GT Cup resumed its 2024 campaign with a trip to Brands Hatch on the full Grand Prix circuit. As with Donington, Team Abba’s Richard Neary and Ian Loggie proved they are the ones to beat whilst Paul Bailey brought his monstrous Brabham BT62 back into action after engine issues curtailed its 2023 season.

The weekend got off to a rough start as the Tim Gray Motorsport Radical RXC suffered a major accident heading into Hawthorn during Saturday’s qualifying session. It’s unclear as to what caused the off but Steve Burgess who was driving at the time went straight on at high speed and crashed through the barriers, landing on the other side and causing extensive damage to the car and track.

Fortunately, Steve is perfectly ok, but a two-hour delay to fix the barriers meant that all further sessions had to be reduced in length. Race 1 was now 20 minutes with Race 2 now being 40 minutes.

Race 1

After retiring from his sprint race at Donington, Tom Rawlings in the Topcats Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Evo stormed to a commanding victory in only his second weekend with the team.

His 11 second margin of victory was slightly assisted by the great battle for second place with Ian Loggie in the Team Abba Mercedes AMG GT3 just beating Richard Chamberlain in his Porsche 935 after a great race-long battle between the two GT Cup Stalwarts. This also happened to be the battle for GTO honours with Paul Bailey rounding out the top three after a great race-long battle with the G-Cat Porsche 911 GT3R of Shamus Jennings who claimed GT3 honours and fourth overall.

Meanwhile, back to GTC, Warren Gilbert in the sister Topcats Lamborghini finished a solid sixth overall and second in GTC with Miles Rudman just one place further back as he continues to adapt to his Porsche 991.1 Cup Car.

GTH saw an absolute masterclass from Forsetti Motorsport’s Mikey Porter. The previous generation Aston Martin Vantage GT4 still showed great pace as Porter lapped half a second quicker than any of his group rivals.

Ray Harris joined the fray for Brands Hatch in his Ginetta G55 and was immediately on the pace with a second in GTH with Charles Dawson in the Team Parker Mercedes AMG GT4 just four seconds further back to round out the group podium.

Race 2

After Donington’s dramatic battles for Saturday’s pitstop race, Team Abba had it much easier this time around with Loggie leading into the pitstop window with a 20 second advantage over the rest of the field.

It wasn’t as easy as it seemed, however. The Scotsman started third on the grid behind Chamberlain and Charlotte Gilbert who started the Topcats machine before handing over to Rawlings later on. However, within minutes he has dispatched the pair and set about building his advantage before handing over to Neary who would complete the race.

His closest rival would turn out to once again be Greg Caton in the G-Cat Porsche. Caton was 40 seconds behind Neary at the start of his stint but drove superbly to erode the gap down to just 15 seconds at the flag. But this gave Neary his first endurance race victory of the season and GTO honours in the process. Caton still claimed GT3 and even managed to hold off the charging Brabham which was lapping two seconds faster than anyone on track.

However, David Brabham (who was driving the Brabham) ran out of time and had to settle for third overall and second in GTO. An early race battle with Chamberlain cost Bailey time in the opening stint but with Chamberlain dropping out at the halfway mark, Brabham was unleashed to chase after the Porsche.

Back in GTC, Gilbert had dropped behind the faster runners during her stint and was leapfrogged by Rudman in the pitstops. However, Rawlings was on top form and quickly fought his way past and into a comfortable lead in what turned out to be his and the car’s second GTC victory of the weekend. Rudman managed to clinch second whilst Chris Murphy rounded out the top three in his BMW M3 GTR.

GTH was a closely fought contest but this time it wasn’t Forsetti on top. Newcomer Ray Harris blitzed the field in his first GT Cup race weekend and even managed to keep former British GT champion, Seb Morris at bay for the final 20-minutes of the race. An impressive feat in the older spec G55 Ginetta. Morris (who took over from Dawson) was only a second back at the finish but even he couldn’t relax as the Forsetti Aston Martin of Porter and Matthew Higgins was less than two seconds behind him, waiting to pounce at any moment.

