British GT

British GT Season Review Part 2

14 Mins read
Credit: David Lord Photography

At the half way point of the 2020 Intelligent Money British GT season the series returned to Donington Park for round 6 of the Championship, for a three-hour endurance race.

The event saw the sixth different winner from six rounds as Sam de Haan and Patrick Kujala in the #69 RAM Racing Mercedes took a well deserved victory despite a spin by de Haan at the first corner of the race.

On the run down to Redgate, de Haan attempted to run side-by-side with the slow starting polesitter the #2 Jensen Team Rocket RJN McLaren of James Baldwin but was forced wide at the exit of Redgate, pitching the Mercedes into a spin and dropping it to the rear of the field.

Sam de Haan and Patrick Kujala took victory at Donington Park to take the championship lead despite a spin at the first corner. Credit: David Lord Photography.

Thankfully for the crew that entered the round 2nd in the points, the safety car was deployed due to a spin by the winner of race 1 at the previous Donington meeting Michael Igoe in the #19 WPI Motorsport Lamborghini at the same corner.

This allowed de Haan to re-join the tail of the field and subsequently he fraught his way up to sixth by the time of their first pitstop.

The brief caution period also saw ingenius tactics from the Barwell Motorsports Lamborghini team as the #72 Pro-Am entry pitted to swap Am driver Adam Balon for their Pro star Phil Keen.

At the restart, Baldwin made a much better getaway and stormed away from championship leader Rob Collard in the #78 Barwell car, who spent much of his opening stint holding off the attentions of the #96 Optimum Motorsport McLaren of Lewis Proctor.

Collard took the lead when Baldwin pitted after 47 minutes and Barwell attempted to replicate their strategy of the previous Donington round by running Collard’s first stint for as long as possible, with the former BTCC racer eventually handing over to team-mate Sandy Mitchell after 65 minutes.

Unfortunately the #78 Lamborghini’s race was due to an extra stop to change a slow puncture only 20 minutes in Mitchell’s stint and this, as well as the maximum 20 second success penalty applied to their final pitstop due to their win at Brands, meant that they finished off the podium in sixth place.

Keen took the lead once everyone had pitted but their early first stop meant an early second stop and as Keen pitted to hand over to Balon Ollie Wilkinson in the Optimum McLaren put in a long second stint to hold the lead over most of the second hour before finally making their second pitstop at the end of the second hour.

The downside to their strategy is that it required a safety car intervention to make up time and track position lost by making a third pitstop in the middle of the third hour, unfortunately for the team, the safety car did not come and they finished in fifth.

Optimum’s failed strategy and the #2 McLaren’s 15 second success penalty at their final pitstop played perfectly into the hands of Kujala who was able to hunt down Michael O’Brien in the #2 and was able to make the decisive move at Redgate with 33 minutes remaining and quickly pulled away.

The #72 Barwell Lamborghini made their final stop with half an hour left to run and the rapid Keen set fastest lap after fastest lap as he quickly dispatched #10 2Seas Motorsport McLaren of Jack Mitchell and O’Brien but ran out of time to catch Kujala who won by 3.4 seconds.

The victory for the RAM Racing Mercedes, coupled with Collard and Mitchell’s poor result saw them take the championship lead but with the caveat of serving the maximum Success Penalty in Snetterton’s first race next time out.

In GT4, the highly fancied #58 HHC Motorsport McLaren line-up of Jordan Collard and Patrik Matthiesen finally took their first victory of the season and climbed back into title contention.

After their retirement last time out at Brands due to a tyre blowout, Collard and Matthiesen had found themselves in seventh in the points but they came out on top in what proved to be a battle of strategy in the class.

With no pit window restrictions, GT4 featured a multitude of differing strategies, but it was HHC’s more straightforward approach that ultimately paid dividends.

The strategy battle began at the start as, in response to the early safety car, TF Sport pitted both of its Aston Martins (started by Connor O’Brien and Dan Vaughan, respectively), at the end of lap one.

TF was the only team to make that call, so the twin Astons would run out of sync with the rest of the pack for the race’s entirety.

Coming into the round Brands Hatch winners Matt Cowley and Jordan Albert in the #61 Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang had arrived at Donington full of confidence.

After taking pole in qualifying, Cowley proved to be unstoppable in the first stint and comfortably lead Matthiesen and Gus Bowers in the sister HHC McLaren throughout the first hour.

Yet their success at Brands meant the team would have to take a 20 second success penalty at their final pitstop and in order to negate this Cowley extended his first stint as far as he could, going a full seven laps longer than Matthiesen before handing across to Albert.

