Donington set for British GT Championship season's first two-hour race

Donington set for British GT Championship season's first two-hour race

Leung/Harper and Brown/Clark out front ahead of Round 4

 
The Intelligent Money British GT Championship gets back down to business at Donington Park this weekend with its first two-hour race of the season. And after Oulton and Silverstone both served up barnstormers, Round 4 has a lot to live up to.


A 36-strong entry, which includes two new race-by-race entries, will tackle the 12-turn, 2.49-mile GP circuit that also stages the series’ title showdown later this year.


Century’s Darren Leung and Dan Harper, and Optimum’s Charles Clark and Jack Brown are likely to be amongst the contenders come October. The two crews currently top their respective standings after winning at Silverstone earlier this month but must now serve the maximum 20-second Compensation Time during Sunday’s mandatory pitstop.


And there are no shortage of contenders hoping to take advantage…


Saturday’s qualifying session, as well as the warm-up and race on Sunday are all live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel.

GT3: PRE-SEASON FAVOURITES PLAYING CATCH-UP 

Dan Harper dummying, then running wheel-to-wheel without contact and finally passing Sandy Mitchell into Copse to win the Silverstone 500 could well become the defining image of what has always promised to be a stellar British GT campaign.


Those 37.5 points combined with other title contenders failing to cash in have propelled Century’s crew to the top of the standings with six races remaining. Leung was also a winner at Donington last season but history is unlikely to repeat itself this year thanks to the M4’s hefty Compensation Time.


Instead, the swings and roundabouts of good results triggering pitstop handicaps will work in favour of the four crews immediately behind them.


Ian Loggie and Jules Gounon are tied second with Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn at this early stage, but both will be ruing what might have been at Silverstone where a faulty wheel gun left the 2 Seas Mercedes-AMG playing catch up and unfortunate Safety Car timing denied Beechdean AMR’s crew a likely podium.


They’re both 7.5 points behind Leung/Harper but three clear of John Ferguson and Raffaele Marciello who were lucky to start, let alone score solidly, after RAM’s Mercedes-AMG was damaged en route to the grid.


Meanwhile, a late penalty ended James Cottingham and Jonny Adam’s hopes of retaining their championship lead at Silverstone. 2 Seas’ second entry heads to Donington 15 points behind the leaders.


Podiums and big points for Shaun Balfe and Mitchell plus Mark Radcliffe and Rob Bell have seen the Barwell and Optimum crews move up to fifth and sixth in the standings. However, and just like Leung and Harper, they now have extra time to serve during their mandatory mid-race pitstop.


That’s good news for Donington specialists Enduro, Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton who have won two of the last three races there. The McLaren crew will be hoping a similar result this Sunday helps kickstart a season that has so far yielded just one points’ scoring finish.


Meanwhile, Simon Orange will be at Twickenham rather than Donington this weekend to watch the professional rugby team he co-owns, Sale Sharks, play Saracens in the Gallagher Premiership Grand Final. Victory would see Sale crowned English champions for the first time since 2005/06. The Orange Racing by JMH McLaren will return to British GT action at Snetterton.


But there are two new GT3 entries to consider. BTCC star Jake Hill makes his GT3 debut – and first British GT appearance for eight years – in a second Century BMW that also features Simon Watts, while reigning Silver-Am champions Redline Racing return with an Audi shared by GT Cup regulars Sacha Kakad and Hugo Cook.


The latter is one of six Silver-Am entries, five of which are eligible to score class points. Iain Campbell and James Kell (RACE LAB) retained the lead at Silverstone but their advantage is down to just half-a-point after Barwell’s Mark Sansom and Will Tregurtha claimed victory.


Chris Hart and James Wallis were an excellent second in class and ninth overall on their GT3 debut with Drivetac, while Sky Tempesta’s Kevin Tse and Chris Froggatt bagged their third class podium of the year.


However, the big threat this weekend could be Team Abba Racing’s Richard and Sam Neary who won outright at Donington two years ago.


