Season Review: 2018 British GT Championship – Adam and Haigh’s Optimum Season

by Connor Jackson

At the end of another enthralling British GT Championship season, it would be the affable Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam who picked up the GT3 crown in the Aston Martin 6.0 L V12 run by Optimum Motorsport.

The result gives Flick not just her first British GT title, but also marked the maiden championship for a female driver in the series.

For Adam, the title marks his third in four years with three different teams, cementing him as the series best driver of a generation. With Haigh not choosing to defend her title and Adam returning to TF Sport, the team he won the 2016 title with, time will tell whether Optimum can remain the dominant team heading into 2019.

Of course, Adam and Haigh’s success had, like most years, went down to the Donington Park finale. And for the third year in a row, it would be Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini finishing runner-up.

There had been a third player in the title battle as TF Sport’s Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim dominated the middle of the season.

The #75 Optimum had the honour of starting on pole for the opening round at Oulton Park and with victory in cold conditions. Flick Haigh proved herself to be one of the quickest AM drivers, as it was Adam who needed luck on his side, with Keen picking up a puncture after lapping a GT4.

A rained out race two saw the field complete just two laps behind safety car, before the race was called. This played into the hands of Barwell, recording full points for their default win, while damage on the way to the grid saw the Optimum car fail to even start.

The #33 Barwell took two wins over the course of the year, but once again came up short for the title. (Credit: Nick Smith / TheImageTeam.com)

The second round at Rockingham proved to be the only time all season in which neither the #74 Optimum, #33 Barwell or #11 TF Sport would feature on the podium, as ERC Sport took the honours from Team Parker Racing (for their only podium of the season) and Beechdeen AMR. Although many did not know it at the time, it would be GT’s last visit to the circuit, moving the ERC Mercedes-AMG GT3 into the championship lead.

It would be short-lived as TF Sport finally made a real impression at Snetterton, with a win in the opening race for the #11 crew. Success ballast dropped them to third for the second, but with Marco Sorensen and Derek Johnston taking the flag in the #17, it was a perfect weekend for TF Sport outfit.

After five different winners from the first five races, it was the #11 TF Sport Aston Martin car that once again found itself on top, as the party arrived at Silverstone.

It was an incredible fight back from Farmer and Thiim considering they’d been spun round by the RJN Motorsport Nissan and had to endure success ballast during the pitstop. However, with the #33 Barwell Lamborghini in second and Optimum picking up their first podium since Oulton Park. For the only time in 2018, the podium featured all three championship protagonists.

By the mid-point of the season, Barwell now led the standings with 101 points with TF’s tirade putting them on 96.5. As for Optimum, that solitary win had kept them in contention, but were now 11.5 points back from the leaders.

Three back-to-back wins from the TF Sport crew during Snetterton and Silverstone eventually helped them secure the Team’s title. (Credit: Jakob Ebrey / SRO)

As Spa rolled around though, the tables were once again turned with the on-form TF Sport car catching fire after a start line incident that involved other cars. With Minshaw hitting his #69 Barwell teammate during the opening stint and finishing outside the top ten, a third proved valuable for the Optimum Motorsport team, as Jetstream Motorsport took a long overdue maiden win thanks to Graham Davidson and Maxime Martin.

It would be a momentum Optimum continued, taking their second victory of the year ahead of the #69 Barwell at Brands Hatch GP, building a comfortable lead in the standings as the Minshaw and Keen’s #33 suffered from an overheating engine.

Going into the final round, a sixth place finish would have been enough for the Optimum Motorsport team, with Barwell knowing a win was required for them to stand a chance.

Barwell did their job, winning comfortably, but Optimum kept up their consistent record, ensuring they didn’t finish outside the top four all season.

In the teams championship, TF Sport claimed the title ahead of Barwell by a mere 8.5 points. While the GT4 title was even closer, with Century Motorsport clinching the spot by 1.5 points to the Tolman Motorsport McLaren.

It proved to be a common tale throughout GT4, with eight winners from the nine races. The only repeat winner; eventual drivers champion Jack Mitchell.

Jack Mitchell (centre) would eventually take the GT4 Drivers title by a single point. (Credit: SRO)

Unlike his other competitors, Mitchell did not run with a regular co-driver, as Ricky Collard, Aleksander Schjerpen and Dean MacDonald (who moved from the Steller Performance Toyota) all joined him at the Century Motorsport BMW M4.

While Tolman’s extra car kept the teams title alive, as the season drew on, it soon became an all-BMW battle in the drivers championship, with Ben Green and Ben Tuck leading the charge in the #42.

It had been a strong start for Mitchell with a double podium at Oulton, before two non-scoring rounds at Rockingham and the first Snetterton race allowed a variety of winners to take precedence.

It was not until the second Snetterton round that one of the eventual top three in the championship took the flag, with the #43 BMW leading a Tolman.

As the Silverstone round wrapped-up, it would be Mitchell and Schjerpen who took the flag, with the 20-year-old again victorious at Spa-Francorchamps, this time with MacDonald alongside.

A total of 43 cars entered British GT over the season, with at least 10 GT3’s at every round (Credit: Jakob Ebrey / SRO)

This double success during the two biggest races of the year would prove to be uncatchable for the opposition, as a seventh and eighth was all that Mitchell needed to secure the crown. The title was far from easy though, as a pitstop infringement (resulting in a 10 second penalty) for the champion almost ruined his chances at Donington.

A poor race for Tuck and Green saw them only score a fifth as Charlie Fagg and Michael O’Brien took their fourth second of the season. The #4 Tolman had failed to win a race, but their consistency throughout the year gave them a third in the standings, with the top three separated by just 2 points.

Despite picking up only one victory (during the washed out Oulton Park race) Scott Malvern and Nick Jones secured the GT4 Pro-Am title for TPR, though was only seventh in the overall standings. Meanwhile Struan Moore took the GT3 Silver title, despite the RJN team not completing a full campaign as Haigh also secured the Blancpain Trophy.

Related articles

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More