Barwell Motorsport took Intelligent Money British GT honours as Sandy Mitchell and Rob Collard‘s victory at the Silverstone 500 was enough to claim the title.
Barwell and in particular driver Phil Keen have been in contention for the title for the last few seasons and indeed have lead the title going into the final round at Donington but luck conspired against them.
This time, a change of venue to Silverstone and not leading the title for once, seems to have paid diffident as the #78 Lamborghini Huracan dominated the race from pole and kept out of trouble to take a well deserved championship win.
The combination of BTCC star Collard, who was making his GT Racing debut and young up and coming Scottish star Mitchell were the models of consistency, finishing no lower than sixth place and scoring two victories to cap a very impressive season.
The season finale, the Silverstone 500 was billed as an very impressive event with not only a four way title fight in both classes, but a bumper 38 car entry featuring many guest entries containing new teams, former GT championship and even a F1 champion taking part and the racing didn’t disappoint.
At the start Collard lead through the first corner as title rival James Baldwin in the #2 Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren dived past Ian Loggie‘s #6 RAM Racing Mercedes to grab second as Collard started to build a small lead.
Yet it was short lived as the safety was called at the end of the second lap to deal with several incidents, most serious of which was the collision between Mia Flewitt in the #21 GT4 Balfe Motorsport McLaren and the spinning #66 GT4 Team Parker Racing Mercedes of Nick Jones at the exit of Becketts.
Seconds before the safety car was called, both Barwell Lamborghinis dived into the pits to make their first stop and to change drivers.
This was good news for the championship casing #72 Barwell Lamborghini as Am driver Adam Balon as handed over to pro driver Phil Keen.
While most of the GT3 field followed them in over the next few laps as Jones’ car was recovered, the two Lamborghinis had got the jump on the rest of the field.
When the safety car came in John Dhillion in the GTC Ferrari, who had not stopped, was in the race lead and made British GT history as the first GTC car to lead a lap but after a lap both of the Barwell Lamborghinis had hit the front with Sandy Mitchell leading, but not for long as Keen pressured Mitchell for the lead with Mitchell moving out the way to let Keen through at Vale after a few laps.
Behind them the two RAM Racing Mercedes tried to fight their way to the front with Yelmer Buurman in the #6 successfully catching up to back of Mitchell at the end of his stint but team-mate and championship leader Patrick Kujala in the #69 was stuck in sixth and unable to match his team-mate’s pace.
Keen was the first of the leaders to pit after the one hour mark to hand a 5 second lead back over to Balon, but Mitchell stayed out for a further 10 minutes before handing over to Collard, only to be jumped by Loggie in the #6 Mercedes who successfully overcut them by staying out a lap later.
Loggie was match Collard’s pace at first but Balon in fourth place drifted back into the clutches of championship leader Sam de Haan.
With Collard in a championship winning position de Haan needed to make up places quickly to preserve his lead and in his haste to get past Balon he made an optimistic dive from far back into Stowe and tapped the Lamborghini into a spin.
Balon managed to keep the car running but a further spin on the grass while trying to recover dropped him to tenth, while de Haan was handed a 10 second stop go penalty dropping both of them out of championship contention.
At the same time Collard further improved his championship chances by grabbing the lead from Loggie and pulled away.
Collard’s closest title rival was now Baldwin who had recovered from being wrong footed by the safety car and was now up to fifth place and rapidly catching up with the battle for second.
Baldwin was the first of the leaders to pit in the final hour, while Collard saw his handsome advantage eroded by the #96 Optimum McLaren of Lewis Proctor who got to within a second of the Lamborghini before Proctor made his final pitstop to hand over to Ollie Wilkinson.
Unfortunately the team’s hope of victory or a podium position disappeared soon after when in an attempt to unlap himself from Loggie Wilkinson made slight contact with the Mercedes while trying to go side-by-side on the clink on the Wellington Straight, looping the McLaren around and receiving a 10 second stop go penalty for his trouble.
With 25 minutes left, Collard made his final pitstop to allow Mitchell to bring the car home.
With Wilkinson now out of the picture, fellow title challenger Michael O’Brien in the #2 McLaren was now their closest rival not only for victory but also for the title and Mitchell managed to emerge just ahead. .
Although O’Brien was in a shot of taking the win he still had to rely on Mitchell to finish seventh in order to grab the title.
In the end the decisive factor was traffic as Mitchell was able to clear the first group of GT4 traffic much easily than O’Brien who dropped two seconds and with it the chance for the victory was gone.
Mitchell was able to pull away and in the end took victory by 7.5 seconds to clinch the championship as Buurman took O’Brien for second on the penultimate lap and also secured the Pro-Am title after Keen/Balon’s delay.
The #72 Lamborghini eventually finished in ninth place just one place behind their aggressor, the #69 Mercedes.
Jenson Button, the 2009 F1 Champion had a frustrating race, in the #3 Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren he shared with Chris Buncombe where despite regular running in the top 10, including as high as fourth at one stage, the pit strategy was their downfall and they eventually finished 14th.
In a welcome return, the GTC category was won by the #16 Team Parker Racing Porsche of Justin Armstrong and Ryan Ratcliffe.
They inherited the lead after long-time GTC leader the #13 Scott Speed Ferrari of John Dhillion was eliminated in the final hour in a collision with the #38 TF Sport Aston Martin of Giacomo Petrobelli, who earlier had nearly taken out the #16 Porsche missing it by millimetres during a high speed spin at Abbey.
In GT4 Century Motorsport BMW secured a surprise win while Jamie Caroline and Daniel Vaughan took GT4 title honours.
After a miserable year with few results, Andrew Gordon-Colebrook and Nick Wheldon in the #42 BMW M4 took advantage of an early stop under the safety car to jump the rest of the GT4 field and claim a comfortable win by 47 seconds.
Despite Century’s impressive win, the main focus was on the three way GT4 title battle where Caroline and Vaughan overcame a drive-thru penalty to retain TF Sport’s title from last year.
Caroline and Vaughan’s closest rivals, the #58 HHC Motorsport McLaren of Jordan Collard/Patrik Matthiesen had stormed to the lead from sixth on the grid within the first few corners but the early safety car allowed TF Sport to play their trump card.
Both of the fluorescent Astons were the first into the pits when the safety car was called and they managed to jump the rest of their stopping GT4 rivals, but the plan almost backfired when they exited the pits were closed which saw them slapped with a 10 second stop go penalty.
The pit stop penalties meant that the #58 McLaren had leap frogged the two TF Astons to put themselves in the position to take the title.
Entering the final 15 minutes, Matthiesen held second place and ahead of closest title rival Caroline in the #97 with the #95 Aston of fellow title rival Patrick Kibble just behind and in the perfect position to make it a Collard family championship double.
But with 10 minutes to go Caroline dived past the McLaren on the inside at Maggots to retake the championship lead and further around the lap Kibble followed through and chased after his team-mate but was unable to catch him.
The polesitting #23 Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Supra yet again showed impressive pace but a 10 second stop go penalty for too many pitcrew in a pitstop as the team attempted to fix a damaged door during their pitstop, combined with a late pitstop saw them finish in ninth place.