ERC Sport took a shock win at Rockingham, getting Lee Mowle and Yelmer Buurman’s season on track, in what turned out to be a Rockingham race that lacked the outright drama in GT4, but plenty of penalties and incidents in the GT3 ranks. The race featured no less than four safety cars and ultimately it was the #116 ERC Mercedes AMG GT3 that kept its nose the cleanest and moved up from 12th on the grid to inherit a fine win.
The harshest incident was a race-ending crash into the unforgiving concrete wall for Shaun Balfe, just as it looked as though his McLaren was going to be a real podium challenger. That brought out the first safety car.
Haigh slipped wide on some oil and lost positions and Parfitt’s move the other way up the field was curtailed when he was tapped into a spin by Derek Johnston in the #17 Aston Martin. This left Johnston and Sorensen to fight back hard from a drive-through penalty and they managed to inherit second place.
Helping them to do so were pitlane issues for Barwell. Minshaw had his helmet off during the driver change in the #33, leading to a 10 second stop-go penalty, and #69 which had at times challenged Minshaw for the lead, lost 30 laps due to a very long pitstop. To be fair to EBC, Buurman was ahead of Keen on pace before the #33’s penalty.
The #47 Aston Martin was driven very effectively by both drivers pacewise and was a probable winner, but unfortunately too many track limit transgressions led to a drive-through for them. TF Sport’s #11 Aston Martin had an intermittent electrical problem and so despite being easily amongst the fastest pairings most of the time, the lap they lost to the problem dropped them out of ultimate contention.
So Buurman drove home to victory, clear of Sorensen and Macleod, who drove really well to take third from Turner on the final lap. Adam, Martin and Keen all finished almost together behind in fourth to seventh.
In GT4, Callum Pointon and Patrick Matthiesen (#55 HHC Ginetta) triumphed, after battling for the lead for much of the first half of the race, and taking over the top spot after the round of stops.
Before the early safety car due to the Balfe McLaren/Invictus Jaguar incident, Matthiesen had the #55 up to second from its fourth-place grid slot, with polesitter Charlie Fagg retaining the lead in the #4 Tolman McLaren. The #68 Steller Toyota made a brief pit visit in the early stages with gear selection problems, giving Tom Canning a lot to do to get back in contention.
Ben Green in the #42 Century BMW also made progress early on, advancing from sixth to third, which is where he was when the field was released from under the safety car with an hour and 40 minutes of the race remaining. Daniel McKay in the #10 Equipe Verschuur McLaren had a good restart and moved to fourth in class, ahead of Academy Motorsport driver Will Moore in the #62 Aston. Moore himself then surrendered another place to Lewis Proctor in the #5 Tolman McLaren, who moved to fifth behind McKay after 15 laps of racing. Moore fought back, however, and was once again fifth by the next lap.
Further down the field, David Pattison was left stranded on the outside of Chapman’s after a coming-together with the #88 Team Hard Ginetta – and his recovery would necessitate the second safety-car deployment of the race. This also ended up covering the recovery the #34 Team Hard Ginetta of Anna Walewska, which retired from the race. Green-flag running resumed with just under 90 minutes to go and with established gaps wiped out, Matthiesen was all over the back of Fagg for the lead of the class.
Incidents in GT3 saw Fagg now in the overall top 10 as well as leading GT4, still ahead of a train composed of Matthiesen, Green, McKay, Moore, Proctor and Team Parker Mercedes man Nick Jones. McKay moved up to third and the top three began to pull away from the rest of the pack, but not from each other, circulating nose-to-tail as the first hour wound down. Matthiesen finally made a move for the lead stick at almost exactly the one-hour mark and the pit stops began not long after.
Having not finished on the podium in Oulton Park’s aborted second race, none of the top three in GT4 had extra pit time to serve, beyond the usual 20 seconds extra that Silver-Silver pairings have to remain stationary compared to Pro-Am entries. Once they’d all emerged and the order shook out, the safety car was deployed due to a stranded Invictus Jaguar on the inside of turn one.
Circulating behind the safety car, the order was now Matthiesen’s co-driver Pointon ahead of Fagg’s co-driver Michael O’Brien. Adam Balon’s #72 Track Club McLaren, the leading Pro-Am entry, had risen to third overall having benefited from its shorter pitstop length and was now being driven by Ben Barnicoat. The Daniel McKay McLaren was now running fourth in the hands of Finlay Hutchison.
Barely any time had elapsed before there was another safety-car period due to the GT3 Nissan leaving the track at Tarzan. When the green flag flew again, 35 minutes of racing remained. Track-Club’s chances of an overall GT4 podium or even win were almost immediately dealt a blow in the form of a stop-go penalty for a pitstop infringement. That promoted Hutchison to third in the Equipe Verschuur car, but he soon yielded to the challenge of Jesse Antilla, another Pro-Am runner, in the #54 UltraTek Nissan started by Stephen Johansen. Antilla made further progress with 20 minutes to go, hauling the RJN-run 370Z into second in class and 10 seconds adrift of leader Pointon.
With 13 minutes left, Matt Nicoll-Jones in the #62 Aston started by Moore briefly got past Hutchison for fourth in class, but the positions were reversed next time around as Hutchison remained very close to Michael O’Brien’s McLaren ahead in third. The battle raged on and Nicoll-Jones was in front again at the end of lap 71, and with the wind in his sails, he also passed O’Brien to get the Aston on to the overall class podium with just a few minutes remaining.
Martin Plowman also had a late surge in the #53 UltraTek Nissan started by Kelvin Fletcher, getting past Hutchison for fifth in class and harrying O’Brien hard for several laps until moving up to fourth on the final tour – third, fourth and fifth crossed the line almost nose-to-tail.
So it finished with the Pointon/Mathiassen Ginetta 23 seconds ahead of the Antilla/Johansen Nissan (winners of GT4 Pro-Am), with the Academy Aston a further lap back in third (second in GT4 Silver) and the Plowman/Fletcher four seconds behind in fourth (second in Pro-Aam). O’Brien and Fagg completed the Silver podium in sixth overall in fifth overall, while you have to look down to 10th overall to find the third Pro-Am runner: the #501 Balfe/PMW McLaren of Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson.
Photos courtesy of British GT