2 Seas Motorsport’s James Cottingham and Jonny Adam took victory in a captivating opening race of the 2023 Intelligent Money British GT Championship in a race that wasn’t settled until the final metres of the final lap in a race that had something of everything.
Adam’s triumph was the perfect way to cap his 100th start in the championship, and his first win not in an Aston Martin.
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In GT4, a masterstroke to start both cars on slicks in the pitlane paid off in fine fashion as a well-timed safety car gave Matt Nicoll-Jones and Will Moore the win by a lap, ahead of the sister Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang.
Rain earlier in the morning meant a tricky decision to be made by teams up and down the classes – go cautious on wets, or try slicks and hope the temperatures and track come to you as the race picks up.
That didn’t prove to be the wisest decision. Only Simon Orange and John Ferguson elected to start on slicks of the cars on the grid. Orange ended the first lap in the gravel at Lodge, while Ferguson was quickly proving a roadblock for the GT4 leaders behind.
Instead, it was the wet-shod runners who ruled the roost after the brief safety car to recover Orange’s McLaren 720S GT3 Evo came back in.
On the restart, pole-sitter Cottingham maintained his lead in the Mercedes-AMG GT3 from the sister car of Ian Loggie with ease. The main moves were for the last spot on the podium as Richard Neary led a trio of cars which included Sky Tempesta Racing’s Kevin Tse and Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard.
Neary proved a stubborn obstacle to pass, but Howard picked the lock superbly. Heading into Old Hall, Howard spotted a gap up the inside of the Team ABBA Racing machine and passed both Neary and Tse in quick succession to move up to third.
Howard closed the gap to second-placed Loggie rapidly, but had no chance to make a move as the pair elected to make their mandatory pitstops as soon as the window opened.
Handing the Beechdean Aston Martin to Ross Gunn, the Aston factory driver left the pits in second – once all the stops filtered through and had a deficit of a few seconds to Adam, who took over the yellow and green AMG from Cottingham, and left the pits in the lead.
That gap evaporated just after the halfway mark. Passing one of the Academy Mustangs, Sam Neary was squeezed onto the grass at high-speed heading into Druids. He slithered across the grass, across the track and settled into the gravel trap without colliding with anyone in else in the pack he was squabbling with.
The track went green again with 20 minutes to go, and Adam used traffic between himself and Gunn to open up a 2.5sec lead before he crossed the start/finish line. Gunn maintained his position, despite Dan Harper charging from fourth to third in the Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3. However, it was determined that he passed Jules Gounon – taking over from Loggie in the D2-liveried Mercedes – just before crossing the start line so was given a drive-through penalty.
Added into the chaos, the rain that was threatening to come, finally came. With all the pack having swapped to slicks at the mandatory stop, Adam became something of a pathfinder as the track got gradually wetter as time ticked on.
Gunn used the extra grip from the Vantage to slice down the gap to the leader, and was quickly within touching distance of the Mercedes. He did, though, have his mirrors filled with Marcus Clutton’s Enduro Motorsport McLaren – who moved up to third after Harper served his penalty.
The action was frenetic, with the added bonus of the drivers basically skating on ice as their slicks started to cool in the wet weather.
A slight mistake from Adam and Gunn at Lodge – both running slightly too deep into the corner – allowed Clutton to move up to second and appeared to have a prime chance to take the lead with just four minutes of the race to go.
However, Gunn was having none of it. A better run out of Lodge gave the Aston driver a sniff of chance going into Old Hall which he seized without second thought to relegate the McLaren 720S GT3 Evo back down to third.
That momentum saw him starting to dice with Adam and going into Lodge for the final time, Gunn made a move. On the wet, the pair ran deep and were very lucky to avoid running into the gravel trap. Both recovered to maintain their one-two at the flag, but were fortunate not to give Clutton a sniff of taking victory.
Although, Clutton was lucky to maintain third. Slowed by the pair going wild ahead gave Gounon a run to the flag, but despite his best efforts the Mercedes factory driver couldn’t snatch a podium, finishing 0.029sec down in fourth.
After the race, Jonny Adam told GT REPORT: “It was wild! The circuit was getting wetter on slicks and the temperature was coming out the slicks and yeah it was tricky. We knew the rain was coming but we didn’t know how heavy and towards the end – because I was first on the scene – I was always the reference so it was so tricky.
“The Mercedes is a car I’m still learning in those conditions too, I didn’t even know where the wiper was at one point! Ross made me work for it! It was cool to take the win on the 100th, nice way to start the season with James and good to see an Aston on the podium too.
“Ross is a super driver, and he’s been in the Aston family for a while and I have a lot of respect for him. I knew it would be clean and hard, but at the same time it was good fun out there – but tricky!”
Behind the lead battle, Raffaele Marciello dragged the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 back from Ferguson’s tricky start on slicks to take fifth, with Harper eventually sixth in the BMW he shares with Darren Leung.
The secondary class proved to be a textbook example of taking a gamble and sticking to it. Electing to pull off from the first of two green flag laps to make the switch from wets to slicks, both the Academy Ford Mustangs started from the back of the field but as the conditions started to come to them they started to power up the field.
Initially, it was Jack Brown in the polesitting McLaren Artura who held the lead, but he was on wets and with the rain stopping just before the race got underway, those Pirellis started to burn up on the dry asphalt.
That allowed the Mustangs – started by Will Moore and Matt Cowley respectively, to make their way up the order. When the pit window opened, the big Fords stayed out to keep up their rhythm in stints that were proving to be faultless.
Cowley pitted first, and a lap later Moore came in. That stop for Moore proved to be a gift you could wish for 100 times and only get once. Just as he came to the pit entry, the safety car was called for to recovery Neary’s Mercedes. Getting what was a free stop, Matt Nicoll-Jones took over from Moore with a lap advantage he held until the chequered flag.
Will Moore told GT REPORT: “A very unexpected result, from last to first. In the pitlane someone said to me ‘what would you do now if we rolled you out to the grid?’ I just said ‘put slicks on it and send it’. Where we were on the grid, and the BoP, we had to take a gamble.
“[The slicks started working] after four laps, they never really came into their own because there was still some damp stuff out there, so the moment you got some heat in, you’d touch a wet line and they’d cool down again. You were constantly fighting the conditions, the changeable grip.
“We were so lucky, again, they threw a safety car just before we were about to pit so we gained a lap on the field. The Gods were really shining on us – from a terrible qualifying and a terrible BoP to a win was unexpected but fantastic.”
The strategy paid off handsomely when Cowley and Erik Evans maintained their advantage to secure a one-two for the team, with Thomas Holland finishing almost five seconds down in third in the Raceway Motorsport Ginetta G56.
Holland held onto the overall podium – and Pro/Am win – thanks to great early work from ex-BTCC racer Michael Crees who battled to third with some great displays of racing.
Carl Cavers and Lewis Plato took fourth – second in Pro/Am – in a successful race debut for the Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 in British GT with team-mates Chris Salkeld and Michael Johnston third in Pro/Am and fifth overall.
The second British GT race gets underway at 15.50 local time, and you can watch it all on gt.report/watchlive.
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