A red flag and hefty stoppage during the pitstop window added both drama and complication to the second race of this year’s Intelligent Money British GT Championship at Oulton Park as post race adjustments ultimately dictated the final finishing positions.
Kelvin Fletcher’s impressive drive throughout his stint gave Paddock Motorsport and Martin Plowman their first Intelligent Money British GT Championship win, even though they in fact finished third on the road. In GT4 we had a similar story where Matt Topham and Darren Turner’s now blue for 2022 Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin beat Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding to the top step of the podium despite the Steller Motorsport Audi taking the chequered flag first.
The awkward point at which the red flag appeared meant that the race restarted in the order the cars were placed prior to the pitstop windows, but with the second set of drivers in the car – essentially neutralising any pitstop and time advantages previously gained. This also meant that success penalties, and silver pairing additional times were to be added after the race. so cars ultimately didn’t necessarily place in their finishing order on the road. This is a decision which RAM Racing have appealed, so all results currently remain provisional.
After an absolutely nail biting first race which saw Jules Gounon and Adam Carroll neck and neck through to the final flag, it looked promising that we would see a continuation of this from the off in this race, as both the Balfe Motorsport Audi and the RAM Racing Mercedes lined up on the front row of the podium, with Gounon on pole.
Gounon got off to a great start, quickly creating a four second gap between him and second placed Carroll, meanwhile behind, Barwell Motorsport’s Sandy Mitchell dropped to sixth after an early attempt to pass Carroll into Cascades, which saw him ultimately pushed down to sixth place. There was also early contact at the same corner on lap two between the Assetto Motorsport Bentley of Will Tregurtha and WPI Motorsport’s Phil Keen, pushing Keen off and into a spin, and also forcing Fox Motorsport’s Jamie Stanley wide onto the grass as he moved to avoid.
A safety car on lap three removed any advantages gained by Gounon, with racing resuming around one minute before the GT3 pit window scheduled to open.
The next complication to hit this race was the British Weather, as after some generous sun, the rain arrived and conditions began to deteriorate quickly. This undoubtedly changed some teams’ strategies, as in a sprint race where the pros start you usually see them pit towards the end of the window, to allow the pros as much time on track as possible.
This was to become a moot point ultimately, as whilst some teams, including Balfe Motorsport moved to pit straight away, the race was red flagged mid pit-stops when the RAM Racing #15 of Jamie Caroline and #5 Greystone GT McLaren 720s of Lewis Proctor both had a big off on the approach to Druids in conditions now ripe for aquaplaning, with Proctor clearing the barriers. This resulted in a significant stop of around 30m to allow for recovery and repair of the barriers.
This is where the confusion really set in, as some teams had pitted, others were mid-stop and had yet to serve success penalties and others still had yet to pit. As the restart approached though, it was confirmed the cars would restart behind the safety car, in pre-pitstop order, but with tyres and drivers changed, and success seconds from the previous race, as well as the fourteen second penalties for GT4 silver pairings to be added after the race had concluded.
At the restart, Ian Loggie led ahead of Shaun Balfe – those positions remaining unchanged, with Mia Flewitt’s 7TSiX McLaren in third following handover from Euan Hankey. A little further down the pack, Paddock Motorsport’s Kelvin Fletcher was now in 7th place, with teammate Martin Plowman having quietly but efficiently been making up positions throughout the first part of the race from their 14th place start. As the top two cars began to pull away from the rest of the pack, Alex Malykhin took a spin at Druids, Morgan Tillbrook’s Enduro Motorsport McLaren was suddenly sidelined with an electrical problem and Adam Balon was called in to serve a penalty for previous contact with another car all in a very short space of time, which together served to suddenly throw Fletcher into play. With seven laps remaining, he grabbed the opportunity with both hands and it wasn’t long before Fletcher was past Flewitt and gunning for the top spot.
With no success seconds to be added to his time, Fletcher needed to be within 7s of Ian Loggie by the end of the race to win, and even though he wasn’t fully aware of the state of play due to a malfunctioning radio, he brought the 9.3s gap down to 7.1s with two minutes still to go, whilst GT4 traffic holding up the two cars ahead ensured the win following the post race corrections.
The GT4 traffic proved especially troublesome for the Balfe and RAM top two as it held them up enough to allow Team Abba Racing’s Richard Neary, and Sky Tempesta Racing’s Kevin Tse to move up into second and third respectively, with the RAM Racing #6 Mercedes and #22 Balfe Audi ultimately having to settle for fifth and sixth place, as a strong race from the Team Rocket RJN duo of Graham Davidson and James Kell bounced back from their retirement in the previous race to take fourth place following the post race adjustments.
Over in GT4, the race turned out to be no less thrilling, although between the stoppage and stunning action over in GT3 we didn’t get to see as much as we’d have liked!
Darren Turner started on pole with Sennan Fielding completing the front row of the GT4 grid, and it was Fielding in the Steller Motorsport Audi who got the best start to take a determined lead. With a double victory not outside the realms of possibility, he needed to establish as much of a lead as possible against the Newbridge Aston Martin as quickly as possible and was on track to do so….
One lap after later the GT3 off at Cascades, the safety car was scrambled as Freddie Tomlinson and Moh Ritson came to contact in their respective Assetto Motorsport Ginetta G56 and Paddock Motorsport McLaren 570s GT4’s at Shell Oils, ultimately putting both cars out of the race with just two laps completed.
The safety car and subsequent red flag occurred before the GT4 pit window was even open; effectively fully negating the GT4 pitstop. The fallout of all of this was all silver pairings would have 14s added to their times at the end of the race, and the podium finishers from Race 1 would also have their success seconds added.
This meant at the restart, that Richard Williams was in the lead, but with less than half the race to go, would need to create a 24 second gap from second placed Matt Topham by the end of the race to win on paper as well. Behind the Newbridge Aston was Jack Brown, who was now behind the wheel of the #90 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 Silver entry.
The Steller Audi battled valiantly to pull out the seconds needed to remain ahead, but it was just too much of a challenge, and whilst Williams was first across the chequered flag, they ended up third following the post race adjustments, as with no silver or success penalties, Matt Topham kept a steady pace with a clean race to take the victory. The lack of success seconds to overturn allowed the Century BMW to sneak to the second spot on the podium, taking the Silver Cup win as well, with the Steller Audi having to settle for third place.
When all was said and done after the adjustments, this left the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK of Jack Mitchell and Tom Edgar in fourth, with Ross Wylie and Benji Hetherington of Valluga Racing to take fifth place, and the R Racing Aston Martin of Josh Miller and Jamie Day to claim sixth.
The next round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship takes place at Silverstone, on the 7/8th May. The Silverstone 500 will be the first endurance race of the season.