BALFE AND MITCHELL CRUISE TO SNETTERTON RACE 1 VICTORY IN BRITISH GT
Written by Tom Hornsby – Barwell Motorsport’s Shaun Balfe and Sandy Mitchell claimed their first Intelligent Money British GT Championship victory of the season in serene fashion at a sun-soaked Snetterton, where the #78 Lamborghini won by 11 seconds after starting from pole.
A similar situation also played out in GT4 where Freddie Tomlinson and Raceway Motorsport clinched their maiden wins, and Stuart Middleton collected his first since claiming the 2017 title, after lining up on pole. It was a red-letter hour for Raceway whose other Ginetta shared by Michael Crees and Tom Holland finished second overall and first in Pro-Am, while Seb Hopkins and Josh Miller scored theirs and R Racing’s best result of the season in third.
Back at the front, Century’s Darren Leung and Dan Harper didn’t have the pace to match Balfe and Mitchell but did come through to finish second by passing Optimum’s McLaren crewed by Mark Radcliffe and Rob Bell after the pitstops.
Kevin Tse and Chris Froggatt beat Richard and Sam Neary to fourth overall, as well as Silver-Am’s class spoils.
GT3: BARWELL BASKS IN THE SNETTERTON SUN
Despite the forecast predicting storms for race day, Balfe and Mitchell enjoyed a fair-weather cruise to their first victory of the season in Snetterton’s opening race, with Balfe doing the bulk of the hard work early on.
With no safety car interruptions, Balfe’s superb opening stint laid the foundations for Mitchell to stroke the #78 Lamborghini home untroubled in the second half. When the lights went out, Balfe got a great launch to head off the chasing pack into Riches, and then used the Huracan’s strong traction to edge an early gap out of Wilson hairpin.
And that was about as close as anybody got to Balfe who gradually edged out a six-second gap over the rest of the field before pitting for Mitchell. Balfe remained aboard one lap longer than most when the pit window opened, and a clean stop and service from Barwell in the quieter pitlane got Mitchell back out with a clear lead. The Scot eventually took the flag 11.1 seconds clear of anybody else. Job done.
While the win was clear-cut, the remaining podium places weren’t. The big mover during the early stages of the race was Simon Orange who pulled off a string of great lunges on the brakes into Wilson and eventually brought the car up to third behind Darren Leung’s Century BMW. However, that momentum was lost when the team picked up a drive-through for a pit infringement during the second half.
The busy pitlane accounted for a few more too, with Century losing time when Leung swapped with Dan Harper, and Enduro Motorsport’s Matt Topham and Marcus Clutton picking up a penalty for a short stop that cost them a shot at the podium.
The biggest winner was Sky Tempesta Racing’s Kevin Tse and Chris Froggatt. Tse had been fifth when the window opened, but a clean stop got the car up to second when Froggatt rejoined.
However, Froggatt had a rapid pair of Pros behind him. Despite Mark Radcliffe losing time at the start, Rob Bell rejoined third in the Optimum McLaren after the stops, with Harper right behind. Both gained ground on Froggatt as they fought, but when Harper eventually found a way by Bell it didn’t take him long to zip by Froggatt into Riches to secure second. Bell also found a way through to complete the podium, with Froggatt a clear fourth overall, winning the Silver-Am class.
Sam and Richard Neary were fifth and second in Silver-Am on their first outing with the upgraded Mercedes-AMG Evo, ahead of the championship-leading 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG of James Cottingham/Jonny Adam which had to serve the maximum Compensation Time during its stop.
Ross Gunn and Andrew Howard crossed the line seventh for Beechdean AMR, but a post-race penalty for contact set them back. That elevated of 2 Seas’ second car of Ian Loggie/Jules Gounon to seventh, right ahead of RAM Racing’s John Ferguson/Raffaele Marciello.
GT4: MAGIC MIDDLETON LEADS A RACEWAY ONE-TWO
A masterful opening stint from Stuart Middleton set Raceway Motorsport on the road to victory in GT4, with he and team-mate Freddie Tomlinson taking a controlled win. And things got even better when the sister entry of Michael Crees and Tom Holland took both second overall and the Pro-Am win to cap a superb outing for the team.
Nobody had an answer to the pace of Middleton in the opening stages as he shot away from pole to forge a comfortable gap over the chasing Josh Miller and Aston Millar in the R Racing Aston Martin and DTO McLaren respectively.
Middleton’s advantage was over six seconds by the time he finally made his pitstop right at the end of the window to hand to Tomlinson, who rejoined in clean air and kept things tidy to cement the result.
Likewise, Crees did a great job to hang on to the leading GT4 pack until the stops, bringing the #55 Pro-Am Ginetta in from fifth to hand to Holland. With the Pro-Am crew having to serve a shorter mandatory stop against the Silver pairings, Holland was elevated to second overall and simply shadowed Tomlinson to the line, much to the joy of the team.
Behind, a four-car fight broke out over the final podium place as Seb Hopkins’ R Racing Aston proved the cork in the bottle. Hopkins took over from Miller and rejoined third, but with both Century BMW M4 GT4s right behind as Chris Salkeld and Lewis Plato crawled all over him. Hopkins’ defending meant that Josh Rowledge soon joined in aboard the DTO McLaren too. Despite a rub between the two BMWs into Wilson, all four cars raced hard and close, but nobody could ultimately find a way past Hopkins, who secured R Racing’s best result so far this season.
Salkeld and Michael Johnston were fourth (second in Pro-Am), ahead of Plato/Carl Cavers, with Millar/Rowledge sixth. With some hefty Compensation Time to serve, Optimum’s title-chasing McLaren driven by Jack Brown and Charles Clark was seventh, but now has the benefit of no additional pitstop time for race two.