A year brimmed with relentless drama and controversy encapsulated another typically enthralling British GT campaign in 2017, with Rick Parfitt Jr. and Seb Morris’ title triumph enough to earn both Team Parker Racing and Bentley their maiden series crown.
The Bentley pairing – who held the mantra of underdogs for much of the season – overcame fierce adversaries Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen in an endless GT3 scrap that was only decided at the Donington Park season finale.
Unpredictability ruled supreme in a pulsating, year-long GT4 title race – eventually being won by HHC Motorsport teen duo Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton after a colossal, tooth-and-nail duel with fellow Ginetta runners Alex Reed and David Pittard of Lanan Racing.
Perfect Parfitt Catalyst for Brilliant Bentley
With so little to split the two front-runners throughout a testing 2017 campaign, Parfitt Jr’s incredible improvement under the tutelage of Pro partner Morris ultimately proved the decisive difference in Team Parker Racing’s push for the British GT title.
“Rick’s been pivotal, I’ve worked so hard with him over the last couple of years and you can see the improvement,” Morris told TCF.
“He hasn’t made any of the mistakes he made last year, and he’s been flawless all year.”
The 2013 GT4 champion’s noticeable pace increase from the year previous and stunning consistency all season meant Parfitt often blurred the line between amateur and professional.
Keen and Morris’ almost equal race-craft left little to decide between the #31 Bentley and the #33 Lamborghini with a pair of races to go – but whilst a courageous Minshaw eventually cracked under pressure, the cool-headed Parfitt Jr. aced both Brands Hatch and Donington Park and deservedly took home the spoils for Team Parker Racing.
A comfortable 29-point Gentleman Driver Trophy win for Parfitt Jr. over Minshaw in the battle for top amateur driver clearly captures the deciding factor in an electric championship scrap.
Brave Barwell Beaten to the Title Again
Heartbreak once again struck Barwell Motorsport in 2017, with long-time partners Keen and Minshaw again being defeated at the last hurdle in their seemingly endless pursuit for that elusive top-category crown.
Barwell themselves will be frustrated to miss out on the drivers’ accolades, with two competitive cars and four premium-quality drivers unable to deny Morris and Parfitt Jr.’s Bentley the end-of-season bragging rights.
Four wins across the season saw Keen and Minshaw place one hand on the championship trophy come the international Spa-Francorchamps double-header, but a gutting spin from the lead late-on in race two by Minshaw sparked a disastrous title downfall.
Whether the veteran duo will return in the spring to take on another title tilt is unknown, but a painstakingly slow winter period lies ahead for Barwell and their fleet of frustrated Lamborghini drivers.
Unsuccessful Title Defence Blot on Adam’s 2017 Copybook
A myriad of GT successes in 2017 propelled Jonny Adam to worldwide recognition in the racing sphere, but a frustrating 2017 British GT campaign saw Adam and Am partner Derek Johnston unable to offer up a challenge to retain their GT3 title.
Despite two wins at Snetterton and the Donington Park curtain-closer, TF Sport never looked likely to join Bentley and Lamborghini in a three-horse race for top spot.
A spin for Johnston at the signature Silverstone 500 event blighted Adam’s hopes of claiming a marquee victory before the Le Mans winner had even clambered into the cockpit – with Johnston’s occasional errors often giving Adam a mountain to climb in races across the campaign.
Adam’s employers Aston Martin Racing have yet to announce their 2018 plans for the Scotsman, but a record-setting 12 GT3 wins would see the double champion depart British GT etched into series history books.
Middleton and Tregurtha Win Ginetta Joust
Two former rivals joining forces can often have an explosive ending in motorsports, but in the 2017 GT4 title pursuit, HHC Motorsport’s excellent decision to pair 2016 Ginetta Junior adversaries Tregurtha and Middleton together worked wonders.
The teen duo adapted to life as GT4 partners with remarkable ease, earning a first win together in only their third event at Rockingham.
Consecutive non-scores at Snetterton and Silverstone could’ve cracked Tregurtha and Middleton, but the youngsters showed no signs of wilting under pressure with a maximum point performance at Spa-Francorchamps.
Two strong showings at Brands and Donington were enough to stave off the threat of reigning champions Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson, in addition to season-long rivals Reed and Pittard.
In doing so, Tregurtha and Middleton displaced 2015 GT4 champs Ross Gunn and Jamie Chadwick as the youngest champions in British GT history – an immensely impressive achievement for a pair of rookies.
Wretched Reliability Curses Luckless Track-Club
A win at the Oulton Park opener and Silverstone 500 glory showcased the title-chasing pedigree of Track-Club’s Adam Balon and Adam Mackay – only for endless electrical issues to cruelly curtail a season of ‘what ifs’ for the desperately unlucky duo.
