Just like twelve months ago around the same circuit, Tom Sharp has started his 2012 season in sensational style by taking third victory of the weekend in Round Three of Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup.
In 2011, Sharp won the first six races of the season and this year he's halfway there again after a perfect weekend at Brands Hatch. Sharp took the third win despite being involved a huge accident on the second lap that claimed initial race leader Fergus Walkinshaw.
The reverse grid from Round Two gave Jamie Orton pole position; however a sluggish start allowed Walkinshaw to storm into the early lead, with Colin White also challenging Orton around the outside at Paddock Hill. This pushed White wide, which allowed Sharp to nip through on the run to Druids, before the IDL UK driver made a great move down the inside at Surtees to pass Orton for second.
Sharp got straight onto the tail of Walkinshaw and looked to make a move for the lead on lap two, trying to go around the outside a Clearways. Sharp got a better run out of the corner and tried to cut back and squeeze his nose down the inside of Walkinshaw at the exit of the corner, but this caused contact between the two.
The slightest of touches sent Walkinshaw straight into the pitwall, with his G55 spinning back across track. As the drivers tried to avoid him, G50 runner Louise Richardson braked and got hit in the back by Reece Somerfield, with the latter's G50 spearing off towards Walkinshaw, just missing him before slamming into the barriers at high speed, destroying the G50. While Richardson was able to continue, likewise Colin White who spun in avoidance, Walkinshaw and Somerfield's races were over, both drivers fortunately able to walk away from the incident.
The safety car was brought out to allow the recovery of the stricken cars, with Sharp now leading the race from Orton, Carl Breeze and Hunter Abbott, who was sporting damage to his windscreen after being hit by debris from Walkinshaw's car and retired from the race soon after the restart.
After a superb job by the marshals, the race restarted on lap eight, with Sharp able to quickly build a comfortable gap to Orton and Breeze behind. Abbott's demise allowed Andrew Richardson up to fourth, the Richardson Racing driver working his way up from the back of the grid.
The top four all fall smoothly for the next dozen laps, whilst behind Josh Wakefield worked his way up to fifth from the back of the grid, however his hard work was wasted when he received a drive-through penalty for continuously exceeding the track limits.
This dropped Wakefield behind Colin White, who took fifth after recovering from his early spin, and JHR Developments team-mates Marcus Hoggarth and Tom Ingram, the latter having started the race from the pitlane.
At the front, VCARS.co.uk-backed Sharp cruised to the finish to take the win and end the weekend with a 39 point championship lead. Orton finished second, whilst Breeze was set for a podium to end a tough weekend on a high, but his misery continued six laps from the end when he was forced to pull off track and retire with mechanical problems.
This promoted Richardson onto the podium in third, a great way to end a tough weekend for the Grantham-based racer, with Orton and Richardson making it seven different drivers gracing the G55 podium over the three races.
White took fourth, with Hoggarth a weekend's best fifth. Ingram took sixth in class, but there was last drama at the final corner on the final lap, Ingram spinning into the middle of the road, with Wakefield behind left with no option but to go off into the gravel in avoidance, ending his race within sight of the finish line to cap off a miserable day for the Supercup newcomer.
In the G50 Cup, class winner from Round Two Max Coates was unable to make the start after a gearbox failure, gifting Ian Parsons the class pole. A superb start from Rob Gaffney saw him take the lead and after the incident on lap two, the race saw Gaffney lead Parsons and Mark Davies.
Gaffney held the lead throughout the race and despite coming under pressure from Parsons, the Meridian Motorsport driver took the win to become the third different G50 winner of the weekend and the only G50 driver to make it on to all three podiums.
Parsons was set for second until he received a 5 second penalty late in the race for exceeding the track limits, promoting Davies to second, giving the Richardson Racing driver the early G50 championship lead. Parsons remained on the podium in third, with Richardson taking fourth ahead of James Owen.
Provisional Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup Standings (After Rd. 3):
- Tom Sharp – 107 points
- Colin White – 68 points
- Jamie Orton – 53 points
- Tom Ingram – 48 points
- Fergus Walkinshaw – 44 points
Provisional Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup 'G50 Class' Standings (After Rd. 3):
- Mark Davies – 90 points
- Rob Gaffney – 87 points
- Ian Parsons – 79 points
- Louise Richardson – 72 points
- James Owen – 54 points