Academy prevail after wild GT4 finish
Lamborghini holds off Jenson Team Rocket RJN’s Baldwin and O’Brien
Albert and Cowley overcome Century and HHC after TF Sport's drivers collide
Barwell Motorsport’s Rob Collard and Sandy Mitchell scored their maiden Intelligent Money British GT3 Championship victories at Brands Hatch Sunday after a mid-race Safety Car period wiped out Jenson Team Rocket RJN’s early advantage.
The Black Bull-backed Lamborghini, which now leads the GT3 Drivers’ standings, took the chequered flag just 0.649s clear of Michael O’Brien and James Baldwin’s McLaren, while RAM Racing’s Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman completed the podium after 2 Seas Motorsport’s #9 McLaren was handed a 40s post-race penalty for an unsafe pitstop release.
In GT4, strong drives from both Jordan Albert and Matt Cowley helped Academy Motorsport’s Ford Mustang charge from eighth to first. Albert clawed back five positions during the opening stint before his co-driver made the decisive move following the first of two Safety Car periods.
TF Sport’s Aston Martins should have completed the podium but collided at the start of the final lap when Jamie Caroline dived down the inside of Patrick Kibble at Paddock Hill Bend. Contact sent the latter spinning into the gravel and resulted in #97 receiving a 40s post-race penalty. As such, Century Motorsport’s BMW shared by Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke and Ben Green, and Gus Bowers and Chris Wesemael (HHC Motorsport) completed the podium. The latter now also lead the Drivers’ Championship with four rounds remaining.
GT3: A TALE OF TWO HALVES
The first 60 minutes belonged to one team and driver: James Baldwin started on pole and didn’t look back after getting through Paddock Hill Bend ahead of his front row rival Rob Collard. Incredibly, The World’s Fastest Gamer had amassed a near-30s lead when the Safety Car was required just before half-distance.
Behind, Collard was soon in a race of his own thanks to the squabble involving leading amateur, Ian Loggie, and 2 Seas Motorsport’s McLarens. Jordan Witt and Angus Fender finally muscled their way past RAM Racing’s Mercedes-AMG at Stirlings after 20 minutes but were too far adrift to catch Barwell’s Lamborghini before the Safety Car intervened.
Loggie’s mirrors were soon full of team-mate Sam De Haan, who’d prised his way past the resolute Michael Igoe earlier in the opening stint. WPI’s Lamborghini would ultimately pit from seventh despite the best efforts of Lewis Proctor (Optimum) and Richard Neary (ABBA Racing), neither of whom could dislodge the Huracan.
Baldwin, meanwhile, looked set to hand over an enormous advantage to Jenson Team Rocket RJN co-driver Michael O’Brien. But that all changed five minutes before the GT3 pitstops began when Nick Jones came together with Witt and span into Westfield’s gravel trap. Cue a Safety Car period that not only slashed the race leader’s advantage but also prompted most of the frontrunners to pit at the first time of asking.
They emerged with Barwell’s Sandy Mitchell now ahead of O’Brien, while stopping a lap later and serving a 10s Success Penalty dropped 2 Seas’ #10 McLaren from third to 10th. Instead, it was Fender’s co-driver Dean Macdonald who slotted into third ahead of RAM’s Yelmer Buurman and Patrick Kujala, and the WPI Lamborghini now driven by Franck Perera.
The order remained unchanged over the final hour despite the top-six often circulating no more than three seconds apart. A second Safety Car period to recover HHC’s stranded GT4 McLaren initially offered O’Brien hope but he was unable to find a way inside Mitchell whose edge over the first half of the lap was just enough to keep the McLaren at bay around the GP loop.
2 Seas’ post-race penalty in lieu of a 10s stop-go denied Fender and Macdonald a well-earned podium. Instead, Loggie/Buurman, Kujala/De Haan and Igoe/Perera all moved up one place within the top-five.
A Safety Car restart penalty for Optimum’s McLaren also helped elevate Steller’s new Audi shared by Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding to sixth, while Sam Neary finished just ahead of Jack Mitchell. Beechdean AMR’s afternoon was compromised by the Safety Car’s timing but Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam recovered well to beat Proctor and Ollie Wilkinson, and 2 Seas’ penalised McLaren.
Elsewhere, a 15s Pitstop Success Penalty hampered Barwell’s second Lamborghini shared by erstwhile championship leaders Adam Balon and Phil Keen. However, the latter underlined the Huracan’s potential by setting Sunoco Fastest Lap.
