- Nearys’ fuel pump failure keeps Tillbrook and Clutton in GT3 championship contention
- Newbridge beats title rivals Steller to class victory
- Redline’s Malykhin and Dorlin crowned GT3 Silver-Am champions
- Race result | GT3 standings | GT4 standings
Team Abba Racing’s retirement on the penultimate lap handed Intelligent Money British GT Championship victory to Enduro Motorsport’s Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton on a dramatic day at Brands Hatch.
The result keeps the #77 McLaren’s drivers in what has boiled down to a four-way GT3 title battle that will conclude at Donington Park next month. Barwell’s Adam Balon and Sandy Mitchell can also win the crown after finishing second while Century scored its first overall podium with the new BMW M4 GT3 courtesy of debutant Henry Dawes and the returning Alexander Sims.
The GT4 championship battle is also alive and well despite Matt Topham and Darren Turner extending their slender lead by winning Round 8. Rivals Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding finished second in Steller’s Audi while Team Parker Racing’s Jamie Orton and Seb Hopkins collected their second podium in as many races.
Elsewhere, retirement wasn’t enough to prevent Redline Racing’s Alex Malykhin and James Dorlin from wrapping up the GT3 Silver-Am title with a race to spare.
GT3: SO NEARY YET SO FAR
It’s impossible not to feel sorry for Richard and Sam Neary who would have claimed their second career British GT victories without a fuel pump failure that struck Abba’s race-leading Mercedes-AMG as it began the penultimate lap.
Instead, Enduro’s Tillbrook and Clutton suddenly found themselves standing atop the podium and heading to Donington with a slim chance of also winning the GT3 drivers’ title.
Three Safety Car periods before the pitstops began prevented poleman James Cottingham from establishing a lead that his pace warranted and that would also have negated some or all of 2 Seas’ 15-second Success Penalty. Instead, the Mercedes-AMG headed for the pitlane just ahead of Enduro’s Tillbrook and Richard Neary who made up three places on the opening lap.
The shake-up should have seen Clutton emerge ahead of Sam Neary but it was Abba’s slick pitwork that helped the Mercedes-AMG take the lead as the GT3 gaggle headed back out.
The pair remained little more than a second apart over the following 50 minutes as Clutton attempted to prise open the door. Neary was having none of it, though, and was fast enough to prevent any meaningful move for the lead. But that all changed moments before the chequered flag when the green and black Merc slowed dramatically as it approached the start/finish line.
With the championship-leading car down in seventh up to that point, Clutton required a victory to keep Enduro’s hopes alive. And he gratefully accepted it by reeling off the final two laps without drama despite Mitchell rapidly closing in behind.
Barwell’s Lamborghini had earlier appeared an unlikely podium candidate after Balon and championship leader Ian Loggie came to blows at Surtees. The contact was light but enough to spin Balon around and damage the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG’s splitter and steering. Both were able to continue but the same incident also sent Nick Halstead into avoiding action that resulted in Fox’s McLaren beached in the gravel travel trap, which necessitated the second Safety Car period.
Loggie resumed in sixth and well clear of Balon who’d slipped to ninth. However, the pair were both back inside the top-six by the time they stopped together on the hour mark as a result of passing several cars once racing resumed.
Success Penalties served by RAM and 2 Seas, as well as Century’s five-second handicap for changing both drivers prior to the event, helped Mitchell resume on his own in third, and the 2020 champion began chipping away at the two cars ahead. But it wasn’t until Abba’s late demise that the Lamborghini picked up another place.
That also helped Century’s BMW claim its maiden British GT podium. Debutant Dawes lined up seventh and completed an exemplary first stint while several more experienced drivers hit trouble. The car would have emerged third without its penalty but Sims still underlined its potential by setting fastest lap, just as he did on his last British GT appearance at Brands in 2015.
Without so many Safety Cars Cottingham and Lewis Williamson might well have converted pole position into their first British GT wins. However, their Success Penalty ultimately restricted 2 Seas to fourth overall.
