(UPDATE: Post-race penalty for Dennis Lind sees Jonny Adam and Graham Davidson confirmed as 2019 British GT Champions in the #47 TF Sport Aston Martin, so TF Sport take both titles)
Barwell Lamborghini duo Sam de Haan and Jonny Cocker are the provisional 2019 British GT champions by half a point, but a late-race incident involving fellow title protagonist Jonny Adam in the #47 TF Sport Aston and WPI Lamborghini driver Dennis Lind could yet alter the outcome of the championship in the steward’s office.
What isn’t in doubt is that Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell have won the Britsh GT season finale in fine style in the #22 Balfe Motorsport McLaren, with a near-perfect lights-to-flag run that overcame a 15-second pitstop success penalty carried due to their second-place finish at Brands Hatch.
The situation is more clear-cut in GT4, where TF Sport’s Ash Hand and Tom Canning have been crowned driver’s champions, having finished third on the road behind the Seb Priaulx/Scott Maxwell Multimatic Mustang and the race-winning Steller Motorsport Audi of Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding, who ended their year with their second overall GT4 victory.
GT3: As it happened
Two incidents involving GT4 cars on the formation lap led to a single-file safety-car start for the two-hour race, which played nicely into the hands of polesitter Balfe in the #22 McLaren. He streaked away from the green flag and had built up a 7.5-second lead on second-place man Ian Loggie in the Ram Racing Mercedes within just a few laps.
Loggie himself had got ahead of championship contender Adam Balon in the early laps around Melbourne hairpin, dropping the #72 Lamborghini into the clutches of Balon’s title rival Graham Davidson in the #47 TF Sport Aston Martin in fourth. Davidson had to give best to Angus Fender in the #9 Century BMW a few laps later, however, dropping to fifth on the road.
Early losers in GT3 were Rick Parfitt in the JRM Bentley and Mark Farmer in the #2 TF Sport Aston Martin, who had both dropped down among the GT4 field before long.
Up front, Fender’s strong progress continued with a move down the inside of Balon through Melbourne on lap 11, leaving Balon once again defending from Davidson’s Aston. Davidson found a way past as they lapped the GT4-class KTM, moving ahead of the Barwell Lamborghini on lap 12, and after light side-to-side contact with the GT4 machine, Balon’s loss of momentum amid busy traffic saw him cede another place, to the second Century BMW piloted by Dominic Paul.
Now dealing with steering damage in the #72 as a result of the KTM contact, Balon’s reverse progress continued, with Barwell team-mate de Haan and Abba Mercedes man Richard Neary also sneaking past, leaving the championship leader in eighth by the end of lap 12. Two further positions went next lap around: Ryan Ratcliffe’s Team Parker Bentley and Michael Igoe’s WPI Lamborghini were now into eighth and ninth.
By lap 17, Balfe had extended his lead over Loggie to 15 seconds, enough to cancel out the pitstop success penalty the car was carrying. Balon, meanwhile had halted his position losses at 11th, with Andrew Howard’s Beechdean Aston Martin, Shamus Jennings’ G-Cat Porsche and the recovering Farmer and Parfitt the only GT3 runners behind him.
With Balfe now far ahead in the lead, Loggie, Fender and Davidson were still circulating within two seconds of each other by the end of lap 27, but on the 28th tour, Loggie had a grassy moment at the Old Hairpin, allowing Fender through into second. Loggie just held off Davidson as he rejoined the track going up the hill.
Battles developed further down the GT3 field as the halfway mark approached, with de Haan close behind Paul and Neary biffing the left-rear corner of Igoe’s Lamborghini going onto the Melbourne Loop, but both cars continuing. Neary was subsequently handed a drive-through penalty for the incident, but pulled to a halt in the pitlane and got out of the car due to damage from the clash.
Up ahead, Davidson muscled his way past Loggie to take third on lap 33, while a few laps later, Paul’s battle with de Haan came to a premature and smoky end in the pitlane, as the Century BMW was backed into the garage with a seemingly terminal mechanical issue. Not long after these two unscheduled pit visits, the scheduled stops began, with leader Balfe handing the #22 to Rob Bell with a 25-second cushion to the second-place BMW of Fender, who’d shortly cede the wheel to Jack Mitchell.
Just after the stops, the #72 Lamborghini’s championship hopes came to an end with apparent right-rear suspension failure that sent Phil Keen straight on during his first attempt to negotiate the Craner Curves. He was able to bring the car back to the pits for frantic attention, and once the mechanics managed to get the loose wheel off, repairs were effected and Keen joined down among the GT4 runners, six laps down on the GT3 leaders, but was effectively game over once again for British GT’s long-time ‘nearly man’.
