A run of four Intelligent Money British GT Championship events in 44 days continues this weekend with the first of 2021’s two scheduled visits to Donington Park.
Round 3 – which reverts to British GT’s standard two-hour, single pitstop endurance format – arrives just a fortnight after Silverstone, two weeks ahead of Spa-Francorchamps and another 14 days before the campaign’s first two sprint races take place at Snetterton. What’s more, the busy mid-summer period also coincides with the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa where several teams and drivers are competing.
As such, the next month will likely shape the narrative of 2021’s GT3 and GT4 championships.
GT3: 12 POINTS COVER TOP-FIVE
This year’s championship already has the makings of a classic after five evenly matched crews all scored heavily across the opening two weekends. Indeed, just 12 points covers the top-five, three of whom again serve Success Penalties this Sunday.
Early front runners Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind shrugged off their pitstop handicap at Silverstone to finish third on the road but second of the registered points scorers behind Barwell team-mates Adam Balon and Sandy Mitchell.
Consistency often trumps victories in British GT title battles, and the #63 Lamborghini has been a model of it thus far en route to a 4.5-point cushion over Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam who have an opportunity to strike back at Donington where their Beechdean AMR Aston Martin competes Success Penalty-free.
Likewise Round 1 winners Michael Igoe and Phil Keen whose Lamborghini was plagued by a mystery mechanical issue last time out. Nevertheless, six more hard-won points has at least kept them within striking distance of top spot ahead of Donington where Igoe and WPI Motorsport claimed their maiden GT3 victories last season.
RAM Racing also visited Donington’s top step last term, albeit in the longer three-hour format with Sam De Haan and Patrick Kujala, but the omens are still good for Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman who made it back-to-back fourth place finishes at Silverstone. The only fly in the ointment concerns their 10s Success Penalty for scoring third-place points, although that’s still five seconds fewer than Machitski/Lind who lead the best placed Mercedes-AMG by nine points.
The fifth element to this season’s early championship scrap concerns Balon and reigning champion Mitchell who swept around the outside of Lind on the final lap at Silverstone to finish second overall but bank the maximum 37.5 points. Who knows if the 10.5-point swing will have long-term implications for this year’s title but, for now, it has served two important purposes: preventing #63 from opening a handy advantage, and re-establishing Balon/Mitchell as realistic contenders, despite their 20s Success Penalty this Sunday.
Behind, consistency has also been key to Team Parker Racing’s success. Nick Jones and Scott Malvern return to the scene of their maiden GT3 wins last season fresh from another solid run at Silverstone where the Porsche again finished sixth of the full-season entrants.
Balfe Motorsport’s Stewart and Lewis Proctor have also scored in both races and now lead the Silver-Am standings from fellow father/son duo Richard and Sam Neary (Team Abba Racing) who, without a gearbox issue, had the pace to claim an overall podium last time out.
Paddock Motorsport’s Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman were also on course for a top result before a driveshaft failure side-lined their Bentley in the final hour, while Enduro Motorsport’s Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton will be eager to build on their promising run at Silverstone.
Elsewhere, the race-by-race entries fielded by RAM Racing and G-Cat Racing in the opening two rounds were not scheduled to compete at Donington, while Simon Green Motorsport’s Lucky Khera has opted to defend his Ferrari Challenge UK championship lead at Snetterton. All are expected to return later in the year.
GT4: ADVANTAGE SWINGS BACK CENTURY’S WAY?
Pro-Am crews largely ruled the roost at Silverstone thanks to Newbridge Motorsport and Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, but both are restricted by 20s and 10s Success Penalties, respectively, this weekend.
Instead, circumstances have conspired to give early championship leaders Gus Burton and Will Burns another shot at extending their current 13.5-point advantage. Century’s #57 BMW couldn’t overcome the maximum handicap at Silverstone but fourth place did at least guarantee a Success Penalty-free afternoon this Sunday.
The same can’t be said for Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding who marked themselves out as title contenders by finishing second. However, with that comes a 15s handicap on top of the additional 26s served by all Silver Cup entries, including Burton and Burns. At least Steller Motorsport’s crew can take comfort from their previous GT4 outing at Donington where they and their Audi won in 2019.
