MACHITSKI/LIND AND BURNS/BURTON IN THE BOX SEATS
2x 60-MINUTE RACES COULD DECIDE 2021 CHAMPIONS
With the summer break an increasingly distant memory the Intelligent Money British GT Championship gets back down to business this weekend at Oulton Park with two potentially decisive sprint races.
Indeed, the combined maximum 50 points available for winning rounds seven and eight could be enough for Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind, and Will Burns and Gus Burton to wrap up their respective GT3 and GT4 titles before Donington’s season finale. While Barwell’s Spa-winning duo are a long shot to complete the feat, an already considerable advantage leaves Century’s crew on the cusp of GT4 glory.
Both squads are also well placed to clinch their Teams’ Championships, although that is subject to the performance of their second entries.
GT3: MACHITSKI AND LIND’S CORONATION?
A 6.5-point lead with 87.5 still available for winning this year’s remaining three races suggests 2021’s GT3 title fight is likely to go down to the wire. But with 50 of those apportioned on Sunday, it’s not impossible that Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind could amass the 38-point lead required to win the crown.
Pitstop Success Penalties will initially favour the #63 car in Race 1 when three more title contending crews, including one of their closest rivals – Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman – are subject to extra 10, seven and five-second handicaps. What’s more, Barwell also boast a phenomenal record at Oulton where its Lamborghinis have won every year since the Huracan’s debut in 2016.
A strong result in the opening contest wouldn’t be unexpected, then, but it’s how Machitski and Lind counter their potential Success Penalty in Race 2 that could determine whether the championship goes the distance.
Of course, destiny isn’t entirely in their own hands just yet, and not least because Beechdean AMR’s Aston Martin also competes handicap-free at lunchtime on Sunday. Andrew Howard is just 6.5 points adrift of the leaders after scoring double digit points in each of this year’s six rounds but hasn’t won a British GT race since 2015. Re-writing that stat would ensure the title remains unresolved until Donington regardless of where Machitski and Lind finish.
The same applies to RAM Racing’s Loggie and Buurman who moved level on points with Howard by winning Snetterton’s second race. The drawback is a 10s Success Penalty in Oulton’s opener where fourth or lower would leave them without a handicap to serve in Race 2. Capitalising on the swings and roundabouts of Success Penalties will undoubtedly prove crucial during the championship run in.
Consistency is also key, though. Just ask Adam Balon and reigning champion Sandy Mitchell who have scored more points than any other line-up since round two. It’s been an impressive turnaround since their DNF on the opening weekend, but one that still leaves them 19.5 points behind their Barwell team-mates. What’s more, it’s the #1 Lamborghini’s turn to take the Success Penalty pain in Race 1 on Sunday after finishing second at Snetterton. Any net reduction in their current deficit would count as a very productive weekend before attention turns to Donington.
The same goes for Michael Igoe and Phil Keen who are currently four points further behind and carry the five-second penalty for completing Snetterton’s Race 2 podium. WPI’s Lamborghini has been inconsistent since looking unstoppable on the opening weekend but the team couldn’t ask for a better circuit at which to cut their championship deficit. Keen previously scored four victories at Oulton aboard Barwell’s Lamborghini and is gunning for his fourth pole position in as many years, while he and Igoe also claimed a GT Cup win together there in July.
But there are several more entries that could take crucial points away from the five championship contenders.
Chief among them is Team Abba Racing, which missed Snetterton after its Mercedes-AMG sustained damage at Spa. Richard and Sam Neary most certainly have the raw pace, as evidenced by their breakthrough win at Donington, and initially compete without a Success Penalty on Sunday.
It’s a similar story for Balfe Motorsport and Lewis Proctor who prevailed in British GT’s closest-ever qualifying session at Oulton last season. The smallest margin possible – one thousandth of a second – separated Optimum’s McLaren from Jordan Witt. However, Lewis and his father Stewart are competing for something bigger this weekend: GT3’s Silver-Am title. Beating the Nearys in Race 1 would be enough to wrap up the class championship.
However, one car unable to score points is the #99 Mercedes-AMG which, as a race-by-race entry, cannot contribute towards RAM Racing’s Teams’ Championship total. And that is likely to help Barwell clinch the crown with an event to spare. 89 points currently separate the two squads with just 64.5 available for finishing one-two at Donington in October.
GT4: BURNS AND BURTON EYEING HISTORY
No British GT title has been decided before the final round since Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn achieved the feat in 2015. But this year’s standout GT4 pairing, Will Burns and Gus Burton, are on course to match them this Sunday thanks to their sizeable advantage over Century team-mates Chris Salkeld and Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke.
