KEEN AND BALON DOMINATE BRITISH GT AT SNETTERTON


Barwell Motorsport’s Adam Balon and Phil Keen avoided several incidents to claim a comfortable victory in today’s first British GT race at Snetterton earlier this morning. Meanwhile, Steller Motorsport’s new Audi shared by Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding cruised to a maiden GT4 victory.

Second place overall went to Team Parker Racing’s Glynn Geddie and Ryan Ratcliffe, who held off a train of three cars over the closing laps. They included TF Sport’s #47 Aston Martin shared by Graham Davidson and Jonny Adam, which emerged from a frenetic final lap in third.

Tolman Motorsport’s two McLarens completed the GT4 podium – the #4 570S shared by Josh Smith and James Dorlin beating team-mates Lewis Proctor and Jordan Collard in the #5.

GT3

Barwell’s victory owed much to Adam Balon sticking with the three Silver Cup cars ahead during an action-packed opening stint that featured several incidents, which put Phil Keen in prime position to strike after the pitstops.

Tom Gamble initially converted pole position into an early lead, but it only lasted a handful of corners before the Century BMW was nudged by Sam De Haan approaching Wilson. That allowed Glynn Geddie – who started fourth – to nip down the inside of both of them on the exit.

Gamble recovered to slot into second ahead of Optimum’s Ollie Wilkinson who also took advantage of the lap one shenanigans to demote De Haan to fourth. That became eighth several laps later when Dominic Paul’s attempted move at Wilson sent Barwell’s #69 Lamborghini spinning.

Back at the front, Geddie was able to build a seven-second gap over Gamble, while Wilkinson resisted increasing pressure from Balon who’d taken advantage of De Haan and then Paul’s spins.

Thus Team Parker’s Bentley should have emerged from its driver change with a healthy lead. However, a slow stop handed the lead to Gamble’s co-driver Jack Mitchell who re-joined just ahead of the charging Keen. The heavier Silver Cup-entered BMW should have been an easy target for Keen, but Mitchell defended valiantly before an electrical glitch suddenly slowed the M6.

Keen duly pulled away to a comfortable 13.5s victory while, behind, Ratcliffe picked up two places at the expense of Mitchell and Wilkinson’s Optimum co-driver Bradley Ellis, who was hit with a one-second stop/go penalty for a short pitstop.

However, Ratcliffe’s mirrors were soon full of Rob Bell, Jonny Adam, Seb Morris and Jonny Cocker who all closed in on the Silver Cup-entered Bentley as the race ticked towards its conclusion. Bell’s Balfe McLaren was sidelined by a puncture which then allowed Adam to make repeated attempts at pressuring the Welshman into a mistake. His efforts eventually left the door ajar for Morris to slip through, but when The JRM Bentley then spied an opportunity to pinch second on the final lap Morris was caught out by a GT4 car.

The subsequent contact allowed both Adam and Cocker to pass the Bentley. The duo then ran side-by-side to the chequered flag, TF Sport’s Aston ultimately prevailing by just 0.082s.

The battered Bentley Morris shared with Rick Parfitt Jnr made it home fifth, while Michael Igoe and Adam Wilcox avoided the various incidents to finish sixth on WPI Motorsport’s British GT3 debut. Ellis and Wilkinson’s stop/go penalty restricted them to seventh, Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim brought TF Sport’s second V8 Vantage home eighth following an early spin, and Paul’s penalty for contact with De Haan ultimately saw the #3 Century BMW finish ninth.

Marco Sorensen and Andrew Howard completed the top-10 for Beechdean AMR after the latter spun on fluid dropped by Richard Neary’s damaged Mercedes-AMG. Both cars picked up three-place grid penalties for Race 2 by overtaking under yellow flags and causing an avoidable collision, respectively.

GT4

Success Penalties and Silver Cup’s longer mandatory pitstop time ultimately helped Steller Motorsport’s Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding claim comfortable Overall and Pro/Am GT4 victories in today’s first race at Snetterton.

