Tolman Motorsport‘s other McLaren, the #4 570s GT4 of James Dorlin and Josh Smith, claimed their first victory in the 2019 British GT Championship in a hectic 2 hour race at Brands Hatch. The pairing, aided by their sister car, held off a determined challenge in the dying minutes of the race to secure the win and buy themselves a place in the six way shootout for the title at Donington Park next month.
In GT3 the victory went to TF Sport, with Graham Davidson setting up a victory in the opening laps and Jonny Adam completing the deal, in a fast paced encounter in near perfect conditions. The real story of the race though is GT4 and the apparent desire of almost all contenders not to win the race.
Tolman Triumph Amid GT4 Carnage.
First to bow out of the battle for victory, though their position in qualifying of 8th on the grid made a win unlikely anyway, was the #95 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 of Patrick Kibble and Josh Price. Price took the formation lap in the TF Sport run machine but in a strange accident at Clarke Curve, destroyed the right front corner of the car. Price was on the grass even before the green flag and limped to retirement at Paddock Hill Bend on the first lap of the race.
The #57 HHC Motorsport McLaren meanwhile was starting from the class pole, though he instantly lost his place to the #97 Aston Martin of Ash Hand, who shared the car with Tom Canning and set to building a gap at the front. Academy Motorsport meanwhile were attracting the attention of the stewards, the #62 Vantage of Alex Toth-Jones attracting a 10 seconds stop and go penalty for a start infringement. We don’t know what that infringement was but as the car was languishing at the bottom of the top ten it didn’t seem to be much of an issue.
It was the sister car, the #61 with Ben Hurst at the wheel which played the biggest part in the first segment of the race. Though it wasn’t through design nor malice, Hurst was instrumental in deciding the GT3 Silver Cup title fight in favour of the Optimum Motorsport #96 Aston Martin. The Aston Martin GT4 machine was minding its own business at Hawthornes and Westfield as the battle of the Bentleys came through, Seb Morris cleared the slower car with minor contact, Glynn Geddie wasn’t so lucky and the #7 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 speared round the front of the Aston Martin and straight off into the tyres protecting the exit of Westfield.
The resulting safety car compressed the pack and allowed the teams to settle in. Unfortunately the damage to the #61 car was too severe, Hurst limped it back to the pits but the car took no further part in the race.
Safety Car Assures Academy Motorsport of Comfort, Perhaps…
It was the second safety car which would appear to decide the fate of GT4 though. With the GT3 pit window closed and the GT4 cars mostly changed over, debris on the track at Stirlings caused the McLaren 720s Safety Car to head out on track for a second time. Toth-Jones, well down the order before the stops after serving his ten second stop and go, left his pit stop as late as possible, which meant that during the stops he lead the GT4 motor race.
When the safety car was called, Toth-Jones dived to the pits to hand over to Will Moore, the team completed the stop and sent the car back out, still in the lead of the race. The short stoppage conspired to preserve much of the gap the Academy car had earned by staying out late, which meant that when the race resumed, Moore held a 30 second advantage at the head of the field.
It wasn’t to be though, as with 20 minutes left to run the #62 machine also exited the motor race. Brake failure at Paddock Hill left Moore a passenger, unable to influence the Aston Martin’s course or speed on a direct run to the tyres at Druids. Will Moore was uninjured in the incident but the car was out of the race and the lead fell to Dorlin in the Tolman machine.
For much of the remaining time, Dorlin was under pressure from behind. HHC Motorsport’s pole sitting McLaren wanted the top spot back and Dean Macdonald tried everything to get past. Fortunately for Tolman Motorsport, the #4 had actually lapped its sister car, the #5 of Lewis Proctor and Jordan Collard. It gave the leaders a rear gunner with the same pace as the leader.
Macdonald couldn’t get past the lapped machine, not that the Collard driven McLaren actively blocked the second place car, and come the end of the race it was the Tolman McLaren which occupied the top step of the podium. HHC took second place with the erstwhile race leaders, Hand and Canning, on the third step of the podium. Had the #97 not had a 20 second success penalty from the race at Spa-Francorchamps, the result could very well have been different.
Result at Brands Hatch Leaves Six Crews a Chance at the Title
It does set up the final round to be a thriller though as the #97 crew head to Donington Park 7.5 points clear at the top of the table. Not enough to assure them of victory to be sure but a cushion which should give increased confidence at the final round. Second place finishers Macdonald and Pointon hold second in the championship battle ahead of Scott Maxwell and Seb Priaulx, the Multimatic Motorsports Ford Performance Mustang GT4 crew didn’t set the screens alight in Kent but dragged their car into eighth place to keep the championship dream alive.
Also in contention are the #5 McLaren of Collard and Proctor, though fourth place in the standings and 20 points off the leaders makes it unlikely that they will be able to claim the title this year. The same is true of the Brands Hatch winners, the #4 machine who despite their lack of top step finish until now, sit fifth in the battle pack three points behind their team mates. Sixth place in the championship and still in with a statistical chance of victory is Beechdean AMR, the only second season pairing in the scrap for victory but 37 points down with 37.5 remaining.
If Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman take championship glory for the Beechdean crew, then GT4 will have been the most remarkable Donington Decider on record.
You can read how the race happened in our archived live blog. The GT3 race report is now available to read along with coverage of every competitive session of the penultimate round of the 2019 British GT Championship’s penultimate encounter.