The final half of the race saw a fascinating strategic battle with the rapid pace of Albert/Cowley always threatening to pull the Mustang clear as Matthiesen/Collard played their strategy straight, stopping like clockwork almost every 45 minutes to stay within striking distance of the Ford.

And then there was O’Brien/Patrick Kibble #97 TF Aston, which rotated the lead across the pit cycles and would make its final stop inside the last half-hour.

Heading into the final hour Academy were the first to make their final pitstop as they aimed to give Albert the entire final hour to claw back the 20 seconds the car would have to lose.

HHC reacted shortly after, bringing Matthiesen in for Collard knowing they could jump the Ford with no penalty to serve and they gained the lead when O’Brien pitted with 26 minutes to go, but Albert was right on the McLaren’s tail.

Yet Collard drove magnificiently to fend off heavy pressure from Albert to eventually secure a first win of the season for the crew.

Second was still a fine result for Academy Motorsports who boosted their championship challenge to end 1.5 points of the leaders which was O’Brien/Kibble, whose third place was enough for share the championship lead with their team-mates Jamie Caroline/Daniel Vaughan, who finished fourth.

Championship leaders coming into Donington, the second HHC Motorsports McLaren the #57 of Bowers and Chris Wesemael had an awful race as they were hit first with a stop-go penalty for a short pitstop, and then had that compounded by a drive-through for a pitstop infringement, which dropped it well out of the fight and to an eventual eighth place.

In Pro-Am Euan Hankey and Mia Flewitt finally had some competition, as their team Balfe Motorsports entered a second Pro-Am McLaren for Jan Klingelnberg and Warren Hughes, but it was Hankey and Flewitt who took Pro-Am honours once again as they finished fifth, two places ahead of their rivals.

For the final double header round of the season, which took place at a soggy Snetterton, the first race saw the remarkable record of seven different winners from seven rounds as Jordan Witt‘s rapid start saw 2Seas Motorsports take a well overdue first victory.

The team, which was only formed at the beginning of the year, have regularly shown promising pace but have been let down by bad luck.

But everything went right for 2Seas as Witt jumped front-row starters and the top championship contenders Collard and pole-man de Haan on consecutive laps to pull away into a lead he and co-driver Jack Mitchell would never lose.

Jordan Witt’s rapid start allowed 2Seas Motorsports to take victory at Snetterton’s first race. Credit: David Lord Photography

Willkinson in the Optimum McLaren was on course to take second, but Sandy Mitchell managed to out sprint the McLaren out of the final corner and snatch second on the line by 0.081 seconds to take much needed points in their title battle.

Their closest rivals and pole-sitter de Haan/Kujala had dropped back behind their title rivals as a result of their 10 second success pitstop due to their win at Donington and they soon came under pressure from their Pro-Am team-mate Yelmer Buurman in the #6 Mercedes.

Despite their team-mates higher position in the title battle, Buurman quickly found a way past his heavier Silver-ballasted team-mate despite a lairy moment at the Bombhole that almost eliminated both drivers.

Kujala ultimately finished in fifth place which was enough to retain the championship lead, but only by one point.

In the GT4 Jamie Caroline and Daniel Vaughan in the #97 TF Sport Aston Martin finally took their first victory of the season as they became the sixth different winners in the season and in doing so they managed to eek a slender championship lead.

After finally getting their first win of the season at Donington, Collard and Matthiesen took pole but their hopes to being able to sprint away and build up a big lead to negate the 10 second success penalty was thwarted by the safety car start due to the wet conditions.

As it turned out they only had a 4 second lead in hand when Collard pitted which saw Matthiesen rejoin in second place behind the earlier stopping Caroline.

Yet once in the lead Caroline simply drove away as Matthiesen became embroiled in an exciting three car battle for second with his team-mate Wesemael and the other TF Aston of Kibble.

Although the Aston was able to take third place from Wesemael, try as he might Kibble could not find a way past the second McLaren and ended the race in third, losing the title lead in the process.

The second race finally saw the first repeat winner of the season in the GT3 class as Keen and Balon took victory to keep themselves in title contention.

Keen is a renowned Snetterton specialist, as he and Balon won both races last year, but in qualifying Keen was outclassed as an exceptional lap from Barwell team-mate Mitchell set a time 0.543 second quicker in a heavier Silver rated car.

Yet come race time Keen was immediately on the front foot at the start and swept around the outside of his team-mate as the pack filed through Riches for the first time.

The Huracan has always performed well in cold, damp conditions and soon both of the Lamborghinis were away and gone from the chasing pack headed by Buurman.

