WPI Motorsport were victorious in the dramatic opening race of the Intelligent Money British GT event at Donington Park in a two hour race run in wet and misty conditions.
The conditions didn’t faze the Pro-Am combination of Michael Igoe/Andrea Caldarelli as storming drives from both drivers saw them take victory after a brave overtake from Caldarelli around the outside of Redgate for the lead.
The two hour endurance race kicked off the first of the two races at the double header ever at a wet and misty Donington Park.
The low visibility meant that the race was started under safety car and polesitter Michael O’Brien in the championship leading #2 Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren lead away.
He managed to build up a second gap to Rob Collard‘s #78 Barwell Motorsports Lamborghini with #69 RAM Racing Mercedes of Sam De Haan holding third place as the top three silver crews bolted away.
Igoe was the quickest of the Ams as he powered the #18 WPI Motorsport Lamborghini up from 9th on the grid to fourth by the time of pitstops, setting times equal to the silver crews ahead of him.
The top three became bunched together as they came up to lap the GT4 field, with Collard right onto the back of O’Brien, but he had to watch his back as De Haan was right on the back of the Lamborghini, with less than a second covering the top three.
After nearly 10 minutes of pressure Collard made his move at the Fogarty Esses and quickly dropped the McLaren as who soon lost third to De Haan.
The McLaren retook the Mercedes during the pits, but new driver World’s Fastest Gamer winner James Baldwin, who was on his first ever wet laps in a GT car, quickly lost his position to the experienced Patrick Kujala and dropped back.
The McLaren extra 20kg penalty saw them struggle as the track dried and Baldwin eventually finished eighth, losing their championship lead to the #69 Mercedes.
While most of the field pitted around the hour mark, several of the cars, most notably leader Collard, stayed out praying that the track would dry out enough to allow slick tyre to compete against a field of wet shod rivals.
The gamble didn’t work as the track became wetter and Collard eventually threw in the towel with 40 minutes to go to hand over to Sandy Mitchell.
Mitchell lost second to Kujala in the pits and was rapidly caught and passed by Caldarelli in the first of the Pro-Am runners.
With no success pitstop penalties to worry about Factory Lamborghini driver Andrea Caldarelli, who was a late replacement for Dennis Lind and making his Donington debut, had quickly become the man on the move.
Despite his late arrival to the team and his complete unfamiliarity with the circuit, the 2019 GT Challenge Europe champion soon motored onto the back of the Silver rated Kujala setting fastest laps of the race.
Kujala held his ground valiantly against Caldarelli’s initial overtaking attempts but he was delaying the inevitable.
It came at Redgate and Caldarelli after performing swiftly excuted switchback on Mercedes at the final hairpin got alongside on the Mercedes and swooped around the outside of the corner and pulled away to win by 6.3 seconds.
Yelmer Buurman/Ian Loggie took the final podium position in the #6 RAM Racing Mercedes holding off the #72 Barwell Lamborghini of Phil Keen/Adam Balon by 0.8 seconds.
Keen could have finished on the podium had Balon not ran off the road at the Melbourne hairpin.
Mitchell drifted back to fifth position and missed the opportunity to take the championship lead had he remained on the podium.
The 2Seas Motorsport McLaren team endured a disappointing race as #10 car of Jordan Witt/Jack Mitchell showed plenty of pace, but a pit lane start and multiple spins by Witt meant they finished seventh.
The #9 car of Angus Fender/Dean MacDonald didn’t start the race and only entered the race at the 45th minute mark after suffering a fire in the warm-up session, ensuring their race became a test session.
In GT4 the TF Sport Aston Martins completely dominated proceedings and scored a 1-2 finish with round 1 winner the #95 car of Connor O’Brien/Patrick Kibble taking their second victory of the season.
Jamie Caroline in the #97 Aston grabbed the GT4 lead at the start from polesitting HHC Motorsport McLaren of Patrik Matthiesen but he was unable to build his gap initially as he was held up by the GT3 #36 Balfe Motorsport McLaren of Stewart Procter who was struggled in the conditions.
Pressure on Caroline was eased when TF team-mate Kibble got on the back of the GT4 McLaren and briefly made it TF Sport 1-2 at the Melbourne Hairpin, only to run off the road at the next corner and drop to fourth.
Kibble eventually managed to get the move done at the same place and quickly pulled away but by this time team-mate Caroline was 14 seconds down the road.
Despite this handsome margin, the #97 had to serve a 15 second success pitstop penalty in the pits and this allowed the #95 to get the jump on the team-mates, into a lead they would never relinquish to win by 11 seconds.
Third place went to the Speedworks run Toyota Supra of James Kell/Sam Smelt as the team finally delivered on the promise the car has showed during practice.