British GT thunders at Spa

Track action (Photo by British GT)

Track action (Photo by British GT)Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen extended their British GT Championship points lead by winning today’s first hour-long race at Spa-Francorchamps,

while Matthew Graham and Charlie Fagg took advantage of two Safety Car periods and Tolman Motorsport’s late puncture to claim theirs, Ebor GT’s and Maserati’s maiden British GT4 victory despite starting dead last.


Team WRT’s Audi driven by Alain Ferte and Stuart Leonard, and Piti Bhirombhakdi and Carlo van Dam’s Kessel Racing Ferrari, completed the GT3 podium. Elsewhere, a frenetic final two laps resulted in Lanan Racing’s David Pittard and Alex Reed, and HHC Motorsport’s Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton finishing second and third in GT4, respectively.

Two lengthy Safety Car periods played perfectly into Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen’s hands after pole-sitter Rick Parfitt Jnr was denied an opportunity to negate his and Team Parker Racing co-driver Seb Morris’ 10s pitstop success penalty.

Just two racing laps were completed during the first 28 minutes after Century Motorsport’s Steve Fresle crashed his Century Motorsport Ginetta at Raidillon on lap two, before a bizarre incident at the restart resulted in Nick Jones’ Porsche ramping up on top of Century’s second G55 GT4 driven by Anna Walewska at La Source.

Most of the field opted to pit when the window immediately opened upon the second caution period’s conclusion, including Minshaw. However, Team Parker’s decision to keep Parfitt Jnr out a little longer ultimately failed to help Morris, who returned to the action down in sixth.

Minshaw pitted from fourth but good work from Barwell’s mechanics helped their #33 Lamborghini inherit the lead after the Bentley and Macmillan AMR’s Aston Martin also stopped. Keen was relentless thereafter en route to a comfortable 14s victory and maximum points.

Alain Ferte started and ran fifth before the stops, but claimed second along with Team WRT co-driver Stuart Leonard thanks to the Belgian squad’s smart pit work. Leonard was just 0.850s clear of Carlo van Dam, whose co-driver Piti Bhirombhakdi stole the show at the start by jumping from fourth to first by the time the field reached Les Combes on lap one, although Parfitt Jnr used the same move to re-take the lead next time around.

A late issue for Patrick Kujala’s Barwell Lamborghini gifted Team Parker’s two Bentleys fourth and fifth. Callum Macleod led home Morris, who was just ahead of TF Sport’s Jon Barnes and Team ABBA with Rollcentre Racing’s Adam Christodoulou. Indeed, less than three seconds covered positions second-to-seventh at the chequered flag.

Barwell’s Sam Tordoff rounded out the top-eight ahead of Jonny Adam – whose TF Sport co-driver Derek Johnston spun on lap one – and Macmillan AMR’s Aston Martin, which was also handicapped by a pitstop success penalty and stopping later in the window.

A post-race penalty resulted in Team WRT’s Audi being given a six-place grid drop for Race 2 for making avoidable contact with cars #501 and #55.

A gearbox issue prevented Ebor GT’s Maserati from taking part in yesterday’s qualifying, but Matthew Graham and Charlie Fagg proved that was no obstacle after coming through from dead last to seal a famous first British GT4 victory for Maserati by 5.8s.

Their triumph came at the expense of Tolman Motorsport, David Pattison and Joe Osborne whose near-certain win was denied by a penultimate lap puncture.

Fagg started last of the 20-strong GT4 grid but stayed in the hunt by avoiding the two opening stint accidents and pulling off several passing moves to pit from 11th. Graham then continued his co-driver’s good work but it wasn’t until the frenetic final two laps that the scale of his and Fagg’s progress became apparent…

Earlier, Pattison had pitted from seventh in class but, crucially, second of the Pro/Am runners after picking up several places. With the Silver Cup entries serving a longer minimum pitstop time to balance their natural advantage, and In2Racing’s #29 McLaren carrying a success penalty, Osborne emerged with a handy lead that he extended as the laps ticked away. With two remaining he was 14s clear before a puncture and slow in-lap ended his and Tolman’s hopes of a first 2017 victory.

