The Intelligent Money British GT Championship picked up where it left off with an exciting first race of 2021, and fans saw a familiar face on the top step in GT3, with new names triumphing in GT4.
WPI Motorsport‘s new recruit Phil Keen took over from Michael Igoe in the second stint to secure an 18th win for himself, the team’s second in British GT, and cement his place as the ‘winningest’ driver in the championship’s history.
Jonny Adam is second on that list, and was second on Sunday alongside Andrew Howard.
Gus Burton and Will Burns took top honours in GT4 after late drama.
Adam and Howard led the field on Sunday after qualifying the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage on pole position, but Michael Igoe made his way through at Druids.
The race really began with seven minutes gone as Morgan Tillbrook‘s Enduro Motorsport McLaren was recovered after spinning into the barriers at Westfield.
Igoe couldn’t pull away early despite showing promising pace, though, as safety cars were the order of the first stint.
The first came from contact between Salkeld and John Ferguson in a GT4 battle at Hawthorn, but GT3 drama brought the second, as British GT débutant James Cottingham tried to move past Adam Balon at Paddock Hill Bend.
The gap closed quickly and both the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo and Barwell‘s 2020 championship-winning Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo found themselves in the gravel.
Balon was able to re-join and hand over to reigning champion Sandy Mitchell in the #1 car, but the collision ended the #69 Mercedes’ day early before Sam De Haan could get his first taste of British GT racing this year.
Leo Machitski and Richard Neary sat third and fourth on the second restart, with the Russian moving past Andrew Howard at Surtees shortly afterwards.
Igoe was finally able to break away from the chasing pack, and stayed out of trouble before handing over to Keen once the GT3 pit window opened.
Keen stretched the lead as Machitski’s handover to Dennis Lind was delayed by GPS issues which promoted Jonny Adam to second in the Aston Martin.
If James Cottingham was the star turn of the first stint in GT3 (before the incident with Balon), then surely the second hour belonged to Lind.
The Dane pulled off an audacious move on Yelmer Buurman in the #6 RAM Racing Mercedes as the Dutchman was held up by GT4 traffic in Sector 2, setting the fastest lap of the race in pursuit of Adam.
Lind was denied second place by just three tenths in the end. He closed the gap in the first sector on the last couple of laps, but found the dirty air around the GP loop, with Adam making his Aston Martin as wide as possible, too restrictive and ultimately the #63 couldn’t find a way around the 2015 champion.
After starting seventh, Buurman took fourth place after taking over from Ian Loggie, with Richard and Sam Neary holding onto fifth, and a GT3 Silver-Am win, in the old-spec Mercedes AMG GT3.
Scott Malvern and Nick Jones finished sixth in the Team Parker Racing Porsche‘s first outing after starting 11th, benefitting from a drive-through penalty for Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher in JRM‘s Bentley.
Lewis and Stewart Proctor took eighth for Balfe Motorsport, with Greg Caton and Shamus Jennings‘ G-Cat Motorsport Porsche moving ahead of Simon Green Motorsport into ninth as Ross Wylie and Lucky Khera received a 30-second post-race penalty.
Gus Burton and Will Burns took GT4 top honours for Century Motorsport, with Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke and Chris Salkeld taking the sister BMW M4 GT4 Evo to second, with the GT4 Pro-Am win to boot.
Burton made a contender for ‘move of the race’ with his pass around the outside of team-mate Gordon-Colebrooke through Paddock Hill Bend for what was second place at the time.
But class leader Charlie Robertson‘s impressive stint in the new Ginetta G56 was halted by a late puncture, ending Assetto Motorsport‘s dreams of a début win in British GT. After the left-rear tyre was replaced, Robertson recovered to take fourth place.
James Kell and Jordan Collard, a new pairing comprised of returning drivers, picked up the pieces to inherit third place in the Team Rocket RJN McLaren 570S GT4.
Collard failed to finish in British GT’s visit to Brands Hatch last season with HHC Motorsport, but his familiarity with the McLaren helped the team to a podium finish.
A bounce-back months in the making for Collard, but one the team was glad of after the #3 McLaren of Alain Valente and Michael Benyahia pulled up and retired with an electrical fault at Pilgrims Drop on Lap 1.
Chris Salkeld tapped John Ferguson around at Hawthorn as he tried to pass the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK Supra, resulting in the first safety car of the race.
Gordon-Colebrooke jumped his Century team-mate in the pits to take the lead as Burns served a 26-second Silver Cup penalty during his stop, having held off Richard Williams in the Steller Motorsport Audi.
Robertson was on a flyer, though, and moved into the lead after taking over from Mark Sansom. He checked out until the final five minutes when a left-rear puncture put paid to Assetto’s highly-impressive opening exchanges in British GT.
Williams and Sennan Fielding took fifth after the Audi received a 10-second stop-go penalty after an unsafe release as Fielding left the pits, with Nick Halstead/Jamie Stanley‘s Fox Motorsport McLaren leading its Balfe counterpart of Ashley Marshall/Jack Brown.
The Intelligent Money British GT Championship returns for the three-hour Silverstone 500 on 26/27 June.
You can follow all the action with The Checkered Flag.