British GT

Trouble Free McLaren Takes Second Win For United Autosports

5 Mins read

A near faultless display from drivers Matt Bell and Charles Bateman resulting in United Autosports second win of the year, making it two wins in the three races since the Anglo-American team switched from Audi to McLaren in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship.

Unlike when they romped to a debut win at Snetterton last month the MP4-12C was probably not the fastest car on track but as a constant stream of penalties for repeated abuse of track limits hampered would-be front runners and reliability issues snuck their way into the three hour race.

The McLaren was not immune from the wear and tear subjected by the longest race of the British GT season, the car fading under Bell in his second and final stint, though thankfully the Yorkshireman had a large enough cushion to maintain the lead, while his nearest chaser was struggling with a suspected differential problem just as the gap between them started to drop in the final half hour of the race.

GT3 debutant Ollie Hancock was the man driving the Ecurie Ecosse BMW to the checkered flag and for a number of laps pulled a second per circuit back toward the McLaren. However, with the gap shrinking towards ten seconds in the final 15 minutes wisps of smoke from the rear of the Z4 were the first signs of a diff problem that soon made itself felt in the car, and on the timesheets. The gap first stabilised, then gradually grew out to its ultimate 20 second duration as Hancock increasingly had to coax the car home for second place.

The opening stint of the race belonged to Riki Christodoulou and Alex Buncombe. Predictably as the two more experienced pro drivers starting amongst a grid of predominantly gentlemen drivers the pair rose quickly into the top two spots. Even with Buncombe behind him Christodoulou reprised the pace shown by the GT3 Ginetta squads through practice and qualifying, pulling into 12 second lead before Buncombe pulled into the pits to make the first of three the mandatory pitstops during the race.

However, soon their rapid starts were tempered by the first problems and penalties. Soon after Jann Mardenborough took over the RJN Motorsport Nissan the penalties began to flow into GT3, after first making an incursion into the GT4 battle at the expense of Dominic Evans in the Century Motorsport Ginetta G50.

Both Mardenborough and Christodoulou were both given five second penalties. Still to pit at the time the penalty had little effect on Christodoulou but for Mardenborough the penalty dropped him behind Matt Bell in the United Autosports McLaren amongst those who had already stopped.

Such was Christodoulou’s lead that even once the Team WFR driver pitted co-driver Jody Firth took the car back out at the head of those who had pitted and cycled back to the lead when last man out Lawrence Tomlinson pitted from the lead in the Team LNT Ginetta.

However, Firth’s time in the lead was only to last a matter of minutes before he ran straight on at Brooklands, nosing the Ginetta into the wall before pitting, the team working on the front brakes.

It was Firth’s off that lifted Bell into the lead battle, he and Glynn Geddie briefly making it a MP4-12C one-two with the Scotsman leading before he joined the ever growing list of the penalised, though his offence was a pitstop 16 seconds shorter than the minimum time. When Geddie stopped Bell inherited a 22 second lead over Matt Griffin in the MTECH Ferrari, the Irishman battling back up the order after Duncan Cameron fell from pole position to seventh place in his opening stint.

The Ferrari duo had been presented with a superb opportunity to take a grip on the championship after an electronic problem had halted the #31 Trackspeed car of points leader David Ashburn, leaving the Porsche man with a second DNF in succession. Unfortunately, Griffin’s stint in second proved to be the high point for the team as damage to the front of the Ferrari became more and more severe over the closing half of race.

Cameron was the first to feel the effect of the damage before Griffin was tasked with bringing the wounded car home with part of the front bodywork cracked and a missing splitter limiting the cars speed in the final stint and Griffin and Cameron to just seventh place.

RJN, the third team in the championship lead group at the start of the weekend also struggled and could only finish eighth, one place behind the MTECH car, missing a golden opportunity to take advantage of others problems. After the earlier five second penalty Mardenborough was called into serve a drive through penalty as punishments for straying outside of the track limits escalated. The Nissan continued to slide down the order and it looked likely to only get worse when they were given a second drive though for driving standards. However, the explanation that the GT-R had an on-going brake problem was sufficient explanation for the penalty to be removed, and to explain the apparent lack of pace from the usually rapid driver pairing.

Problems for the top three opened the door of Alasdair McCaig, whose second place with Ecurie Ecosse catapulted him into the title race, just half a point behind the Griffin and Cameron. Now eight drivers – from five different teams – will start the final race of the season covered by just 9.5 points

At the tail of that group are another driver pairing thrust into the title fight in Motorbase’s Daniele Perfetti and Michael Caine, who finished third. Like the two teams ahead of them they enjoyed largely problem and penalty free races, though Caine had to resist Mike Simpson in the Team LNT Ginetta G55 for the final podium spot in the closing laps.

Despite being the best team in the results with a five second penalty it was a gear selection problem for the Ginetta that – probably – kept Simpson down in fourth place with the Geddies, another driver pairing making their first British GT start of the year taking fifth place after Glynn caught, passed and pulled away enough from the Jones brothers’ PreciSpark Mercedes to negate his five second penalty and take fifth place.

Behind title rivals MTECH and RJN the Joe Osborne and Steve Tandy driven Trackspeed Porsche finished ninth, Marcel Leipert and Marco Attard rounding out the top ten in their Lamborghini, the beneficiaries when Tim Harvey was the last man to serve a drive through penalty when he brought his Trackspeed Porsche with less than ten minutes remaining.

Warren Hughes and Jody Fannin wrapped up the GT4 class title in straight forward fashion, the Team WFR duo leading from lights to flag, helped by being another team to run with penalty.

Such was their dominance – and the scale of the issues for those chasing – that they won the class by two laps from Lee Mowle and Garry Simms’ Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G50, the pair making seven pit visits during the race, including penalties on four occasions. Alex Osborne and James May completed the podium in the APO Sport G50 with Zoe Wenham and Dominic Evans missing out on the podium for Century Motorsport.

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James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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