GT3 Battle Goes to Wire in British GT

Since Motorsport resumed in the UK back in July 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Intelligent Money British GT Championship has definitely been one of the most action packed in recent years. The latest round on the 3rd and 4th October was set to be a thriller, with Snetterton acting as the penultimate round of the 2020 season. With the race format switching back from Endurance to two one-hour sprints, there was plenty of opportunity for points, but more chance for drama. Whilst the GT3 Championship could be decided in Norfolk, the fact that the category had seen six different winners from six races, it would take a brave individual to predict a winner.

After taking victory back at Donington Park in September, RAM Racing’s Sam De Haan & Patrick Kujala entered Snetterton holding a slender championship lead of 9 points, but if the advantage could be more than 38 points at the end of race two, they would be crowned champions. Victory last time out put the crew in a good position, however they would serve the maximum pit-stop success penalty which could hinder their race strategy in race one. Hot on the heels of the Mercedes pair was regular championship contenders; Barwell Motorsport. The Lamborghini squad are targeting the title after another strong season, this time with two crews hunting down De Haan & Kajula. Leading their title hunt is Sandy Mitchell & Rob Collard in second, closely followed though by Adam Balon & Phil Keen, behind the series leader by 17.5 points. History favours the Barwell squad, but momentum more so with Phil Keen, who has multiple wins at Snetterton, recently back in 2019 when he & Adam Balon did the double. Outside the top three and still mathematically in the title hunt was the McLaren on James Baldwin & Michael O’Brien, racing for the Jenson Team Rocket RJN squad. Race winners back at the opening round at Oulton Park was their best result of the season, but lately qualifying pace has kept them in the title hunt leading to podiums on a regular basis, but more victories may be needed to keep up their challenge. The remaining crews in the GT3 field weren’t considered as championship contenders, but certainly capable of race wins. Previous race winners looking for their second in 2020 as part of the six were WPI Motorsport, with Michael Igoe & Andrea Caldarelli in the Lamborghini and Team Parker Racing; Nick Jones & Scott Malvern in the Bentley. Teams searching for their first victory in 2020 was the second RAM Racing Mercedes of Ian Loggie & Yelmer Buurman, ABBA Racing’s Mercedes of Richard & Sam Neary and McLarens in the hands of Angus Fender & Dean MacDonald (2 Seas Motorsport), Jordan Witt & Jack Mitchell (2 Seas Motorsport) and Lewis Proctor & Ollie Wilkinson (Optimum Motorsport).

Lastly the GT3 field was made up of two returnee crews as Balfe Motorsport were back with their McLaren 720S, driven by Stewart Proctor & Joe Osborne, whilst Duncan Cameron & Matt Griffin were back after Le Mans duties, in the AF Corse Ferrari 488.

7th GT3 Winner from Seven Races

The penultimate round was always going to be tense, but unfortunately, the British weather turned from sunshine in the week to torrential rain by the weekend, with crews requiring the rain tyres in nearly every session. After qualifying, Sam De Haan & Patrick Kajula lined up in the perfect position, on pole, however the stewards made the decision to begin the race behind the safety car. The safety car lasted for about ten minutes, reducing the race to 50mins but once departed, it was the 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren of Jordan Witt who made the most of the conditions to break into the lead, closely chased by the Optimum Motorsport McLaren of Lewis Proctor, as Sam De Haan slipped from the lead into third. With Rob Collard lying fourth the championship contenders were close on track, but for Adam Balon, he spun the Lamborghini exiting Palmer and slipped to the rear of the field, just ahead of the GT4 crews.

Conditions never looked like improving as the front four continued to race in close proximity, as the pit stop window arrived and the crews switched over to the Pro drivers. The pit stops were superb for the leading two, but for RAM Racing the pit-stop penalty saw them fall behind their championship rivals, but ahead of team mate, Yelmer Buurman. Whilst it looked likely that Patrick Kujala would remain ahead of Buurman through team orders, this never happened, as Buurman was faster and passed for fourth position. This left Kujala to defend off a charging Andrea Caldarelli in the WPI Motorsport Lamborghini, holding him off by 0.326 seconds at the flag.

Back at the front, Jack Mitchell had taken over from Jordan Witt and was mastering conditions in the 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren, lapping the GT4 traffic quicker than Ollie Wilkinson. The gap continued to increase lap after lap, allowing the crew to take their first GT3 victory for the rookie team, by an advantage of 7.790 seconds. Throughout much of the race, it looked certain that the Optimum Motorsport McLaren would end up taking the flag in second, however after a few laps slowed by the GT4 competitors, second wasn’t decided until exiting Murrays. As Ollie Wilkinson entered Murrays corner for the final time, a small slide and a poor exit onto the Senna Straight, gave Sandy Mitchell the opportunity to out drag the McLaren, securing second by 0.081 seconds, a crucial finish in terms of the championship with Barwell Motorsport scoring 18 points instead of 15.

