With the decade drawing to a close, EnduranceandGT looks back at ten memorable moments from ten years of the British GT Championship, regarded by many as the most competitive domestic GT series in the world. This ‘walk down memory lane’ is not in any particular order and readers will have their own opinions as to the validity, or not, of the author’s inclusions. And that’s fine – sport should encourage healthy debate, especially when discussing its greatest moments.
Let’s start by looking at one of the world’s best GT drivers and coaches…
September 2019 – Jonny Adam’s Fourth GT3 Drivers Title.
Launching his career competing in the 2003 Formula Ford Zetec Scotland championship, Kirkaldy-born Adam moved into GT racing in 2015, making his British GT Championship debut in the #007 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3, driving with teammate and team owner Andrew Howard.
The Beechdean duo wrapped up the GT3 drivers title that season, providing Adam with his first taste of GT glory. Adam returned for 2016 with TF Sport and a new teammate; Derek Johnston, again winning the overall drivers title at the final round in Donington.
By now Adam, an Aston Martin factor driver, was enjoying success on a global level, winning the 2017 LMGTE Pro title at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. 2018 saw Adam partner with Flick Haigh at Optimum Motorsport, whom he coached to the overall title. Arguably by now the world’s greatest GT3 driver-coach, Adam used both at-circuit training as well as pre-race weekend simulator sessions to bring out the best in his amateur co-drivers.
2019 was probably Jonny Adam’s best year in the British GT Championship. Early season disappointment saw the Scots pairing of Jonny Adam and Graham Davidson dig in to take two victories on the way to wrapping up the overall title in a nail-biting final round at Donington.
Not only a highly competitive racer, Jonny Adam is a nice guy who is always generous with his time with his fans and the media.
September 2015 – Jamie Chadwick Wins GT4 Title With Ross Gunn.
Jamie Chadwick had begun her car-racing career in 2012, piloting a Ginetta G40 in the Ginetta Junior Winter Series. By the time her British GT Championship GT4 championship-winning season arrived, Chadwick had four seasons experience in the G40, finishing eighth in the 2014 Junior Championship.
For 2015 Chadwick joined Ross Gunn in the #407 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin GT4 entry. The pair took their first class win at Rockingham in Round Three and followed it with their second victory of the season at Silverstone.
Chadwick and Gunn would go on to win the GT4 drivers title by 33.5 points, ahead of Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson in the #50 Optimum Ginetta G55 GT4. Chadwick returned to the British GT Championship in 2016 but would not enjoy the same level of success before turning her focus to single-seaters and the BRDC British F3 Championship. Selection for the inaugural season of W Series put Chadwick on to a world stage and a strong season which included two wins saw the 21-year old win the title. Chadwick also joined Williams F1 as a development driver, securing her position as one of the world’s leading young female drivers
May 2019 – Phil Keen and Adam Balon – Two For Two At Donington
The 2019 British GT Championship season was always going to be hard-fought and after finishing runner-up in the drivers standings for the three years previously, Phil Keen was in no mood to hang back. The #72 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan was well-proven, very fast and, against the new-for-2019 Aston Martin AMR Vantage, was probably more reliable at that early stage of the season.
Keen was partnered with Adam Balon for the 2019 season and in the opening rounds at Oulton Park the pairing had finished second and fourth.
Rounds three and four were to be held at Snetterton. The weather was cloudy but dry for Race One.
Keen knew that he had to set his mark on the 2019 season. Balon put the Huracan fourth on the grid for the first race while Keen started from the front row for Race Two.
What we saw that weekend was a masterpiece of GT driving by both pilots. Adam Balon drove a solid first stint in Race One to hand the Lamborghini over to Phil Keen in fourth. Due to slow pit stops from others, Keen emerged from the driver-change in second and took advantage of an electrical problem in Jack Mitchell’s BMW to take the lead, which was extended to over 13 seconds by the chequered flag.
In Race Two Keen diced with Nicki Thiim in the TF Sport Aston Martin after which Adam Balon passed Mark Farmer in light drizzle to take the victory by a margin of half a second.
The relationship between the professional and the amateur in a Pro-Am line-up is a delicate one. The amateur is funding the entry but the professional needs to coach and develop to get the best out of the package. Given this was Balon and Keen’s second race-weekend together, the outcome that weekend at Snetterton was astonishing.
September 2018 – Flick Haigh – The Perfect End To A Momentous Season.
Bringing a driver’s gender into a discussion always sounds crass. Why should gender play a part in a driver’s success or otherwise behind the wheel?
Yet Flick Haigh’s title run in 2018, partnered with Jonny Adam, arguably the best GT3 drivers coach on the planet, did seem even more special.
Flick Haigh, whose racing career began in 2013, had considerable experience in the Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS and had finished second in the 2016 Gulf 12 Hours. 2018, however, was to be Haigh’s first season in the premier domestic GT championship, a series that demands success over varying race lengths and on some of the most demanding circuits in Europe.
The 2018 season got underway at a rain-soaked Oulton Park where Haigh and Adam took pole for Race One. Haigh pulled clear at the start but handed the #75 Aston Martin over to Adam with a one-second lead. Phil Keen pushed Jonny hard in the second stint but contact with a GT4 car saw Keen sustain a puncture, allowing Adam a clear run to the flag. Haigh was now the first female driver to win a British GT Championship race outright.
The rest of the season saw Haigh and Adam score consistently and take a second victory at Brands Hatch, finally wrapping up the championship at Donington.
Haigh chose not to return to the British GT Championship in 2019 but raced instead in the FIA Motorsport Games and also competed in the Michelin Le Mans Cup.
September 2017 – Rik Parfitt and Seb Morris – The ‘Dream Team’ GT3 Drivers Title.
The 2016 season saw a new car, the Bentley Continental GT3, and a new driver pairing on the GT3 grid, that of GP3 driver Seb Morris and Rick Parfitt, 2013 GT4 champion and in his fourth year of British GT competition.
With the luxurious lines of the Bentley and the ‘rock star’ looks and presentation of Morris and Parfitt, the pair quickly became fan favourites, taking their first win at Oulton Park.
Going into the 2017 season, Parfitt and Morris knew that the pace was in the #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley and were firmly focused on a run at the title. Wins at Rockingham, Silverstone and Brands Hatch meant that the ‘Dream team’ went to the final round at Donington 10.5 points ahead of nearest rivals Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen.
A nail-biting race saw Minshaw and Keen finish third on the road, behind TF Sport’s Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam and the sister TF Sport entry driven by Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes.
A post-race penalty, however, saw the Barwell Lamborghini excluded from results, leaving Parfitt Jnr and Morris as champions by 33 points.
Parfitt was both over-joyed and emotional after taking his GT3 title, becoming the first driver to win both GT3 and GT4 titles in the domestic series.
“I only wish my father had been here to see it,” said Parfitt after the race, referring to Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt who had passed away in December 2016.
In Part two, three-wide at Eau Rouge and a debut victory for Jetstream Motorsport, amongst other memories…