As the Intelligent Money British GT series nears the end of it’s compressed 2020 season, the championship battle is as tight as ever with the lead changing hands multiple times over the past few races.
What is the British GT:
The British GT Championship is the UK’s premier series for GT racing. Featuring two classes: one for the highly race-tuned GT3 cars and another for the more road-going GT4 cars.
One of the big attractions to the British GT is the Pro/Am format featured. This allows the opportunity for amateur drivers to fight for overall race victories without having to compete against all professional lineups like in the GT World Challenge Europe for example. Not only this but the Pro/Am system is balanced out with the Silver drivers to ensure no one has a competitive advantage at any point.
Having started in 1993, the series has come a long way attracting factory drivers and highly professional race teams in its recent years, increasing that premier status amongst fans.
Qualifying specialists James Baldwin and Michael O’Brien scored yet another pole position bringing their season total up to 3.
Having now gotten used to leading the field to the green flag, Worlds Fastest Gamer Winner, Baldwin, led the field away. An early attack from Sam De Haan’s Mercedes around the outside of Redgate corner looked to put Baldwin’s lead into jeopardy only for the Mercedes driver to dip a wheel into the gravel and spin onto the infield grass, not the ideal way to start a 3-hour race.
There was also drama further back in the field. The Optimum Motorsport McLaren and the 2-Seas McLaren of Jordan Witt both managed outbrake themselves and in the process took out Michael Igoe who ended up beached in the gravel, leading to an early race safety car.
This was a lucky break for De Haan who could now catch back up to the rest of the pack and even made up a few positions when the likes of Adam Balon pitted to hand over to the ever rapid Phil Keen. Keen was immediately on the pace-setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 5 and set about closing the deficit to make this alternate strategy play out.
The restart was managed perfectly by Baldwin who was able to respond to the closing Ian Loggie, even managing to force Loggie into a mistake when he took a spin through the grass at the old hairpin. What looked set to be a great race for the Pro/Am RAM Racing Mercedes turned into a nightmare, the spin further compounded by a stop-go penalty dropping them way back into the pack.
What then followed was a superb charge from De Haan and his co-driver, Patrick Kujala. Having climbed up to sixth before their first pit stop, there was still a slim sniff of an outstanding victory.
With the Optimum Motorsport McLaren leading the 2nd hour of the race, O’Brien threw all he could at the leader but it was to no avail and now put him at risk from the ever closing De Haan/Kujala Mercedes.
With O’Brien remaining at the wheel for the final stint, only a mammoth effort would be able to hold off the charging Mercedes, especially with the 15 seconds of success penalty served during the pitstops for the leading McLaren.
However, with 33 minutes remaining in the race, Kujala made his move. Diving up the inside of Redgate corner he made good use of the slower GT4 traffic and made what turned out to be the winning move after the cars ahead made their final pitstops.
Following the Mercedes home was the Barwell Lamborghini of Keen and Balon whose ambitious gamble paid off. Only a few more laps would’ve been required to see them right on the gearbox of the Mercedes as such was their pace towards the end.
Coming home in third was Baldwin and O’Brien to salvage a somewhat disappointing race for them.
With the Academy Motorsport Mustang taking a last gasp pole position, the race was anyone’s game.
The main challenge at the start was avoiding the chaos ahead caused by the GT3’s tripping over each other. With the safety car scrambled, TF Sport reacted first, pitting both of their cars at the end of the first lap, the only team to do so. This would leave the Aston duo out of sync with the rest of the pack for the remainder of the race.
Matt Cowley absolutely blew the field away at the restart in his Mustang and was untouchable for the remainder of the stint. Knowing he had to take the maximum success penalty after winning at Brands Hatch, Cowley extended his stint by going a full 7 laps longer than his nearest rival, Patrik Matthiesen, with HHC teammate Gus Bowers and Chris Wesemael close behind in third.
With Jordan Albert now inserted into the mighty Mustang, it was business as usual. Clawing his way back to the front of the field after the TF Aston Martins finally made their second stops. from the lead.
Disaster soon hit for the second of the HHC McLarens as Bowers and Wesemael were hit with a stop-go penalty for a short pit stop which was then further compounded by a drive-through for an earlier pit stop infringement. This dropped them to eighth place and way out of contention for the race victory.
What then followed was a strategic battle between the Mustang, the remaining HHC McLaren, and the TF Sport Aston Martin of Connor O’Brien and Patrick Kibble. HHC learning from their mistakes and performing clockwork pitstops on their lead car.
With the McLaren just about staying within contention of the Mustang, this turned out to be crucial due to the success penalty of the Mustang with none applied to the McLaren for this weekend.
O’Brien assumed the lead after the squabbling duo made their final pitstops but couldn’t keep up the rapid pace and dropped back after his final stop.
Matthiesen and Jordan Collard put on a defensive masterclass throughout the final laps of the race. Having emerged ahead of the clearly quicker Albert, all Collard had to do was place his car in the right positions, blocking the grunt and go Mustang from blasting past on the straights.
Miraculously he managed to hold Albert off and claim his and Matthiesen’s first win of the season. Albert coming home in second with the TF Sport Aston Martin in third.
Next up the circus moves onto the Snetterton circuit. De Haan and Kujala head into this meeting with a target set firmly upon their backs as the fieldsets about catching this ever-popular duo.
Full results can be found here courtesy of TSL Timing.