Or so we thought but the Radical would go no further in the race, leaving the way clear for Abbie Eaton in the JMH Lamborghini to take another class victory and Ross Wylie brought home the SB Race Engineering Ferrari 488 Challenge in second as their Braham is still undergoing repairs after its engine failure at Donington.
Race 2 saw the Porsche 935 fixed and ready for action. Just like WPI Motorsport in GT3, Richard Chamberlain fought his way through from the back of the field and claimed an impressive ninth overall and a win in class, also finishing as the last car on the lead lap.
JMH finished second in class but one lap down to the leader in tenth overall with the Radical finishing 11-seconds behind and third in class.
Overall championship leaders, Topcats Racing didn’t manage to repeat the success they saw at Donington Park.
Race 1 resulted in a fourth victory in five races for the Huracán Super Trofeo of Topcats Racing but only by 3 seconds ahead of the only other car which has been able to stop them. Chris Kemp and Stuart Hall put Hall’s experience to good use as he closed in on the class leaders but ran out of time with the final corner GT3 melee not helping his cause.
Race 2 was time for redemption. As they did at Donington, Kemp and Hall took victory in the second race of the weekend and finished a lap clear of the Topcats Lamborghini. This was aided when the Topcats car went for a spin at Sheene curve but ultimately, they were no match for the Stanbridge machine.
Jensen Lunn and Warren Gilbert leave Brands Hatch still as the overall championship leaders by two points from Team Abba’s Richard and Sam Neary.
GTB marked the return of the monstrous BMW E92 M3 GTR of Geoff Steel Racing and Sam Allpass. Not only this but also the return of the Saker Rapex of Alp Racing who was also last seen at the Brands Hatch round back in October last year.
Unfortunately, Race 1 didn’t go well for the Saker as they spun at Hawthorn Bend on lap one bringing out the safety car and marking the end of their race.
Things looked better for last year’s runner-up, Sam Randon and his co-driver Richard Marsh in the Team HARD Porsche 911. Having started from the class pole position, things were looking good for them until a stop-and-go penalty put a halt to proceedings.
The way was left clear for Sam Allpass to come home first in the BMW whilst Randon and Marsh would take second but still claimed the class points for first as Allpass is an invitational entry.
Race 2 once again saw redemption. There was no messing around this time as the Porsche of Randon and Marsh was on an absolute mission, coming home over a lap clear of Nick Phelps who took second in class in his Porsche 911. Allpass would take third in what was a successful weekend for the BMW.
Randon and Marsh leave the event third in the overall points standings, just eight behind the Topcats Lamborghini.
The only class to feature a repeat winner this weekend was surprisingly GTH. Josh Jackson performed the perfect day as he fought off more experienced Pro drivers in his McLaren 570s GT4 to win his class in both races.
Race 1 saw one of the early favorites out of contention on lap one with a puncture. James Guess in the Feathers Aston Martin suffered contact which deflated his tire and ensure he had to creep back into the pits to avoid any further damage.
However, it was Josh Jackson who performed an absolute masterclass after starting from pole and leading the entirety of the race despite the two safety car restarts and not having driven a long run in the car until this particular race. In particular, it was a great late defensive drive to keep Lewis Plato behind him in the Porsche Cayman GT4 with Plato’s off-track excursion at Paddock Hill potentially costing him the victory and having to settle for second just 1.3 seconds behind Jackson. Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton continued their good Brands Hatch form in the Mercedes-AMG GT4 to round out the podium.
Race 2 was much the same out front but this time with a much more comfortable margin of victory for the Team Orange McLaren. James Guess and Darren Turner made up for their earlier disappointment by taking second place and it would be the Balfe McLaren of Mike Price and Callum MacLeod who would take third and their second podium finish of the season.
Finally, the GTA runners had a successful weekend with the winners in both races beating the homologated GT4 machinery in their older spec Ginetta Supercup cars and even led Race 1 outright for a lap.
Having seen success for the Scott Sport sister car in GT3, Craig Wilkins and team-owner Aaron Scott decided they couldn’t let Dhillon and Quaife hold all the glory and took a convincing class victory by over 6 seconds from the Team Orange Ginette who also continued to perform well with Simon Orange at the wheel.
Fox Motorsport also continued their consistent run and claimed the final podium spot in third.
Race 2 saw an impressive drive from Henry Dawes in his Ginetta G55 to take a superb victory ahead of the flying Ginetta of Wilkins and Scott. The deficit after the pitstops was too much for Scott to make up having won the earlier race. However, a second place was still a great finish for them and boosted their championship hopes as they now lie fifth overall and just fourteen points behind the leaders.
Despite finishing behind the Scott Sport Ginetta in both races, the Team Orange Ginetta of Simon Orange claimed yet another podium finish to further cement their hopes for a second successive title within the series. Now lying just nine points off the leaders in fourth place, it really is all to play for as the season continues.
Round three of the season will take place on the 5th and 6th of June at the Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk for what is set to be another enthralling weekend of GT action, especially with the weather tending to throw up some interesting conditions at times.
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