Race 3

On the tenth anniversary of the death of Sir Jack Brabham, his son David claimed victory at Brands Hatch in a car bearing the Brabham name.

The start of the race saw Loggie hold a slim advantage over Bailey who kept close enough to maintain pressure on the Mercedes, especially with his straight-line speed advantage.

However, it wouldn’t be long before the Brabham took the lead as Loggie drifted off into the gravel at Clearways in an unforced error that dropped him behind Shamus Jennings. He wasn’t behind Jennings for long but his hopes of catching Bailey were all but gone.

Or so he thought. The pitstop window offered an opportunity for Abba to make up for lost time and that’s exactly what they did. Managing to pull off a faster pitstop than the Brabham crew, Neary emerged on the track with a slight advantage over Brabham who now set about chasing down the green Mercedes once again.

And close he did, the straight line speed advantage really helping on the fast GP Loop and this put Brabham in a position to make his move, along the Brabham Straight of course. Powering past Neary before they hit the brakes for Paddock Hill, Brabham was now leading and would continue to stretch his lead right to the chequered flag, taking victory on an emotionally significant day for him.

Neary came home second to complete the GTO podium as sadly both Chamberlain and Jay Shepherd in the NMA Lotus Evora had withdrawn after suffering separate mechanical failures.

Jennings and Caton rounded out the overall top three and took GT3 honours in the process whilst the GTC battle had been hotting up behind them.

Rudman initially held the advantage after a daring first-corner move but the Rawlings / Gilbert combination are proving to be the ones to beat so far in 2024, having claimed all four of the pitstop race victories so far. Rudman did manage to hold onto second place whilst Ray Harris (who had been moved from GTH overnight) rounded out the top three.

GTH meanwhile saw familiar faces atop the podium with Higgins and Porter striking back after Saturday’s defeat. Forsetti made it a one-two as Jodie Sloss and Rianna O’Meara Hunt came home second whilst Morpheus Motorsport got their first podium of the weekend courtesy of Jon Currie and super-sub, Marcus Clutton who replaced Phil Keen whilst he was away on other commitments.

Race 4

The final race of the weekend was rather a straightforward affair as Richard Neary led the field to a lights-to-flag victory from Paul Bailey with Jennings rounding out the top three.

GTC meanwhile wasn’t quite so easy. Miles Rudman got a great jump at the start and led the entire field into Paddock Hill before being usurped by Neary shortly afterwards. However, his start was a little too good and he was slapped with a 10 second time penalty for a jump start.

Despite the penalty, he was overhauled by the two Topcats cars of Charlotte and Warren Gilbert. Charlotte led the way with her husband Warren following close behind, likely protecting the lead car to assist with their championship aspirations.

All was going well until the closing minutes when Charlotte lost the car exiting Druids and ultimately dropped to the back of GTC. Warren initially slowed in the hopes of her reclaiming the lead but he soon had to pull away before Rudman arrived on the scene.

Warren managed to round out the weekend with a Topcats sweep of GTC whilst Rudman finished second on the road. Harris was close enough behind to benefit from Rudman’s penalty as the two swapped positions as the timing corrected itself.

GTH got off to a feisty start as Dawson led away from Higgins but it was soon clear the Forsetti driver was anxious to get past. Moving left and right he was determined to find a way through and finally, he managed just that with an audacious move up the inside of Sheene leaving him clear to gap the rest of the field.

Dawson held onto second whilst James Townsend in the SVG Ginetta G56 claimed his first podium of the weekend.

After Brands Hatch the Forsetti pairing of Higgins and Porter lead the overall standings albeit just 14 points clear of Gilbert and Rawlings who clawed back points with a great weekend on their part. Current GTO leaders Neary and Loggie are 36 points behind in third with 18 races still to run.

The next round of the 2024 GT Cup season comes from Snetterton on the 1/2nd of June in what is set to be another Norfolk thriller.


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