Team Abba Racing and Century Motorsport took GT3 and GT4 honours in Round 3 of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship at Donington Park, in one of the most incident-packed races in recent memory.
With seven retirements and two safety car periods in the first 20 minutes, the survivors in a shrunken field had a frantic first stint before handing over to the faster Pro and Silver drivers.
Sam Neary took over from father Richard and managed the gap back to Yelmer Buurman for the team’s first win in the series, with Jonny Adam prevailing in a thrilling late battle for third.
In GT4, Century Motorsport took their second 1-2 finish of the season, with Will Burns and Gus Burton winning by over 30 seconds over Chris Salkeld and Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke.
There was immediate drama as Michael Igoe spun the WPI Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo after contact with Nick Jones in the Team Parker Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
All but Leo Machitski avoided the Lamborghini, the Russian sustaining severe damage to the front of his Championship-leading Barwell Motorsport car.
The safety car was deployed as Igoe’s car was recovered and Machitski limped back to the pits with heavy front damage, where Barwell were forced to retire the car.
With the WPI entry and one half of the Barwell garage out of the race after the first lap, it fell to Adam Balon and Sandy Mitchell to redeem some pride for the Italian brand as the skies darkened over Donington. Balon ran fourth as the safety car returned to the pitlane.
With the minimum opening stint time 58 minutes in GT3, the safety car reduced the racing time deficit teams may experience with their Am drivers in the car.
Richard Neary jumped Ian Loggie from the second restart, taking the lead through Redgate after 20 minutes and less than three racing laps.
Just before the third safety car period of the race, Kelvin Fletcher managed to move ahead of Adam Balon’s Barwell Lamborghini and take fourth place.
Racing finally resumed after the collisions of Will Moore, John Ferguson and Harry Hayek, with Neary leading the GT3s from Loggie, Fletcher and Balon.
Balon was determined to move the #1 Barwell Lamborghini back ahead of Fletcher before he handed over to Sandy Mitchell, and was climbing all over the back of the Paddock Motorsport Bentley Continental GT3 for several laps.
Lewis Proctor was being shuffled down the field in the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3, slipping behind Fletcher, Balon, Andrew Howard and Morgan Tillbrook in the Enduro Motorsport McLaren.
Balon eventually got alongside the Bentley on the start/finish straight as Fletcher was held up by Nick Halstead in the Fox Motorsport McLaren, but Fletcher held firm and kept third place going into Redgate.
Nick Jones spun the Team Parker Racing Porsche at the Fogarty Esses he lapped James Kell in the McLaren, but was running at the back of the GT3 field so did not lose any positions.
Balon made his move on Fletcher stick after 32 laps, going tight into the Melbourne Hairpin and switching back to the inside of Goddards. Fletcher might have been distracted by the Lamborghini moving in his mirrors, and slid out wide as the final corner drops away. Balon made his way through, and slid ahead.
Fletcher lost another place to Andrew Howard shortly afterwards, slipping to fifth as the Beechdean AMR driver moved through at Redgate.
Balon handed over to Sandy Mitchell, but their 20-second success penalty from Silverstone meant they dropped behind Jonny Adam, Martin Plowman, Marcus Clutton and Stewart Proctor into seventh place.
Clutton jumped ahead of Plowman, the 2011 GT4 champion moving up to fourth, while Proctor relaced Clutton as the fastest man on track.
Scott Malvern boxed to retire the Team Parker Racing Porsche shortly after taking over from Nick Jones, with the team citing a ‘drivetrain issue’ as the number of remaining cars on circuit fell to just 12 from 23 starters.
Meanwhile, Sam Neary continued to extend Team Abba Racing’s lead to 15 seconds from Yelmer Buurman, with Jonny Adam and Marcus Clutton duelling with RAM Racing‘s Dutch driver for second place.
Sandy Mitchell started to move back up the order in the #1 Barwell Lamborghini, recovering the deficit borne out of his and Balon’s success penalty. The Scottish Lamborghini Squadra Corse driver dispatched with Lewis Proctor and Martin Plowman after 54 laps of Donington Park, before looking to close the seven-second gap to Clutton, who himself was embroiled in a battle with Jonny Adam in the Beechdean Aston Martin.
Mitchell set the fastest lap in pursuit of the Enduro Motorsport McLaren, reducing the gap by 1.3 seconds on Lap 59.
As a breathless race reached the final 20 minutes, Mitchell reduced the gap to just three seconds after 62 laps, with Clutton still sat in Jonny Adam’s gearbox.
Sam Neary maintained a 14-second gap to Buurman in the newer-spec Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, despite the Team Abba Racing car having collateral damage after an exploded brake disc in FP2 on Saturday afternoon.
Adam, Clutton and Mitchell were separated by less than a second after 71 laps, with Mitchell taking up permanent residence in the McLaren’s gearbox into Redgate, but Clutton just held station as Mitchell took to the grass on the exit.
A triple-helping of GT4 traffic allowed Adam to get away slightly, though Mitchell was still unable to find a way past the #77 Enduro McLaren.
Richard Williams retired the Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT4 on the Exhibition Straight with an alternator issue, while just two laps later the #90 Balfe Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4 of Ashley Marshall also withdrew at McLeans after contact with the Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and the Assetto Motorsport Ginetta G56 GT4.
Alain Valente was also wheeled back into the Jenson Team Rocket RJN garage as the safety car was deployed.
