VICTORIES FOR ENDURO’S TILLBROOK/CLUTTON AND ACADEMY’S COWLEY/SIGNORETTI AT DONINGTON
2 Seas and RAM complete GT3 podium after three hours of racing
Academy beats Century and Toyota Gazoo Racing UK to GT4 top spot
Enduro Motorsport and Academy Motorsport both made it back-to-back wins at Donington Park, albeit a little over seven months apart, Sunday after Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton, and Matt Cowley and Marco Signoretti claimed GT3 and GT4 victories in Round 4 of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship.
The #77 McLaren breezed to overall victory by one minute after starting from pole but undoubtedly benefitted from fortuitous Safety Car timing that prevented 2 Seas Motorsport’s James Cottingham and Lewis Williamson from capitalising on their early lead. The Mercedes-AMG fought back to finish second ahead of RAM Racing’s Callum Macleod and Ian Loggie who extended his drivers’ championship advantage to 15.5 points.
Further back, Jack Brown and Will Burns scored theirs and Century’s best result of the season by finishing 18 seconds behind Academy’s Mustang, while Tom Edgar and Jordan Collard overcame a drive-through penalty to complete the GT4 podium in Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Supra.
Redline Racing’s Alex Malykhin and James Dorlin scored their second GT3 Silver-Am class win in as many races, and Matt Topham and Darren Turner took the GT4 Pro-Am spoils for Newbridge Motorsport.
GT3: ENDURO’S NEAR-PERFECT PERFORMANCE
Tillbrook and Clutton celebrated their second British GT success together in style by scoring an unusually dominant victory three weeks after the disappointment of Silverstone – another 180-minute, strategy-focused race from which Enduro’s pairing had little to show for their strong performance.
The #77 McLaren was never threatened after the team took advantage of an early Safety Car period by completing its first driver swap while the race was neutralised.
Tillbrook made a decent start but couldn’t prevent Cottingham’s Mercedes-AMG from sweeping around the outside into Redgate. At this point it was advantage 2 Seas, as Cottingham worked hard to build an advantage of a few seconds, but it all came to nought when the Lamborghinis of Adam Balon and Michael Igoe collided at the Melbourne Hairpin, scattering pieces of Barwell’s Huracan across the track and earning the WPI machine a 10-second stop-go penalty.
The subsequent clean up required a Safety Car, under which the majority of the field pitted. With Enduro enjoying the slickest stop Clutton emerged at the head of the pack, benefitted from GT4 traffic between himself and the next GT3 car in the queue, and put in a superb stint to forge a gap of more than 30 seconds over the rest of the field. From then on, and with no further interruptions to the racing, it was just a matter of bringing it home. 59.9s eventually separated first and second at the chequered flag, while Clutton capped Enduro’s performance by setting a new lap record.
But if the victory margin was huge, the fight for the other podium places was unpredictably tight. The Safety Car shuffled the order behind Enduro’s McLaren, with Euan Hankey emerging in second after Mia Flewitt had delayed bringing 7TSIX’s 720S in for a lap. That ensured both a quieter pitlane when she did stop but also longer at speed before catching the Safety Car.
At the restart Hankey had Scott Malvern (who benefited in the same way after Nick Jones also stopped Team Parker’s Porsche later), Lewis Williamson (in for Cottingham) and Callum Macleod (relieving Loggie in the #6 RAM Mercedes-AMG) right behind.
Malvern eventually nipped past at Goddards before Williamson followed suit into Redgate. The fight was then thinned when the Porsche got into a handful of scrapes with the Balon/Sandy Mitchell Barwell Lamborghini – the final one being a bizarre accident as the unsighted Mitchell rejoined the track for his final stint and dived for the apex of Redgate, only to find the Porsche already there. The resulting contact put the Huracan into the gravel trap and to the tail of the GT3 order.
That left the way clear for Cottingham/Williamson to claim second, with Loggie/Macleod a secure third.
Flewitt and Hankey scored their best GT3 result yet after the latter capitalised on James Dorlin’s misjudgement while lapping a GT4 car late on. Redline’s Lamborghini, which had been a top-six contender all day, still finished fifth overall and best of the Silver-Am entries despite serving a 15-second Success Penalty at its final pitstop.
