Shaun Balfe and Sandy Mitchell pulled clear of the pack and didn’t get challenged once as they swept to glory in the first of two Intelligent Money British GT Championship races at scorching Snetterton.
It was a similar story in GT4 where Stuart Middleton and Freddie Tomlinson kept themselves out of trouble and used the power of the Raceway Motorsport Ginetta G56 to pull away from their rivals to record a well-earned victory for the team.
For Balfe, starting the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2 from pole, the main task was not putting a foot wrong as the battle erupted behind.
A clean couple of opening laps allowed him to build up a lead of more 2.6sec from the pack behind which was headed by Darren Leung, the Century Motorsport driver defying his relative lack of experience compared to those around him as he kept the charging pack behind at bay in his BMW M4 GT3.
That pack was headed by Enduro Motorsport’s Matt Topham – the GT4 Pro/Am champion adjusting very well to life behind the wheel of the GT3 McLaren 720S but quickly realising that the competition was pretty fierce.
The competition really was coming from Orange Racing with JMH’s Simon Orange who started in the bottom half of the top 10 but was quickly pulling off some great diving moves – mainly at the Wilson Hairpin – to power his suitably orange McLaren 720S GT3 up into the order.
First James Cottingham and then Kevin Tse were subject to Orange’s inch-perfect diving lunges, before the reigning GT Cup champion was gifted third as Topham found the limits of what the GT3 is capable of. Round Coram, he tried to make his way round the outside the back-marking GT4 of Kavi Jundu but with Jundu also getting passed on the inside he moved across slightly and Topham was forced onto the dirtier side of the track which caused him to go too deep into Murrays and allow Orange through for third.
That’s where it unravelled for Orange Racing. A drive-through for an unsafe release in a tightly contested pitstop with Enduro Motorsport dropped Orange’s co-driver to just outside the top ten. No reward for early work, but promise that the pace is definitely there.
Back at the front, and there was really just a small burst of action after the pitstop window and that came from a battle for second between Chris Froggatt, Dan Harper and Rob Bell.
Taking over from Kevin Tse and vaulting to second thanks to a lack of compensation time, Froggatt was trying to hold station in the Sky Tempesta Racing McLaren but was finding himself under pressure from Harper – taking over from Leung – and Bell, who was now in control of the Optimum Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3.
For a time, Froggatt had some relief as Harper needled Bell for third, but when the BMW racer finally got through he was quickly onto the back of the white McLaren 720S GT3 and didn’t take long to mug Froggatt of second. To make things worse, Bell also took advantage of Harper’s move to push the Sky car down to fourth.
None of them, though, could do anything to make a dent on Mitchell’s lead in the Lamborghini, who made easy work of GT4 traffic to win by more than 10 seconds.
Fourth went to Tse and Froggatt – easily their best result of the season – with fifth going to Team Abba Racing’s father-and-son duo of Richard and Sam Neary who had a quiet race but picked up decent points in their first race in the newly-evo’d Mercedes-AMG GT3.
James Cottingham started sixth and – thanks to plenty of penalties for pit infringements and short stops for rivals around them – co-driver Jonny Adam finished sixth in the 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes – the latter fending off pressure from Beechdean AMR’s Ross Gunn to maintain the position.
Eighth was Jules Gounon and Ian Loggie in the second 2 Seas entry, the pair not really making their presence known, Gounon gaining positions late on thanks to those penalties for others. RAM Racing took ninth for John Ferguson and Raffaele Marciello, while Mark Sansom & Will Tregurtha rounded out the top 10 in the second Barwell entry.
The secondary class proved to be a walk in the park for Stuart Middleton and Freddie Tomlinson. Starting the Raceway Ginetta from pole, Middleton took no time at all to build up a comfortable advantage over Seb Hopkins in the R Racing Aston Martin, who made up a handful of places with an energetic start for the Vantage racer.
Really, he wasn’t troubled and continued to build up a lead which went over half-a-dozen seconds pretty quickly and then was maintained as Middleton saved tyres. Handing over to Tomlinson as late as he possibly could, there was slight pressure from the sister car of Michael Crees and Thomas Holland – the latter gaining places thanks to not having to serve the Silver Cup time penalty placed on Middleton & Tomlinson.
But, being team-mates, Holland didn’t really force the issue and elected to maintain what ended up being a team one-two and wins in both the Silver and Pro/Am categories in what was a really dominant race for the Ginetta G56s – finally a result that reflects what the car has been capable of, having been subject to penalties and misfortunes in previous races.
There was somewhat of a fight for third overall in class, as Josh Miller – taking over the Aston from Hopkins – found himself under pressure from Josh Rowledge in the DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura and the pair of Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4s being driven by Chris Salkeld and Lewis Plato.
Really Miller was not under the most pressure, instead it was the BMWs versus the McLaren as that trio went at it pretty hard to try and claim the last place on the podium. After some tussling, it proved to be Salkeld who tried to lead the charge to rob Miller of his podium finish, but with all the action taking place in the closing minutes of the one-hour race the Century Motorsport driver had no time to try a move for third and instead had to settle for fourth.
Plato took fifth, with Rowledge sixth and the championship-leading Optimum Motorsport Artura of Charles Clark and Jack Brown losing a bit of ground with seventh in class.
The second British GT race of the weekend takes place at 16.20 UK time, and you can follow the action here.
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