By the time of the first stops Keen had held a 8 second lead and this gap increased as Mitchell’s handover to Rob Collard was delayed by a seat-belt issue which cost the #78 car 20 seconds.

This gave the newly installed Balon a 30 second lead for him to coast the Lamborghini home to victory, while the seatbelt problem dropped Collard back to fifth behind both of the RAM Racing Mercedes and more importantly title rival de Haan who was in third place, with team-mate Ian Loggie in-between the two.

Try as he might Collard could not find a way past the Am driver as Loggie put up an impressively spirited defence in order to enable his team-mate to leave Snetterton with a six point lead in the standings going into the final round at Silverstone.

Keen and Balon’s victory also put them firmly in the hunt but they were 5.5 points behind their team-mates, while James Baldwin and Michael O’Brien retained an outside chance of the title after an eighth and a seventh place finishes saw them leave Snetterton 34 points behind the leaders in fourth place.

In GT4 Jordan Collard put in a stunning drive to charge through the field and snatch victory and set up a nail-biting five way championship decider at Silverstone.

After having been denied a potential victory in race 1 due to the maximum success penalty, Collard proved the #58 McLaren’s pace to deprive race 1 winner Caroline/Vaughan of victory with only a few minutes left.

Collard was left with work to do in his stint after Matthiesen got squeezed back from second on the grid to run fifth at the end of the first lap and could only make up one place by the time of his pit stop.

Jordan Collard produced the charge of the weekend to move up from fourth to take GT4 victory in the second of Snetterton’s races. Credit: Jakob Ebrey.

In contrast, Race 1 victor Caroline had no issues, using a brilliant launch to bring the #97 Aston up from fifth on the grid to dive inside pole-sitter Matt Cowley’s Mustang at Palmer and lead in the difficult, greasy conditions.

Knowing he would have to serve a 10 second success penalty at his pitstop, Caroline pushed on and his fine work allowed co-driver Vaughan to emerge ahead of team-mate Kibble, although both of them exited behind the Pro-Am entry of Flewitt, who was able to jump them thanks to the lack of a Silver pitstop penalty.

Yet Flewitt’s time in the lead did not last long and the Am driver was quickly overtaken by Vaughan and then Collard, who had swiftly dispatched Kibble’s Aston, as Flewitt eventually took Pro-Am honours with a fine fourth place.

The victory for the #58 also moves them into second place in the standings just 2.5 points behind Caroline/Vaughan, with TF Sport team-mates Kibble/O’Brien, who finished third, 13 points behind their team-mates in third place.

Outside contenders for the title are still the #61 Academy Motorsports Ford Mustang of Matt Cowley, who joined by new team-mate Will Moore endured a tough weekend at Snetterton with several spins ended the weekend 30.5 points behind the leader.

At least their chances were better than that of the second HHC McLaren of Bowers and Wesemael, who had the faintest of hopes being 37.5 points a full race victory behind the leaders, but they still were in title contention, but only just.

For the final round of the 2020 British GT championship, the series played host to the Blue Riband Silverstone 500 event which saw unpresecented interest in the series.

A bumper 38 car entry, comprising 20 GT3, 13 GT4 and five GTC cars, and a record number of 9 GT3 McLarens, including one driven by 2009 F1 World Champion Jensen Button, who would be racing for his eponymous team in a car shared with Chris Buncombe.

Also taking part would be last year’s champion and the series most successful driver in terms of titles Jonny Adam, who would be spearheading the Garage 59 outfit’s British GT debut assault, alongside Alexander West.

Yet all of these impressive entries would not be eligible to score points, so their appearence would have no bearing on the exciting title battles that would take place.

Yet despite all of the extra entires and star names, they proved to have a neglible impact on the race as Rob Collard and Sandy Mitchell cruised to a comfortable victory and with it, the 2020 British GT title.

The duo came into the round as favourites as they were the only top three crews that wouldn’t have to serve a success penalty, meaning they had an instant advantage over their closest rivals.

In the end this advantage hardly mattered as the crew were in dominant form all weekend as they took pole, lead from the start got and even got their tactics spot on to record victory and with it secured the British GT title.

The #78 Barwell Motorsports Lamborghini crew of Sandy Mitchell and Rob Collard put in a dominant display all weekend to win the Silverstone 500 and secure the 2020 British GT title. Credit: SRO Motorsports

Their main title rivals, the championship leading RAM Racing Mercedes of de Haan and Kujala were never on the pace, a situation not helped by having to stay out an extra lap when the safety car was called on the second lap and as a result they lost out to both of the Barwell Lamborghinis.

