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Minshaw & Keen Open Their Account

Track-Club McLaren takes GT4 honours

Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen made a winning start to their 2017 British GT campaign at Oulton Park on Easter Monday morning, driving a controlled race from second on the grid in the #33 Barwell Lamborghini to eventually finish 37 seconds clear of their nearest challenger, the other Barwell-run Lamborghini of Sam Tordoff and Liam Griffin. Reigning champions Jonny Adam and Derek Johnston completed the podium in the #1 TF Sport Aston Martin, having started on the back row of the grid.

At the start, Minshaw outdragged polesitter Rick Parfitt in the #31 Team Parker Bentley on the run down to Old Hall. Following a slight grass-cutting moment at Knickerbrook on the first lap, the Demon Tweeks boss then proceeded to build a comfortable gap at the head of the field during his stint.

Third-place qualifier Jack Mitchell’s race was over before it began when the #24 Aston Martin started pouring smoke and fluid on the grid just before the green-flag lap. The car was pushed off the grid in time for the start, and although the team did manage to get it back out for a few laps, the problem reappeared.

With Parfitt relatively comfortable in second, interest in the first half of the race centred mainly on positions three to six, with Liam Griffin leading a close train of cars in the #6 Lamborghini. Fourth-place Harry Gottsacker in the #69 Century Ginetta was pushing Mark Farmer in the #11 TF Sport Aston hard for a podium spot, but behind them Lee Mowle in the AMD Mercedes went from hero to zero in a short space of time, sneaking past Gottsacker into Old Hall, but then getting wide on the grass at Island and ending up in the barriers.

A spinning GT4 Nissan then allowed Johnston (who’d already made up a place when Ian Loggie spun the #7 Parker Bentley) to get past Gottsacker, putting the TF Sport Aston that had started at the back into fifth position ahead of the pit window.

After the stops, Adam immediately started making progress, passing both Jon Barnes in the sister #11 Aston and then Seb Morris in the #31 Bentley to move up to third, where the car would finish the race. Sam Tordoff did similarly good work after taking over the #6 Lamborghini from Liam Griffin, also getting past Morris to move up to that car’s eventual finishing position of second.

As the track dried out towards the end of the race, Morris began to come back at Tordoff, but couldn’t get close enough to try for the podium before time was up. Fifth went to the #11 Aston, while Matt Griffin made it to sixth in the Spirit Of Race Ferrari after a fighting stint that saw him pass both Martin Short’s Abba/Rollcentre Mercedes and Calum Macleod in the #7 Bentley, just pipping the latter at the flag.

The first GT4 encounter of the 2017 British season had the feeling of ‘the race no-one wanted to win’ after problems in the pits for one car and a pit-stop time penalty for another altered the likely outcome twice in the second half. The eventual winners were Adam Balon and Adam Mackay in the #72 Track-Club McLaren 570S, ahead of the #55 HHC Ginetta and #62 Academy Motorsport Aston Martin.

A hectic opening lap saw that #62 car, started from third by Will Moore, lose its bonnet after contact with the #42 Macmillan Aston Martin. Up front, polesitter Sandy Mitchell in the #100 Black Bull McLaren maintained his advantage in the early laps, while behind him Will Tregurtha in the HHC Ginetta was soon passed for second by Moore, whose car seemed to suffer no ill effects from the lost bodywork. Eventual winner Balon kept a watching brief in fourth, ahead of a furious train of cars battling for fifth.

Mitchell led comfortably through his stint and the car looked on course for an easy win before what looked like an issue with the left rear wheel hub severely delayed Ciaran Haggerty’s rejoining for the second half. That left Matt Nicoll-Jones in the box seats in the #62 Aston, but he was being closed down rapidly by #72 McLaren (now in the hands of Mackay) before the car was hit by an 18-second stop-go penalty for an incorrect pit stop time.

The penalty promoted Stuart Middleton (who’d taken over the HHC Ginetta from Tregurtha) to second, but Nicoll-Jones was able to rejoin in the final podium position in the #62 Aston. Incredibly, the leading McLaren was also hit by a stop-go penalty for a pit timing error, but its was only 1.5 seconds, allowing Mackay to preserve his class lead to the flag.

Reigning champions Graham Johnston and Mike Robinson kickstarted their title defence with a hard-fought fourth place in the PMW/Optimum Ginetta, ahead of Jan Jonck and William Phillips in Macmillan’s GT4 Aston and Dave Pittard/Alex Reed-crewed #51 Lanan Ginetta.

UPDATE: Subsequently the Academy Motorsport Aston was excluded from the results due to the contact at the start of the race, promoting the PMW car onto the podium.