That left Cocker in the #69 Lamborghini fifth and having to pass TF Sport’s Adam and one more car in order to clinch the title for himself and de Haan. The complexion of the race then changed with the deployment of the safety car on lap 54 after two GT4 runners came together at the Old Hairpin. On the restart, Bell led from Loggie’s co-driver Callum MacLeod, ahead of Mitchell, Adam and Cocker and Dennis Lind, the Dane now at the wheel of the WPI Lamborghini started by Igoe.
Adam came under pressure from a twin Lamborghini attack of Lind and Cocker within the last 10 minutes and things came to a head at the Old Hairpin as the trio came up to lap a GT4 McLaren. Contact between the front of Lind’s Huracan and the rear of Adam’s Vantage saw Adam lose two positions, promoting Cocker to fourth at the flag, enough to clinch the title for himself and de Haan by half a point.
However, should Lind be penalised by the stewards, resulting in Adam gaining a place in the official published result, the title will instead go to the Scotsman for a fourth time, with his co-driver Graham Davidson claiming his maiden championship win in his second year of British GT. The on-track incident remains under investigation at the time of writing – DSC will bring you and update as soon as a decision is reached.
(UPDATE: Lind was indeed penalised for the contact, so it’s a fourth British GT title for Jonny Adam, and a maiden championship win in the series for Graham Davidson.)
Ahead of all this, Bell had an untroubled run to the flag to seal the Balfe McLaren 720S’ first victory of the season, a deserved result in most eyes after the car’s strong run of podium finishes and near-misses in recent rounds.
Loggie and Macleod finished second in the Ram Mercedes, while Angus Fender and Jack Mitchell took their second podium finish in succession in the #9 BMW. Behind fourth-place de Haan and Cocker, Lind and Adam finished fifth and sixth on the road, but those positions could yet change depending on the outcome of the stewards’ inquiry.
Seb Morris and Valentin Hasse-Clot brought the JRM Bentley and Beechdean Aston Martin across the line in seventh and eight respectively, although there was last-lap contact between Morris and Bradley Ellis in the Optimum Aston Martin that dropped that latter car to ninth in the final classification.
GT4: As it happened
A bizarre incident saw contact between the #19 Multimatic Mustang of Ashley Davies and the #66 Team Parker Mercedes of Nick Jones on the formation lap. This resulted in a single-file start under the safety car several laps later after the cars had been dealt with, while the #43 Century BMW’s race was also run before any racing laps were completed, Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke pulling off and into the garage.
After the pre-race incidents, the leaders in GT4 remained stable for much of the opening stint, with polesitter Williams leading from Canning in the #97 TF Sport Aston and Pointon in the #57 HHC McLaren initially. Pointon lost two positions on lap 14, with Patrick Kibble in the #95 TF Sport Aston and Scott Maxwell in the #15 Multimatic Mustang rising to third and fourth in class in the process.
Williams was just over half a second ahead of Canning by lap 20, with Kibble a further seven seconds behind and ideally placed to play ‘rear gunner’ to his championship-leading team-mate Hand in the #97. Maxwell, Pointon and Patrik Mathiassen in the #75 Optimum Aston filled out the top six at this juncture.
The class lead changed hands on lap 28, with Canning get ahead of Williams through McLeans; not long after the pit window for the GT4 runners opened.
Sennan Fielding, from Ash Hand, Seb Priaulx, Josh Price, Martin Plowman and Mikey Broadhurst was the order once the stops had been run through. Excitement levels rose on lap 54 when established gaps were wiped out by the safety car for the incident between the #35 Optimum Aston of Connor O’Brien and the Race Performance Mustang of Aron Taylor Smith, with Hand and Canning still headed for the championship as long as things remained as they were.
Hand lost a place to Priaulx shortly after the restart, but his title was still safe as long as he didn’t lose another two places, which would have seen the Priaulx/Maxwell car win a tie-breaker on the number of race victories. That wasn’t how it played out in the end, however, with Fielding in the Steller Audi leading home Priaulx and Hand to complete the podium.
Fourth at the flag was Plowman in the #11 Beechdean Aston Martin, securing a comfortable Pro-Am title win for him and (soon to be Strictly Come Dancing-famous) co-driver Kelvin Fletcher. The #75 and #95 Aston Martins were fifth and sixth, while Broadhurst in seventh in the #77 Fox Motorsport Mercedes and Michael O’Brien in eighth in the #20 Balfe McLaren completed the Pro-Am podium.