All eyes were now on those behind. Black Bull Garage 59’s Ciaran Haggerty inherited the lead but, at almost the same moment, was relieved of it by Graham who’d just passed both Stuart Middleton and David Pittard’s Ginettas in one lap. The McLaren Haggerty shares with Sandy Mitchell – who led the opening stint after passing pole-sitter Will Tregurtha – subsequently dropped to fourth* behind Middleton and Pittard, who also claimed second on the penultimate lap.

Macmillan AMR’s Jan Jonck and William Phillips ran in the top-five throughout and duly finished there, while Tolman’s travails gave UltraTek/RJN’s Richard Taffinder and Martin Plowman – who was rapid in the second stint – a first Pro/Am victory and sixth in class.

Will Moore pitted from third but finished seventh along with Academy Motorsport co-driver Matt Nicoll-Jones after also serving a pitstop success penalty. Jacques Duyver and Charlie Hollings led home In2Racing team-mates Marcus Hoggarth and Jesse Anttila, while Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing’s Jake Giddings and Matt Chapman rounded out the top-10.

Optimum Motorsport were on course to celebrate the same kind of comeback as Ebor GT after starting on the back row before Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson worked their way up to third. But the contact that resulted in Team WRT’s grid penalty also spun their McLaren around at the Bus Stop Chicane and out of contention.

*A post-race investigation revealed that the #100 McLaren was involved in an avoidable incident with another competitor after the chequered flag, resulting in its exclusion from the meeting. All finishers behind therefore moved up one position.

10s – #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 – Minshaw/Keen
07s – #17 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Leonard/Ferte
05s – #39 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 – Bhirombhakdi/Van Dam
10s – #60 Ebor GT Maserati GT MC GT4 – Graham/Fagg
07s – #51 Lanan Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 – Reed/Pittard
05s – #55 HHC Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 – Tregurtha/Middleton

Ian Loggie and Callum Macleod broke their British GT Championship duck by claiming a maiden GT3 victory with Team Parker Racing and Bentley in today’s second race at Spa-Francorchamps. Meanwhile, Charlie Fagg and Matthew Graham’s Ebor GT Maserati sealed a second class win in the space of just over four hours in Belgium.

Jon Minhsaw might have added to his Race 1 victory but span out of the lead following contact with a GT4 car, which allowed Team WRT’s Alain Ferte and Stuart Leonard to claim their second runners-up spot of the day. They took the chequered flag just 0.3s behind the winning Continental GT3, while Macmillan AMR’s Jack Mitchell and James Littlejohn completed the overall podium a further 11.8s behind.

HHC Motorsport’s Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton went one better than their GT4 third place in Race 1 by passing David Pattison and Joe Osborne’s Tolman Motorsport McLaren on the final lap.

Winning the day’s first race meant Minshaw and Barwell Motorsport co-driver Phil Keen carried a 10s pitstop success penalty into the second. And having survived the opening lap onslaught, the latter duly set about converting pole position into a lead big enough to negate the handicap.

While the Lamborghini pulled clear, Carlo van Dam – up two places from fourth on the grid – held off front-row starter Macleod, the second Barwell Huracan driven by Patrick Kujala, Jonny Adam’s TF Sport Aston Martin and Seb Morris, who dropped from third to sixth at the start in Team Parker’s championship-chasing Bentley.

Meanwhile, Stuart Leonard – who was relegated six places on the grid for a Race 1 infringement – benefitted from lap one contact at Les Combes between Ryan Ratcliffe and Adam Christodoulou, which also subsequently involved Sam Tordoff. Seventh then became sixth just before the pitstops when Kujala retired.

Keen’s rapid opening stint ensured Minshaw retained the lead after the pit window closed despite remaining stationary for 10s longer than Loggie. However, the Bentley was on a charge and had slashed the gap from 4.4s to 0.9s when the Lamborghini spun while trying to avoid a recovering GT4 car.

Alain Ferte also moved into contention after the pitstops and benefitted from Rick Parfitt Jnr – who would have inherited second from Minshaw – picking up a drive-through penalty for multiple track limits violations across his and Morris’ stints. But although the Team WRT Audi kept Loggie honest over the closing laps, the Scot never looked overly threatened after backing off.

