Incident Packed Race Gives Barwell Victory

by Nick Smith

Adam Balon and Phil Keen have taken their first win of the year in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO they share in the 2019 British GT Championship. The duo took the lead shortly after the pit stops, with Keen behind the wheel and none of their competition came close to holding them back.

In GT4 it was a surprising but very welcome win for Sennan Fielding and Richard Williams in their brand new Audi R8 LMS GT4 for Steller Performance.

Lap 1: Disaster Strikes in Both Classes.

It was a dirty race from the start with three separate incidents by the time the field got to Palmer on the opening lap. That being said, despite several incidents and quite a few penalties, the safety car spent the entire race on standby in the pit lane and didn’t venture out on to the circuit.

First up was contact between two GT4 cars which stranded the Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 of Andrew Gordon-Colebrook on the inside of the track before Riches, the first corner. The #43 apparently fell foul of contact with the #75 Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4, neither car completed the first lap. Also in trouble was the #8 Team ABBA Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Richard Neary.

When the pack checked up at Wilson hairpin, Neary was caught in a sandwich. It’s unclear if he was helped into contact by the car behind but significant contact with the #2 TF Sport Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3 of  Mark Farmer. The Aston Martin continued but the Mercedes-AMG was stricken with a punctured radiator and significant crumpling at the front of the car. Neary parked on the right between Wilson and Palmer and watched the rest of the race with the marshals.

Credit: BritishGT.com/Jakob Ebrey Photography

Pole sitter Tom Gamble held control through the first couple of corners until a nudge from the Barwell Lamborghini of Sam de Haan nudged the rear of the BMW M6 GT3 and pushed it wide at Wilson. That allowed Team Parker Racing to take control of the race, slipping through on the inside while de Haan gave Gamble the opportunity to retake his place. Ollie Wilkinson for Optimum Motorsport put his Aston Martin into third during the shuffle.

From the get-go, Scott Maxwell was determined to get past the Steller Audi which led in GT4 but for much of the opening laps he kept it clean.

While Tom Gamble shone in the #9 Century BMW, his team mate Dominic Paul wasn’t covering himself with glory. A couple of minor bumps with cars nearby caught the attention of the cameras but not the officials. However contact which put him off at Agostini, did attract attention, mainly because of a very dusty moment which saw him wrest control back just in time to avoid the barrier. He re-found the tarmac and continued.

Soon after he attracted the ire of the stewards and a 10 second stop and go for causing a collision.

As the pit window opened it appeared the race had settled, though thanks to a lack of success penalty it was the #72 which led at the close of the GT3 pit window. Jack Mitchell set to passing the Lamborghini. The battle allowed the #96 Optimum car and the #7 Bentley to get back on terms.

Century’s Despair Gives Adam Balon and Phil Keen Victory.

By the time the #9 BMW suffered a mechanical issue from the lead of the race it was a seven way battle for the front of the race. When Mitchell was forced to pull over, for a system reset which allowed the car to continue, Keen put the hammer down and shot off to a 13.510 second lead come the chequered flag.  Battle continued througout the remaining 25 minutes for the final two podium spots.

In fact it was the last corner that decided the order as Jonny Adam in the #47 TF Sport Aston, battered by a succession of brutal battles for position, profited from a surprising failure of the bonnet clips on the #31 JRM Bentley and took the final podium spot. Ryan Ratcliffe took second behind the Adam Balon and Phil Keen driven race winning machine.

Credit: BritishGT.com/Jakob Ebrey Photography

What The Drivers Said:

Adam told TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk at the podium, “It was a bit rough in the end and it was tricky because there as one slow Bentley ahead and a fast Bentley behind. It was tricky to try and keep them at bay and in the last corner it was all kicking off. The corner before everyone was getting caught up in GT4 traffic.

“It was an exciting race, pretty entertaining from the seat but team are obviously happy. Its the first podium of the year for the #47 car from eighth on the grid as well. Its a good result.”

In GT4 the win was taken in fantastic style by Steller Performance from a Tolman Motorsport 2-3 with the #4 heading the #5 McLaren 570S GT4.

Fielding told us, “It’s absolutely mega! Its a great debut weekend, we had no expectations at all. No idea where the car would be what so ever.

“Of course we missed the first round with Steller Performance, so you couldn’t really ask for more. My team mate has done a stellar job all weekend and he has been pushing really hard. I just had to bring the car home really.

“It was still a hard battle, with the tyre deg[redation] and with the traffic around you, you never know whats going to happen. In GT racing there are so man ups and downs so you just have to keep pushing and thankfully we came over the line.”

Race winner Phil Keen was happy to have taken the top spot but focused on success in race 2 of the day this afternoon. He told us, “The team and Adam [Balon] have done a great job so far this weekend. We’ve just got to keep our heads down for race 2. 

“You just try to keep out of trouble and monitor the gap, and look after the car. You start to hear all sorts of funny noises when you are driving around like that. Its more fun to be racing with somebody, but at the same time you wouldn’t say no to having a nice healthy lead and to win a race.

“We’ll see for race two. Starting from second is a pain, it’s a shame we couldn’t pip Nikki [Thiim] so I guess we will just try and follow Nikki in to turn 1 and see what happens.”

The second race of the day takes place at 15:25 this afternoon and both TCF live blog coverage and a live stream is available from BritishGT.com. You can read the blow by blow live blog coverage of race 1 here.

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