British GT

Enduro Claim Maiden Victory as Barwell, RAM and Newbridge claim titles.

10 Mins read
Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

The Enduro Motorsport crew of Morgan Tillbrook and Marcus Clutton have claimed their maiden Intelligent Money British GT Championship race victory in the final round of the team’s debut season. The Donington Decider round of the series, which saw three of the eight available championships finalised, overshadowed the team’s achievement, besting factory drivers and seasoned campaigners alike to take the top spot.

Of course the main focus was on the championships still to be decided and Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind are celebrating their first overall British GT Championship titles. The Russian previously claimed the GT3 class title with Barwell Motorsport and Aston Martin in the era when GT1 was the series top class. The GT3 Pro/Am title was successfully defended by RAM Racing‘s Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman who fell just one place short of taking the overall title.

In GT4 the race victory went to the Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang GT4 of Matt Cowley and Will Moore. The victory confirmed second place in the overall GT4 title fight and represents their second victory of the year after their win in the sixth round of the championship; the second one hour race at Snetterton.

The only title left to decide in GT4 was the Pro/Am drivers title. Again its a story of maiden victories as the Britcar and GT Cup graduates Newbridge Motorsport claimed the title at their first attempt. Matt Topham and factory pro Darren Turner mated a second in class at the decider to three victories, another second and a fifth to seal the championship despite finishing behind their class rivals.

GT3: Tillbrook and Clutton Victorious, Machitski and Lind Title Winners.

Leo Machitski drove an impressive stint to hand over to Dennis Lind in a championship winning position. Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

With titles on the line the race for victory was always going to be overshadowed at Donington Park. From the off there was drama with title hopeful Michael Igoe leading from the start only to spin out of the lead and into a four lap deficit at Old Hairpin. The WPI Motorsport driver, sharing with Phil Keen who has been in contention for the overall title at five consecutive Donington Deciders plus last years COVID enforced Silverstone Showdown, ended their title hopes in the first lap of the race and left Keen with a seventh year of hope if he returns for 2022.

The spin put the Team ABBA Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 into the lead of the race, a position it held for much of the first hour. Behind, Tillbrook was left trying to hold on to second place against the onslaught of the championship hopeful Ian Loggie. It was a battle he was destined to lose however and the pink Mercedes-AMG made it a three-pointed star 1-2 towards the end of the opening stint.

Fourth place for the first hour was held mostly by another championship hopeful, Adam Balon in the defending champion Sandy Mitchell‘s #1 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO. Team mate and championship leader Machitski held fifth with Andrew Howard, the fourth remaining title contender in sixth place. The trio ran as a group for a while before Balon staged a break away but the #1 car had success penalties to serve in the pits while the #63 was unencumbered.

A slight contact at Redgate unsettled the Aston Martin of Beechdean AMR team owner Howard, resulting in a half spin which ended the remote hopes of a solo championship victory. Machitski was free to pursue Balon in the run to the pit stops.

The pit stops arrived and Richard Neary in the Team ABBA machine extended his lead at the front from three to ten seconds, handing over to son Sam Neary who promptly set the fastest lap of the race. The benefits of having no success seconds graphically displayed by the matte black Benz.

Similarly penalty free, Marcus Clutton emerged in third place behind Yelmer Buurman. The McLaren and Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO began hunting down Neary in the older spec Benz, stopping briefly to battle amongst themselves before Clutton got the upper hand and shot off to challenge the #8 machine. Another duel resulted in the Enduro Motorsport driver claiming the preferred line at the Goddard’s hairpin and depriving the BRDC Rising Star of the lead.

Team ABBA Racing put on a great showing but couldn’t hold off the newer Mercedes or the Enduro McLaren for victory. Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

Success penalties in the pit lane also allowed Dennis Lind to leap-frog the Balon/Mitchell machine and set off in fourth place to chase down the leaders. A 30 second deficit was a mountain to climb but the Lamborghini set to reducing the lead Buurman held.

With Lind secure in 4th place, Buurman’s task was clear. It was victory or nothing if the #6 crew were to claim both the Pro/Am and Overall drivers crowns. Two places to make up against determined opposition. First up was a Mercedes on Mercedes contest where for the first time in 2021, Neary made a mistake which allowed the vastly more experienced opposition through. The #8 ran wide at Redgate, kicking up gravel but continuing on. Unfortunately, it continued on in third place.

