On their first Avon Tyres British GT Championship outing in the car Charles Bateman and Matt Bell scored a comfortable victory at Snetterton in the United Autosports McLaren MP4-12C GT3.
Bateman and Bell’s win makes it seven different winners in seven races in the British GT Championship, repeating United Autosports’ feat from the 2011 season when Bell and Michael Guasch scored the team’s first win in GT3 competition, then driving an Audi.
United Autosports’ repeat win owed much to Bateman’s opening stint. In his first race in the car with only “ten minutes on an airfield” worth of experience coming into yesterday’s practice session Bateman took only two laps of the Snetterton 300 circuit to move from fourth on the grid into the lead, passing Andrew Howard in the Beechdean Aston Martin in the infield section of the circuit after Howard himself had only taken the lead from David Ashburn at the final corner of the opening lap.
Having taken the lead Bateman was able to stretch his lead quickly over Howard, a near eight second gulf opening up back to the Aston Martin after just five laps. That lead only grew when Howard spun the #007 at the Montreal hairpin falling back to seventh behind a developing battle for second as a handful of cars backed up behind second placed Ashburn.
Daniele Perfetti, Alasdair McCaig, Jann Mardenborough and Duncan Cameron coupled onto the train before positions began to change. Already having powered up to fifth after starting eleventh Jann Mardenborough jumped to third place, looking the only man among the first stint drivers capable of challenging a rampant Bateman.
Anxious to get past Ashburn to continue his move up the order Mardenborough embarked on an ambitious move at the Montreal hairpin – perhaps one that betrayed his inexperience, something that has almost been forgotten a tremendous first half of the season – resulting in contact with the rear of the Porsche.
The contact pushed Ashburn off the circuit and down to ninth – the Porsche now running with a broken rear floor and best exhausts, but still running. Mardenborough had fallen to sixth in the immediate aftermath of the incident, but the car would retire soon after Alex Buncombe began his stint, the contact having damaged the power steering circuit in the GT-R.
With all of this unfolding at arms’ length Bateman’s lead had swelled to more than 20 seconds over Perfetti and Cameron when the pitstop window open and both men immediately pitted, Michael Caine and Matt Griffin taking over the Porsche and Ferrari respectively, Griffin taking what would become second place behind the McLaren.
However, the move up the order – it pitstops that have to a minimum 60 seconds proved too good to be true. The MTECH car was penalised for a stop a single second short of the minimum time. The punishment, however, was a one second stop-go penalty to match the infringement, but the time taken to trundle down the pit lane dropped the Irishman to fourth place, Jonny Adam taking third place behind Caine.
After Howard had spun away second place in the opening half of the Adam was on another charge. He took fourth from Ollie Millroy in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, before inheriting third when Griffin pitted with seven seconds separating he and Caine in second.
Over the second half of the race Adam charged onto the back of Caine’s Motorbase Porsche, the former Carrera Cup racer struggling tyre wear on the rear Avons. Adam moved up to the rear of the Porsche at a typically rapid rate for the GT3 Vantage, but once behind was unable move past and so followed Caine home for third, the pair 16 seconds behind Bell’s McLaren, the Yorkshireman surviving an on-going issue with overheating front brakes.
“We just kept our head down,” Caine said of his stint. “They were calling on the radio how much Jonny was catching me so I knew he was taking time out of me but that was all we had. I don’t know, if it had been another ten minutes I don’t think we would have hung on but it was good to get the second place.”
“Jonny’s car’s, very, very good. The Aston is fantastic but in the Porsches now it looks like we have two cars to catch, the Aston and the McLaren so we have to get out head down and see what we could do.”
Griffin finished fourth, taking four points out of David Ashburn’s points lead. Richard Westbrook, having taken over the #31 Porsche from the championship leader, pulled the damaged car up to sixth place, the middle man of the three Trackspeed Porsches, behind the #32 of Rockingham winners Steve Tandy and Joe Osborne and ahead of the #33, Tim Harvey taking the second stint after Jon Minshaw started the car.
In a car a repaired after Millroy’s off in practice Ecurie Ecosse he and Alasdair McCaig finished eighth. Rhino’s Leipert Motorsport’s Lambroghini and the Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari 458 completed the top ten, Aaron Scott having deposed Adam Wilcox from the final points position on the final lap, deny Wilcox and co-driver Phil Burton what would have been their first points of the season in their first race after switching to JMH Automotive preparation on the Ferrari 430 Scuderia.
Lee Mowle and George Murrells won the GT4 race for Optimum Motorsport at the end of a race where it was the only car to complete the race problem free.
Predictably, Jody Fannin led from pole position in the Team WFR Ginetta G50. However, a slow pitstop at least partly due to pitting during the busiest part of the ten minute pitstop window. At three minutes – the stop was enough to drop them a lap off the GT4 pace, set by Zoe Wenham, the teenager staying out two laps longer than Fannin, avoiding the worst of the congestion in pitlane.
Wenham pitted, handing the car over to Dominic Evans who clung onto the lead for a handful of laps before Murrells moved ahead. Third place – at that point – belonged to Alex Osborne in the APO Sport G50, but he gave that position up when he embedded the car in the tyre wall on the outside of Riches.
That, in turn, should have handed third place back to Warren Hughes and Team WFR, but they were now dealing with exhaust problems in the pitlane a failure in the catalytic converter having started off a chain reaction of smaller problems.
With Osborne’s car embedded in the tyres, and with points on offer, it became a priority for the team to fix the car and claim third place. They looked to have achieved that when they returned to the track, taking third place in class, but a final stop a slow final lap allowed Phil Keen in the Complete Racing Aston Martin through to take third place in the first race for the team and for former VW Racing Cup driver Steve Chaplin.
The GT4 problems continued right to the checkered flag, a seemingly assured second place for Wenham and Evans suddenly in doubt when the driveshaft on the Century Motorsport car gave up half way around the final lap. Evans was able to limp round the pass the checkered flag, but with the Ginetta on fire, Evans quickly bringing the car to a halt, minimising any further damage.
The result means that Fannin and Hughes cannot clinch the class title this weekend, that most likely having to wait until the next round at Silverstone.