44.5 points separate the two BMWs, the second of which is also hamstrung by a seven-second Success Penalty – a detail that could prove decisive if Burns and Burton win Race 1. In that scenario their team-mates would have to finish sixth or higher to prolong the championship battle into Sunday afternoon.
The #57 crew has been imperious throughout the campaign, its march towards the title built upon two victories, another two podiums and two more top-fives from six starts. Snetterton’s second race might have been their ‘worst’ result of the season, but it has set up a Success Penalty-free opener at Oulton where Century, one way or another, also appears on course to secure its second Drivers’ and Teams’ crown with the BMW M4.
Indeed, its advantage over Team Rocket RJN in second stands at 117 points. 150.5 are still available for finishing one-two over the remaining three races.
Like Salkeld and Gordon-Colebrooke, the chasing pack headed by James Kell and Jordan Collard must not only beat Burns and Burton but make significant inroads into their advantage. Team Rocket RJN’s McLaren scored its first win of the year at Snetterton to lie 66 points behind but will fall out of contention regardless of where it finishes if the #57 BMW wins Sunday’s opener.
Leading Pro-Ams Matt Topham and Darren Turner are 11 points further back but at least have the double whammy of no Success Penalty or additional Silver Cup time to serve during their pitstop. Always fast but now a long way behind the championship leaders, it’s perhaps Newbridge’s Aston Martin that will inadvertently help Salkeld/Gordon-Colebrooke and Kell/Collard keep the title fight alive for one more race at least.
Academy’s Mustang also remains a mathematical but improbable contender for this year’s Drivers’ crown after Matt Cowley and Will Moore claimed a long overdue win at Snetterton. Of course, the knock-on effect is a 10-second Success Penalty in Race 1 which, barring an opportune Safety Car period, will surely put pay to their chances.
Only Burns and Burton’s complete capitulation allied to three successive wins for Jack Brown and Ashley Marshall will give Balfe’s duo a sniff of the title, but there’s little doubt how much progress the pairing has made over the second half of this season, which peaked with victory at Spa. Snetterton’s sprint races weren’t as productive but the McLaren 570S has won at Oulton in each of the previous four years, the last of which was also scored by Balfe.
With GT4’s Overall, Silver and Teams’ titles likely to be secured this weekend, it’s easy to overlook the Pro-Am championship battle which appears on course to be decided at Donington. Topham and Turner lead the way, but only by 1.5 points from Fox Motorsport’s Nick Halstead and Jamie Stanley who have scored in each of the five races they’ve contested – a level of consistency that has cancelled out not attending Spa.
John Ferguson and Scott McKenna are 22.5 points further back in Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s Supra, which is still searching for its maiden British GT win. It goes looking again this weekend with new recruit and reigning GT4 champion Jamie Caroline who makes his first appearance since clinching the title at Silverstone last November. Unforeseen personal circumstances have ruled McKenna out for the remainder of the season.
The Toyota’s potential is matched by Assetto Motorsport’s Ginetta, which – with Mark Sansom and Charlie Robertson behind the wheel – is also overdue a big result. Expect the respective Pro drivers to be battling for Race 2 pole on Saturday.
Both hour-long races are live this Sunday on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel, while support series are also live on britishgt.com.
OULTON PARK TIMETABLE
Saturday 11 September
09:40 – 10:40: Free Practice 1
12:20 – 13:20: Free Practice 2
16:15 – 16:25: Qualifying – GT3 Q1
16:29 – 16:39: Qualifying – GT3 Q2
16:43 – 16:53: Qualifying – GT4 Q1
16:58 – 17:08: Qualifying – GT4 Q2
Sunday 12 September
12:00 – 12:15: Warm-up
13:10 – 14:10: Race 1
16:25 – 17:25: Race 2
GT3 – 1m34.624s – Callum Macleod – Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental – 2017
GT4 – 1m43.674s – Luke Davenport – Tolman Motorsport Ginetta G55 – 2015
PITSTOP SPECIFICS - ONE-HOUR RACE
GT3 cars must make their mandatory driver change at 22-32 minutes, while GT4’s pit window is 28-38 minutes.
Mandatory Pitstop Times (pit-in to pit-out)
GT3: 65s | GT4: 95s
Pitstop Success Penalties
10s – #6 RAM Racing – Ian Loggie & Yelmer Buurman
07s – #1 Barwell Motorsport – Adam Balon & Sandy Mitchell
05s – #18 WPI Motorsport – Michael Igoe & Phil Keen
10s – #61 Academy Motorsport – Will Moore and Matt Cowley
07s – #9 Century Motorsport – Chris Salkeld & Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke
05s – #3 Team Rocket RJN – Alain Valente & Michael Benyahia
All GT4 Silver Cup entries must serve an additional 14s during their mandatory driver changes and carry 25kg of ballast.