Buurman continued to close the gap to Clutton, settling finally into a fairly consistent gap of between a second and a half and 2.5 seconds. The McLaren absorbed all the Mercedes could do and brought it home for the team’s maiden victory, six months and 12 days after the surprise announcement they had acquired the Balfe Motorsport McLaren and were coming to GT3.

Never forget, the team had planned on entering a GT4 car for 2021!

Buurman’s inability to pass the McLaren, combined with a controlled drive from Dennis Lind assured the Barwell crew of the overall title. Even if the race had run to its full planned time, it was highly unlikely that the Mercedes could triumph over the McLaren ahead. Instead the red flag which ended the race early only allowed the victors a slightly earlier pop of the champaign corks.

Obscurities of the British GT scoring system meant however that Loggie and Buurman got their championship place in the sun, or at least the not raining, as winners of the 2021 British GT3 Pro/Am title.

Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman fell a single place short of the overall title but sealed the Pro/Am class in the final round. Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

The success of Lind and Machitski added the GT3 overall title to the Team’s crown Barwell secured at the penultimate round in Cheshire. Lind also secured his sixth fastest lap award of the season, which given that he didn’t get to drive at the series first visit to Donington Park is an impressive achievement.

Behind the championship fight Sandy Mitchell brought the outgoing champion car home in fifth place ahead of the Porsche 911 GT3 R of Nick Jones and Scott Malvern. Jones proved more than at home in championship contending company during the difficult stint on wet tyres and a drying track which opened the 2 hour encounter. Malvern put in a determined attempt at the Sunoco Fastest Lap award while hunting down Mitchell but was unable to complete the move and finished in sixth place.

Seventh to tenth place were all completed by cars who had troubles during the race. Mia Flewitt and Euan Hankey claimed seventh on the third and final appearance for their new for 2021 Team Rocket RJN McLaren 720S GT3 after an early spin put them on the back foot. The bump and around for Howard left Jonny Adam with a challenge in the Beechdean machine which eventually placed 8th ahead of Stewart Proctor and Lewis Proctor in the Balfe Motorsport GT3 entry.

Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman completed a season which saw them start as customers of JRM Racing and end as owner drivers of the Paddock Motorsport Bentley Continental GT3. A spectacular 360 from the TV star turned team owner was the cause of their drop down the order to the bottom of the top ten.

With the Team Rocket McLaren a round by round entry the points continued down to 12th in class. The debuting Tolman Motorsport Bentley took eleventh in GT3 but just like the Flewitt/Hankey entry, is invisible as far as points are concerned. Instead Igoe and Keen were able to leave Donington Park without going away empty handed. 1.5 points in the overall battle for 10th of the full season entries.

GT4: Academy Fight Through for Victory; Topham and Turner Claim Pro/Am Title.

Academy Motorsport’s Matt Cowley put in the hard miles in the second stint to drive through to victory in the final round. Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

GT4 was mainly free of any championship encumbrances at the Donington Decider. Century Motorsport had already sealed the Overall, Silver Cup and Team’s titles at Oulton Park which just left the Pro/Am battle left to be decided. The lesser places in the other three titles may have been up for grabs but on the whole, we were treated to a race without politics.

As the race got underway the rains which had soaked the East Midlands venue overnight finally stopped and the final pre-British GT support race began the task of drying the Donington Park Grand Prix circuit. It was a task the feature race cars would have to finish off, and all but the #9 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 took to the track shod in wet weather Pirelli tyres. Chris Salkeld for Century started from the pit lane, a very rare strategic miscue from Nathan Freke‘s team which finally joined the track a lap down and on what turned out to be the wrong tyres.

The gamble could have gone either way; the 1 hour race at Donington Park in 2020 was won outright by a slick shod Bentley on arguably a Cinturato favouring track.

The 2021 roll of the dice didn’t pay off and Chris Salkeld was treated to a nerve inspiring hour at the wheel of the BMW, only coming into its own in the dying ten minutes of the stint. He handed over to Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke the same lap down he started the race but as early holder of the fastest lap in GT4. The duo ceded the fight for second in the GT4 Overall title battle.

That honour went instead to the #61 crew of Matt Cowley and Will Moore who went to slicks at the stops and used tyre advantage to claim the lead with 17 laps left of the race. From then on it was never in doubt that the Academy Motorsport crew would take the race victory. The surprise instead was that Alain Valente in the Team Rocket RJN McLaren 570S GT4 stayed within 3 seconds of the Mustang to the end of the race.

