The final round of the 2018 British GT Championship gets underway at the venerable Donington Park circuit this weekend.
Once again, the championship has come down to this final weekend, and, despite a healthy lead, victory will not come easy for the team currently sat at the top of the leaderboard.
Rarely has a GT3 crew headed into the final round with a more significant advantage than Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam enjoy over their nearest rivals this weekend. You have to go back to 2014 to find a more comfortable pre-finale cushion than the Optimum Motorsport duo’s current 27.5-point lead.
A run of three podiums, including the victory last time out at Brands Hatch, has helped ignite the pair’s championship challenge just as their rivals have faltered.
What’s more, Adam, in particular, knows a thing or two about claiming titles at Donington after doing so in 2015 and ’16, before also winning there 12 months ago. And with its championship rivals contemplating must-win weekends, the odds are firmly stacked in the #75 Aston Martin V12 Vantage’s favour.
History can also be rewritten, with Haigh aiming to become the first woman ever to win a British GT title outright and Adam chasing a third overall crown in four years. No other driver has won three.
Done and dusted, then? Well, not quite. Haigh and Adam’s 20s pitstop success penalty offers the likes of Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen some hope, while Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim must overcome their 10s handicap if they’re to have any chance of stopping Optimum.
Both crews have to win and rely on Haigh & Adam finishing seventh or lower to retain any chance of pinching the crown. In TF Sport’s case, a tie would see Farmer and Thiim win the title because of their three victories to Optimum’s two.
There is also the matter of this year’s Teams’ championship. TF Sport currently enjoys a 31-point lead over reigning champions Barwell who, just like their rivals, have been compromised by a pitstop success penalty following Sam De Haan and Jonny Cocker’s second place at Brands Hatch.
The responsibility to score big points thus falls on both teams’ non-handicapped entries: title-chasers Minshaw & Keen, and Derek Johnston & Marco Sørensen.
Johnston certainly won’t require any extra motivation to perform following his retirement announcement last week. The 2016 champion lists Donington as his favourite circuit having won his first British GT race there in 2015 before wrapping up the Drivers’ title 12 months later and winning at the same venue last season. Climbing the top step one more time would prove a fitting farewell.
ERC Sport’s Lee Mowle and Yelmer Buurman, who occupy fourth in the standings, could yet finish second overall, while Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard and Darren Turner will be eager to score their first rostrum since Snetterton back in May.
Equally, a second win of the season for Graham Davidson and Maxime Martin might be sufficient for the Jetstream Motorsport crew to jump from seventh to fourth in the final reckoning.
Elsewhere, Rick Parfitt Jnr makes his final appearance as reigning British GT champion before handing over the baton, while Balfe Motorsport’s McLaren 650S GT3 returns in the hands of GT4 front-runners turned GT3 debutants, Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson.
RJN’s Nissan is also back and, for the first time, designated as a Pro Am entry thanks to Chris Buncombe joining Struan Moore.
Donington also sees British GT welcome its first GTC entry since Silverstone 2013, with JMH Auto running a Ferrari 488 Challenge for John Seale and Marcus Clutton.
PITSTOP SUCCESS PENALTIES
20 seconds – #75 Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 – Haigh/Adam
15 seconds – #69 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 – De Haan/Cocker
10 seconds – #11 TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 – Farmer/Thiim
20 seconds – #501 Balfe Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4 – Johnson/Robinson (not competing)
15 seconds – #42 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 – Green/Tuck
10 seconds – #53 UltraTek Racing Team RJN Nissan 370Z GT4 – Fletcher/Plowman