RACE LAB’s Khera and Hankey split 2 Seas’ Mercedes-AMGs
Provisional back-to-back wins for Optimum’s Brown and Clark
James Cottingham and Jonny Adam took advantage of Beechdean AMR’s delayed pitstop during the mid-race Safety Car period to claim their second and 2 Seas Motorsport’s third Intelligent Money British GT Championship wins of the season – as well as the points’ lead – at Donington Park on Saturday, while Optimum’s Jack Brown and Charles Clark provisionally scored their second GT4 victories in as many races after early sparring partners DTO Motorsport retired.
Adam crossed the line just 0.9s ahead of RACE LAB’s McLaren shared by Lucky Khera and Euan Hankey who set a new lap record during his late pursuit of the Mercedes-AMG, while Ian Loggie and Jules Gounon made it a 2 Seas one-three after gaining significant ground when the Safety Car period coincided with the pitstop window.
GT3 Silver-Am honours went to Sky Tempesta Racing’s Kevin Tse and Chris Froggatt who also finished an excellent sixth overall.
Further back, Ian Gough and Tom Wrigley (RACE LAB) were runners-up behind Optimum but took Pro-Am victory ahead of class rivals Carl Cavers and Lewis Plato, who finished third on the road.
However, GT4’s result will remain provisional pending the outcome of an appeal over Silverstone’s race positions. Donington’s Compensation Time will only be applied retrospectively once that result has been confirmed.
Elsewhere, Drivetac collected the Intelligent Money Team of the Weekend trophy for spending Saturday afternoon, evening and night, as well as the early hours of Sunday morning performing a full engine change on their Mercedes-AMG. The car first fired up at 05:00 this morning and was only fully prepared 30 minutes before cars headed to the grid.
GT3: 2 SEAS TAKES ADVANTAGE OF BEECHDEAN’S DELAYED PITSTOP
2 Seas’ #4 Mercedes-AMG jointly led the standings after Oulton but required a big weekend after scoring just 1.5 points last time out at Silverstone. And that’s exactly what Cottingham and Adam served up en route to a win that sees them leap from fifth to first in the championship.
Cottingham lined up alongside pole sitter Shaun Balfe but dropped behind fast starting Andrew Howard on lap one before settling into his rhythm ahead of Lucky Khera and Darren Leung.
Balfe initially edged clear but was hauled back in again by Howard who dispatched Barwell’s Lamborghini at the Fogarty Esses after 13 minutes and steadily built a lead of his own thereafter.
Cottingham took a little longer to pass Balfe whose pace dropped off considerably as the stint developed – something that ultimately saw not only 2 Seas’ Mercedes-AMG but also Morgan Tillbrook’s rapid Enduro Motorsport McLaren, RACE LAB’s 720S and Century’s BMW all overtake before the pitstops began at mid-distance.
They took place at reduced speed after Mike Price crashed his Greystone GT Mercedes-AMG at McLeans. Significant barrier damage ensured just 24 minutes remained when racing resumed for real.
Beechdean AMR’s Ross Gunn should have emerged from the driver changes ahead. However, a slow stop – caused by out of position GT3 and GT4 cars in front and behind – cost the Aston Martin approximately 11 seconds.
2 Seas encountered no such issues and inherited the lead, while Hankey – who swapped with Khera – slotted into second ahead of Gounon. The #1 car had been suffering from a mysterious lack of pace all weekend but Loggie kept his nose clean throughout the opening stint to leave 2 Seas’ second entry in contention when Beechdean and Enduro’s slow pitstops – the second resulting from a necessary power cycle – plus Century’s maximum Compensation Time delayed the Aston Martin, McLaren and BMW.
That lack of pace was also apparent at the restart when Adam and Hankey moved clear, but Gounon was able to cover everything that Gunn and Dan Harper could throw at him until the chequered flag. The latter had emerged seventh but quickly passed Martin Plowman and Chris Froggatt before trying, without success, to relieve Beechdean of fourth.
