Barwell & Optimum weather the storm in classic British GT encounter at Donington

Barwell & Optimum weather the storm in classic British GT encounter at Donington

GT3: Martin and Mitchell triumph from pole


Back-to-back wins for Brown and Meakin

Alex Martin, Sandy Mitchell, Jack Brown and Zac Meakin all scored their second British GT Championship wins of the season at Donington where spells of heavy rain, an aborted start and mid-race suspension all contributed towards a classic three-hour contest.

 

Barwell’s Lamborghini took the chequered flag 0.6s ahead of the Optimum McLaren shared by Mark Radcliffe and Tom Gamble who recovered from two sizeable setbacks to join a three-way lead battle over the final stint that also featured 2 Seas’ #6 Mercedes-AMG. Phil Keen led Mitchell and Gamble with half-an-hour remaining but lost two places in the last 10 minutes after twice being baulked by GT4 traffic.

 

Optimum might have missed out on overall victory but made no mistake in GT4 where Brown and Meakin overcame their 20 seconds of Compensation Time to claim a second win in as many outings. They were undoubtedly helped by a well-timed Full Course Yellow and Safety Car period that scuppered Paddock Motorsport’s chances and also negated the Pro-Am entries’ pitstop concession.

 

Brown passed Will Orton who finished second in the Forsetti Aston Martin he shares with Marc Warren, while Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s Kavi Jundu and Dan Vaughan completed the podium despite serving a one-second stop-go penalty in the final stint.

 

However, the race will most likely be remembered for a heavy downpour that resulted in several cars aquaplaning into Redgate’s gravel trap after 45 minutes. The weather and incident resulted in a three-quarters-of-an-hour delay.


GT3: LAMBO BEATS McLAREN AND MERCEDES-AMG

Heavy rain on the formation lap forced Race Control to abort the start. Slicks were duly swapped for wets before the race officially began behind the Safety Car, which circulated for two laps. RAM pitted after the first and its Mercedes-AMG rejoined – now with Marciello onboard – just as pole man Martin led the pack towards Turn 1. Ultimately, it would be a footnote in what was to follow.

 

The first meaningful pitstops were triggered by the need for slicks after 20 minutes, by which time Rob Collard (Barwell), Shaun Balfe (Garage 59) and Kevin Tse (2 Seas) had all passed Martin.

 

The rain returned soon after, albeit lightly at first. Balfe's co-driver Smalley took advantage by relieving Ricky Collard of the lead with an opportunistic move on the run from Old Hairpin to Starkeys before Mitchell also passed his team-mate moments later.

 

However, the light drizzle then suddenly turned into a downpour that prompted most teams to make their second pitstops. The cars that didn't were still on slicks when they arrived at a sodden Redgate and, in most cases, slid into the gravel trap or tyre barrier. The majority resumed after they were towed clear under the subsequent red flag period.

 

Optimum's McLaren appeared to be the big winner when it stopped just as the race was suspended. But Race Control corrected that by ordering Radcliffe – who'd taken over from Gamble – to concede positions just before racing resumed 45 minutes later.

 

The order now read Collard, Loggie, Simon Orange, Balfe and Martin who maintained their positions over the following 55 minutes, which featured two more FCY and Safety Car periods.

 

The next caution period - triggered by Tse and Orange colliding at Starkeys - prompted the final round of mandatory stops where 2 Seas was able to jump Barwell's race leading Lamborghini. Another FCY and Safety Car period followed soon after before the top GT3 contenders finally had a chance to settle into their last stints.

 

Mitchell and Gamble – whose co-driver Radcliffe took full advantage of incidents and Compensation Time – both passed Collard and set off in pursuit of Keen. For 20 minutes the 2 Seas Mercedes-AMG withstood intense pressure as the trio ran as one.

 

The Lamborghini and McLaren were both clearly quicker but only found a way past when Keen was twice baulked in traffic. Gamble's pace, which had earlier netted him fastest lap, was truly revealed when closing down Mitchell in the closing laps, but the Scot held on to claim the championship lead for himself and Martin.

 

Keen and Loggie finished third, but only by 0.3s from Garage 59's McLaren shared by Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton who picked off Dan Harper and then Ricky Collard during the final stint.

 

Barwell's second Lamborghini had to make do with fifth while Century's BMW of Harper and Michael Johnston scored its best result on the season in sixth. The M4 was pursued by Maximilian Goetz whose co-driver Tse spent large portions of the race fighting for a podium place.

 

Balfe and Smalley were also unlucky to finish only eighth after the maximum Compensation Time restricted their chances in such a topsy turvy race. However, the erstwhile overall championship leaders did at least maintain their 100% Silver-Am record.

 

Blackthorn's #87 Aston Martin and the J&S Racing Audi rounded out the top 10.


GT4: BROWN AND MEAKIN BEAT THE ODDS

Zac Meakin and Jack Brown scored their second successive GT4 victory after successfully guiding Optimum's McLaren through a challenging three hours of racing.

 

The pair managed to overturn their maximum Compensation Time, but in truth that handicap was the least of their worries during a race that threw so many challenges and variables at the grid.

 

Nevertheless, Meakin and Brown never put a wheel wrong, with Brown managing to reel in the #47 Aston Martin shared by Marc Warren and Will Orton in the final stint to snatch the overall win. Forsetti’s drivers were still clear Pro-Am winners after many of their rivals experienced their own difficulties. 

 

Optimum’s McLaren was always going to be in the mix thanks to the combined pace of Meakin and Brown, but it was their consistency that made the real difference. After all cars had switched to wets for the delayed race start, the DTO Ginetta of Stuart Middleton led away with Meakin, Charles Dawson in the Team Parker Racing Mercedes-AMG, Jamie Day’s Forsetti Aston and Alex Walker in the Paddock McLaren close behind.

 

However, DTO's advantage was short-lived: Middleton dropped to fourth behind new leader Day, Walker and Meakin who swapped places in the space of half-a-lap. But things would then get worse for the Ginetta, which subsequently suffered a brake disc failure.

 

That moment coincidentally coincided with the weather turning dramatically. Dawson's co-driver Seb Morris was one of those to slide off at Redgate before Day and Mikey Porter's race was severely compromised by a 64-second stop-go penalty. 

 

The upshot was Meakin leading Walker, Warren and Kavi Jundu but with Optimum's crew yet to serve its Compensation Time. 

Walker was the first of the lead quartet to make his final stop and did so just before the final caution period was called. That cost his newly installed Paddock co-driver Blake Angliss a full lap when the likes of Optimum, Forsetti and TGR UK made their driver changes under FCY conditions. 

 

With the Pro-Am drivers enjoying shorter mandatory stop times, plus the Optimum McLaren having to serve its extra 20 seconds stationary following the Silverstone win, both the Forsetti Aston and Toyota vaulted ahead after the final round of changes. However, the Supra was hit with a stop-go for shaving a second off its last stop, leaving the final stages as a straight fight between Orton and the chasing Brown.

 

Brown homed in on the rear of the Aston, eventually making a well-timed dive for the lead into the Melbourne Hairpin to secure the result. Vaughan and Jundu came home third, with Walker and Angliss still doing enough for fourth overall and second in Silver.

 

Luca Hopkinson and Harry George completed the Silver rostrum in RAM Racing’s Mercedes-AMG, with Academy Motorsport’s Matt Nicoll-Jones and Will Moore rounding out the top six in the #62 Mustang that enjoyed a spell in the lead during the race’s middle stages.
 


Related Motorsport Articles

84,675 articles