GT Cup stormed into Donington Park for its penultimate event of the 2021 season. For the first time all year, Team Abba did not collect a race victory in their now stealth black Mercedes AMG GT3. In fact, there were four different outright winners from the four races with each being a first-time outright winner within GT Cup.
GT3 saw two extra entries for Donington. The first being Enduro Motorsport who moved up from GTH with their British GT McLaren 720s GT3. The second was the ever-popular G-Cat Porsche 911 GT3R which made its first GT Cup appearance since Brands Hatch in May.
Saturday saw Morgan Tillbrook claim both GT3 class victories and an overall race win to bring the Neary’s domination to an abrupt end. Sunday didn’t quite go so well for the British GT regulars as Sunday’s sprint race saw Tillbrook start behind both Sam Neary in the Abba Mercedes and Shamus Jennings in the G-Cat Porsche. From then on things only got worse for the Orange McLaren as he got couldn’t find a way past the Porsche and lost valuable time to Sam Neary who had stormed off in the lead.
In the end, Tillbrook made a mistake heading into the Fogarty Esses, and rather than running across the kerbs and potentially damaging his car, he slowed almost to a crawl to make it around but tagged the RAW Motorsport Radical RXC GT3 in the process, ripping the front left corner off the McLaren and ending their day early without the chance to fight for another victory in Sunday’s endurance race.
Sunday’s sprint race looked set to go the way of Sam Neary to make up for a poor Saturday. However, a gearbox failure with just one minute remaining put pay to any chance of stretching their championship lead. Unfortunately, the failure was terminal and could not be repaired at the track meaning like Enduro, Abba had to withdraw from the final race of the weekend, costing them the 20-bonus points for starting all eight races in the final two rounds.
Abba’s misfortunes turned into a gift for Jennings. An incredible drive to hold off Tillbrook until his retirement paid dividends for the Porsche racer as he claimed the class and outright victory, his first since Brands Hatch back in 2020.
As Sunday’s endurance race did not feature either the Abba Mercedes or Enduro McLaren, it was left to Jennings and the Scott Sport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo of John Dhillon to battle it out for the outright win. Jennings pulled off the stint of his life as Dhillon sat on his engine for the entire stint but just couldn’t quite find a way past.
However, due to winning the earlier race, Jennings would have to spend extra time in the pits thanks to his success penalty. This allowed Phil Quaife to take over the Lamborghini from Dhillon and emerge from the pits as the leader. From then on, he never looked back and claimed the team’s first outright victory of the season. Greg Caton took over from Jennings in the Porsche and, despite his blistering pace, he just couldn’t catch the Lamborghini ahead and had to settle for second place. The only consolation is that he claimed the fastest lap of the race on the final lap.
Team Abba looked set to have another dominant weekend as they started Saturday’s sprint race from pole position. However, it wouldn’t last long as Richard Neary made a mistake exiting Redgate corner and ran wide into the gravel. He would make it out but dropped several positions and into the GTH field. In his attempts to make up the deficit, he ran wide at MacLeans midway through the race putting pay to his chances of victory. He would ultimately finish in third place and second in class behind the Enduro McLaren.
Saturday’s endurance race saw Neary get a great start and leapfrog Tillbrook who started on pole, but previous success penalties saw the Mercedes in the pits for longer and gave Marcus Clutton a huge advantage in the McLaren and would even pull away from Sam despite a late-race safety car.
GTO saw three cars enter as Richard Chamberlain returned after missing the last two rounds. RAW Motorsport looked set to build on their success at Silverstone with their new upgraded car whilst SB Race Engineering retired the Brabham for the season and brought along yet another new car.
The car in question is the McLaren 12C GT3 Can-Am. A no restrictions variant of the homologated 12C GT3 car which marked McLarens return to GT racing back in 2011.
After the Abba Mercedes had run wide, Steve Burgess took full advantage and stormed off into an early lead. Morgan Tillbrook was quickly on his tail after a cautious start and started looking for a way past the Radical. Fortunately, the new car features a V6 turbo engine allowing Burgess to pull away on the straights giving Tillbrook little opportunity to get past. He would hold his nerve and take his and the car’s first overall win in GT Cup.
He and co-driver, Ben Dimmack, would follow this up with another class victory and fourth overall in Saturday’s endurance race. Unfortunately, this would be the last time the Radical would see the chequered flag over the weekend.
