Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam claimed the British GT Championship points lead with victory in the penultimate round at Brands Hatch earlier today following a thrilling battle against Sam De Haan and Jonny Cocker’s Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini.
The Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage overcame a 10-second pitstop success penalty en route to its second win of the season and record-breaking 14th of Adam’s career.
TF Sport’s Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim kept their title chances alive by climbing from 10th to third after Jon Minshaw, and Phil Keen’s erstwhile championship-leading Barwell Lamborghini retired with an overheating engine.
Barrier damage resulting from Mike Newbould’s crash on the start/finish straight ensured racing didn’t resume until six minutes before the pitstop window opened, which left little opportunity to re-establish a suitable advantage.
Nevertheless, Haigh’s rapid restart and three quick laps offered Optimum a glimmer of hope against a chasing pack headed by Graham Davidson’s Jetstream Aston Martin, the similar Beechdean AMR-run V12 Vantage GT3 driven by Andrew Howard, and Jon Minshaw’s championship-leading Barwell Lamborghini Huracan.
And, sure enough, it was Jonny Adam who emerged just ahead of Darren Turner and Phil Keen, who struggled to find a space amongst the gaggle of cars exiting the pits at the same moment.
With Davidson’s co-driver, Maxime Martin, delayed by a 20-second success penalty for winning at Spa, and Team Parker’s Rick Parfitt Jnr/Ryan Ratcliffe similarly handicapped, it was Barwell’s second Lamborghini that emerged as an unlikely leader after benefitting from a clear pitlane. Indeed, stopping a lap later helped Sam De Haan and Jonny Cocker jump from sixth to first as the race entered its second hour.
With Turner unable to match Adam’s pace, the battle for victory soon developed into a two-way scrap between Barwell’s Lamborghini and Optimum’s Aston Martin. Lap after lap Adam tracked Cocker, the gap never more than a second and frequently much less as the Scot searched for a way past.
Cocker defended resolutely but, as the race ticked into its final five minutes, Adam finally prised an opening exiting Hawthorns before sprinting away to his 14th British GT victory.
Haigh said, “I was worried about the Safety Car because I was in a good rhythm and had built a good gap but then suddenly it was all gone. I was struggling a bit towards the end with the car and heat but managed to pull just enough of a gap again, and I was very conscious of the pitstop success penalty. The Safety Car period gave us another challenge to overcome, but we responded well.”
Behind, a five-car battle for third was playing out between Turner, Keen, Nicki Thiim, Yelmer Buurman and Marco Sørensen who circulated together for much of the stint. That was until a blocked radiator dented Keen’s championship hopes and subsequently overheated the engine, which forced the Lamborghini into retirement.
Nicki Thiim inherited fourth, which became third just before the chequered flag at Turner’s expense. The TF Sport Aston Martin he shares with Mark Farmer started 10th but claimed the final podium place and, with it, retained a chance of winning the title at Donington Park next month.
ERC Sport’s Lee Mowle and Buurman finished fifth, one place ahead of TF Sport’s second Aston Martin shared by Derek Johnston and Marco Sørensen who once again set Sunoco Fastest Lap, while Team Parker Racing’s #7 Bentley finished seventh.
Haigh’s stellar opening stint, in which she pulled a 12s gap on the chasing pack inside just 30 minutes, was also recognised with the Blancpain Driver of the Weekend Award.
As it stands, Haigh and Adam will take a 17.5-point lead over Minshaw and Keen into the final round next month, while Farmer and Thiim are another point behind.
A freak accident saw the #47 Jetstream Aston Martin crash and a large piece of concrete penetrating the windscreen. The driver, Maxime Martin, managed to get the car back to the pits where the car was retired before Martin was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Mark Werrell said “So, so glad to hear from his teammate, Graham Davidson earlier, that Maxine Martin is ok after a very nasty incident today at Brands Hatch. How he even managed to get the car back to the pitlane, after a piece of concrete kerbing was thrown up and fully penetrated the windscreen, on the driver’s side of his Aston Martin I’ll never know?
After being taken to the circuit medical centre earlier, he’s now receiving further care at Kings Hospital to flush the remaining glass fragments from his eyes. Driving with your visor up in a closed cockpit car, particularly in warm weather, should be relatively risk-free, but freak incidents happen sometime”.