When the safety car came in Barwell swapped its Huracans around in the hope that the #72 title contender ,with Pro driver Keen at the wheel, could negate some of its looming 20s Success Penalty.

Ultimately this plan came to naught after their second pitstop when Balon was tipped into a spin at Stowe by de Haan when battling over fifth.

Although both cars continued, this incident eliminated two of the main title contenders from the fight as de Haan was hit with a 10 second stop-go penalty and eventually finished in eighth place, just one spot ahead of Keen/Balon.

With Collard taking the lead from RAM’s other Mercedes of Loggie at almost the exact same time, the title battle was effectively decided at this point and so was the battle for the win, despite the best attempts by the remaining title contender, the #2 McLaren of Baldwin/O’Brien who tried to give chase to the Huracan.

Ultimately though O’Brien lost second place in the final stint to Buurman whose second place was enough to secure the Pro-Am title and end what has been a slightly disappointing year for the team in fine style.

Of all of the guest entries, the highest placed was the third 2Seas Motorsports McLaren of Martin Kodric and Al Faisal Al Zubair who beat their sister full-season team-amte entry of Angus Fender and Dean Macdonald to finish fourth and fifth respectively.

Of the main stars though, Button and co-driver Buncombe were hampered by a lack of pre-race testing and as a result struggled for pace throughout the race, eventually coming home in 14th, the penultimate GT3 car that was running.

Still they fared better than Adam, whose #1 Garage 59 Aston Martin retired halfway through the first hour with mechanical problems.

In GT4 a brilliant strategy call from Century Motorsport saw Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke and Rob Wheldon produce the perfect race to claim the glory as Jamie Caroline and Daniel Vaughan secured the GT4 crown.

After a miserable season with few results, the newly formed Pro-Am pairing of Gordon-Colebrooke and Wheldon team ended the season with a result few would have predicted at the start of the weekend.

A brilliant strategy call from Century Motorsport saw Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke and Rob Wheldon to claim GT4 Silverstone 500 glory. Credit: Jakob Ebrey.

Unlike in the GT3 class, the GT4 title battle had swung a number of ways before only being decided in the closing minutes as second place was enough for the #97 TF Sport Aston to claim the crown.

The race got off to a chaotic start as the #66 Team Parker Racing Mercedes of Scott Malvern and Nick Jones, who had moved back down to the GT4 class for this event, spun on the exit of Becketts and they were collected by the Pro-Am title winners Flewitt and Hankey.

Both cars retired on the spot and the title contending Academy Mustang of Cowley got caught up in the resulting carnage which saw their title challenge end as they pitted for lengthy repairs to the suspension.

As with the Barwell team in the GT3 category, TF Sport pitted both of their cars as soon as the safety car was called to get one of its stops out of the way while the race was at reduced speed.

Unfortunately, while the tactic that had worked well in the past this time it was scuppered by both cars collecting stop-go penalties, leaving TF on the back foot with both cars would run in formation for the remainder of the race, although they chipped away at the deficit with each stint.

Century on the other hand decided to pit Wheldon as late into the safety period as possible, a strategy that worked perfectly, and Gordon-Colebrooke came back into the race with a near half-lap advantage, even if it wasn’t immediately apparent.

In fact it was only at the end of the final pitstop cycle when the BMW’s advantage became clear as they emerged with half a minute lead which they kept to the flag.

The early pacesetters proved to be the guest entrant MSL Powered by Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin of James Dorlin and Alex Toth-Jones whose decision not to pit under the caution period saw them lead for much of the race.

Since the car was so far out of sync with the rest of the field that it enjoyed a huge advantage after each pit cycle.

Yet their strategy of two long opening stints meant the Aston would have to serve its last two stops within the final hour, and with no Safety Car to assist it, the duo dropped out of contention and they eventually finished in sixth place.

Thanks to the pitstop penalties to the TF team the leading title contender throughout the early stages was the #58 HHC McLaren of Collard and Matthiesen and at the start of the final hour they ran second behind the runaway leader.

Jamie Caroline/Daniel Vaughan’s second place finish was enough for them to take the 2020 GT4 title. Credit: James Roberts

Yet the TF Sport Astons were gaining all the time and there was nothing Matthiesen could do to deny the two flying Vantages, which both passed him inside the final minutes, as Caroline and Vaughan demoted him to fourth place.

Despite the late start, altered calendar and reduced grid sizes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the British GT championship once again served up an action packed, tense and ultra competitive season which furthered the British GT Championship reputation as one of the best GT series in the world.

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