Fourth might have gone to Van Dam and Kessel Racing co-driver Piti Bhirombhakdi, but the pair had 30s added to their race time at the chequered flag in lieu of a drive-through penalty for a short pitstop.

Instead, the spate of issues and penalties played into the hands of Macmillan AMR whose Silver Cup pairing of James Littlejohn and Jack Mitchell came through from 11th to finish on the podium. It was a similar story for TF Sport’s Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes, and the Kornely Motorsport Mercedes-AMG driven by Kenneth Heyer and Patrick Assenheimer, who kept their noses clean to complete the top-five.

Adam and Derek Johnston were sixth in the second of TF Sport’s Aston Martins after the latter half-spun while attempting to pass Bhirombhakdi’s Ferrari. They finished ahead of Morris and Parfitt Jnr – whose penalty was compounded by spinning in avoidance of Minshaw’s stationary Lamborghini – and the penalised Kessel Ferrari. Minshaw recovered to pinch ninth from Lee Mowle’s Mercedes-AMG in the closing stages.

Keen and Minshaw therefore increase their championship lead from four to 12 points over Parfitt Jnr and Morris, while another podium for Mitchell and Littlejohn lifts them up to third, albeit 47.5 behind the leaders.

Elsewhere, Morris won the Sunoco Fastest Lap Award, and set a new British GT3 benchmark for Spa, with his Race 1 best of 2m18.821s, while Loggie’s Race 2 performance earned him the Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend trophy.

Matthew Graham and Charlie Fagg repeated their trick of charging through from a lowly grid slot to claim back-to-back GT4 victories aboard their Ebor GT Maserati.

This time it was Graham who picked his way through in the fast GranTurismo MC to lead by the end of his opening stint after passing Joe Osborne’s pole-sitting Tolman Motorsport McLaren. An extra 24s in the pits – 14 for being a Silver Cup entry and another 10 for winning Race 1 – meant Fagg resumed post-driver change in eighth. But that wasn’t enough to prevent Ebor GT’s entry from making up lost ground.

Osborne’s fast opening stint and lower minimum pitstop time gave his Am co-driver David Pattison a chance to stay ahead of the chasing Silver Cup drivers. Academy Motorsport’s Will Moore initially closed in and passed the McLaren before being handed a stop/go penalty for failing to serve the minimum pitstop time. Fagg was next on the scene and duly nipped through, but it wasn’t until the final lap that Will Tregurtha finally found a way past to give himself and HHC Motorsport co-driver Stuart Middleton a second podium of the weekend and, with it, the GT4 championship lead.

Pattison and Osborne still collected an overall podium and GT4 Pro/Am victory ahead of Optimum Motorsport’s Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson who converted a lowly grid slot into fourth.

Macmillan AMR’s Jan Jonck started second but dropped to sixth in the opening stint before co-driver William Phillips brought their Aston Martin home fifth, while Lanan Racing’s Alex Reed and David Pittard were another crew in the thick of things before the pitstops en route to sixth.

Academy’s drive-through penalty dropped Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones to seventh in the final classification, although their victory challenge before then owed much to the latter jumping from sixth to third at the start. Marcus Hoggarth and Jesse Anttila ran second early on before slipping to eighth but still came home one place ahead of In2Racing team-mates Jacques Duyver and Charlie Hollings. UltraTek/RJN’s Richard Taffinder and Martin Plowman rounded out the top-10.

Competing for a race-by-race entry meant neither Graham or Fagg scored the combined 50 points they would have done for winning both races. Instead, the full 25 available for Race 2 transfer to Tregurtha and Middleton who have jumped from third to first in the GT4 standings, 2.5 points clear of erstwhile leaders Reed and Pittard. A point-less weekend for previous championship contenders Adam Balon and Adam Mackay, as well as Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell, see reigning champions Johnson and Robinson promoted to third.

Graham claimed the Sunoco Fastest Lap Award and a new British GT4 race record thanks to the blistering 2m31.706s he set in Race 1, while track-club earned the PMW Expo Team of the Weekend accolade after spending Friday night and early hours of this morning repairing their McLaren’s blown turbo in time for Race 1.

Brands Hatch hosts British GT’s penultimate round of the season on August 5/6.

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