Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen extended their British GT Championship points lead by winning today’s first hour-long race at Spa-Francorchamps, while Matthew Graham and Charlie Fagg took advantage of two Safety Car periods and Tolman Motorsport’s late puncture to claim theirs, Ebor GT’s and Maserati’s maiden British GT4 victory despite starting dead last.
Two lengthy Safety Car periods played perfectly into Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen’s hands after pole-sitter Rick Parfitt Jnr was denied an opportunity to negate his and Team Parker Racing co-driver Seb Morris’ 10s pitstop success penalty.
Just two racing laps were completed during the first 28 minutes after Century Motorsport’s Steve Fresle crashed his Century Motorsport Ginetta at Raidillon on lap two, before a bizarre incident at the restart resulted in Nick Jones’ Porsche ramping up on top of Century’s second G55 GT4 driven by Anna Walewska at La Source.
Most of the field opted to pit when the window immediately opened upon the second caution period’s conclusion, including Minshaw. However, Team Parker’s decision to keep Parfitt Jnr out a little longer ultimately failed to help Morris, who returned to the action down in sixth.
Minshaw pitted from fourth but good work from Barwell’s mechanics helped their #33 Lamborghini inherit the lead after the Bentley and Macmillan AMR’s Aston Martin also stopped. Keen was relentless thereafter en route to a comfortable 14s victory and maximum points.
Alain Ferte started and ran fifth before the stops, but claimed second along with Team WRT co-driver Stuart Leonard thanks to the Belgian squad’s smart pit work. Leonard was just 0.850s clear of Carlo van Dam, whose co-driver Piti Bhirombhakdi stole the show at the start by jumping from fourth to first by the time the field reached Les Combes on lap one, although Parfitt Jnr used the same move to re-take the lead next time around.
A late issue for Patrick Kujala’s Barwell Lamborghini gifted Team Parker’s two Bentleys fourth and fifth. Callum Macleod led home Morris, who was just ahead of TF Sport’s Jon Barnes and Team ABBA with Rollcentre Racing’s Adam Christodoulou. Indeed, less than three seconds covered positions second-to-seventh at the chequered flag.
Barwell’s Sam Tordoff rounded out the top-eight ahead of Jonny Adam – whose TF Sport co-driver Derek Johnston spun on lap one – and Macmillan AMR’s Aston Martin, which was also handicapped by a pitstop success penalty and stopping later in the window.
A post-race penalty resulted in Team WRT’s Audi being given a six-place grid drop for Race 2 for making avoidable contact with cars #501 and #55.
A gearbox issue prevented Ebor GT’s Maserati from taking part in yesterday’s qualifying, but Matthew Graham and Charlie Fagg proved that was no obstacle after coming through from dead last to seal a famous first British GT4 victory for Maserati by 5.8s.
Their triumph came at the expense of Tolman Motorsport, David Pattison and Joe Osborne whose near-certain win was denied by a penultimate lap puncture.
Fagg started last of the 20-strong GT4 grid but stayed in the hunt by avoiding the two opening stint accidents and pulling off several passing moves to pit from 11th. Graham then continued his co-driver’s good work but it wasn’t until the frenetic final two laps that the scale of his and Fagg’s progress became apparent…
Earlier, Pattison had pitted from seventh in class but, crucially, second of the Pro/Am runners after picking up several places. With the Silver Cup entries serving a longer minimum pitstop time to balance their natural advantage, and In2Racing’s #29 McLaren carrying a success penalty, Osborne emerged with a handy lead that he extended as the laps ticked away. With two remaining he was 14s clear before a puncture and slow in-lap ended his and Tolman’s hopes of a first 2017 victory.
All eyes were now on those behind. Black Bull Garage 59’s Ciaran Haggerty inherited the lead but, at almost the same moment, was relieved of it by Graham who’d just passed both Stuart Middleton and David Pittard’s Ginettas in one lap. The McLaren Haggerty shares with Sandy Mitchell – who led the opening stint after passing pole-sitter Will Tregurtha – subsequently dropped to fourth* behind Middleton and Pittard, who also claimed second on the penultimate lap.
Macmillan AMR’s Jan Jonck and William Phillips ran in the top-five throughout and duly finished there, while Tolman’s travails gave UltraTek/RJN’s Richard Taffinder and Martin Plowman – who was rapid in the second stint – a first Pro/Am victory and sixth in class.
Will Moore pitted from third but finished seventh along with Academy Motorsport co-driver Matt Nicoll-Jones after also serving a pitstop success penalty. Jacques Duyver and Charlie Hollings led home In2Racing team-mates Marcus Hoggarth and Jesse Anttila, while Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing’s Jake Giddings and Matt Chapman rounded out the top-10.
Optimum Motorsport were on course to celebrate the same kind of comeback as Ebor GT after starting on the back row before Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson worked their way up to third. But the contact that resulted in Team WRT’s grid penalty also spun their McLaren around at the Bus Stop Chicane and out of contention.
*A post-race investigation revealed that the #100 McLaren was involved in an avoidable incident with another competitor after the chequered flag, resulting in its exclusion from the meeting. All finishers behind therefore moved up one position.
Result: Race 1