7TSIX’s McLaren went under the radar en route to fifth, Mia Flewitt enjoying an entertaining scrap with the recovering Balon prior to the stops before Euan Hankey passed Callum Macleod early in the second stint. That dropped RAM’s championship-leading car to sixth, which might have become seventh had Scott Malvern’s intense pressure forced an opening.
As it is Loggie heads to the Donington Decider 24.5 points ahead of Balon/Mitchell with Cottingham/Williamson 8.5 points further back. Tillbrook/Clutton’s late good fortune also leaves them as mathematical contenders, albeit 34 points off the lead with 37.5 available for winning the final race of 2022.
Team Parker’s Porsche hustled Macleod all the way to the finish while Abba’s retirement handed Silver-Am class victory to Team Rocket RJN’s Simon Watts and James Kell who finished eighth overall.
GT4: TOPHAM AND TURNER TURN THE SCREW
Newbridge Motorsport’s Topham and Turner scored what could prove to be a huge result in the context of this year’s ultra-tight GT4 title battle by collecting their second win of the season in a typically fraught encounter at Brands.
Just two points separated the top three crews coming into the penultimate race of the year, which – even by GT4 standards – was action packed throughout.
Three Safety Car periods before the pitstops meant nobody could forge a meaningful advantage initially. However, those interruptions also ensured the race played into the hands of the Pro-Am crews, who serve less time in the pits compared to their Silver Cup counterparts.
Initially the race looked to be heading the way of Steller Motorsport’s Audi, with Williams getting a great start from pole to establish a clear lead as the battles raged in the pack behind him. It was headed by Orton’s Porsche, which led a train of five cars that traded places throughout.
But Williams’ hard work was undone by the first caution period, which was called to recover Ed McDermott’s stranded Mercedes-AMG from the exit of Druids. And when racing resumed, he set about building the gap all over again as Moh Ritson’s Paddock McLaren, Tom Edgar’s Toyota GR Supra, Marco Signoretti’s Academy Ford Mustang and Jamie Day’s R Racing Aston Martin queued up to try and find a way past Orton.
The Safety Car was once again required to clean up Fox’s stranded McLaren from the Surtees gravel after a three-car GT3 clash. GT4’s pack was then thinned at the restart when Signoretti had to pit with a puncture, and Ritson was elbowed wide at Sheene after contact with Edgar’s Toyota at the apex. The resulting puncture eventually stranded Paddock’s McLaren, necessitating the third Safety Car period.
The net result of all this was Williams leading from Orton, Day, Edgar, Freddie Tomlinson’s Assetto Motorsport Ginetta and Topham. However, with racing resuming for a third time right before the pit window, it would be bad news for all of the Silver crews out front as, without any Success Penalty and with a shorter mandatory stop being a Pro-Am pairing, Turner took the Vantage over from Topham and vaulted into the lead.
With a healthy gap back to the now-second-placed Pro-Am Team BRIT McLaren that Aaron Morgan had kept in seventh before handing to Bobby Trundley, the race for the win was essentially over.
But the fight for the remaining podium spots was far from settled, as Fielding took over the Audi from Williams and rejoined right behind Trundley. Fielding found a way past and set about chasing Turner, successfully managing to erode a 20-second gap to seven at the flag despite losing time in a scary brush with a lapping GT3 car at Westfield.
Hopkins was the next on the move. He took over from Orton and charged onto the tail of Trundley, eventually finding a way past with a slick move up the inside into Paddock Hill. Josh Miller then dived past the McLaren on the brakes into Druids to complete the top four in the R Racing Aston Martin he took over from Day.
Trundley came home fifth – and second in Pro-Am – with Jordan Collard/Edgar’s Toyota finishing sixth. Joe Wheeler/Tomlinson’s Ginetta was seventh, despite serving a drive-through for a short pitstop.
It leaves three crews – Topham/Turner, Williams/Fielding and Day/Miller – still in GT4 championship contention with a round remaining. The Newbridge Aston Martin starts 12.5 points clear of Steller’s Audi, both of which will serve Success Penalties, while R Racing’s handicap-less Vantage is 20.5 points off top spot.
The final race of this year’s campaign takes place on October 15/16.