ADAM & DAVIDSON CLAIM BRITISH GT CROWN IN DRAMATIC DONINGTON DECIDER
Graham Davidson and Jonny Adam are 2019 British GT3 champions following a dramatic season finale at Donington Park in which Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell secured a maiden race victory for their McLaren 720S GT3.
Fifth place was ultimately sufficient to clinch the crown for TF Sport’s #47 Aston Martin duo after Dennis Lind’s post-race penalty saw them leapfrog ahead of Sam De Haan and Jonny Cocker in the final standings. The result helped Adam take a record-extending fourth senior title with as many different co-drivers in five years, while fellow Scot Davidson clinched a maiden championship in just his second British GT season.
The duo travelled to the Leicestershire venue as one of five crews in contention for the championship but, crucially, lying just six points shy of the lead. Victory last time out at Brands Hatch also ensured the #47 Aston Martin would serve a 20-second Success Penalty during its mid-race pitstop, which posed a major hurdle for starting-driver Davidson during the opening stint.
The chances of a TF Sport title appeared to have been reduced further by Saturday’s qualifying result, which saw Adam Balon and Phil Keen book a front-row starting spot with their championship-leading Barwell Lamborghini, while Balfe’s McLaren secured pole for a second successive race.
Contact between GT4 runners during the formation lap led to a single-file start, which simplified Balfe’s task when the green flag eventually flew. The leading McLaren was subject to a 15-second Success Penalty for finishing second at Brands Hatch, though any suggestion that it could cost the squad a shot at victory was dispelled as Balfe quickly disappeared from the pack.
Indeed, Balfe’s performance during the opening hour was nothing short of sensational. The McLaren driver was almost half-a-minute clear by the conclusion of his stint after setting fastest lap at that stage by almost a second.
Behind, the action grew more intense with every lap. The first major storyline was the unravelling of Balon’s title hopes as the Lamborghini driver lost second spot to Ian Loggie (RAM Mercedes-AMG) early on and struggled to regain his rhythm thereafter. He subsequently fell behind the Century BMW of Angus Fender and later made contact with a GT4 class KTM, allowing both Davidson and Dominic Paul (Century BMW) to sweep past. A damaged toe link would have further repercussions later on.
Davidson provided another important storyline during the opening stint. The Scottish driver was in combative mood from the outset, the body language of his car suggesting that the Aston was in a major hurry.
This much was clear when he put two wheels on the grass while attempting to pass the recovering Loggie for third after the Mercedes-AMG ran off-track. While that move didn’t quite come off, it was an indication that Davidson was taking no prisoners in his pursuit of the title. Shortly afterwards, he made a pass on Loggie stick.
Balfe enjoyed a commanding advantage when the pitstops began after 62 minutes and, even with his Success Penalty, faced no serious risk of losing the lead. The experienced Bell therefore took over the car in a strong position to capture a maiden British GT win for the McLaren 720S. With no additional time to serve in the pits Callum Macleod was able to assume second spot after replacing Loggie in the RAM Mercedes-AMG, while the Century BMW – now with Jack Mitchell at the wheel after replacing Fender – settled into third after remaining stationary for an additional 10 seconds.
With the #72 Barwell Lamborghini sliding down the order the sister #69 Huracan emerged as TF Sport’s most likely title threat. Davidson had gapped Sam De Haan to the extent that Adam was able to serve the car’s 20-second penalty and pull away just metres ahead of the Barwell Lamborghini, which now had Jonny Cocker at the wheel.
Meanwhile, any hope of Barwell’s #72 Lamborghini recovering disappeared when the earlier damage sent Keen spearing off track at Craner Curves. Another visit to the pits would cost them several laps and ended any lingering title aspirations for the long-time points leaders.
Adam had appeared comfortable in fourth, only for a collision in the GT4 pack to bring out the Safety Car. There were 23 minutes on the clock when racing resumed and the TF Sport Aston was soon under pressure from both Cocker and Dennis Lind in the #18 WPI Motorsport Lamborghini. The Danish driver was the quickest of the trio and eventually moved past Cocker into fifth, but the battle would simmer for some time before coming to the boil.
With just four minutes left on the clock Lind had edged closer than ever to Adam. As he sought to find a way past, the Lamborghini made contact with the Aston’s rear, causing damage to the TF Sport machine and allowing Lind to draw alongside. Cocker used this to his advantage, diving up the inside and passing both cars. With Lind also completing his move Adam was relegated to sixth, and the #69 Barwell Lamborghini was suddenly in title-winning position.
At the front Bell’s lead had been cut to a little under three seconds as Macleod made inroads while negotiating traffic, though ultimately this was not enough to put the win in doubt. The McLaren took the chequered flag to secure its maiden British GT triumph, as well as Balfe’s first overall victory since Thruxton 2003.
Macleod finished second in the RAM Mercedes-AMG while Century’s Silver Cup-winning BMW made it back-to-back overall podiums. Next came the two Lamborghinis, with Cocker taking fourth ahead of Lind. Adam was sixth on the road, having fallen away during the final few laps.