Third in the GT4 Pro-Am standings and fourth in the overall championship – despite a staggering four non-finishes with reliability issues – hampered Track-Club’s hopes of leading the McLaren march against the supreme Ginettas.
With one full-season under the belts of both Track-club and their relatively inexperienced driver pairing, the sky is the limit for the team – provided they can finally exorcise their reliability demons.
GT3 – Top Five Teams of the Season
5 – Spirit of Race SA
A seventh-place finish certainly doesn’t tell Spirit of Race’s story in an up-and-down campaign for the sole Ferrari outfit.
European Le Mans Series hard-chargers Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron proved more than a match throughout the season, taking on their first full-time British GT campaign since 2012.
A post-race penalty at Rockingham was all that denied Spirit of Race a first series win, but an admirable podium performance at Silverstone offered up hope of a strong second-half to the season.
A vicious, 160mph practice smash at Blanchimont for Cameron however forced Spirit of Race to withdraw from the Spa-Francorchamps double-header – effectively ending an impressive return to British GT for the AF Corse-run squad.
4 – TF Sport
Despite going under the radar more often than expected in 2017, Tom Ferrier’s Aston Martin squad finally revealed their underlying speed by ending the season as the team to beat at Donington Park.
As the only two-car line-up to score points in every round, TF Sport’s remarkable consistency deservedly earns them a spot on this list. A pair of victories for Adam and Johnston, coupled with a five-podium haul for Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes sealed a strong third and fourth in the standings for the team – ahead of Barwell’s Liam Griffin and Sam Tordoff.
3 – Barwell Motorsport
Momentum-shattering mistakes brought an end to Barwell Motorsport’s hopes of a first British GT crown since 2014, with Minshaw and Keen forced to settle for second once again in the drivers’ standings.
Likewise, a frustrating campaign for Griffin and Tordoff saw the #6 Lamborghini slip behind both Aston Martins in the ‘best of the rest’ squabble behind the leading fight.
Four dominating victories and a deserved teams’ crown prevents 2017 from being labelled a wasted season however, and a third full-time Lamborghini entry for the upcoming campaign could boost Barwell’s chances of finally snatching GT3 honours.
2 – Macmillan AMR
Few could truly have expected such an impactful debut season in the top class for Macmillan AMR, with thriving young star Jack Mitchell and savvy veteran James Littlejohn’s exploits seeing the team’s sole Aston Martin often challenging at the very front.
An admirable second at the Silverstone 500 after qualifying on pole position highlighted a memorable first GT3 campaign – extracting more speed, more often from the Vantage than their lofty and more experienced TF Sport counterparts.
The team’s incredible consistency is even more impressive considering Mitchell and Littlejohn were the only Silver Cup pairing in GT3, leaving Macmillan to contend with additional success penalties every race as a result.
Surprisingly – and slightly disappointingly – Macmillan couldn’t snatch an elusive maiden win in GT3 despite all their efforts. Luck firmly evaded the team all campaign long – with Littlejohn’s heart-breaking retirement from a commanding lead at Brands Hatch due to a car failure proving the end of the team’s first assault on GT3.
A year’s worth of experience however could allow the start-up outfit to blossom into true title-contenders come the start of 2018.
1 – Team Parker Racing
After showing flashes of brilliance throughout 2016, Team Parker Racing’s Bentley break-through was merely a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’ in 2017.
A slow start looked to have dashed TPR’s hopes of challenging for the title, but a ground-breaking marquee Silverstone 500 win stemmed the tide and turned the championship in favour of the season-long underdogs.
Battling against the two-car titans of Barwell, a never-say-die attitude from Parfitt Jr. and Morris paved the way for a remarkable run of form that saw TPR blitz the field at Brands before charging to championship glory at Donington.
Few had expected TPR to truly win it all in only their second GT3 campaign, but now attention turns to whether the M-Sport prepared unit can contend against a potentially expanding Barwell in 2018.
GT4 – Top Five Teams of the Season
5 – Tolman Motorsport
Second in the GT4 Pro/Am standings defied anyone’s expectations of what Tolman Motorsport would achieve in 2017 – a feat that ranks as one of the most impressive of any across the whole campaign.
David Pattison’s sky-rocketing performance levels – no doubt aided by driver coach Joe Osborne’s tireless efforts – saw the McLaren duo contend with 2016 GT4 champions Johnson and Robinson for Pro/Am honours.
7th in the Teams’ standings fails to reflect the extent of Tolman’s improvements across the year, with Pattison and Osborne hoping 2018 will prove another positive season for the fan favourites.
4 – Track-Club
Two wins across an issue-riddled season stand out as major successes in Track-Club’s third British GT campaign.
