Jonny Adam solidified his position as the Intelligent Money British GT Championship’s most successful driver as he fought off a late safety car restart to take his 18th win in the championship alongside 2 Seas Motorsport team-mate James Cottingham.
In GT4, Charles Clark and Jack Brown took their second win in as many races for Optimum Motorsport as they Brown prevailed in a three-way fight for the lead in the opening hour before Clark cruised home to take a commanding victory for the McLaren Artura.
Donington Park always inspired classic races and this edition was no different. From the very start, there was drama as Cottingham – starting on the outside of the front-row – had a bit of a nightmare as he was hung out to dry by polesitter Shaun Balfe in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2.
There was double trouble for Cottingham as the Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver lost momentum going down the Craner Curves and was mugged for second by Andrew Howard in the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
Howard was clearly on a charge in the Beechdean machine and found himself quickly on the back of Balfe and looking for a way to squeeze himself up to the lead. It proved to be traffic that gave Howard his opportunity and cutting his way through the GT4s allowed him to get the jump on the Lamborghini and that same traffic management allowed him to build up a handy lead.
He was aided by Balfe starting to fade somewhat, and was slipping down the order as other cars seemed to come into their own as the race got into a steady groove. Cottingham made a move on Balfe just after the 90 minutes to-go mark, and was set on chasing down Howard but admitted to GT Report after the race that he was starting to become exhausted towards the pit window, such was his effort in trying to reel in the Vantage.
Closing in on the hour mark and Cottingham was all over the rear, but again it was that traffic that proved all-important as Howard used it to his advantage to maintained the lead at around the one-second mark.
That all changed in dramatic fashion. What turned out to be a 36-minute safety car was called for to recover Mike Price’s Greystone GT Mercedes-AMG GT3 which had come to grief on the exit of McLeans, hitting the barriers hard and rolling over on the tyre barriers. Price thankfully walked to the ambulance unaided, but the car needed careful recovery as well as repair work to the tyre barrier.
The safety car was timed almost perfectly with the pit window opening, meaning pretty much every team – bar two or three – dived in as soon as possible to swap Am driver for Pro. Even though Donington has a decent pitlane, 17 cars nose-to-tail always brings chaos and Beechdean were badly effected as Howard was blocked by a GT4 getting serviced on his way in, and then blocked trying to leave by the #24 Greystone McLaren 720S GT3.
In contrast, Cottingham handed over to Jonny Adam undisturbed and the Scot got away cleanly – vaulting the green-and-yellow monster up into the lead and the Aston slipped down to fourth, now in the hands of Ross Gunn.
The neutralisation took quite a while to lift, and when the track finally went green again there was just 24 minutes left for anyone to try and make anything happen.
Adam, though, didn’t become a four-time champion by rolling over when the pressure was on and he absorbed all the pressure being thrown at him by Race Lab’s Euan Hankey, the latter benefitting from a solid opening stint from Lucky Khera in the McLaren 720S GT3 to really benefit from the pit shakedown to come out in second.
Hankey was all over Adam, but Donington isn’t the easiest place to overtake at and the wily campaigner held on to take the victory and move himself and Cottingham into what should be the championship lead. Hankey and Khera continued their solid start to the season with second.
Cottingham told GT REPORT: “I think for me I was hoping to have a slightly better start than I did, but Shaun had a really good start and it compromised me on the exit of turn one and then Andrew Howard got through. From there, I wanted to maintain position and get them back if I could and I did managed to get past Shaun.
“It was a super-clean race and all the cars were really competitive. I didn’t have a moment to rest so when I got out after an hour I was pretty tired. Gave it everything I could, and handed it over to Jonny and he did the best job he could to maintain that lead.
“I think we got a bit lucky with the pitstop, the Aston didn’t have a great stop, but that was down to the team. The 2 Seas team have done a great job in terms of the set-up and doing the stop, you’ve got to effectively do that – it’s not just down to the drivers.”
The race didn’t give up its drama easily, though, and there was a late sting in the tail for Marcus Clutton. After a great opening stint from Morgan Tillbrook who powered the Enduro Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 up into third, Clutton was slightly disadvantaged in the pits and found himself scrapping with Martin Plowman’s Paddock McLaren.
The pair made contact going into the Melbourne Hairpin, which appeared to damage Plowman’s front-right corner. Running up the hill into Goddards Plowman pitched right and clipped Clutton’s rear, spinning the orange machine into the wall on the inside of Goddards.
