Michael Igoe and Andrea Caldarelli produced a perfect performance in challenging wet conditions to score theirs and WPI Motorsport’s maiden Intelligent Money British GT Championship wins in today’s endurance race at Donington Park.
The Pro/Am-entered Lamborghini, which started ninth, denied RAM Racing’s Sam De Haan and Patrick Kujala victory with just nine of the 120 minutes remaining. RAM’s other Mercedes-AMG shared by Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman completed the overall podium.
Further back, TF Sport’s Aston Martins finished one-two after Patrick Kibble and Connor O’Brien beat team-mates Jamie Caroline and Daniel Vaughan. Sam Smelt and James Kell finished third in the Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Supra.
Andrea Caldarelli’s successful pursuit of both Sandy Mitchell and Patrick Kujala might have set up a thrilling finish to the day’s first race, but it was the groundwork initially laid by Michael Igoe that put the Lamborghini factory ace in a potentially race-winning position.
Conditions dictated that proceedings begin behind the Safety Car but only two slow laps were necessary before racing began in earnest.
Igoe’s workload was instantly lightened by both 2 Seas Motorsport McLarens starting from the pitlane, but that didn’t account for Ian Loggie (RAM Racing), Lewis Proctor (Optimum Motorsport) and Adam Balon (Barwell Motorsport) who were all dispatched within the first 25 minutes.
Ahead, a fantastic scrap between pole-sitter Michael O’Brien (Jenson Team Rocket RJN), Rob Collard (Barwell Motorsport) and Sam De Haan (RAM Racing) ultimately saw the former BTCC ace establish a slender advantage over the chasing Mercedes-AMG, which dived for the pits at the first opportunity.
Barwell though were content to play the long game in the hope that a Safety Car or the potential need for slicks would negate their Huracan’s 15s Success Penalty. Collard eventually pitted with 41 minutes remaining, by which time fresher tyres and a five-second-shorter Success Penalty allowed Kujala to assume the lead.
Further back, Caldarelli was now also aboard WPI’s Huracan and homing in on the top-three. First, O’Brien’s co-driver James Baldwin was reeled in and passed before Sandy Mitchell – who’d taken over from Collard – was also dispatched in short order.
Kujala was now just six seconds further up the road, a gap that Caldarelli steadily whittled away over the next 20 minutes. Biding his time, the Italian finally made his move exiting Goddards before sweeping around the outside at Redgate. 6.3s separated him from RAM’s Silver Cup-winning Mercedes-AMG at the finish.
Behind, more factory Pros were making their presence felt as first Yelmer Buurman and then Phil Keen also passed Mitchell’s heavier Lamborghini. It was an especially impressive performance from Keen who set fastest lap en route to fourth after overcoming the full 20s Success Penalty following Balon’s pitstop.
Mitchell and Collard completed the top-five ahead of Nearys Richard and Sam after the latter carved his way through the field over the second half of the race. Indeed, Neary Jnr’s times in ABBA Racing’s Mercedes-AMG were comparable to those of the factory Pros.Jordan Witt and Jack Mitchell rescued a trying race for 2 Seas Motorsport after their #10 McLaren started from the pitlane. The duo overcame erstwhile championship leaders O’Brien and Baldwin who were unable to capitalise on their pole position.
Patrick Kibble and Connor O’Brien made it two wins from three British GT outings this year after taking advantage of a Success Penalty-free race.
Having won the opening event at Oulton, O’Brien and Kibble’s weekend ended with damage that put them out of the second race. But at Donington there would be no mistake, with the pair running out clear winners of an entertaining opening scrap.
The TF Sport Aston Martin Vantages excelled in the tricky conditions, with the sister entry of Jamie Caroline and Daniel Vaughan successfully overturning a 15-second Success Penalty to make it a one-two for Tom Ferrier’s squad.
HHC had set the pace during qualifying, with Patrik Matthiesen starting the pole-sitting McLaren 570S he shares with Jordan Collard, and James Kell taking the first stint in the Toyota from second.
But it was Caroline who was the star of the opening segment. Starting his Aston back in fourth, he enjoyed a stellar first lap to climb into second and chase down Matthiesen, before snatching an early lead on lap two.
Caroline’s early pass would prove decisive, as Matthiesen’s defending soon formed a five-car train that allowed TF’s #97 Vantage to escape up front.
Kibble had started the sister Aston from fifth, but worked his way into third to pressure Matthiesen, with Kell’s Toyota directly behind. That set up a breathless three-car battle, which featured the McLaren, Aston and Toyota running together repeatedly into the Melbourne Hairpin. Kibble managed to breach Matthiesen’s defence on lap nine, but then threw it all away by running wide at Goddards.
Kibble eventually made the move for second stick five laps later, by which point Caroline was already the best part of 20 seconds up the road. It should have been straightforward from there, but GT racing is rarely predictable.
Caroline’s comfortable lead was rocked when he sustained rear-end damage in a rub with Ian Loggie’s GT3 Mercedes, which left the Aston with its rear splitter dragging on the floor. The compromised aerodynamics opened the door for Kibble, who ate into Caroline’s lead to trail by just nine seconds when he dived into the pits to hand to O’Brien with just over 40 minutes left.
TF opted to leave Caroline out until the final moment, hoping conditions may improve enough for slick tyres or a Safety Car, but with gathering cloud Caroline finally gave way on lap 42 after a mammoth stint. With the additional 15 seconds stationary to serve, O’Brien found himself with a 10-second lead over Vaughan when the order shook out after the stops. From there, O’Brien just had to nurse the gap back to the wounded sister car to secure the win – ensuring the partnership has won every race it has finished so far this year.
While he could do nothing about the lead car, Vaughan did inherit a comfortable lead over Sam Smelt, who had taken the Toyota over from Kell and rejoined third. Smelt had to fend off heavy pressure from Jordan Albert’s Academy Motorsport Mustang, which Matt Cowley had briefly steered into the lead by being the last GT4 runner to stop, but the Toyota ultimately had enough in-hand to secure both the Speedworks team and the Toyota Supra’s first British GT podium.
Behind Albert, Gus Bowers brought the HHC McLaren he shared with Chris Wesemael home in fifth, ahead of the Matthiesen/Collard sister car. Mia Flewitt/Euan Hankey took the Pro/Am honours in seventh place aboard their Balfe Motorsport McLaren, while Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke/Ben Hurst completed the finishers in Century Motorsport’s BMW M4.