FOX MOTORSPORT SCORES CUNNING BRITISH GT VICTORY AT SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS
Written by Tom Hornsby – Nick Halstead and Jamie Stanley have provisionally scored theirs and Fox Motorsport’s first Intelligent Money British GT3 Championship victories thanks to a fault-free performance at Spa-Francorchamps this afternoon.
Racing under appeal, the McLaren 720S GT3 beat 2 Seas Motorsport’s James Cottingham and Lewis Williamson by 5.2s after Halstead swept around the outside of the Mercedes-AMG into Eau Rouge just before the pit window opened. Jules Gounon and Ian Loggie completed the podium for RAM Racing to extend the latter’s championship lead.
Further back, Jamie Day and Josh Miller continued theirs and R Racing’s recent good form by clinching a second victory in three races. Day relieved Tom Edgar of the lead during the second stint before pulling clear of Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s Supra, which led the opening hour in Jordan Collard’s hands.
However, the car wouldn’t feature on the overall podium. Instead, Team Parker Racing’s Seb Hopkins and Jamie Orton finished second and ahead of Team BRIT’s Aaron Morgan and Bobby Trundley, who also scored their first Pro-Am win.
GT3: FOX IN THE BOX (SEAT) AT SPA
Halstead and Stanley’s path to victory was hardly a smooth one in Belgium, and an appeal lodged against a qualifying penalty for the #40 McLaren means their victory remains provisional pending a hearing by the National Court. But, for now at least, the duo can be pleased with what turned out to be a stellar team effort to battle back from a difficult start.
Halstead lined up on the front row alongside Adam Balon whose Barwell co-driver Sandy Mitchell had been the only driver to beat Stanley’s qualifying time. When the lights went out, the Lamborghini held its lead into La Source as James Cottingham got the better of Halstead on the exit of the first corner to draft into second.
Halstead then found himself in the middle of a frantic early battle with Graham Davidson’s Paddock Motorsport McLaren, Morgan Tillbrook’s Enduro 720S and Alex Malykhin’s Redline Porsche. At one point Halstead ran as low as fifth as the cars swapped position, but soon began to work his way back up the order.
He was helped when contact between Davidson and Tillbrook’s McLarens tipped the Enduro car into a spin at the Bus Stop, which earned Paddock’s entry a stop-go penalty that Davidson served shortly after briefly blasting into the race lead. With those two out of the running, Halstead shadowed a fraught battle between the top two.
Cottingham found a way past Balon before Halstead did likewise and set about chasing down 2 Seas’ Mercedes-AMG. Halstead then went for a gap on the run toward Eau Rouge and eventually swept ahead at Raidillon to assume a lead the car would never lose.
Indeed, the advantage had grown to six seconds by the time Stanley climbed aboard, while Lewis Williamson did likewise for 2 Seas. The gap fluctuated a little thereafter, but never by more than a few seconds as Stanley managed his pace to the finish.
While Fox’s drivers secured victory on the road, the race results will remain provisional until the team’s appeal against its qualifying penalty has been heard by the National Court. In such instances, International Sporting Code regulation 12.3.3.A specifies that no competitor or driver can take part in prize-giving or podium ceremonies. It’s this that prevented Fox’s drivers from appearing in the usual post-race celebrations.
The fight for third was effectively decided by Success Penalties. With both the Barwell Lamborghini and Redline Porsche having to serve additional seconds during their stops, the door was left wide open for RAM Racing and Ian Loggie to capitalise.
The championship leader took no risks during his stint, happily sitting behind both cars knowing their respectively longer stops would allow the #6 Mercedes-AMG to jump them both in the pits. When Loggie finally pitted for Jules Gounon, the Frenchman rumbled out in a secure third and proceeded to set the fastest lap of the race on his way to the final step of the podium.