Accidents and issues elsewhere allied to Froggatt and Tse’s exploits helped Sky Tempesta’s McLaren finish sixth, win the Silver-Am class and establish a slender championship lead. Just 5.5 points covers them, Mark Sansom/Will Tregurtha and Iain Campbell/James Kell.
Seventh went to Barwell’s Balfe and Sandy Mitchell whose drop in pace was compounded by 15 seconds of Pitstop Compensation Time. Mark Radcliffe and Rob Bell were similarly hampered in the Optimum McLaren that took third at Silverstone, although their eighth place here was also the result of a stop-go penalty for contact in the opening stint.
Paddock and Enduro’s McLaren appeared on course for top-eight finishes until Martin Plowman and Marcus Clutton came to blows at the Melbourne Hairpin and then again just before Goddards, which sent the latter hard into the wall.
GT4: BROWN AND CLARK GO BACK-TO-BACK… PROVISIONALLY
The result might remain provisional, and Silverstone's Compensation Times are still to be added, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the performances of Brown and Clark who emerged victorious from a superb three-way fight for GT4 honours. Indeed, Clark pulled off a stunning pass that was worthy of winning any race.
A total of four different crews led across the race distance, but it was Clark’s move around the outside of Tom Wrigley’s RACE LAB McLaren through Schwantz Curve that ultimately proved decisive.
The Optimum McLaren was in the mix throughout, even if it perhaps wasn’t the obvious choice for victory early on. Brown started the car and ran a safe third during the opening stages as Freddie Tomlinson’s Raceway Ginetta and Josh Rowledge’s DTO McLaren played out a brilliant fight ahead of him.
Rowledge repeatedly pressured the leading Ginetta, but Tomlinson held firm until a sideswipe from a GT3 Lamborghini appeared to unsettle the car at Redgate. The pursuing Artura, which started on pole, closed in again and after some light contact at the Melbourne Hairpin Rowledge finally got the move done into Goddards on lap 25.
Brown also capitalised by grabbing second at Redgate before the race was turned on its head by the arrival of the safety Car just before the pit window opened.
Rowledge had crafted a lead of around six seconds but that was instantly wiped out when virtually the entire GT4 field pitted as one, which benefitted the Pro-Am entries and their shorter mandatory pitstop time.
Gough and RACE LAB’s McLaren had been the top Pro-Am runner in seventh, and the car was elevated to the lead when Wrigley headed back out. Things were shaken up further when Aston Millar was forced to park the now second-placed DTO McLaren at Hollywood after a complete power failure shortly after re-joining behind the Safety Car.
That put Clark right on the tail of Wrigley when racing resumed with just over 20 minutes to run. He showed his nose a few times before getting a better run through the Old Hairpin and launching a daring run around the outside to eventually slip into a lead he wouldn’t lose at McLeans.
While Clark scampered clear, and Wrigley settled into second, attention shifted to the battle for third involving Stuart Middleton – now installed in Raceway’s Ginetta – Lewis Plato and Darren Burke.
Plato was on a mission after the pitstops and enjoyed a backwards and forwards tussle with Middleton that the BMW eventually won. Burke also found a way past to take fourth in the Enduro McLaren he shares with Harry George.
Middleton should have come home fifth and was on course to do so until the last lap when heavy contact with the Fogarty Esses curbs while under pressure from Chris Salkeld appeared to break the Ginetta’s front left suspension. Middleton ran into the Melbourne Hairpin gravel trap while Century’s BMW, driven by Michael Johnston in the opening stint, duly took the chequered flag fifth – two places behind the team’s sister car.
The wild final lap also saw Academy’s #61 Mustang suffer a brake failure that sent Erik Evans into R Racing’s Aston Martin. The Ford was able to make it around in sixth while the latter retired on the spot.
One Motorsport’s replacement Mercedes-AMG and Paddock’s McLaren completed the top-eight.
Sprint racing returns to the British GT agenda on June 17-18 at Snetterton where two 60-minute contests take the 2023 campaign past half distance.