GT4: ACADEMY FIGHT BACK AFTER QUALIFYING WOES
Jordan Albert and Matt Cowley repaid Academy Motorsport’s overnight work by claiming the team’s maiden victory with the Ford Mustang in a breathless GT4 encounter at Brands Hatch.
The two-hour race featured four different leaders, two Safety Car periods, and a four-car fight for glory that went right down to a frenetic final few laps.
Before the start, Albert and Cowley looked long-odds for the win after an engine sensor issue during qualifying restricted their straight-line speed and left the car starting down in eighth. In contrast, TF Sport’s twin Aston Martins looked favourites, having shared top spot in both practice sessions and pole position between them. But their race unravelled late on, allowing Academy to take its first win of the season, Century Motorsport its first podium of the campaign, and Gus Bowers and Chris Wesemael a third place that sees them lead the Drivers’ Championship by half-a-point.
After his impressive qualifying performance, Connor O’Brien made an equally strong start to the race by holding top spot as the pack ran through Paddock, while Dan Vaughan slotted into second after fending off the fast-starting Speedworks Toyota in the hands of Sam Smelt. But that wouldn’t be the end of the battle, as Smelt threw everything at Vaughan in an attempt to split the Astons.
The battle behind helped O’Brien escape, and he enjoyed a near six-second lead by the time Smelt eventually did breach Vaughan’s defences on lap eight to snatch second. Once past his rival, Smelt did brilliantly to eat into O’Brien’s advantage and was just under two seconds behind when disaster struck the leading Aston.
O’Brien was negotiating the Druids hairpin when he was clipped by Richard Neary’s ABBA Racing Mercedes-AMG as the GT3 pack worked its way through. The contact was slight but sufficient to turn O’Brien round on the exit of the corner, which dropped him to fourth and allowed Smelt into the lead.
But the star of the opening stint was Albert, who progressively picked off cars to work his way into fourth just before O’Brien’s rotation put the Mustang into a podium spot.
Things were further spiced up when Nick Jones’ Bentley was tipped into the gravel at Hawthorns and required a Safety Car period to clear, which arrived just seconds before the pit window opened.
As the race leader, Smelt would be cutting it fine to get into the pits just as the window opened on the 58-minute mark. Not wishing to risk a penalty, Speedworks ordered him to stay out, but everybody else rolled the dice and dived in at the first chance with the race at reduced speed. It turned out to be the right call for the others, as Smelt had to do a full tour behind the Safety Car, which ultimately cost the Toyota the race.
In the pits, Jamie Caroline got away first after taking over from Vaughan to assume the lead, while Academy got Cowley out right behind him and crucially ahead of Patrick Kibble in TF’s second Aston and Ben Green in the lead Century BMW.
The cars re-joined just as the race went green again, and Cowley wasted no time in selling Caroline a dummy on the run toward Hawthorn Hill before diving inside for the lead.
Once ahead, Cowley pushed hard to forge a gap, eventually managing to graft a one-second advantage over Caroline. But push as he might, The Mustang driver’s efforts were almost ruined by a second Safety Car, called to clear debris from Hawthorn Hill after Jordan Collard’s HHC McLaren suffered a tyre delamination.
The caution period bunched the top-four up again and, when racing resumed with just under 20 minutes remaining, a thrilling finale ensued. At the restart, Green got himself amongst the Astons, nipping past Kibble for third when he was run wide by a lapping GT3 at Graham Hill Bend. Kibble attempted to close the door, but Green made the move stick into Surtees.
On the penultimate tour, Kibble tried to fight back with a dive inside on the exit of Clearways just as Green was attempting to undercut Caroline. The three cars made contact but all survived to gather themselves up along the straight before Green was squeezed down to fourth on the exit of Paddock Hill.
But the drama wasn’t over: both TF Astons then collided into Paddock at the start of the final lap, with Kibble’s car being spun into the gravel. Caroline continued unscathed to finish second on the road behind the superbly driven Mustang.
That final incident ultimately resulted in the #97 Aston Martin incurring a 40s post-race penalty in lieu of a 10s stop-go, which dropped Caroline and Vaughan to sixth in class.
Instead, Green and Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke emerged battered but delighted with second place and Century’s first podium of the season, while Gus Bowers and Chris Wesemael overcame the full 20s Success Penalty to finish third.
Speedworks’ Toyota salvaged fourth ahead of Century’s second BMW shared by Ben Hurst and Adam Hatfield, and TF Sport’s penalised Aston Martin. Kibble and O’Brien completed sufficient distance to be classified seventh ahead of Balfe’s McLaren, which picked up a puncture.
The Intelligent Money British GT Championship now heads back to Donington Park for an extended three-hour endurance race on September 19/20.