FIVE FOR THE GT3 TITLE AS BRITISH GT REACHES ITS #DONINGTONDECIDER
Eight races down, just one more to go: 2021’s Intelligent Money British GT3 Drivers’ Champions will be crowned this weekend at #DoningtonDecider where five crews retain a mathematical chance of claiming the crown.
With Will Burns and Gus Burton wrapping up the GT4 Drivers’ Championship at Oulton Park, attention shifts to the GT3 showdown that plays out over two hours at Donington Park on Sunday, while both Pro-Am class titles are also on the line.
Up front, Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind are hoping to convert their current 18.5-point lead into a history-making Drivers’ title. But they’ll face stiff competition from fellow protagonists Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman, Michael Igoe and Phil Keen, Adam Balon and Sandy Mitchell, and Andrew Howard who could all still deny Barwell Motorsport’s long-time leaders.
After all, there’s still 37.5 points up for grabs on Sunday afternoon…
GT3: FIVE INTO ONE JUST WON’T GO
The British GT3 Drivers’ Championship has a habit of going the distance, and this year is no different despite Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind establishing themselves as the crew to beat over the second half of 2021.
Their current 18.5-point advantage, along with Success Penalty distribution, leaves them as clear favourites to become the first non-British champions since Daniele Perfetti triumphed in 2012. What’s more, no crew comprising two foreign drivers has ever won the GT3 crown, which was first awarded in 2006 to, coincidentally, Machitski. Indeed, the Russian would join only Jonny Adam, Andrew Howard and Rick Parfitt Jnr as a multiple British GT champion.
The #63 Lamborghini’s speed should also worry its rivals. Machitski and Lind have only finished outside the top-four once this season, which was due to heavy damage sustained on lap one at Donington’s first round back in July, while Lind has scored Sunoco Fastest Laps on each of the five weekends he’s raced.
But perhaps the biggest factor will be the Success Penalties that hinder their three closest rivals on Sunday afternoon.
Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman must serve an additional 10s during their mandatory driver change after finishing third in Oulton Park’s second race. They’re Machitski and Lind’s nearest threat 18.5 points adrift but must first finish no lower than third to retain a mathematical chance of winning the title.
At least RAM can take some comfort from the form book. Loggie and Buurman finished second at Donington in July after qualifying on pole and overcoming the same 10s Success Penalty, while another of the team’s Mercedes-AMGs won there in 2020.
A wet race would also play to Mercedes-AMG’s strengths. Both Loggie and Buurman were imperious in Oulton’s second race, which they would have won were it not for a pitstop infringement and subsequent drive-through penalty.
Two points further back come Michael Igoe and Phil Keen who continued their late-season resurgence with victory at Oulton. But despite the valuable points collected, it’s also resulted in the maximum 20s Success Penalty.
Just like RAM, they must finish third or higher to usurp the #63 Barwell crew’s current points total before hoping other results go their way. If they do, Keen – who added a record extending 19th British GT3 win to his tally at Oulton – would finally secure a long-overdue Drivers’ title on his sixth consecutive appearance as a #DoningtonDecider contender.
Next up is another returning protagonist, Adam Balon, and Sandy Mitchell who’s bidding to become only the second driver ever to retain a British GT title. Barwell’s #1 crew has been remarkably consistent since its opening day DNF but will need to overcome a 15s Success Penalty and finish second at worst to have any hope.
It was very different 11 months ago when Mitchell arrived at the final round second in the standings but with the fate of the title in his own hands. The Scot and co-driver Rob Collard duly won at Silverstone to overcome their six-point deficit, and that result is most likely required again to give any of the top-three, but especially their team-mates, something to seriously think about.
The maths are very simple for GT3’s final championship candidate: Andrew Howard must win and hope bad luck befalls his rivals to have any hope of clinching a third British GT crown.
It would, incidentally, also be his second solo title after covid-19 forced Jonny Adam to withdraw from Spa-Francorchamps earlier this year, while the Scot also missed out on sharing the 2013 championship with Howard because of penalty points.
However, and realistically, Beechdean’s Aston Martin heads to Donington as the darkest of horses. Indeed, Machitski and Lind must finish ninth or lower for what would be Howard’s first victory since 2015 to have any meaningful impact on the Drivers’ standings.
