Maiden GT4 victory keeps Tolman’s Dorlin and Smith in class championship contention
Wilkinson and Ellis wrap up GT3 Silver Cup title
Graham Davidson and Jonny Adam will travel to British GT’s #DoningtonDecider in the thick of the championship battle after taking a superb victory in today's two-hour race at Brands Hatch. Behind, Tolman Motorsport’s James Dorlin and Josh Smith remained in contention for the GT4 title by claiming their maiden class wins.
An eventful encounter for the GT3 contenders also saw this year's Silver Cup decided, with Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis doing just enough in their Optimum Aston Martin to accrue an unassailable advantage ahead of the final round. The Silver duo were early challengers for overall victory, but ultimately it was the #47 TF Sport Aston Martin that ran out a comfortable winner ahead of Balfe Motorsport’s McLaren and Century’s #9 BMW.
TF Sport’s Scottish duo were in control for much of the race, providing a stark contrast with an unpredictable GT4 battle. The lead swung between a number of crews, but it was the #4 Tolman Motorsport McLaren that eventually prevailed after taking advantage of Academy’s late brake issue that sent Will Moore into the Druids tyre wall. A little further back the #11 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin took Pro/Am honours, putting Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman on the brink of the class championship.
Five crews remain in overall GT3 title contention, while six entries can win the GT4 crown when Donington hosts British GT’s season finale on September 14/15.
GT3: DAVIDSON/ADAM SURGE INTO TITLE CONTENTION WITH STELLAR BRANDS VICTORY
While it was Adam who ultimately took the chequered flag to secure a record 16th British GT3 and overall win, Davidson was the real architect of today's victory. Much of the hard work was completed during the opening sequence of corners, with the fourth-place starter snatching third from Sam De Haan (#69 Barwell Lamborghini) by holding the outside line around Paddock Hill Bend and pulling clear on the exit.
He remained on the outside to take second spot at Druids by driving around Shaun Balfe’s McLaren, which had already slipped from first to second when Ollie Wilkinson pulled clear on the run to Paddock Hill.
Davidson was kept honest by Balfe throughout the opening phase of the race. The McLaren filled the #47 Aston’s mirrors while Wilkinson edged away at the front, only for the Optimum driver to spin shortly before the 20-minute mark. This dropped Wilkinson to fourth on the road just as the race was neutralised following a heavy accident for Glynn Geddie (#7 Team Parker Bentley), who lost control while negotiating traffic. Fortunately, the Team Parker driver was able to walk away unaided.
Thus Davidson led at the restart and, after resisting pressure from Balfe, managed to edge away at the head of the order. His rapid progress through traffic would prove crucial, with the Aston seeming to make better work of the GT4 pack than his pursuers. Indeed, Davidson would receive the Blancpain Driver of the Weekend award for his efforts during the opening hour.
Adam therefore began his stint in a strong position, with the TF Aston’s advantage climbing to five seconds shortly after the driver changes had concluded. It did not drop below this mark for the remainder of the race, as Adam mirrored Davidson's smooth progress through traffic on his way to victory.
The Aston crossed the line comfortably clear of Rob Bell, who took a third top-three finish of 2019 in the McLaren he shares with Balfe but ultimately fell just short of securing the 720S’s maiden victory on home soil.
The #3 Century Motorsport BMW completed the podium thanks to an excellent showing from Angus Fender and Jack Mitchell. Both drove excellently, though Fender's performance in what was his first outing aboard GT3 machinery was particularly impressive. Mitchell, meanwhile, was able to resist late pressure from a hard-charging Phil Keen, who emerged victorious from the race's most entertaining battle.
Barwell’s Lamborghini factory ace had taken over from Adam Balon, who made good progress from ninth on the grid to climb to sixth by the end of his stint. This left Keen disputing the same piece of tarmac as team-mate and title rival Jonny Cocker, who had replaced Sam De Haan in the sister Huracan.
Barwell’s team-mates battled for the entirety of the second hour, scything through the GT4 pack while remaining nose-to-tail. Cocker defended perfectly throughout and looked to have fourth wrapped up until Keen made an audacious final-lap move to snatch the position around the outside of Hawthorns. This cost Cocker dearly, as the #69 Lamborghini lost momentum and dropped to eighth at the chequered flag.
This had major championship implications, with Balon/Keen moving to 122 points ahead of the title decider at Donington Park. Their nearest challengers will be Davidson and Adam, whose Brands Hatch victory sees them surge into contention with 116 points but with the caveat of a 20s Pitstop Success Penalty. De Haan/Cocker now have 110.5 after the latter's final lap problems proved costly, while Balfe/Bell and Wilkinson/Ellis must win on the final weekend to have any chance of upsetting the odds.
