Haigh first woman to win an outright British GT title; Adam takes third overall crown
Race victory for Minshaw and Keen not enough to deny Optimum Aston Martin duo
History was made at Donington Park Sunday (September 22/23) when Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam finished fourth on the road to claim the 2018 British GT title. Haigh becomes the first woman to win the series’ premier class whilst Adam now stands alone as the only driver to win three overall championships.
Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen took a second victory of the season in their Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini after finishing second on the road but benefitting from a post-race 30-second time penalty handed to Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim. The TF Sport Aston Martin therefore finished runner-up with the podium completed by ERC Sport’s Mercedes-AMG shared by Lee Mowle and Yelmer Buurman.
The stage was set for the #DoningtonDecider with championship leaders Haigh and Adam starting fourth while closest title rivals Minshaw and Keen led the field away from pole position. Framer and Thiim, who also retained a chance of snatching the crown, lined up fifth.
A clean getaway from Minshaw helped maintain the Lamborghini’s lead into Redgate ahead of team-mate Sam De Haan in the #69 Huracan, which soon had a gaggle of cars queued up behind.
While Minshaw stretched his legs out front, the concertina saw Haigh and Jetstream Motorsport’s Graham Davidson swap third place, as well as the role of hunter, on numerous occasions before things got a little too close and contact was made between Davidson’s #47 Aston Martin and De Haan down the back straight. Davidson eventually gained second position with a great move into the Melbourne Hairpin but was soon forced to relinquish it as he headed into the pits with damage.
Moments later, the Safety Car was deployed due to oil on the circuit at turn one, which neutralized the race and cancelled out Minshaw’s sizeable lead. Once the clean-up was complete and racing resumed, Minshaw quickly set about rebuilding his advantage whilst De Haan fought off the #11 Aston Martin of Farmer, who had also passed Haigh. But TF Sport’s V12 Vantage quickly found a way through into second whilst, behind, contact between Andrew Howard and Chris Buncombe spun both the #99 and #24 machines around.
Behind De Haan, Rick Parfitt Jnr closed on Haigh and Derek Johnston in the battle for fourth before contact between the Bentley and Aston Martin saw the latter eventually have to pull off the circuit with terminal damage. It was a disappointing end to the year and British GT career of 2016 champion Johnston, although his co-driver Marco Sorensen still claimed the Sunoco Fastest Driver of the Season award.
The pitstops began after 60 minutes with the title fight well and truly in the balance. Minshaw, who earned the Blancpain Driver of the Weekend prize for his exploits in the first stint and qualifying, handed over to Keen, who duly rejoined in the lead ahead of Thiim. Jonny Adam, having served his 20s pitstop success penalty, began the stint superbly by fighting past a number of rivals and finding himself in fourth overall, just behind Ryan Ratcliffe who had taken over from his Team Parker Racing co-driver Parfitt Jnr.
Elsewhere, Buurman’s ERC Sport Mercedes-AMG jumped from seventh to fifth before sliding past Adam and then relieving Ratcliffe of third in quick succession. Adam used the same opportunity to also pass the Bentley and put both himself and Haigh on target for the title.
Thiim, meanwhile, was closing on Keen for the lead and showed sufficient pace to claim the Sunoco Fastest Lap Award in the process with a new British GT3 benchmark of 1m28.196s. The Dane made his move heading out of Redgate and through the Craner Curves, which put him and Farmer on course for a third victory of the season. That was until a 30-second penalty for track limits infringements was handed down in the final minutes, which – when added to #11’s final race time – gave Minshaw and Keen victory, as well as second in the standings for a third season running.
That late penalty didn’t alter the outcome of this year’s Teams’ championship, which was reclaimed by TF Sport after losing the title to Barwell in 2017.
Such was the advantage of the leading duo that the time penalty only dropped Thiim and Farmer to second ahead of ERC Sport duo Buurman and Mowle. Haigh and Adam took fourth to secure a historic title with the Howard/Darren Turner Beechdean AMR Aston Martin placing fifth. Sixth belonged to De Haan/Jonny Cocker, while Ratcliffe brought the #1 Bentley home in seventh. The top-eight was rounded out by the sister Team Parker machine shared by Ian Loggie and Callum Macleod whose race was compromised by a stop/go penalty in the opening stint.
Flick Haigh, #75 Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “It’s fantastic, the best day of my life. Jonny is really easy going, he has taught me in the car and he is so knowledgeable. He knows it inside-out and he’s helped the team as much as he’s helped me. He’s won three different championships with three different teams and that’s a special driver coach right there. This morning I was a bit nervous but once you’re in the car you know what you’ve got to do and if he’s calm, then I’m calm and the team’s calm.”
Jonny Adam, #75 Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3: “It’s a great feeling to win another championship. The team have been really good this year and Flick has done a really great job. It just fits so well; the final race for this car and to win a championship. It was hard-fought and definitely wasn’t easy. Flick had a great fight with the #69 Lamborghini and I found it really difficult to get past the Bentley. We got there though and once we were in fourth, it was a case of not trying to make any mistakes. We got it home and that was the key thing.”
The 2019 British GT Championship begins at Oulton Park on April 20 & 22.