BRITISH GT HITS HALFWAY IN FIRST DONINGTON VISIT OF 2019
Here we go again! British GT’s 2019 campaign reaches its halfway mark at Donington Park this weekend with the dust having barely settled on a thrilling Silverstone 500.
And just like Silverstone, a monster entry comprising 41 cars is heading to Leicestershire for the season’s first two-hour race. It’s also the first time since 2011 that Donington has hosted a British GT round outside of its traditional end-of-year slot, meaning – for once – neither the GT3 or GT4 championships are on the line.
Nevertheless, there’s still a bagful of points to play for in both classes around the 2.487-mile, 12-turn GP layout.
GT3: BARWELL STILL OUT FRONT DESPITE SILVERSTONE SETBACK
The same 16 GT3 cars that raced at Silverstone also head to Donington this weekend where a single pitstop replaces the three mandated for British GT’s previous 180-minute race.
RAM Racing’s fantastic late scrap with TF Sport lit up Silverstone two weeks ago, but it was the travails of Barwell’s Lamborghinis that helped keep 2019’s title fight alive. Adam Balon and Phil Keen had threatened to run away with this year’s crown before an early stop/go penalty restricted them to seventh place at the 500, while damage sustained by Sam De Haan and Jonny Cocker’s sister Huracan means the top-two crews have remained within range of the rest. However, neither car has a Pitstop Success Penalty to serve this weekend at a venue where Barwell and Keen claimed victory last September.
The next three crews all scored big at Silverstone but still find themselves more than a victory’s points’ haul shy of Balon and Keen’s current table-topping total.
Optimum’s Bradley Ellis and Ollie Wilkinson have been models of consistency en route to third overall despite claiming only one podium thus far. And fourth place at Silverstone means they, like Barwell, head to Donington Success Penalty-free. They’re also the leading Silver Cup entry after making it four class wins from five last time out.
Late heartbreak for Graham Davidson and Jonny Adam promoted their TF Sport team-mates Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim to second at Silverstone. They also crossed the line first at Donington last season before a post-race decision dropped them to second. However, their 15s Success Penalty makes repeating the feat a much tougher task this weekend.
Likewise Callum Macleod and Ian Loggie whose sensational Silverstone 500 victory came less than two months after the latter’s cycling accident and subsequent injury ruled RAM Racing out of Snetterton. Their impressive qualifying and race pace suggests the #6 Mercedes-AMG will be a contender again if its drivers – who lie fifth overall despite missing two races – can somehow overcome their 20s Pitstop Success Penalty.
Donington holds fond memories for JRM’s Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris who won the GT3 title during their last appearance together there in 2017. And they’ll be fired up again this weekend after losing their Silverstone 500 podium to a post-race disqualification, which remains under appeal.
That decision helped Michael Igoe and Dennis Lind claim their maiden British GT3 podiums after another fault-free performance from WPI Motorsport. The GT Cup graduates have been impressive since making their GT3 debut at Snetterton, although a 10s Success Penalty is likely to restrict the Lamborghini’s progress this weekend.
Balfe Motorsport also impressed at Silverstone where its new 720S could and should have finished on the podium. A similarly strong showing from Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell would certainly make them one of the leading contenders at Donington where McLaren claimed its last overall British GT win in 2016.
Elsewhere, Adam Christodoulou’s clashing Nurburgring 24 Hours commitments see Tom Onslow-Cole drafted in by Team ABBA Racing to partner Richard Neary. TOC is reigning International GT Open Pro/Am champion and set fastest lap at Spa-Francorchamps during his last British GT appearance in 2018.
GT4: SEVEN POINTS COVERS TOP-FIVE CREWS
Five races down but we’re still no closer to finding a GT4 championship favourite. In fact, just seven points covers a top-five comprising as many different teams and four manufacturers.
That’s mainly thanks to five different winners at the start of what’s been an incredibly unpredictable season. HHC Motorsport’s Dean Macdonald and Callum Pointon remain top of the pile despite only scoring three points at Silverstone, while their closest rivals – Multimatic’s Seb Priaulx and Scott Maxwell – would have leapfrogged the McLaren without the post-race penalty that cost them two positions.
As such, the best-placed Ford heads to Donington two points adrift and just one point clear of Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman who inherited the final overall podium place at Multimatic’s expense last time out. They’re also the only GT4 crew to have scored in each of this year’s five races, the sort of consistency that has also helped to extend their Pro/Am championship advantage to 11 points.
However, Beechdean AMR’s Aston Martin is being chased hard by Nick Jones and Scott Malvern who enjoyed a dominant and very popular GT4 victory at Silverstone after bad luck twice intervened at the start of 2019. Team Parker’s Mercedes-AMG thus carries the full 20s Pitstop Success Penalty on Sunday, although that will be somewhat negated by the additional 26 seconds served by all Silver Cup crews.
One of those is Jordan Collard and Lewis Proctor who slipped seven points adrift of Macdonald/Pointon following a largely forgettable outing at Silverstone. That was in stark contrast to Snetterton where Tolman’s #5 McLaren scored 40 of the maximum 50 points available.
ERC Sport’s race-by-race status meant it didn’t score points for finishing second at Silverstone. Instead, those points and subsequent 15s Success Penalty went to Fletcher/Plowman, while TF Sport’s Tom Canning and Ash Hand – who were classified fourth – used their third place allocation to jump up to sixth in the standings. However, their Aston Martin also inherits a 10s Success Penalty this weekend.
HHC continue to lead the Teams’ standings by 10 points from Tolman, both of whose second crews who will be desperate to bounce back into championship contention this weekend. Three points separate Tom Jackson and Luke Williams from James Dorlin and Josh Smith who were serious Silverstone victory contenders before an engine issue curtailed their involvement after the final pitstop.
TF Sport’s Patrick Kibble and Josh Price were similarly impressive en route to pole position and a commanding lead before several pitstop penalties dropped them out of contention, while Graham Johnson and Michael O’Brien will hope to get on terms with Fletcher/Plowman in the Pro/Am standings after falling behind at Silverstone.
Elsewhere, Donington’s entry list is bolstered by a second Track Focused KTM shared by McEwans Alexander and Ross. Mia Flewitt and Stewart Proctor are also back in Balfe’s second McLaren, which guested at Silverstone, although fellow race-by-race entry ERC Sport won’t return until Spa.
And of course British GT also welcomes back Olympic cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy who makes his first appearance since 2014. The #19 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang he shares with Ford factory ace Billy Johnson will serve an extra five seconds during its pitstop due to the entry’s full driver change.
Watch Sunday’s race live on British GT’s social media platforms and website, as well as SRO’s GT World Youtube channel. A selection of support races will also be streamed on BritishGT.com/live.