It was a big day for Loggie, who – provisional result not withstanding – will enhance his points lead thanks to his closest rivals hitting trouble. The WPI Lamborghini of Michael Igoe and Phil Keen endured a torrid weekend, with Igoe picking up a stop-go for contact that sent Mia Flewitt into the Raidillon tyre wall, and Keen then suffering a nasty accident at the same corner that put the car out. Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton’s Enduro McLaren also retired with a puncture.
Balon and Mitchell recovered to finish fourth after a 15-second Success Penalty delayed their progress. Balon led before the mid-stint Safety Car period, which was required while Flewitt’s 7TSIX McLaren was retrieved, before dropping back behind Cottingham, Halstead and Malykhin.
Redline’s Porsche would then go wheel-to-wheel with Barwell’s Lamborghini after the stops when Mitchell searched desperately for a way past James Dorlin. Theirs was one of the race’s best battles and one that ultimately went the way of 2020’s champion.
Malykhin and Dorlin finished fifth overall and first of the Silver-Am entries, a result that was helped by a late drive-through penalty for RAM Racing’s other Mercedes-AMG of John Ferguson and Ulysse de Pauw, which had strayed beyond track limits one time too many. Regardless, they finished right behind their class title rivals in sixth.
GT4: R RACING’S YOUNGSTERS PROVE THEIR TITLE CREDENTIALS
Miller and Day proved their history-making win at Snetterton was no fluke by triumphing again just two races later, which – along with results elsewhere – has catapulted the 16-year-olds into GT4 title contention.
Marco Signoretti starred in qualifying but dropped from pole to sixth on the opening lap. One of those to get past Academy’s Mustang was Jordan Collard who lined up sixth, ended lap one in second and then relieved Steller Motorsport’s Richard Williams of the lead next time around.
The Toyota remained out front for the remainder of a Safety Car-interrupted stint but couldn’t shake a train of drivers headed by Miller, the recovering Signoretti and Orton who all passed Williams during the first hour.
Williams then pitted at the first opportunity while the rest of the top four stopped one lap later. Academy’s Success Penalty meant Matt Cowley rejoined down in eighth, which elevated Hopkins into a provisional podium place behind the newly-installed Day and race leader Edgar.
But all three were soon caught by a rapidly advancing Sennan Fielding who’d set the fastest time in qualifying. The Audi made its way past Team Parker’s Porsche and then the R Racing Aston Martin before a 10-second stop-go penalty was issued to Steller for a pitstop safety infringement.
Edgar’s relief would be short-lived though, despite his valiant efforts to fend off Day, who finally found a way past the Supra with 28 minutes of the two hours remaining. Hopkins was next along but he also found the Toyota a tough nut to crack, which helped Bobby Trundley close down the pair of them.
Team BRIT’s McLaren ended the opening stint in 12th but shot up the order thanks to its shorter minimum pitstop time and Success Penalty-free driver change. Trundley thus emerged in fifth and defended the place resolutely from Darren Turner. But as the stint developed so the McLaren began to pull clear and into the range of an overall podium place once Fielding served his stop-go penalty.
Less than 10 minutes remained when the second, third and fourth place cars were circulating as one. But when Hopkins finally found a way past, Edgar’s resistance was broken and Trundley pounced to claim the final step on the rostrum alongside his co-driver Morgan.
Attention now turned to Fielding, who’d made significant progress since rejoining in eighth. He and Turner quickly homed in on the Toyota, which enjoyed a slender advantage at the start of what became a frenetic final lap between the trio. But while the Audi was able to squeeze past into fourth – a potentially defining moment in this year’s title battle – Edgar pipped Turner by just 0.077s.
Academy’s Success Penalty left Cowley and Signoretti seventh, one place ahead of Herberth’s guesting Porsche.
The GT4 classification is unaffected by Spa’s provisional result, which will only impact the GT3 class. As such, just two points now unofficially cover the top-three crews. Topham and Turner remain first on 116.5, while victory has moved Miller and Day up to second – one point ahead of Williams and Fielding.
Just two races remain in this year’s Intelligent Money British GT Championship campaign, which continues at Brands Hatch on September 10/11.