Igoe and Phil Keen recovered from their early drama to once again bank solid points in sixth ahead of the #15 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG crewed by John Ferguson and impressive British GT debutant Ulysse de Pauw. Shaun Balfe and Adam Carroll were delayed by a drive-through for track limits infringements but claimed eighth, ahead of the Fox Motorsport McLaren featuring Nick Halstead and Rob Bell, and the Jones/Malvern Porsche.
GT4: ACADEMY DISH OUT ANOTHER LESSON AT DONINGTON
Cowley clearly enjoys racing his Academy Mustang around Donington, for it was at the same venue last October that the combination plus Will Moore sealed second in the GT4 drivers’ standings by taking victory.
Today’s win with Signoretti might yet prove just as important to the final championship standings but, for now, the team can celebrate a perfectly executed three-hour race in which the sole Ford was a victory contender throughout.
Signoretti, who lined up fourth, passed Topham on the opening tour and then found himself second when Richard Williams spun Steller’s pole-winning Audi at the Old Hairpin two laps later. The Canadian then briefly swapped places with Burns, who’d made significant progress from seventh in Century’s BMW, before re-claiming the position and settling in behind new leader Jamie Day (R Racing).
The first of three scheduled pitstops began just after the half-hour mark under a Safety Car period necessitated by debris. And it was at this point that Steller’s afternoon went from bad to worse when the wave-by procedure to establish the correct order behind the Safety Car resulted in Williams’ co-driver Sennan Fielding falling almost a lap adrift of the GT4 pack.
Back at the front, Academy’s smart pit work had allowed Cowley to resume in the lead ahead of Topham’s co-driver Turner, the erstwhile leading Aston Martin now driven by Josh Miller and Century’s Brown who’d slipped from third to fifth in the shuffle.
The top-two quickly broke clear of the chasing pack but were seldom separated by more than half-a-second as Turner desperately tried to work an opening. And it arrived after 68 minutes when Cowley was compromised by a fast-approaching GT3 car through the Craner Curves, which allowed Newbridge’s pursuing Aston Martin to scrabble past around the outside of the Old Hairpin.
The Mustang made its second stop 15 minutes later after dropping six seconds behind Turner who continued for another 20 minutes before making way for his Am co-driver Topham. He emerged just ahead of Signoretti who was able to quickly pass but only establish a slender six-second lead over the Vantage before the next round of stops.
R Racing’s Aston Martin also appeared well placed as the final hour approached but picked up a drive-through penalty for excessive track limits infringements just after relieving Topham of second. Instead, the car that had led the opening stint and should have posed a serious threat to Academy after the final driver change dropped to fifth.
Cowley climbed back aboard for the last three-quarters-of-an-hour safe in the knowledge that Signoretti’s six-second lead and Newbridge’s still-to-be-served Success Penalty would be sufficient to keep the Mustang clear of danger. Ultimately it was even more comfortable after the Aston Martin lost another 25 seconds in the pits due to a front left brake fire.
Century’s #90 BMW, meanwhile, moved up to second just before Topham handed over to Turner and cemented that position as a result of Newbridge’s pitstop woes. Burns’ fast first and third stints had brought the car into podium contention and left Brown with the relatively simple task of stroking it home.
He was chased by two cars that would also have contended for victory without making an additional pitstop. Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s Edgar collected a track limits drive-through within the first 30 minutes after running fifth early on but rebounded to finish on the podium with Jordan Collard who almost chased down Brown over the final half-hour. Less than a second separated them at the finish.
Team Parker Racing’s Porsche was one of the fastest GT4 cars all weekend but didn’t have the luck to go with its obvious speed. Starting last, Jamie Orton made his way up to fifth during the opening stint before Seb Hopkins picked up another spot after the first round of stops. A 10-second stop-go penalty for passing through a red light at the end of the pitlane set the crew back but they still recovered to finish a fine fourth and only three seconds shy of the podium.
R Racing’s Aston Martin completed the top-five ahead of Ross Wylie and Matthew Graham’s Valluga Porsche, which was restricted by a 15-second Success Penalty.
Newbridge’s delayed Aston Martin was next across the line in seventh – an opportunity missed but also one place ahead of championship rivals Steller whose points-leading Audi set fastest lap in Fielding’s hands.
Century’s second BMW shared by Chris Salkeld and Tom Rawlings made six pitstops en route to ninth, while Team BRIT’s Aaron Morgan and Bobby Trundley closed out the top-10.
The Intelligent Money British GT Championship returns to its 2x one-hour sprint race format next time out at Snetterton on June 25/26.