The #6 RAM Racing crew is no long in contention, but Callum Macleod nevertheless finished with a flourish at Brands Hatch by taking the Sunoco Fastest Lap Award aboard his Mercedes-AMG.
While the overall title battle will go to the finale, the Silver Cup championship has been decided in favour of Wilkinson/Ellis. Despite falling out of contention for victory at Brands Hatch, the Optimum Motorsport duo nevertheless did enough at the Kent track to capture their class crown with a round to spare courtesy of a 37.75-point advantage – 0.25 points more than still available at Donington.
GT4: SMITH AND DORLIN EMERGE VICTORIOUS FROM ENTERTAINING CONTEST
While the GT3 contest settled down following an exciting opening phase, the battle for GT4 honours swung between several crews and did not seem entirely certain until the chequered flag.
The #57 HHC McLaren started from pole, but Callum Pointon lost his advantage immediately as the #97 TF Sport Aston Martin driven by Ashley Hand moved into the lead from second on the grid, while the #4 Tolman McLaren relegated the pole-sitter to third. Top spot in the Pro/Am class also changed hands at the start, with Nick Jones (#66 Team Parker Mercedes-AMG) leapfrogging Kelvin Fletcher (#11 Beechdean Aston Martin) during an eventful opening tour.
Further back the #62 Academy Motorsport Aston Martin of Alex Toth-Jones was penalised for a start infringement, though with the car running on the fringes of the top-10 this did not seem especially significant at the time.
But a Safety Car for debris on-track would change that. Having dropped well off the lead after serving their penalty, the #62 crew elected to run long into the stint. With the Safety Car coinciding with the GT4 pit window, they were able to vault into a commanding lead by stopping at the ideal moment. Indeed, by the time Will Moore had settled in for the second hour, the Academy machine led by half-a-minute.
An unlikely victory seemed to be on the cards, but there was another twist. With just 20 minutes left on the clock, Moore suffered brake failure at Paddock Hill Bend, sending the Aston into the Druids wall and dashing any hope of victory.
This promoted the #4 Tolman McLaren into the lead. The car had remained in contention after Josh Smith was replaced by James Dorlin and, with the #62 Aston's demise, was able to move into top spot and capture its first win of the season. Second spot went to the pole-sitting HHC McLaren, driven for the second hour by Dean Macdonald, who secured the Sunoco Fastest Lap Award as he closed to within just half-a-second of the winner.
The #15 Multimatic Ford looked to have sealed the final spot on the podium after Scott Maxwell and Seb Priaulx took third on the road, but a post-race investigation found the car to be in breach of a pitstop safety regulation. In lieu of the standard 10-second stop/go penalty, 40 seconds have been added to the Ford’s race time, dropping it to ninth in the final classification. The #35 Optimum Aston Martin was handed the same penalty for a similar pitstop safety infringement.
The #97 TF Aston therefore assumed third spot and the points lead, capping an excellent showing that came in spite of a 20-second Success Penalty. Behind, Century Motorsport's #43 BMW was fourth after Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke and Nathan Freke made excellent progress form 12th on the grid.
The Pro/Am winner was next across the line, with the #11 Beechdean Aston recovering from its slow getaway to clinch class honours. Fletcher had returned to the lead during his stint, handing over to Martin Plowman in a strong position to secure a second victory of the season. Fox Motorsport were next with their #77 Mercedes-AMG, which clinched runner-up in Pro/Am, followed by the #75 Optimum Aston Martin.
This puts the #11 crew on the brink of the Pro/Am title heading to Donington Park after their nearest rivals, Balfe’s Graham Johnson and Michael O’Brien, were classified finishers despite retiring with 15 minutes remaining.
In the overall GT4 standings, the #97 pairing of Hand and Tom Canning move to top spot with 117.5 points. Five crews are in contention to overhaul them, led by Pointon/Macdonald on 109 and Maxwell/Priaulx on 105.5.
Jordan Collard and Lewis Proctor also remain in the hunt with 97.5 points, while victory at Brands Hatch puts the Dorlin/Smith partnership on 84.5. Fletcher/Plowman also retain a mathematical chance of sealing the title, trailing the leaders by 37 points with 37.5 on offer at the finale.
The season-ending trip to Donington Park will take place over the weekend of September 14/15.