Williams played his part by passing Multimatic’s pole-sitter Scott Maxwell at the start and controlling the pace thereafter. The Mustang’s 24s additional pitstop time – 10s for winning at Oulton and another 14 as a Silver Cup entry – ensured Fielding cruised to an easy victory.

Behind, Josh Smith laid the foundations for a second GT4 podium in three races by running third after passing Callum Pointon, while Mark Kimber (Century Motorsport) and Luke Williams (HHC) completed the early top-six.

Multimatic’s longer pitstop compared to the other Silver Cup crews ensured it emerged well down the order following the driver changes. Instead, James Dorlin picked up where Smith had left off to slot into a comfortable second place ahead of Michael Broadhurst whose Fox Motorsport co-driver Mark Murfitt pitted as the best-placed midfield Am. That performance was magnified after the Silvers served their additional pitstop time.

He was initially pursued by Team Parker’s Scott Malvern, but when the Team Parker Mercedes-AMG was handed a stop/go penalty for a short pitstop Tolman’s second McLaren, now driven by Jordan Collard, suddenly became Broadhurst’s primary rival for the final podium place. Collard eventually won the battle, while Pointon’s HHC co-driver Dean Macdonald also passed the Mercedes-AMG before the chequered flag.

Luke Williams and Tom Jackson completed the top-six ahead of Balfe duo Graham Johnson and Michael O’Brien who once again made progress during the second stint. Century’s #42 BMW slipped to eighth after pitting in fifth.

RACE 2

Adam Balon led team-mate Sam De Haan to a Barwell Motorsport one-two in British GT’s second race at Snetterton earlier today. The #72 Lamborghini overcame a 10s Pitstop Success Penalty en route to its second win in just over four hours, while Keen’s back-to-back wins saw him become the championship’s most successful driver in terms of class and GT3 victories.

Barwell’s Huracans were followed home by Balfe Motorsport’s new McLaren 720S, which finished third courtesy of Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell.

There was further silverware for McLaren in the GT4 class where Team Parker’s late retirement handed victory to Tolman Motorsport’s #5 570S shared by Jordan Collard and Lewis Proctor. They beat TF Sport’s Ash Hand and Tom Canning while HHC’s McLaren shared by Callum Pointon and Dean Macdonald rebounded from a penalty to complete the podium.

Nick Jones and Scott Malvern’s penultimate lap puncture robbed the Team Parker duo of a comfortable overall victory. That and Steller Performance’s post-race disqualification subsequently handed Pro/Am honours to Beechdean AMR’s Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman.

GT3

British GT’s Pitstop Success Penalties ensure back-to-back victories are a rare occurrence. Barwell were the last to achieve it at Oulton Park in 2017 and overcame a similar 10s handicap in Race 2 thanks to a true team performance.

Phil Keen qualified just 0.055s behind pole-sitter Nicki Thiim, and the pair were once again the class of a stacked Pro field during the opening stint. Rarely more than a second apart, TF Sport’s Aston Martin and the #72 Lamborghini pitted nose-to-tail as the 10-minute pit window ticked towards its conclusion.

Thiim’s co-driver Mark Farmer inherited a 10s advantage as a result of Barwell’s Success Penalty, but some rapid pre-driver change laps allied to Jonny Cocker’s earlier stop helped Balon emerge just ahead of team-mate Sam De Haan.

The two Lamborghinis then worked in tandem to bridge Farmer’s advantage, the intermittent light drizzle seemingly favouring both Huracans, and it wasn’t long before both had caught and passed the Aston Martin.

Balon and De Haan continued to track each other thereafter as the gap between them opened and closed through the traffic. The latter was never quite in position to challenge, though, and took the chequered flag just 0.5s shy of victory.

Behind, Balfe Motorsport made amends for the contact that ended its Race 1 hopes by completing the podium. Rob Bell ran fifth during the opening stint as part of a four-car train that also featured Century’s Ben Green, Team ABBA’s Adam Christodoulou, TF Sport’s Jonny Adam and Optimum’s Bradley Ellis. His co-driver Shaun Balfe emerged in the same position before hunting down Farmer over the closing stages having benefitted from JRM’s Bentley sliding off while sizing up the Aston.

