Jules Gounon and Ian Loggie got the latter’s title defence off to a great start as the pair won the second Intelligent Money British GT Championship race at Oulton Park by more than 30 seconds as the weather once again made its presence felt.
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GT4 proved to be a dominant performance by the new McLaren Artura, as RACE LAB’s Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley took the class victory by more than eight seconds from polesitters Optimum Motorsport.
After the changeable conditions in Race One, the second one-hour race ended up being a more straightforward affair – wet track, wet tyres – anyone doing anything different clearly hadn’t had their eyes on the track on the build-up to the race.
With everyone on wets, it was a case of who managed to get the better start. Of course, that was Gounon who showed the field a clean pair of heels on the charge through Old Hall and round Island Bend.
Behind, Dan Harper initially made a better launch in the Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3, but going round the banked Shell Oils Hairpin, Raffaele Marciello proved to be bolder on the slightly grippier line and went right round the outside in his RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to move up to second.
Gounon used that to build a 2.899sec gap by the end of the opening lap, which Marciello set about chasing down. Lap after lap, the Italian chased down his GT World Challenge Europe team-mate and closed to within about half-a-second with a third of the race completed.
He was denied the chance of making an attack, though. Going through the high-speed Island Bend, the briefest of glances on the inside kerb upset the balance of the car and he went onto the soaking wet grass on the other side, skittering back onto track at Shell Oils.No damage was sustained, but it extended the gap back out to 4.3seconds.
That gave the 2 Seas crew brief respite, and pitted from the lead at the 30-minute mark. Marciello elected to pit a lap later and that appeared to be something of a clever move, as Ferguson took over from the Italian with a 3.6second lead from Loggie.
Ferguson was even extending the lead, before he was hit with a hammer-blow, a one-second stop/go penalty for being that amount short on the mandatory pitstop.
Being forced to visit the pits again handed Loggie the lead, and with the bit between his teeth, the reigning British GT champion powered clear, building an advantage that finally topped out at 32.209sec to take a comfortable win.
Gounon told GT REPORT afterwards: “It was amazing to win this race with Ian by more than 30 seconds. I think we both did a good job, but on top of that we never felt really on the limit of making a mistake which made it a bit sweeter for us. It was all about risk management today, and still putting in good pace but keeping a margin – which we did.
“When you’re in the front in the rain you’re the one that makes the first mistake so I knew it would be very hard for him to pass me. We had slightly different tyre pressures, I guess, I was better at the start when it was drier and then in the end when it started raining our pressure was a little bit too low. But at the end it was just about staying alive and making no mistakes, P3 was very far behind and I knew Ian was very good in the rain so I had no doubt about the second stint.”
Ferguson and Marciello took second, seeing out the remaining time strongly enough to deny the closing Garage 59 McLaren 720S GT3 Evo of Alex West and Marvin Kirchhöfer the chance of improving on their podium place – they took third, 1.612sec behind.
2 Seas added another solid result to the weekend as James Cottingham and Jonny Adam took a relatively quiet fourth, despite the latter almost facing a tricky spell when he had a tangle with some back-marking GT4 traffic at Knickerbrook.
Beechdean AMR took fifth, in another strong display for Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn, finishing just ahead of Harper and team-mate Darren Leung.
The second race proved to be a showcase of just how strong the new McLaren Artura is in the wet.
From the start, the polesitting #90 Optimum car of Charles Clark and Jack Brown maintained the lead despite the best efforts of Tom Wrigley in the #29 RACE LAB machine.
Such was the strength of the leading pair, they quickly built up a lead of more than 10 seconds to the chasing pack behind, which was headed by Tom Rawlings in the Paddock Motorsport Artura, and proving to be something of a cork in the bottle – the eight cars behind him were covered by just 3.1sec.
In the stops, the only change of real note ended up being Ian Gough – taking over from Wrigley – inheriting the lead of the class thanks to a later stop – Optimum attempting to undercut RACE LAB by stopping just as the window opened, but didn’t quite pull it off.
From that point, Gough put in solid lap after solid lap. Flying under the radar, he was untroubled at the front and quickly established an unbridgeable eight-second lead over Brown, who was having to switch his focus to what was happening behind rather than trying to push to the front.
That’s because Aston Millar – in the #36 DTO Motorsport Artura – was closing in at a rapid rate of knots and was all over the back of Brown to try and take second. Despite his efforts, third was his final reward – 0.140sec behind.
The first of the non-McLaren entries proved to be Josh Miller and Seb Hopkins in the R Racing Aston Martin – the pair picking up much-needed points after being forced to retire with a car issue in the opening race.
Adding some variety, it was a Mercedes-AMG GT4 that rounded out the top five, with the Drivetac entry of James Wallis and Sam Maher-Loughnan – familiar to followers of GT Cup – holding off a late charge from Team Parker Racing’s Zac Meakin.
The next round of the 2023 British GT season is the blue-riband Silverstone 500, the three-hour race taking place on 6&7 May.
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