A commanding blue-riband victory at the Silverstone 500 saw Balon and Mackay share top spot on the podium with eventual GT3 champions Parfitt Jr. and Morris – signalling the McLaren duo were firmly in contention for the title.
Two non-scores at Spa with the return of electrical gremlins cruelly curtailed the team’s title hopes – yet their early-season efforts still warranted an impressive fourth in the drivers’ standings.
The ever-improving McLaren 570S could prove a lethal weapon in the hands of Balon and Mackay next year, as they hope to halt Ginetta’s GT4 dominance.
3 – PMW Expo/Optimum Motorsport
One win at Donington Park capped a covert campaign that saw Optimum Motorsport forced to settle for second in the GT4 title hunt, snatching runners-up in the drivers’ standings from Lanan Racing on the final day despite rarely being mentioned in the championship picture.
A mid-season manufacturer change saw Optimum leave Ginetta to join the McLaren movement for Silverstone, but the switch proved unsuccessful, forcing the team to agonisingly watch a Ginetta championship scrap from afar at Donington.
Third in the teams’ championship and a GT4 Pro/Am title softened the blow of a drivers’ title defence that never left the ground for the 2016 champions.
However, if 2017 was a transition season for Optimum, the following season should see Johnson and Robinson right back in the fold and challenging to reclaim their crown.
2 – Lanan Racing
Second-season syndrome certainly didn’t apply to Lanan Racing in 2017, with a mightily impressive pair of wins suggesting that blossoming driver duo Reed and Pittard could be championship challengers next year.
A race-shattering spin after being punted round by a GT3 guest entry at Spa effectively brought an end to Lanan’s title dreams.
Lady luck turned her back on the #51 car at Brands and Donington too, with separate mechanical issues dropping Reed and Pittard down to a disappointing third in the standings.
Arguably, Lanan performed more consistently than their fierce foes HHC Motorsport, yet the standings say otherwise in a character-building season for both drivers.
Five podiums and two wins earned the Bedfordshire-based team a high spot in my rankings, with Lanan sending shock-waves through the British GT paddock ahead of what should be an enthralling 2018 title tilt.
1 – HHC Motorsport
A dream British GT debut season lands HHC Motorsport in a deserved top spot, blowing the field away with effortless ease through the capable hands of Tregurtha and Middleton – who became the youngest champions in British GT history.
The former Ginetta Junior rivals made an easy transition to the world of co-driving and endurance racing, bagging three victories and seven podiums across the season as HHC stormed to a deserved clean sweep of the GT4 accolades – even winning the teams’ championship ahead of the two-car Black Bull Garage 59 outfit.
After showing their worth throughout 2017, all eyes now firmly focus on whether the youngsters can harness their skills well enough to fend off an even more competitive GT4 lineup for 2018.
Performance of the Year – Jonck and Phillips’ Brilliant Brands Seals Maiden Win for Macmillan
A superb drive from 12th on the grid in GT4 saw Danish youngster Jan Jonck and partner William Phillips claim a long-awaited first victory for Macmillan AMR at Brands Hatch – dampening the blow of GT3 team-mate Littlejohn’s agonising retirement from the lead in the same race.
Ever-changing qualifying conditions created a perilously difficult tyre choice for the whole field, with Macmillan’s incorrect wet-compound gamble seeing Phillips mired in the midfield at the start.
An inspired opening to the race in dry conditions however saw Phillips scythe the field apart, notably completing a memorable double overtake of the two title-contending HHC Motorsport and Lanan Racing Ginettas.
Jonck complemented Phillips’ excellent start by clambering into race-winning contention, charging the #42 Aston Martin ahead of Scotsman Ciaran Haggerty‘s Garage 59 McLaren to seal a dominant and deserved first win in unlikely circumstances.
Shock Result of the Season – Loggie and Macleod Storm to Spa Victory
Having mustered up a derisory 11 points after six rounds of the 2017 British GT championship, Callum Macleod and Ian Loggie headed into the international double-header at Spa-Francorchamps with a point to prove.
Second-place in race one gave a glimpse of the #7 Bentley‘s promising performance – but few predicted the blistering speed that would ultimately earn the veteran pairing a priceless win.
Emerging in second after the pit-stops courtesy of a blinding first stint from Macleod, Loggie looked to make amends for a disappointing first-half of the season by applying the pressure to leader and championship-chaser Minshaw.
Scintillating speed from a determined Loggie gradually whittled down the lead gap, leaving the veteran perfectly placed to inherit the race lead after Minshaw’s spin through Piff-Paff.
Despite a stern last-lap challenge from a Team WRT Audi, the tenacious Loggie held on for victory – sealing an unexpected first British GT win for the #7 Bentley duo.