The start of course saw Richard Williams on pole in the Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT4 he shares with Sennan Fielding. The team owner struggled early on, apparently trying to live with a tyre issue along with pressure from a swarm of GT4 cars behind, falling back early on as Moore took the top spot at Schwanz three laps in and Michael Benyahia grabbing second at Goddard’s on lap 4.

The #57 Century Motorsport BMW of Will Burns took third and joined the Mustang and McLaren in a battle pack which opened the range early on. All three took spells at the head of a 12 wheeled multi-colour train throughout the first hour. Only a minor off at Fogherty Esses for Will Moore just before the pit window opened interrupted the good natured scrap before the cars headed to pit lane for driver changes.

Will Burns and Gus Burton were determined at Oulton Park to win the title in style and so they did, taking victory in the final race in Cheshire. The success at Oulton spelled the death of any race winning hopes at Donington Park, the 20 seconds penalty dropping the newly black, white and gold BMW out of contention. Moore and Benyahia pitted as a train, success seconds giving the lead to the McLaren DDP driver who had no penalty to serve and left the pits on wets. The Academy crew switched to slicks and the advantage proved decisive.

Century’s champions finished in third place.

Dealing with the tricky conditions put the silver cup cars in the ascendant. The gap to the Pro/Am title battle grew with every lap but it didn’t make the duel any less exciting. Fox Motorsport had the upper hand in the battle which raged for most of the race but the Newbridge Motorsport duo of Topham and Turner had the whip hand. Provided they stayed ahead of the Assetto Motorsport Ginetta and the Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4, they couldn’t be bested.

The Ginetta had a lamentable race. Mired in the bowels of the GT4 class it never really rose to attention. The Toyota did perform very well, getting involved in the class fight for much of the race and at the midway point it was the McLaren of Nik Halstead and Jamie Stanley who stood to gain the title.

Drive shaft failure on the Toyota, after a great first stint from John Furgusson and an impressive drive as always from Jamie Caroline, sealed the deal for Newbridge. There ended the battle for the only class in the championship where every full season entrant had a shot at the title at the finale.

The red flag shortly after the pole sitter in GT4, Steller Motorsport’s Audi R8 LMS GT4, ground to a halt on the grass down the Crainer Curves just confirmed the result a few minutes early. The flag, not for the Audi but for the perpetually unlucky #2 Team Rocket RJN McLaren of Jordan Collard, was issued because the machine shared with James Kell broke down just over the blind crest of Coppice Corner and couldn’t be either recovered safely or left in place.

Matt Topham and Darren Turner claimed victory in the GT4 Pro/Am battle at their first attempt. Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

So behind the trio of Silver Cup entries, first the Academy Mustang, then Team Rocket RJN’s #3 McLaren and the #57 Century BMW came the Pro/Am fight. Fox bested Newbridge on the road but the title went to the Aston Martin crew who ended the race over six seconds clear of Century’s single round entry of David Holloway and Bradley Ellis, another V8 Vantage AMR GT4.

Seventh in GT4 went to the #4 machine, taken to the end by Katie Milner and shared with Harry Hayek. In eighth place the Balfe Motorsport entered McLaren 570S GT4 of Ashley Marshall and Jack Brown was lucky to make the classification at all. The duo attracted a 2 second stop and go penalty for entering pit lane too early for the pit window, the size of the penalty equalled the miscalculation so a very minor mistake in the maths had massive consequences.

However, Marshall either misunderstood the penalty or took it upon himself to moderate it by driving through rather than stopping for the required 2 seconds. He risked disqualification but it seems race control took pity and the car’s eighth place stands.

Ninth went to the Assetto Motorsport Ginetta, Mark Sansom and Charlie Robertson managing to outpace the single round entry of CWS Race Engineering in a second G56 GT4 by around 37 seconds. Steller Motorsport made the classification despite pulling over while Chris Salkeld and Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke ended the race stone dead last after their brave, but unfortunate, tyre gamble at the start.

The Intelligent Money British GT Championship title winners now look forward to the SRO Night of Champions celebration later in the year. Programmes for 2022 will now be well into planning, with action resuming on Easter Weekend at Oulton Park. If 2021 is anything to go by, the 29th season of the UK’s premiere sportscar series is going to be a thriller.

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About author
I am a photographer, writer and podcast presenter, specialising in GT and Endurance racing. I've been with The Checkered Flag since 2014, covering a wide range of racing series from Formula Ford to Formula 1, with British GT the main focus of my work. You can hear me monthly on the British GT Fans Show which can be found in our Recommended Listening section.
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