Confusion is the word of the moment at Rockingham as Seb Morris and Rick Parfitt inherited British GT Championship victory after they initially had their first win of 2017 taken away from them after a questionable wave-round for the Spirit of Race crew of Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron towards the end of the race.
Given a five second penalty for track limits, a late safety car period meant the Spirit of Race crew were first on the road in their Ferrari 488 but third on the timing screens. For some reason, race control allowed Griffin to go around the safety car as he wasn’t technically the leader on timing. That allowed him to build a 30 second lead as Seb Morris, who would eventually finish second on the road in the Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3, got stuck behind the safety car.
However, a penalty for contact as Griffin overtook Morris saw him given a time-penalty in lieu of a drive-through penalty after the race and the Ferrari 488 pairing were relegated to second.
GT4 went the way of pole-sitters HHC Motorsport as Stuart Middleton had a great final stint to get the better of the #100 Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren 570S of Sandy Mitchell.
At the start of the race TF Sport’s Derek Johnston and Mark Farmer held onto their first and second respectively going through turn one and into the Deene Hairpin.
However, the biggest mover was James Littlejohn in the Macmillan AMR Aston Martin Vantage who moved up five places on the opening lap to cross the line in third place on the coat-tails of Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw who managed to pick their way past Farmer at the Tarzan Hairpin.
GT4 would see Ciaran Haggerty move up from third in class to the lead as Alex Reed in the Lanan Racing Ginetta and Will Tregurtha in the pole-sitting HHC Motorsport Ginetta couldn’t match the blistering pace of the Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren 570S.
They wouldn’t have time to change any more though as the safety car was called for on the second lap as Harry Gottsacker made a visit to the gravel trap on the exit of Yentwood in the #69 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT3. He would get extracted within a couple of laps so the race wasn’t neutralised for long at that point.
The pause though, allowed Minshaw to gather his thoughts and within a lap or two of the track going green again he managed to out-psych Johnston – who braked too late going into the Brook Chicane and ran off the track. The Aston Martin running off the track allowed Minshaw to inherit the lead and for Littlejohn to move into second.
Littlejohn would get right onto the back of the Lamborghini and after Minshaw left the door open going into Deene, the Macmillan AMR driver would sneak his way up the inside and into the lead.
The GT4 battle wouldn’t change so easily as Ciaran Haggerty developed the widest McLaren on the grid as he kept up a defensive masterclass to keep Tregurtha in second place and in the firing line of Reed’s Lanan Ginetta.
It wouldn’t be much longer until the McLaren safety car came out again as Steven Fresle in the Century Motorsport Ginetta GT4 overcooked it slightly and found himself backwards and in the gravel at Gracelands.
Just before the hour mark, and with the safety car back in the pits, the race would get worse for Johnston. Under pressure from Duncan Cameron, he went through the gravel at the chicane and only just managed to recover the car. He would slip down to seventh, made worse by the fact that he had been given a five second time penalty for track limits.
After the pit-stops they would become just a bit-player in the race as Jack Mitchell in the Macmillan AMR car, Seb Morris in the Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental and Griffin in the Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 took up the lead in GT3.
Lap after lap, Mitchell would just about hang on as Morris tried to stick his nose in front, only managing it just before 30 minutes to go came up on the clocks as Morris dived up the inside of Mitchell at the Chicane. Griffin would also get past the Aston and move into second. A few laps later and the Ferrari would dispense of Morris and move into the lead.
However, and this is where some confusions lies, with a five second time penalty Griffin was first on track but third on the timing screens. When a safety car came out to recover a Ginetta from the gravel at Yentwood, Griffin was pushed back into the pack and – although he was leading – he was third on adjusted times. Due to this, he was given a wave-round by the safety car and allowed to take-off up the road, giving himself a 30 second lead over Morris in second (on the road) and thus inheriting the lead on the timing screens as well.
The race would finish with Griffin having a 25 second lead over the line, Morris able to take some time off the Irishman’s massive lead but not enough to change positions on track. The contact penalty, as mentioned above, giving the Bentley boys of Morris and Rick Parfitt their first win of 2017.
Third place went down to the final metres of the race as Phil Keen was pipped by 0.095s by a recovering Jack Mitchell to give the Macmillan AMR team a well-deserved podium finish.
In GT4 Stuart Middleton in the HHC car used the final safety car to his advantage as well. Having replaced all four tyres at the pit-stops he would be on much fresher rubber than Ciaran Haggerty in the #100 Black Bull Garage 59 and managed to pull away from the Scot as Haggerty proceeded to defend heavily from the PMW Expo Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 of reigning class champion Mike Robinson.
Robinson wouldn’t be able to get past in the closing stages of the race and finished almost 1.5 seconds behind in third place.