Century’s other M4 is three points further back and, just like the sister car, competes without a Success Penalty. Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke’s fine late race overtaking manoeuvre helped the car he shares with Chris Salkeld finish sixth at Silverstone – a result that has kept them marginally ahead of Assetto Motorsport’s Mark Sansom and Charlie Robertson atop the Pro-Am standings.
But it’s another Pro-Am entry that stole the show at Silverstone where Matt Topham and Darren Turner won on debut together to vault Newbridge’s Aston Martin into championship contention. The full 20s Success Penalty makes consecutive wins very difficult this weekend, while Turner’s Goodwood Festival of Speed commitments with AMR see Topham joined by experienced racer and Caterham driver coach, Darren Burke.
The Speedworks Motorsport-run Toyota also demonstrated its potential by finishing third overall in the hands of John Ferguson and Scott McKenna. They, like Newbridge, must now overcome a handicap on Sunday, which leaves Assetto’s Sansom and Robertson as the most likely duo to challenge Century’s BMWs. A penalty limited their Ginetta to fifth place at Silverstone but there’s no doubting the crew’s potential after their performance on debut at Brands.
Donington might also be the ideal location for one of McLaren’s five contenders to notch up a first victory of the year after the 570S won twice there in 2020. The latter of those two successes featured Jordan Collard who, along with co-driver James Kell, is the best placed of Team Rocket RJN’s three entries in sixth overall.
Elsewhere, Academy and Matt Cowley came within 1.2s of overturning the maximum 20s Success Penalty at Donington last season, while the Mustang previously won on its debut there in 2019. Thus the same combination plus Will Moore shouldn’t be discounted this Sunday despite scoring just nine points so far in 2021.
A maximum of 4,000 spectators are permitted to attend Donington Park on both Saturday and Sunday as per the UK Government’s current coronavirus guidelines. Tickets are selling fast and must be purchased in advance via donington-park.co.uk to guarantee admission. MSV season pass holders are not required to notify Donington of their attendance prior to arrival.
LIVESTREAMING AND TV COVERAGE
Round 3 is live on the championship’s website and Facebook page, as well as SRO’s GT World YouTube Twitch channels, from 12:25 BST this Sunday.
DONINGTON PARK TIMETABLE
Saturday 10 July
09:45 – 10:45: Free Practice 1
12:10 – 13:10: Free Practice 2
16:00 – 16:10: Qualifying – GT3 Q1
16:14 – 16:24: Qualifying – GT3 Q2
16:28 – 16:38: Qualifying – GT4 Q1
16:43 – 16:53: Qualifying – GT4 Q2
Sunday 11 July
09:45 – 10:00: Warm-up
12:45 – 14:45: Race
GT3 – 1m27.529s – Phil Keen – Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan – 2020
GT4 – 1m35.803s – Patrick Kibble – TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage – 2020
PITSTOP SPECIFICS – TWO-HOUR RACE
NEW FOR 2021: The number of driver changes are free but there are minimum and maximum total drive times for the starting driver. In GT4 starting drivers must complete a minimum of 58 minutes, while in GT3/C this rises to 62 minutes. All classes share the same maximum starting drive time of 70 minutes.
Mandatory Pitstop Times (pit-in to pit-out)
GT3: 110s | GT4: 140s
Pitstop Success Penalties
20s – #1 Barwell Motorsport – Adam Balon & Sandy Mitchell
15s – #63 Barwell Motorsport – Leo Machitski & Dennis Lind
10s – #6 RAM Racing – Ian Loggie & Yelmer Buurman
20s – #27 Newbridge Motorsport – Matt Topham & Darren Burke
15s – #42 Steller Motorsport – Richard Williams & Sennan Fielding
10s – #15 Toyota Gazoo Racing UK – John Ferguson & Scott McKenna
All GT4 Silver Cup entries must serve an additional 26s during their mandatory driver changes and carry 25kg of ballast.