De Haan and Cocker were therefore provisionally crowned champions by just 0.5 points, although it was immediately apparent the contact between Lind and Adam would be reviewed post-race. The subsequent investigation concluded that the Danish driver had gained an inadvertent advantage, for which he was handed a five-second penalty. Adam, therefore, moved back ahead of the WPI Lamborghini into fifth spot – a result that sealed the 2019 British GT title for TF Sport’s Aston Martin pairing. The eventual winning margin of just 2.5 points is the smallest of Adam’s four title triumphs.
Seb Morris crossed the line in seventh place aboard the JRM Bentley he shares with Rick Parfitt Jnr after both were involved in separate skirmishes with Optimum’s Aston Martin at opposite ends of the race. Behind, the top-10 was completed by a trio of Aston Martins, with the #99 Beechdean AMR machine coming home ahead of the aforementioned #96 and #2 TF Sport entry, which claimed Sunoco Fastest Lap in the hands of Nicki Thiim. The Danish ace’s 1m27.896s also represented a new GT3 benchmark for Donington’s GP circuit.
While the Drivers’ title again eluded them, Barwell Motorsport did reclaim the British GT3 Teams’ title after beating TF Sport by 47 points. Cocker and De Haan also scooped Pro/Am honours while the latter was crowned Blancpain Driver of the Year.
Tom Canning and Ashley Hand clinched the British GT4 title in today’s two-hour season finale at Donington Park (September 15) by surviving late pressure from behind while being made to sweat by a charging championship rival ahead. Victory went to Steller Performance’s Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding who converted pole position into theirs and Audi’s second win of the campaign.
Two Aston Martin crews celebrated title glory at the Leicestershire venue where Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman sealed Pro/Am honours thanks to a dominant class win in their Beechdean AMR-run Vantage.
In traditional GT4 fashion, the battle to be crowned champion went down to the wire. A record six crews were in contention for the overall crown heading to Donington, with Canning and Hand topping the table on 117.5 points. When the race got underway they looked to be on course for a relatively straightforward run to the chequered flag, with Aston Martin Academy ace Canning delivering a perfect opening stint at the wheel of the #97 Vantage.
The teenager spent the bulk of the hour running a close second to Williams. And with Steller’s entry not in title contention, that scenario was more than enough to confirm the #97 Aston Martin crew as champions. Canning then passed the Audi to assume the race lead 10 minutes before the hour, further easing tensions in the TF Sport garage.
By the close of the opening stint TF had two cars running in podium positions. The #95 Aston occupied third after Patrick Kibble overhauled Callum Pointon in the #57 HHC McLaren, which then slipped to fifth when another title contender, Scott Maxwell, moved Multimatic’s Ford Mustang up to fourth.
With the Canning/Hand car serving a 10-second Success Penalty, the leading positions were reversed during the pitstops. Fielding resumed with Steller’s Audi at the head of the field, while Hand assumed the controls of the #97 Aston Martin in second spot.
This was still more than enough to seal the title, but there was late drama to come. The Safety Car was deployed with a little over 30 minutes left on the clock when Connor O’Brien spun his Optimum Aston Martin across the grass and was collected by Aaron Taylor-Smith’s Race Performance Ford on the exit of the Old Hairpin. A heavy impact followed, though fortunately both drivers were able to walk away from the scene of the accident.
When racing resumed Hand faced immediate pressure from behind as Seb Priaulx looked to continue Maxwell’s progress from fifth on the grid in the #15 Multimatic Ford. Having climbed to third during the pit window, Priaulx pounced shortly after the Safety Car withdrew to move into second position.
Suddenly, the championship dynamic began to shift. While Hand could afford to drop another spot and still seal the title, he was powerless to affect the situation ahead. The charging Priaulx required just one more position to ensure that he and Maxwell were crowned champions and duly set off in pursuit of Fielding.
The youngster gave it his all but ultimately could not get close enough to make a move on the Audi. Priaulx was just 1.5 seconds shy of the lead at the chequered flag after putting almost 15 seconds between himself and Hand. This was of no consequence to the TF Sport man, however, as a third-place finish guaranteed that he and Canning were confirmed as 2019’s British GT4 champions.
The Steller Audi captured its first win since the season’s second round at Snetterton and the crew’s first since moving to the Silver Cup category.
Behind the title-winning TF Sport crew, Fletcher and Plowman took fourth overall and a comfortable Pro/Am win to secure the class title. The result also ensured Beechdean AMR’s Aston Martin maintained its feat of scoring points towards the overall championship in all nine of this year’s races en route to fifth in the final GT4 classification.
The Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin driven by Patrik Matthiesen and Mike Robinson took fifth ahead of the #95 TF Sport Aston of Kibble and Josh Price. The Pro/Am podium was completed by the next two cars across the line, with the #77 Fox Mercedes-AMG of Mark Murfitt and Michael Broadhurst edging out the Graham Johnson/Michael O’Brien-driven Balfe McLaren by just half a second.
TF Sport’s day would get even better, though. Top-six finishes for both of its Astons ensured Tom Ferrier’s squad overhauled McLaren outfits Tolman and HHC to be crowned GT4 Teams’ champions for 2019. What’s more, Canning and Hand also picked up the Silver Cup title, while the latter’s 1m35.886s won him the Sunoco Fastest Lap Award and set a new British GT4 record to boot.