Image: Michael Igoe and Phil Keen's WPI Motorsport Lamborghini
WPI OVERCOMES BEECHDEAN AND BARWELL
ABBA CONVERTS SILVER-AM POLE INTO CLASS VICTORY
TEAM ROCKET RJN COMPLETES GT4 PODIUM
Michael Igoe and Phil Keen began their Intelligent Money British GT Championship challenge in fine style by securing a dominant win for WPI Motorsport and Lamborghini in today’s two-hour season opener at Brands Hatch where Gus Burton and Will Burns headed a Century BMW one-two in the GT4 class.
Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam couldn’t convert their pole position into victory but still came away with a handy points haul after holding off Barwell Motorsport’s Lamborghini shared by Leo Machitski and a charging Dennis Lind.
Team Abba Racing’s Richard and Sam Neary collected Silver-Am honours in fifth overall.
Behind, the GT4 battle was turned on its head with just five minutes to run when Charlie Robertson was forced to pit with a puncture, which opened the door for Burton and Burns to take a well-deserved win. The latter dominated early proceedings but was unable to rebuild a sufficient lead that would have negated the Silver Cup crew’s longer minimum pitstop time after the second Safety Car period.
However, Burton drove superbly to work his way back up to second and then inherit the lead when Assetto’s Ginetta hit trouble. Pro-Am winners Chris Salkeld and Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke joined their team-mates on the overall podium, while James Kell and Jordan Collard completed the top-three aboard Team Rocket RJN’s McLaren.
GT3: IGOE SETS THE TONE FOR DOMINANT WPI
Having just missed out on pole yesterday, Igoe made the most of his front row grid slot by initially tracking and then passing Andrew Howard who had converted Beechdean AMR’s pole position into an early lead.
But any hopes of establishing a significant advantage were dashed by two Safety Car periods that punctuated the opening stint. The first involved contact between Chris Salkeld and John Ferguson, which sent Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s Supra into the Hawthorns gravel trap, and the other a clash between James Cottingham and Adam Balon that resulted in both cars beached at Paddock Hill.
Igoe managed the first restart perfectly and received a slice of luck with the second when a lapped GT4 car acted as a buffer between himself, Howard, Leo Machitski and Richard Neary. The subsequent scrap that saw Barwell’s Lamborghini relieve Beechdean’s Aston of second at Surtees only further enhanced Igoe’s advantage, which stood at four seconds when the pitstop window opened after 62 minutes.
His co-driver, Phil Keen, emerged with a familiar foe for company after a broken GPS unit delayed Barwell’s pitstop, dropping Dennis Lind two places and handing second to Jonny Adam. The championship’s two most successful drivers traded times for the best part of 40 minutes – the gap fluctuating between 2.5s and 3.5s throughout – before Beechdean’s Aston began to fade.
Instead, Adam’s attention switched to Lind who claimed the Sunoco Fastest Lap before also dispatching Yelmer Buurman with a brilliantly opportunistic three-wide move in traffic while approaching Westfield with 28 minutes remaining. The Dane rapidly closed in but caught the Vantage too late to suss out a potential passing place. Just three tenths separated them at the finish.
Buurman and Ian Loggie came home fourth thanks to a solid performance from RAM’s reigning Pro-Am champions. Their Mercedes-AMG lacked the pace of either the Lamborghini or Aston Martin but executed a fault-free race after starting seventh.
Team Abba Racing’s Mercedes-AMG was in the thick of the action throughout an opening stint in which Richard Neary climbed from sixth to fourth and then slid back down the order before the pit window opened. His son, Sam, was particularly eye-catching in the second hour when he chased down Buurman, while Silver-Am victory and fifth overall was a just reward for an encouraging weekend.
Nick Jones and Scott Malvern (Team Parker Racing) also avoided the pitfalls of others to make up five places from where they qualified en route to sixth, but JRM will be left ruing what might have been after a drive-through penalty dropped Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman out of podium contention. Their Bentley finished seventh, while Proctors Stewart and Lewis completed the top-eight for Balfe.
GT3 debutants Simon Green Motorsport took the chequered flag in ninth but received a post-race 30s penalty in lieu of a drive-through for making avoidable contact with G-Cat Racing’s Porsche. Greg Caton and Shamus Jennings therefore moved up one place at the expense of the Lamborghini, which collected the final point in 10th.
Barwell and RAM’s second entries also appeared on course for decent finishes before Cottingham and Balon’s collision at Paddock Hill ended their fantastic scrap over sixth.
GT4: BURNS AND BURTON CAPITALISE ON LATE DRAMA
Will Burns and Gus Burton enjoyed a stellar Intelligent Money British GT4 Championship season opener by securing a well-deserved victory at Brands Hatch, even if it took a late dose of drama to get the job done.
The pair – 2020 Ginetta GT4 Supercup title rivals – only inherited the lead inside the final minutes after Charlie Robertson was forced to pit to change a puncture on his Assetto Motorsport Ginetta. However, it was perhaps the result Burns and Burton truly deserved after suffering their own dose of misfortune in the early stages.
Starting from pole, Burns shot into a clear lead ahead of the Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang of Will Moore, even managing to pass a GT3 car to add a buffer between the two for good measure. Burns needed to push to try and make up for the additional 26s the car would have to spend in the pits due to it being a Silver Cup entry, but every time he built a comfortable gap one of the two Safety Car periods reset it.
Regardless, Burns led from Moore and Richard Williams’ Steller Motorsport Audi by the time the pit window opened, but the interruptions meant the BMW only held a cushion of a few seconds and faced a fight to get back to the front after its longer stop.
The Safety Car delays brought the Pro-Am cars into the mix, and when the order shook out it was the second Century BMW of Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke that re-joined in the lead after Chris Salkeld had kept the car comfortably in the top-five at half distance. His lead wouldn’t last long though, as Charlie Robertson wasted little time in diving past, having taken the Ginetta over from Mark Sansom.
Robertson then proceeded to charge clear, and things looked done and dusted right until the car was forced to dive back into the pits with just five minutes remaining to change a left-rear puncture. That dropped it out of contention and opened the door for the BMWs.
Burton had re-joined in third and then pulled off a brilliant pass on Gordon-Colebrooke around the outside of Paddock to snare second, which then became the win after the Ginetta’s issues.
Gordon-Colebrooke made it a Century one-two and secured the Pro-Am class laurels for himself and Salkeld, as James Kell and Jordan Collard kept themselves out of trouble to snatch the final podium place in their Team Rocket RJN McLaren.
The recovering Robertson was fourth, ahead of Williams/Sennan Fielding’s Audi, which had been firmly in the mix until it copped a 10s stop-go penalty for an unsafe release from its pitstop.
Nick Halstead/Jamie Stanley were sixth in their Fox Motorsport McLaren, ahead of the similar Balfe car shared by Ashley Marshall/Jack Brown.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing GR Supra was an early casualty following contact with Salkeld at Hawthorns. It was retired with suspension damage.
Likewise, it was a nightmare weekend for the #3 Team Rocket RJN McLaren of Alain Valente/Michael Benyahia. The car lost most of Saturday after an engine issue that required an all-nighter from the team to change the unit, only to then suffer an electrical fault on the green flag lap.
Next up it’s British GT’s big one: the three-hour Silverstone 500, which takes place on June 26/27.