Paddock Motorsport claimed an incredibly unexpected victory – its first in the championship – in the second Intelligent Money British GT Championship race of the weekend after an event which included safety cars, red flags and pitstop success penalties needing to be applied post-race.
BRITISH GT OULTON PARK: SEASON PREVIEW | ENTRY LIST | LIVESTREAM | PRACTICE REPORT | QUALIFYING REPORT | QUALIFYING VIDEO | JULES GOUNON INTERVIEW | RACE ONE REPORT | ADAM CARROLL INTERVIEW | RACE TWO REPORT
In GT4, penalties played a part too as Newbridge Motorsport eventually converted pole to victory thanks to a solid second stint from Matt Topham which secured the Aston Martin team Pro-Am and overall class honours despite the Steller Motorsport Audi crossing the line first on-track.
At the start, Jules Gounon timed the start to perfection and opened up a substantial gap to Adam Carroll, who was fending off Euan Hankey in the fast starting 7TSix McLaren 720S GT3.
Chaos, the keyword for this race, started right at the start as action started at the first run through Cascades as Will Tregurtha made contact with the rear of Phil Keen’s WPI Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán and both went onto the plentiful grass run-off and dropped down the field.
Thankfully for Keen, he managed to regain a lot of the time he lost as a safety car was quickly called for after Freddie Tomlinson t-boned Moh Ritson as he tried an overly-ambitious lunge going into the Shell Oils Hairpin.
After a 15-minute safety car period, the race got going and again Gounon made an absolutely stunning start – gaining 2.7sec over Carroll and sitting pretty.
That was pretty handy, as the rain that had been threatening before the race came just before the halfway mark and quickly deluged the circuit. With grip at a minimum, it was evident that someone was going to go off at some point and RAM Racing’s Jamie Caroline was the unlucky victim. Going up Clay Hill, Caroline seemed to Aquaplane in the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and exited stage right, hitting the foam barriers in front of the Armco.
Bringing out the red flag, confusion descended as the stoppage came mid-way through the GT3 pit window, meaning some teams had already elected to pit early – like the Balfe Motorsport Audi of Carroll. Two cars even came together slightly, with Sandy Mitchell and Marcus Clutton having an odd coming together going through Lodge on their way to the pits.
Further confusion was added when it was confirmed that the success penalties the top three are given to serve in the pitstops would be applied to cars at the end of the race instead. That meant Ian Loggie, who had taken over from Gounon, and Shaun Balfe, who took over from Carroll, had to make sure they had a ten-second buffer over the cars behind to maintain their positions.
When the race restarted, with 25 minutes remaining on the clock, the pair made a good getaway with the RAM Racing Mercedes of Loggie just about holding off Balfe’s Audi R8 LMS Evo 2, but as they squabbled Kelvin Fletcher was making his move.
First he picked off Mia Flewitt, who gallantly defended third for about 10 minutes before Fletcher finally broke her defence going into the Hislops chicane, and then proceeded to weave his way through traffic and cut down the deficit to just a couple of seconds – more than enough to make sure he could stand on the top step of the podium.
After the race, Martin Plowman was effusive in his praise for Fletcher, telling GT REPORT: “It was a real team effort, everyone put a lot of work into making this result happen, and played a massive part in this.
“Kelvin did a great job, I started in 14th and handed the car over to him in seventh. From there, he just worked really hard to keep making up places – he’s been on form all weekend, and I’m just pleased we could have a car to make this result possible.”
Behind, on-track, it went from bad to worse for Flewitt in the 7TSix McLaren, as he got stuck behind the Team BRIT McLaren 570S GT4 and dropped from fourth to 11th as the chain of GT3s looking to pass her all managed to get through in the traffic jam.
That move was one of the deciding factors in how the final podium shaped up as Richard Neary managed to get his way through first and used that slice of clean air to reduce his own deficit to the front of the race.
Benefitting also from Morgan Tillbrook having to reset his Enduro McLaren after an electric gremlin, Neary took a hard-earned podium alongside son Sam alongside the top honours in the Silver-Am category.
Third went to Kevin Tse and Chris Froggatt in the Sky Tempesta Racing Mercedes. Tse was fighting with Neary throughout the race, and had a few little nudges late on, but couldn’t break Neary’s stubborn defence and had to settle for third.
Behind, and redemption for race one, was Team Rocket RJN’s Graham Davidson, who proved his pace hasn’t dimmed in his brief absence from British GT as he charged his way up to fourth.
After the success penalties were slapped on, Loggie took fifth alongside Gounon, only seven-tenths behind Davidson once all the times were shaken out, but a couple of seconds ahead of Balfe Motorsport – which had 10 seconds to serve, rather than the seven for the #6 RAM entry.
Despite the early spin and trip through the grass, the safety car and red flag possibly helped WPI motorsport to redeem some points as Michael Igoe piloted the Huracán to seventh – ahead of the Redline Lamborghini, which had a spin on the first lap after the restart in the hands of Alex Malykhin.
Apart from the crash between Assetto and Paddock Motorsport, GT4 was a much calmer affair but penalties still had a sizeable impact on the end result as, in addition to success penalties, extra time added to Silver Cup entries ended up being the key factor in ensuring the win went the way of Newbridge Motorsport’s Darren Turner and Matt Topham.
At the start, Sennan Fielding wasted no time in passing pole-sitter Turner as the Steller Motorsport driver exploited the pace of the Audi yet again to power ahead and assume the lead.
He maintained that lead until the stoppage and Richard Williams got behind the wheel of the R8 LMS GT4 with clear track ahead of him.
While he didn’t put a foot wrong in the final phase of the race, a success penalty for race one victory, and an extra 14 seconds as he and Fielding are an all-Silver pairing, meant victory was pretty unlikely.
Not that they didn’t try though, as Williams put in what was pretty much a qualifying performances to try and grow as much of a gap as he possibly could. However, Topham was in fine form, and knowing that he didn’t need to go all out to try and get the best result possible meant he had the scope to pick and choose his battles a bit more – as long as he didn’t slip too far down the field.
After the chequered flag fell, penalties pushed Topham and Turner to the top, with Century Motorsport’s Will Burns and Jack Brown also gaining a place in second thanks to their lack of success penalty in the season-opener – a good reward for Burns, who is aiming to defend his title in the BMW M4 GT4.
It was good pace that put them in the position to take that second, as they only finished 0.364sec ahead of Williams and Fielding on adjusted pace – one of the finest of margins, and a points differential that could prove to be key once the season reaches its close.
A lap down in fourth was the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK Supra of Jack Mitchell and Tom Edgar, with Valluga Racing’s Benji Hetherington and Ross Wylie rounding out the top five in the secondary class.
The second round, third race, of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship season is the Silverstone 500 three-hour race, which takes place on 7&8 May.
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