The Team Abba Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Richard and Sam Neary dominated both races in the GT Cup at Oulton Park with just the weather and technical issues keeping them from a clean sweep of wins.
Qualifying was completed in heavy rain and the Neary’s showed their intentions, taking pole 0.8 seconds ahead of the WPI Motorsport Lamborghini of Michael Igoe and Phil Keen. Third went to GTC challenger Lucky Khera driving solo in the Simon Green Motorsport Ferrari 488 Challenge.
By the start of the first race the rain had ceased but the track was still wet enough to warrant wet tyres but it was expected that at the mandatory pit stops everyone would switch to slick tyres. Everyone that was except for the #88 Mercedes which had arrived at the circuit with an air jack problem.
“We’ve had a air jack problem since we turned up,” said Richard Neary after the race. “It was a failure that happened on Thursday night and there’s nothing we could do about it. We’ve ordered the part but we won’t see the part from Germany until Monday or Tuesday so we brought the car here with an air jack problem. Normally we don’t need to change the tyres in the pitstop so we’ve managed to race around it. Unfortunately in that race we wanted to go to slicks but we couldn’t change them, it takes too long because we have to jack it up on trolley jacks.”
Knowing he was going to have to make the most of the wet tyres in his stint, Neary snr held the lead into turn one and by the pit stop had pulled out a 16 second lead on the chasing #18 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo of Michael Igoe. With a 10 second success penalty also adding to their woes, the team swapped drivers and Sam Neary returned the Mercedes with 10 seconds still in his pocket over Phil Keen in the Lamborghini.
On the now dry track it wasn’t enough and Keen was catching Neary at 5 seconds per lap so the overtake when it came was inevitable. Sweeping around the outside of the banked 180 degree Shell Oils corner Keen made it look all too easy.
“They weren’t able to change tyres in the pitstop,” said Keen, “which ultimately just ruined their race. We were able to go to slicks and it was fairly easy just to go past and win the race, we made a good call and a good job of the pitstop and it was plain sailing from there.”
“I’m sure the next one’s going to be dry so they’ll be starting on slicks so we’ll have a bit more of a race on our hands.”
Looking ahead to the second race Richard Neary concurred with Keen’s analysis and was confident that if the weather held they’d be looking for a win.
“We had 10 seconds extra pit stop penalty, but we ended up 10 seconds up the road for the first 3 or 4 laps until the wets gave up so Sam was a sitting duck really, it was just a matter of time. For the next race if it’s dry were fine, if it’s wet were fine but if it’s mixed we’re screwed.”
The final podium spot went to Graham Tilley and Sennan Fielding in the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 who had much more work to do having qualified all the way down in eleventh but Tilley had a great run through the field something which impressed his co-driver.
“The weather was a big curve ball,” said Fielding. “Obviously it started wet and we made the decision to change to slicks halfway through so it was kind of the unknown but Graham did an absolutely mega job coming through the pack.
“Obviously it was challenging qualifying this morning with the conditions, for both of us it was the first time driving the car in the wet around here so it’s all been a big learning curve today. But then he did an absolutely mega job, came through the field, handed the car over in a good position and then we brought it home in third so really good race and hopefully in a good position for race two later on in the day.”
By the afternoon the sun had come out and the track was dry with no further rain forecast so once again Richard Neary was away and into the lead from the start with Michael Igoe close behind. An incident involving three cars at the Hislops chicane saw progress halted as the safety car was deployed whilst the debris was cleaned up.
When racing got underway again the race followed a similar script to race one as Richard Neary stamped his authority on proceedings and, without the requirement to change tyres, had a long battle with the WPI Lamborghini. Michael Igoe showed himself to be happier in the drier conditions and never allowed the Mercedes to get more than half a second ahead and pushing Neary for the whole stint.
After the pit stops Sam Neary and Phil Keen continued the battle but in the final laps it all went wrong for Keen who had to complete a drive through penalty for a pit stop infringement. He returned 17 seconds behind Neary and with two laps remaining had to settle for second place.
Third went to the Brabham BT62 driven by Paul Bailey and Ross Wylie and run by SB Race Engineering. Making only it’s second competitive appearance in the GT Cup championship the car, running in the GTO category, began to show it’s potential having struggled with the wet conditions in qualifying and race one.
“The first race was difficult because we had a few small teething issues with running the car in the wet,” said Wylie. “We’ve not really done any wet running at all yet, so we were entering the big unknown and Paul is still finding his feet with the car so it more a case of survival in the first one and go for an attack in the second race.”
Attack they did. After the pit stops Wylie rejoined the race in sixth position and was soon up and past race one P3 finisher Lucky Khera in the GTC class Ferrari. He then had to chase down Sennan Fielding in the Nissan GTR some 7 second up the road but with 10 minutes remaining it seemed unlikely. In the end it only took Wylie a couple of laps to catch up and pass the Nissan.
Wylie had really got to grips with the Brabham and was now lapping a second a lap faster than the two GT3 cars at the front.
“I really enjoyed my laps,” said Wylie. “The car is performing brilliantly, we know there is more to come but the team did a faultless job and Paul did a great job handing the car back in the position that he did. It was good, we’re focusing on getting Paul’s confidence up with the car and I think there is a lot more to come out of him.”
“We’ve got Silverstone next so hopefully it should suit the car, it’s high downforce and we’ve got the power to match it so hopefully we can go another step forward there and try and challenge for overall wins.”
Fourth place went to Sennan Fielding in the Triple M Motorsport/Tec Serv Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 and Lucky Khera took fifth and his second class victory of the day in the Simon Green Motorsport Ferrari.
The next round of the championship will be at Silverstone on the grand prix circuit on August 14th.
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