Will Burns moved past John Ferguson after 25 minutes at the Melbourne Hairpin, taking the #57 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 Evo into the class lead.
Jenson Team Rocket RJN pairing Harry Hayek and Jordan Collard both moved past Will Moore in tandem, as the Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang GT4 slipped back two places at once, and the safety car was deployed yet again for a short time after the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK GR Supra GT4 of John Ferguson shed its rear bumper over the bumps going into the Old Hairpin.
Harry Hayek and Will Moore collided exiting Goddards after Hayek was spun by Ferguson’s Toyota, and while both drove away, Ferguson and Hayek parked off track before they could make it back to the pits.
Ferguson did manage to limp back to the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK garage, where the Speedworks team retired the car.
Chris Salkeld picked up a ten-second stop-go penalty for causing a collision in the Century Motorsport BMW after 40 minutes, while running third in GT4.
After all the incidents shook out, there were just five runners remaining in GT4: Will Burns/Gus Burton, Collard/Kell, Halstead/Stanley, Whitmore/Giddings and Salkeld/Gordon-Colebrooke.
As the GT4 pit window opened, Whitmore and Salkeld blinked first and handed over to Jake Giddings and Gordon-Colebrooke.
With Topham/Burke, Williams/Fielding and Ferguson/McKenna all out of the race well before the pitstops, no success penalties were served in GT4 as all three podium finishers in the Silverstone 500 retired after the myriad incidents in the first 40 minutes.
Jamie Stanley and Gordon-Colebrooke jumped Jake Giddings to take third and fourth in GT4 with 45 minutes remaining.
Gus Burton continued to grow the lead Will Burns had eked out, sitting pretty 21 seconds ahead of James Kell’s Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren, himself a further six seconds ahead of Gordon-Colebrooke who moved past Stanley at the Melbourne Hairpin.
Gordon-Colebrooke wasn’t finished there, and after a merry dance with James Kell, he leapfrogged the McLaren which then came under pressure from Jamie Stanley’s Fox Motorsport 570S.
Stanley made the move at Hollywood to go third in GT4, while Burton lapped 32 seconds ahead of Century team-mate Gordon-Colebrooke.
Car Gods with Ciceley Motorsport‘s Jake Giddings compiled Kell’s misery by relegating the McLaren to the back of the GT4 order heading down Craner Curves, using Yelmer Buurman’s position to hold Kell behind.
The former Speedworks driver had to yield for Buurman at the Old Hairpin, allowing Giddings to eke just enough of a gap in the Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Giddings spun at Hollywood after contact with Stanley just a few laps later, though, and Kell was able to lift himself from the foot of the table. He narrowly missed the stranded McLaren left there by Harry Hayek, and was able to recover.
In fact, he recovered so well he was able to make his way back past Kell in the dying minutes.
2021 Donington Park Race Results:
|1||8||R/S Neary||Team Abba Racing||Mercedes-AMG GT3||76 laps|
|2||6||Loggie/Buurman||RAM Racing||Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo||+15.931|
|3||7||Howard/Adam||Beechdean AMR||Aston Martin Vantage GT3||+24.458|
|4||77||Tillbrook/Clutton||Enduro Motorsport||McLaren 720S GT3||+24.912|
|5||1||Balon/Mitchell||Barwell Motorsport||Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo||+25.109|
|6||5||S/L Proctor||Balfe Motorsport||McLaren 720S GT3||+33.871|
|7||11||Fletcher/Plowman||Paddock Motorsport||Bentley Continental GT3||+1:03.962|
|8||57||Burns/Burton||Century Motorsport||BMW M4 GT4 Evo||+5 laps|
|9||9||Salkeld/Gordon-Colebrooke||Century Motorsport||BMW M4 GT4 Evo||+6 laps|
|10||40||Halstead/Stanley||Fox Motorsport||McLaren 570S GT4||+6 laps|
|11||2||Collard/Kell||Jenson Team Rocket RJN||McLaren 570S GT4||+ 6 laps|
|12||25||Whitmore/Giddings||Car Gods with Ciceley Motorsport||McLaren 570S GT4||+ 6 laps|
|13||66||Jones/Malvern||Team Parker Racing||Porsche 911 GT3 RSR||DNF (mechanical)|
|14||61||Moore/Cowley||Academy Motorsport||Ford Mustang GT4||DNF (damage)|
|15||4||Hayek/Milner||Jenson Team Rocket RJN||McLaren 570S GT4||DNF (damage)|
|16||15||Ferguson/McKenna||TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK||Toyota GR Supra GT4||DNF (damage)|
|17||27||Topham/Burke||Newbridge Motorsport||Aston Martin Vantage GT4||DNF (damage)|
|18||56||Sansom/Robertson||Assetto Motorsport||Ginetta G56 GT4||DNF (damage)|
|19||3||Valente/Benyahia||Jenson Team Rocket RJN||McLaren 570S GT4||DNF (mechanical)|
|20||90||Marshall/Brown||Balfe Motorsport||McLaren 570S GT4||DNF (damage)|
|21||42||Williams/Fielding||Steller Motorsport||Audi R8 LMS GT3||DNF (mechanical)|
|22||63||Machitski/Lind||Barwell Motorsport||Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo||DNF (damage)|
|23||18||Igoe/Keen||WPI Motorsport||Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo||DNF (damage)|