GT4: CLARK AND BROWN THE TEAM TO BEAT

Charles Clark and Jack Brown might have stolen a march on their rivals by winning the Silverstone 500 but the race to be crowned GT4 champions is actually far closer than their 15-point advantage would suggest.


Silverstone’s three-hour regulations often favour Pro-Am crews but Optimum’s Silver class McLaren bucked that recent trend thanks to a late Safety Car period, Raceway’s disqualification and a fast, mistake-free performance from both drivers. It was also no less than they deserved after two pole positions failed to produce a win on the opening weekend at Oulton.


2023’s most consistent pairing therefore find themselves with a useful lead over Matt Cowley and Erik Evans who finished third at Silverstone. Both have extra Compensation Time on Sunday, albeit with Academy’s Mustang serving 10 seconds less than the table topping Artura. 


However, it’s also the same amount more than DTO’s Aston Millar and Josh Rowledge have to worry about. They’re 26.5 points behind Clark/Brown but know one big result has the potential to close the gap considerably.


Like those ahead, Pro-Am class leaders Ed McDermott and Mikey Broadhurst (One Motorsport) have claimed top-10 finishes in all three races held so far. But it’s their second place at Silverstone that has vaulted them up to fourth overall. Their class battle with Carl Cavers and Lewis Plato (Century) plus Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley (RACE LAB) – who won at Oulton – is turning into one of 2023’s best match ups.


Indeed, GT4’s Pro-Am class has been extremely competitive thus far. Century’s other BMW featuring Michael Johnston and Chris Salkeld is right behind the top-two, while Michael Crees – who is unable to race this weekend – and Tom Holland (Raceway) plus Kavi Jundu and Tom Rawlings (Paddock) also feature in a top-six covered by 23.5 points.


However, fellow Pro-Am pairing Aaron Morgan and Bobby Trundley will not attend Donington. Team BRIT’s focus has shifted to the new McLaren Trophy where its 570S GT4 can compete in its own dedicated class. Both the team and drivers will return at select rounds later this year.


Meanwhile, several other line-ups that were expected to feature prominently this year require big performances at Donington if they’re to claw back ground on the early leaders.


Matt Nicoll-Jones and Will Moore haven’t scored a point since winning Race 1 at Oulton, Gough and Wrigley are also stranded on 25 thanks to a similar scenario, and Freddie Tomlinson and Stuart Middleton will be desperate to avenge their loss at Silverstone.

Another former champion, Dan Vaughan, and his co-driver Zac Meakin will also be ruing what might have been last time out when Team Parker’s Porsche started from pole. Consistency over the first three races has largely kept the Cayman in contention.


But it’s 2022 title contender Josh Miller – plus Seb Hopkins – who needs the biggest weekend of all. R Racing’s Aston Martin duo were expected to challenge this year but have already slipped 46.5 points behind the early leaders. A podium on Sunday would be a timely reminder of their credentials.

In one other change, debutant Ben Short substitutes for Michael Crees at Raceway due to the latter’s long standing family commitment.


TIMETABLE

Saturday 27 May
09:45 – 10:45: Free Practice 1
12:20 – 13:20: 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 28 May
09:45 – 10:00: Warm-up
12:05 – 12:30: Pitwalk/autograph session
13:00 – 15:00: Race


LAP RECORDS

GT3 – 1m26.309s – Marcus Clutton – Enduro Motorsport McLaren 720S – 2022
GT4 – 1m34.898s – Sennan Fielding – Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS – 2022


PITSTOP SPECIFICS – TWO-HOUR RACE

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 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 Compensation Time
20s – #91 Century Motorsport – Darren Leung & Dan Harper
15s – #78 Barwell Motorsport – Shaun Balfe & Sandy Mitchell
10s – #27 Optimum Motorsport – Mark Radcliffe & Rob Bell

20s – #90 Optimum Motorsport – Charles Clark & Jack Brown
15s – #12 One Motorsport – Ed McDermott & Mikey Broadhurst
10s – #61 Academy Motorsport – Erik Evans & Matt Cowley

All GT4 Silver Cup entries must serve an additional 26 seconds during their mandatory driver changes and carry 25kg of ballast.


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