With a yellow flag into the final corner, that probably gave the second 2 Seas entry of Ian Loggie and Jules Gounon something of a breather. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 didn’t seem particularly speedy round Donington – despite the pair’s best efforts but again that pitstop window allowed them to spring ahead and into third.
From there, Gounon soaked up plenty of pressure from Gunn, who was trying every sort of move to try and put off the Andorran, but Gounon wasn’t going to fall for any tricks and rounded out the last place on the podium – bagging useful points that could make all the difference come season-end.
Gunn wasn’t helped in his fight with Gounon by the fact that Dan Harper – in the Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 which won at Silverstone – was all over the Aston like a bad smell, looking to pounce on any mistake.
There was to be no change, and Beechdean finished fourth after being significantly disadvantaged in the pits with Century in fifth. There was a good result for Sky Tempesta Racing as Chris Froggatt and Kevin Tse kept themselves relatively out of trouble – although Tse did go for a trip through the Old Hairpin gravel trap in his stint – as they won the Silver/Am class and took sixth overall, just ahead of Balfe and Sandy Mitchell who couldn’t really recover in the small time left.
Eighth went to Optimum Motorsport’s Mark Radcliffe and Rob Bell, while Mark Sansom and Will Tregurtha took ninth in the second Barwell Motorsport which was clobbered twice – once by Freddie Tomlinson’s Raceway Ginetta, and again by Radcliffe on Sansom’s outlap from getting the last bit of damage seen to.
GT3 proved to be attritional with four cars not classified, and another two not running at the flag. Notable from the DNFs was John Ferguson, who went too deep into the Foggarty Esses on the third lap and clipped the rear-left against a monster of a kerb to break the suspension of the Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Classified, but down the order, was another three-pointed star as Drivetac had a bit of a nightmare weekend. An overnight engine change got the car running for the race, but Chris Hart was blind-sided by the bonnet suddenly coming lose and crashing into the windscreen, completely blocking his view. Other issues with the car meant Hart and James Wallis finished 24th.
If GT3 was exciting, GT4 proved to be utterly captivating as a full-on lead battle in the opening stint tended to splinter after the long safety car period.
In the opening hour, it was Tomlinson who stole a march in the Ginetta G56 GT4 as he rounded polesitter Josh Rowledge in the DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura on the opening lap and proceeded to put on a stout defence to ensure Rowledge couldn’t try and get back ahead. That delay allowed Jack Brown to join in a three-way fight in the Optimum Artura and keep things tense.
Lap after lap, Tomlinson picked the ideal line and kept the power in to stop Rowledge from getting through. He finally lost the lead with what proved to be his only real mistake, he seemingly didn’t predict the DTO driver going for a lunge up the inside into the left-hander of Goddards and wasn’t tight enough to him as Rowledge got through.
That started the unravelling of the Raceway Ginetta slightly, as Brown dived up the inside of Redgate to take second a few laps later. Come the pit window and they were affected too, dropping to fourth as Tom Wrigley got out in a great position in the Race Lab McLaren Artura.
Wrigley was leading for a time, but Charles Clark took over from Brown with his dander up and hung a move round the outside of the fast-left of Schwantz to pull off the move of the race to rob Wrigley of the lead and pull away into a lead of more than 10 seconds as the Optimum pair proved they’re going to be the team to beat in this year’s title race.
Wrigley finished second in the car he shares with Ian Gough, equally lonely at the sharp-end of the class as he was allowed to escape by a remarkable fight for third.
Headed in the early stages by Stuart Middleton – who took over from Tomlinson – the Lamborghini Super Trofeo regular was doing all he could to hold off Lewis Plato’s Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 and Darren Burke in the Enduro Motorsport McLaren.
Like Tomlinson, Middleton was canny in defence and it proved to be a mistake which was also his undoing. Coming out of Coppice slightly wide, Plato had a better run and used the speed of the BMW to pull ahead of Middleton into the Foggarty Esses. It was only two laps later that Burke also muscled his way past Middleton to take fourth.
It got worse for Middleton. Picking up some damage on the front-left, in the braking zone for the Melbourne Hairpin he pushed down on the brakes and the suspension suddenly broke, leaving the wheel pointing in the wrong direction and Middleton in the gravel trap.
Plato maintained third, with Burke and Harry George in fourth, with the other Century Motorsport BMW of Chris Salkeld and Michael Johnston rounding out the top five.
The next round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship takes the field to Snetterton, for a pair of one-hour races around the Norfolk circuit.
Please consider making a donation so we can keep bringing you our best content from the racetrack.