The #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 of Seb Morris and Rick Parfitt Jr has won the British GT Championship’s two-hour endurance race at Rockingham. The result came after a post-race penalty for the Duncan Cameron/Matt Griffin AF Corse Ferrari, which had 26 seconds added to its race time after stewards deemed it had gained an unfair advantage after contact during a pass.
That left the Ferrari second, ahead of the #24 Macmillan AMR Aston Martin Vantage, which had a very strong race in the hands of James Littlejohn and Jack Mitchell. Littlejohn’s demon start, going from ninth to third on the first lap, was the foundation of the crew’s first British GT podium.
Polesitter Derek Johnston initially retained the lead in the #1 TF Sport Aston Martin, while his team-mate Mark Farmer in the #11 car lost out the Barwell Lamborghini of Jon Minshaw at the start. Johnston, Minshaw and Littlejohn then pulled away at the head of the field, with Johnston first being passed by Minshaw but Littlejohn then overcoming both of them to move into the lead.
An off at Gracelands for Farmer meant that eventual first and second-place finishers Rick Parfitt Jr and Duncan Cameron were running fourth and fifth at this point and it was around now that Cameron picked up five-second penalty (applied ‘live’ on the timing screens) for track-limits violations.
With the Macmillan Aston carrying no success penalty from Oulton Park, Mitchell emerged after the pit stops ahead of Morris in the Bentley and the AmD Tuning Mercedes (started by Lee Mowle and now in the hands of Ryan Ratcliffe). Having to stop for longer meant that Jonny Adam rejoined off the podium positions in the #1 Aston and would eventually come home eighth.
Ratcliffe was soon passed by a charging Griffin, however, and with the five-second penalty in mind, the Irishman got the bit between his teeth and set off in pursuit of Mitchell and Morris ahead. In the process of Griffin takin the lead, there was contact between the Ferrari and Bentley, which the stewards later announced would be investigated post-race.
With under half an hour to go, Griffin’s attempt to eke out the necessary five-second gap to negate the 488’s penalty was hampered by the deployment of the safety car (the third of the race). At this point an unusual situation arose whereby safety car’s requirement to pick up the race leader conflicted with the fact that although Griffin was leading on track, the timing screens had him fifth.
The decision from race control was to have the safety car wave the green Ferrari past, which resulted in a 25-second lead for Griffin over Morris by the time the chequered flag dropped. The Spirit of Race Ferrari was the winner on track, but the stewards’ investigation for contact subsequently penalised the car 26 seconds, enough to undo the advantage gained from the safety-car wave-by.
Behind this unusual race finish, Mitchell drove well to hold off the pair of Barwell Lamborghinis, which wound up fourth and fifth, with the #33 Minshaw/Keen entry just edging their team-mates Liam Griffin and Sam Tordoff in the #6. Mowle and Ratcliffe meanwhile finished a strong sixth in the AmD Tuning Mercedes, leading home the two TF Sport Aston Martins.
Post-race, British GT championship manager Benjamin Franissovici commented: “What happened today with the Safety Car procedure was very unfortunate, but given the letter of the regulations, not something we could have controlled. We follow the MSA’s regulations, which state the Safety Car must pick up the race leader, which in official timing was not the #21 Spirit of Race Ferrari. Race Control therefore had no choice but to wave it by. Applying in-race time penalties contributed to this, but these are the rules by which we and others race under the MSA’s jurisdiction. Today we found an anomaly, which will be investigated fully. One way or another there must be changes to avoid this situation from arising again.”
In contrast to the confusion in GT3, the GT4 class produced a much more straightforward result as Stuart Middleton and Will Tregurtha celebrated their first GT victory in only their second British GT race meeting, triumphing in the #55 HHC Motorsport Ginetta (above).
Tregurtha had lost his pole position to fellow Ginetta driver Alex Reed (Lanan Racing) and Ciaran Haggerty in the #100 Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren at the start. A brief safety car period saw Haggerty nab the lead on the restart, before Tregurtha came alive, repassed Reed and set off in hot pursuit of Haggerty.
The Ginetta Junior graduate managed to hold the lead for around half a lap at one point, but although Haggerty got back into P1, the two were rarely more than a few tenths apart until the pit window arrived. Tregurtha elected to leave it as late as possible to hand over to Middleton.
The second half of the race began with Haggerty’s co-driver Sandy Mitchell and Middleton in much the same positions, but with slightly fresher tyres, the latter was able to catch and pass the McLaren, building up a lead of nearly 10 seconds by the end of the race.
Behind the Garage 59 car, Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson guided the #501 PMW/Optimum Ginetta to third. They had to contend with a 10-second pit success penalty after their podium finish at Oulton, while the 20 seconds of additional time faced by the Lanan Racing car was a factor in Reed and co-driver David Pattison’s eventual finishing position of sixth. Ahead of the, the other Garage 59 McLaren was fourth Macmillan’s GT4 Aston was fifth.