Elsewhere, and unhindered by championship pressure, Richard and Sam Neary will be hoping to replicate their breakout win at Donington in July when Team Abba Racing’s Mercedes-AMG dominated. No Success Penalty also plays out in the father/son crew’s favour.
Team Parker’s Porsche could also be a factor after Scott Malvern planted the 911 on pole and led Race 2 at Oulton, while the same car also qualified well at Donington earlier in the year.
Oulton’s other pole-winner, Kelvin Fletcher, demonstrated his Paddock Motorsport Bentley’s true potential last time, while Balfe Motorsport’s Lewis Proctor set the second fastest Pro qualifying time the last time British GT visited Donington.
There’s also a second Bentley on the entry thanks to Tolman Motorsport, which makes its first appearance since 2019’s season finale, as well as Team Rocket RJN’s race-by-race McLaren. A third 720S entered by Enduro Motorsport completes GT3’s entry.
GT4: PRO-AM TITLE BATTLE TAKES CENTRE STAGE
A third victory of the season helped Will Burns and Gus Burton to clinch GT4’s overall title with a race to spare at Oulton, but there’s still plenty to play for when 15 entries – the class’ biggest grid of the year – line up on Sunday. And chief among those is the Pro-Am Drivers’ Championship, which remains a four-way scrap between as many different teams and manufacturers.
A second overall class victory at Oulton helped Matt Topham and Darren Turner maintain their chances of finishing runners up outright behind Century’s all-conquering BMW as well as sealing Pro-Am honours. The Newbridge Aston Martin now finds itself 14.5 points ahead of Fox Motorsport’s Nick Halstead and Jamie Stanley who must finish inside the class’ top-five to have any chance of overturning their deficit.
Mark Sansom and Charlie Robertson are yet to match their oh-so-near winning performance from the opening weekend when a late puncture denied Assetto Motorsport a debut win. Instead, the Ginetta has slipped 32.5 and 18 points respectively behind its Aston Martin and McLaren rivals in this year’s Pro-Am standings, meaning only a win will suffice on Sunday.
The same applies to John Ferguson who lies 1.5 points further back. Alongside him is once again 2020 GT4 champion Jamie Caroline who underlined Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s pace last time out at Oulton.
Of course, they aren’t the only cars to watch out for. But with newly crowned champions Burns and Burton carrying a 20s Success Penalty and additional Silver weight at the same circuit where they triumphed in July, there is a chance we’ll see first time winners gracing Donington’s podium.
Century’s second BMW is yet to visit Victory Lane in 2021 despite occupying third in GT4’s overall standings behind James Kell and Jordan Collard who – like Burns and Burton – are saddled with a hefty Success Penalty. And that will undoubtedly hand an initial advantage to Chris Salkeld and Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke as they attempt to finish runners-up behind their team-mates.
Much was expected from Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding this year but, for various reasons, Steller Motorsport’s Audi has been unable to mount a title challenge or add to the two victories it collected in 2019. The latter was scored on the final day at Donington, suggesting the R8 should go well if it can avoid the kind of gremlin that side-lined the car at the same circuit earlier this year.
A 10s Success Penalty incurred for finishing third at Oulton leaves Academy’s Mustang shared by Will Moore and Matt Cowley with work to do. However, three-quarters of that combination came close to overturning the full 20s handicap at Donington last season.
Jack Brown and Ashley Marshall also feature within the group of drivers squabbling over a top-four championship finish, although Balfe’s McLaren will have to repeat its Spa win to have a reasonable chance of making significant gains. The same manufacturer’s DDP members – Harry Hayek and Katie Milner, and Michael Benyahia and Alain Valente – also have an opportunity to add standout results to a tricky campaign.
Two new entries also join the action for the first time this year: CWS Racing and Colin White make their first British GT starts since 2014 after moving up from Ginetta GT4 Supercup with the new G56, and recently crowned Teams’ Champions Century Motorsport have added the Aston Martin of GT Cup front runners David Holloway and Bradley Ellis.
Watch 2021’s #DoningtonDecider live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel this Sunday at 13:00 BST.