BRITISH GT THUNDERS INTO SNETTERTON THIS WEEKEND
Switching from endurance back to sprint mode, British GT kicks back into life this weekend – Photo: Jakob Ebrey
It’s been six years since Snetterton last hosted a British GT round so early in the season, but this Bank Holiday Weekend (May 27/28) sees the 13-turn, 2.969-mile Norfolk venue play host to races four and five of the 2017 British GT Championship.
Once again a packed grid of GT3 and GT4 cars will be in town to contest a pair of hour-long races featuring mid-race mandatory driver changes. And with the 25th anniversary campaign already approaching its halfway mark, this year’s title contenders are beginning to emerge.
Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen maintained their championship lead at Rockingham despite serving the maximum pitstop success penalty, and if 2016’s Snetterton round is anything to go by they’ll be confident of increasing that advantage again this weekend.
The pair won both hour-long races at the same venue last season – a feat they repeated at Oulton Park earlier this year – after overcoming a 10-second pitstop success penalty in Race 2. Finishing fourth at Rockingham hands Barwell Motorsport’s #33 crew a handicap-free first race this Sunday, and with Minshaw in excellent form following two wins during a one-off Blancpain GT Sports Club appearance at Silverstone, few would bet against the bright green Lamborghini from adding to its tally at Snetterton.
They’re joined in the pitstop success penalty-free boat by reigning champions Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam, who need a positive weekend in Norfolk to get their title defence back on track after a damaged wheel blighted their Rockingham performance. The #1 TF Sport Aston Martin crew lies fourth in the standings, albeit 29 points behind Minshaw and Keen, but did come within a tangled seatbelt of beating the same Huracan at Snetterton last season.
Second and third in the points are two crews that filled the top-two positions at Rockingham. Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris find themselves just 8.5 points behind Minshaw and Keen after claiming their second career GT3 victories last time out, but head to Snetterton well aware of the 10-second penalty they’ll serve as a result during Race 1’s mandatory driver. It’s a similar story for the Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 driven by Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin, which is another 12.5 points further back and must remain stationary for an additional seven seconds.
Macmillan AMR’s Jack Mitchell and James Littlejohn proved their worth en route to a hard-fought first podium at Rockingham but only find themselves seventh in the points after a tough opening weekend at Oulton. The Silver Cup pair carry more ballast than their Pro/Am rivals but should be particularly competitive during the first of Saturday’s two qualifying sessions.
Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes have been solid if unspectacular thus far but still find themselves just behind TF Sport team-mates Johnston and Adam in the points. Farmer claimed pole for Snetterton’s first race last season (as well as fastest time in Rockingham’s recent Am qualifying segment) before securing a podium, and with no pitstop success penalty to serve the #11 Aston Martin should be at the sharp end once again.
The same goes for Liam Griffin and Sam Tordoff whose pace hasn’t done justice to their results. A solitary podium, achieved during the very first race, sees the Barwell crew head to Snetterton 35 points behind team-mates Minshaw and Keen.
Unfortunately, neither of Century Motorsport’s Ginetta G55 GT3s make the trip to Snetterton. They’re expected to return to the championship at a later date.
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Jonny Adam remains one victory shy of tying the British GT3 wins record with David Ashburn and Hector Lester. The Scot has been stranded on 10 since 1 May 2016.
However, Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen are now just two victories shy of also tying the GT3 record. A repeat of last season’s Snetterton result would therefore see them leapfrog Adam and join Ashburn/Lester on 11.
Matt Griffin could also set a record this weekend. One more victory would constitute his 15th across all British GT classes, equalling a tally jointly held by John Greasley, Thorkild Thyrring and Tim Mullen.
The battle between youth and experience is set to continue at Snetterton this weekend when this season’s GT4 championship protagonists lock horns once again.
In the blue and white corner will be HHC Motorsport’s Silver Cup pairing Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton, now the youngest driver crew ever to win a British GT race following their victory at Rockingham last month. And in the orange, black and luminous yellow corner, PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport’s reigning champions Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson, a Pro/Am line-up with the knack for consistently troubling their younger rivals.
17-year-olds Tregurtha and Middleton might be young – they were a combined 34 years and 217 days old at Rockingham – but both British GT rookies have already demonstrated a great deal of maturity and consistency that belies their age. A second and fourth at Oulton Park followed by that record-breaking victory has helped establish a 15-point lead in the Drivers’ standings, a handy cushion given their impending 10-second pitstop success penalty during Snetterton’s first race.
Johnson and Robinson will also be stationary for five seconds longer after finishing third at Rockingham, but have the added bonus – along with all other Pro/Am crews – of a reduced total minimum pitstop time intended to level the playing field between Silver Cup and Pro/Am entries. Their mix of speed and consistency has served them well thus far, although a victory would go some way to reducing the points deficit to Tregurtha and Middleton.
Lanan Racing’s David Pittard and Alex Reed make it three Ginetta crews in the championship’s top-three places. Their Rockingham race was compromised by having to serve the full pitstop success penalty, but they fought back to finish sixth and secure themselves a handicap-free first race at Snetterton. Reed was also rapid in qualifying there last season en route to a first British GT4 pole position.
Adams Balon and Mackay find themselves fourth in class but first of five tightly packed McLaren crews after a punctured radiator at Rockingham halted the track-club crew’s momentum from winning on the opening weekend. They’re tied on points with pre-season favourites Sandy Mitchell and Ciaran Haggerty who bounced back from a tough Oulton to finish second in Corby, while consistency across all three races sees their Black Bull Garage 59 team-mates Akhil Rabindra and Dean MacDonald occupy sixth.
Tom Hornsby (Source: British GT)