Sunday’s sprint race saw Dimmack take the wheel but a mistake by Tillbrook mid-way through the race left the door open and Dimmack took it. But, Tillbrook came back onto the racing line and made contact with the right rear of the Radical damaging the rear diffuser and floor ultimately causing them to retire and withdraw from the remaining race.
This left Paul Bailey to bring the McLaren 12C Can-Am home for its first-class win. He would follow up this feat in Sunday’s endurance race albeit by virtue of being the only started as Richard Chamberlain had also withdrawn following technical issues experienced during Saturday’s running.
GTC saw its second-biggest grid of the season (following on from an influx in entries for Silverstone) with five cars entered.
Rather remarkably, four cars claimed a class victory over the course of the weekend with all five cars claiming at least two podium finishes over the two days.
Stanbridge Motorsport only entered one car for Donington but made great use of it as Tim Morley claimed a dominant victory finishing half a minute ahead of Warren Gilbert in the Topcats Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Evo.
Saturday’s endurance race was won by Roy Millington / Benny Simonsen in the Millington Motorsport Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo despite an early race battle with the Stanbridge Lamborghini. Gilbert spun off at the Fogarty Esses with just minutes to go bringing out a late-race safety car and losing him valuable points in the championship standings.
Sunday’s sprint race was a great one for G-Cat. Not only did they claim the outright victory but they also took GTC as David Shaw made his first appearance of 2021 in a Porsche 911 991.2 Carrera Cup car.
Topcats left it late to take victory but they would do so in Sunday’s endurance race with a 3.5-second advantage over the Team Webb Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo which started the race from the pitlane. Their pace at the end of the race could have won them the race had there have been just one more lap but in the end, they had to settle for second.
Heading into the final round of the season, Topcats are just 39-points behind Team Abba as they look to win the overall 2021 title.
Damage sustained at Silverstone has sidelined Team HARD’s Sam Randon / Richard Marsh for the remainder of the season, ending their chances of retaining the GTB class title.
Once again it was the ever-impressive Nick Phelps who claimed three of the four class victories with Charlotte Gilbert proving there’s still life in the old Marcos Mantis by winning Sunday’s sprint race, albeit after a mistake from Phelps dropped him down the order.
This bolsters Phelps title hopes in GTB and with Randon / Marsh out of the picture, his nearest rival is now Charlotte Gilbert who is 111-points behind.
Josh Jackson once again proved his skill by winning two races in class and further bolstered his GTH class title advantage.
Once again partnered with McLaren specialist, Michael O’Brien, they dominated Saturday’s races and claimed two further podium places on Sunday. They even scored maximum points in Sunday’s sprint race by virtue of the winner being an invitational entry and therefore ineligible to score points. Not a bad weekend for the reigning champion.
The invitational star was Porsche Visit Cayman Islands Sprint GB runner Charles Clark in an In2Racing Porsche Cayman GT4. He even finished ahead of Paul Bailey in the McLaren 12C Can-Am in Sunday’s sprint race. For the endurance races, he enlisted the help of none other than Ben Barker to bring the car home 10-seconds clear of Moh Ritson / Tom Rawlings in Sunday’s endurance race.
This left the Paddock Motorsport duo of Ritson / Rawlings with maximum points for the final race with team bosses Kelvin Fletcher / Martin Plowman willing them on from the garage.
Jackson now leads GTH with a 132-point advantage over the Balfe McLaren 570s heading into Snetterton.
The class wins in GTA were split between two teams. Saturday saw Makehappen Racing sweep the day with flawless drives from Chris Hart / Stephen Walton in their Ginetta G55 Supercup. This strong run places them third in the class standings just 28-points behind the second-placed pairing of Craig Wilkins / Aaron Scott in the Scott Sport Ginetta G55.
Sunday’s races were swept by a familiar face. Simon Orange bounced back from the disappointment of Saturday to dominate Sunday in his usual fashion. It should have been three race victories but a 30-second time penalty in Saturday’s sprint race cost him victory and demoted him to fourth in class.
This hasn’t hindered his class and overall title hopes, however. He sits comfortably atop the GTA standings with a 110-point advantage and third in the overall standings, now 50-points behind Abba and just 11 behind Warren Gilbert in second.
GT Cup returns on the 2/3rd October for the season finale at Snetterton in Norfolk. Sam / Richard Neary, Warren Gilbert / Jensen Lunn, and Simon Orange will all battle it out to become the 2021 GT Cup champion.
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