Thus TF Sport’s #2 Aston Martin led home the sister V8 Vantage shared by Graham Davidson and Adam who were delayed by their five-second Success Penalty, while Richard Neary and Christodoulou had a quiet run to sixth.

Century’s Green and Dominic Paul came home a second clear of Ellis and Wilkinson’s Aston Martin, which both benefitted from Rick Parfitt Jnr’s final lap puncture.

Century’s second BMW shared by Jack Mitchell and Tom Gamble, and Michael Igoe and Adam Wilcox (WPI Motorsport) completed the points-paying positions.

Balon’s two victories saw him crowned Blancpain’s Driver of the Weekend, while Phil Keen set the Sunoco Fastest Lap. However, he also made history by moving to 17 British GT victories in all classes: two more than John Greasley, Thorkild Thyrring and Tim Mullen. His new total of 15 GT3 and Overall wins is also one more than former record-holder Jonny Adam.

Incredibly, it was also Keen and Barwell’s second double at Snetterton after achieving the same feat along with Jon Minshaw in 2016.

GT4

Team Parker’s #66 Mercedes-AMG was just two laps away from a dominant victory at Snetterton before another late issue – as at Oulton Park – robbed Nick Jones and Scott Malvern. Instead, Tolman Motorsport’s Lewis Proctor and Jordan Collard picked up the pieces to claim their maiden British GT4 victories when several more front-runners hit trouble.

But the star of the show was undoubtedly Malvern who converted pole position into a 14s lead before the pit window opened having also set a new British GT4 lap record of 1m58.125s. The Pro/Am crew’s advantage grew further after the stops thanks to the chasing Silver Cup runners serving an additional 14s.

Indeed, Jones was 17s ahead of Callum Pointon when the HHC McLaren he shares with Dean Macdonald was pinged for a short pitstop. Balfe’s Graham Johnson was initially the chief beneficiary after his co-driver Michael O’Brien pitted from fourth. But their hopes were also dashed by a 10s stop/go penalty for causing avoidable contact.

Jones therefore began the penultimate lap with a 30s lead over Proctor, who had passed Ash Hand earlier in the second stint. But bad luck struck once again when a puncture – picked up when he was forced wide by a GT3 car – cost Team Parker certain victory.

Proctor and Collard, who completed the opening stint in fifth, thus claimed victory from TF Sport’s Hand and Canning who lost second to Dean Macdonald during the opening stint. Their positions were reversed at the finish due to HHC’s penalty, although issues for Team Parker and Balfe saw the #57 McLaren still finish on the podium.

HHC’s other 570S finished fourth courtesy of Luke Williams and Tom Jackson who were also part of a tight scrap for the top-six before the pit window opened.

Race 1 winners Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding should have claimed Pro/Am honours in fifth. However, their Steller Performance Audi was subsequently disqualified for a technical infringement. That promoted Multimatic’s Seb Priaulx and Scott Maxwell, while Beechdean AMR’s Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman took the Pro/Am spoils in sixth overall.

The Aston Martin finished ahead of class rivals Mark Murfitt and Michael Broadhurst (Fox Motorsport), the RACE Performance Mustang shared by Sam Smelt and Aron Taylor-Smith, and Tolman’s second McLaren which would have been a top-three contender without its own penalty for a pitstop infringement.

Paul Vice and Matthew George’s Invictus Games Racing Jaguar completed the overall top-10 and Pro/Am podium.

Elsewhere, Track Focused’s KTM will serve a five-place grid penalty at the next round for causing an avoidable collision.

Eurosport has highlights of both races on Saturday 25 May at 10:00 and 13:30. Today’s British GT action can also be watched again as-live on the championship’s Facebook page and website.

2019 continues with the Silverstone 500 – British GT’s blue riband event and first endurance race of the season – on June 8/9.