Outside the top six, the Adam Balon & Phil Keen Barwell Motorsport recovered from their earlier spin to take seventh, comfortably ahead of the Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren, who finished eighth with Michael O’Brien taking the flag. Ninth in GT3 was the Balfe Motorsport McLaren, with tenth going to the Team Parker Racing Bentley who had a difficult race and was over 33 seconds behind.

British GT GT3 Snetterton Race One Top Five:

  1. 2 Seas Motorsport (Witt & Mitchell) – McLaren 720s = 1:00:07.407
  2. Barwell Motorsport (Collard & Mitchell) – Lamborghini Huracan = +7.790
  3. Optimum Motorsport (Proctor & Wilkinson) – McLaren 720s = + 7.871
  4. RAM Racing (Loggie & Buurman) – Mercedes AMG GT3 = +10.924
  5. RAM Racing (De Haan & Kujala) – Mercedes AMG GT3 = +29.354

Barwell Keep Up Tradition of a Snetterton Victory

For the second race of the weekend and a pivotal one in terms of the championship, the top two crews were now only separated by one point, with Barwell Motorsport holding a 1-2 on the front row after the Pro qualifying session on Saturday. The stewards allowed this race to begin as normal and from the rolling start, Phil Keen blasted his Lamborghini into the lead and ahead of team mate, Sandy Mitchell. Settling into third was Yelmer Buurman in the RAM Racing Mercedes, whilst team mate and championship leader Patrick Kujala battled behind over fourth, with Andrea Caldarelli’s WPI Motorsport Lamborghini. After victory in race one, Jack Mitchell slotted the 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren into sixth, holding position until the pit stop window.

As the pit stop window arrived, the top six were in comfortable positions, which enabled Phil Keen to hand over to Adam Balon without any pressure and return to the track in the lead by thirty seconds and on course for a dominant victory. When Sandy Mitchell handed over to Rob Collard, it should have been a Barwell 1-2, but an issue with the seatbelts lost the crew time, handing second to Ian Loggie. Loggie’s position was under pressure though, with Michael Igoe lapping quicker. Behind Igoe watching on was the RAM Racing Mercedes of Sam De Haan, targeting championship points with Rob Collard dropped down to fifth. As the clock ticked down, Loggie’s grip on second ended, as Igoe’s pressure resulted in a small mistake, costing Loggie two places, in what would remain unchanged to the chequered flag.

Outside the top five, James Baldwin took the flag in sixth, after passing race one winner Jordan Witt and dropping the 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren to seventh, which then became eighth as Lewis Proctor jumped ahead on the final lap, bagging seventh for Optimum Motorsport. Angus Fender & Dean MacDonald finished up behind their team mates in ninth, whilst Joe Osborne and Stewart Proctor were tenth in the Balfe Motorsport McLaren.

British GT GT3 Snetterton Race Two Top Five:

  1. Barwell Motorsport (Balon & Keen) – Lamborghini Huracan = 1:01:02.826
  2. WPI Motorsport (Igoe & Caldarelli) – Lamborghini Huracan = +6.935
  3. RAM Racing (De Haan & Kujala) – Mercedes AMG GT3 = +11.241
  4. RAM Racing (Loggie & Buurman) – Mercedes AMG GT3 = +12.500
  5. Barwell Motorsport (Collard & Mitchell) – Lamborghini Huracan = +13.097

The crews now have just a month to wait for the “Behind Closed Doors” season finale, which is the Silverstone Three Hours on the 7th and 8th November. In what could be an unpredictable finale due to the potential November weather, Sam De Haan & Patrick Kujala maintain the GT3 Championship lead, but the advantage is only six points over Sandy Mitchell & Rob Collard, 136.5 versus 130.5. With 37 points available at Silverstone, Adam Balon & Phil Keen rescued their title hunt with victory in race two, now only 11.5 points behind. Realistically it is a three-horse race for the title, but the maths show that GT3 will be fought between four crews, as James Baldwin & Michael O’Brien sit 34 points behind on 102.5 points in the Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren.

To follow the action at Silverstone with no spectators allowed, the race will be shown live on social media channels and https://www.britishgt.com/.

To see more photos from the Snetterton round, please click here.

Written and Produced by Cheryl Closs and Chris Collier

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