Photo: British GT Championship / Jakob Ebrey Photography
McLaren Dominates GT4
2017 GT3 Champions Rick Parfitt Jnr and, taking the chequered flag, Seb Morris, driving the new-generation #31 JRM Racing Bentley Continental GT3, took the win in Race One on the opening weekend of the 2019 British GT Championship, finishing 3.266 seconds ahead of the #72 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo driven by Adam Balon and, bringing the car home, Lamborghini factory driver, Phil Keen.
Completing the top three overall was the #96 Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driven by Oliver Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis, Ellis finishing just .145 seconds ahead of the #69 Barwell Lamborghini, driven to the flag by Jonny Cocker.
In the GT4 class the dominance of the Ford Mustangs in qualifying did not seem to translate through into the 60-minute race with McLaren occupying all the podium spots. HHC Motorsport finished first and third in class with the win going to the #57 McLaren 570S GT4 driven by Callum Pointon and Dean Macdonald. The sister #58 entry with the driver line-up of Tom Jackson and Luke Williams took the final podium position. The HHC sandwich was filled by the second-placed #4 Tolman Motorsport 570S GT4 driven by James Dorlin and Josh Smith.
Ian Loggie, at the wheel of #6 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 he shared with Callum Macleod, led the field away from pole position with Ryan Ratcliffe, driving the #7 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 he shared with Glynn Geddie, putting Loggie under pressure from the start. Parfitt Jnr, driving the first stint in the #31 JRM Racing entry, saw a way past De Haan in the #69 Lamborghini on the opening lap to move into third place.
There was drama on the second lap when Ratcliffe appeared to make an error approaching Hislops and went into the back of Ian Loggie’s Mercedes, taking both cars out. As the Safety Car was deployed to recover the stricken Loggie’s stricken Mercedes, Rick Parfitt Jnr assumed the lead.
Racing resumed after ten minutes with Parfitt Jnr, in the #31 JRM Racing Bentley Continental GT3, being chased by Sam De Haan, at the wheel of the #69 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini.
Jade Buford, meanwhile, had assumed the lead in the GT4 category driving the #19 Multimatic Ford Mustang GT4 but was being put under pressure by Dean Macdonald in the #57 McLaren.
Parfitt Jnr was one of the last of the GT3 runners to stop and after the driver changes had cycled through it was teammate Seb Morris who held the overall lead, nearly six seconds ahead of Phil keen, now at the wheel of the #72 Lamborghini. Keen, highly experienced in the Huracán GT3 Evo, put the pressure on Morris and closed to within five seconds but the young Welsh pilot had plenty in hand and was able to pull the gap out again.
As the race entered the last ten minutes, the battle in the GT3 class was for the final podium position. Jonny Cocker, at the wheel of the #69 Barwell entry, was putting huge pressure on Bradley Ellis in the #96 Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin Vantaqe GT3 and was never more than half a second behind. Cocker made a final push on the last lap but was unable to pass Ellis for the final GT3 podium position.
In the GT4 category, the McLarens looked in a class of their own as the race progressed with the #57 HHC Motorsport entry, now with Callum Pointon at the wheel, taking the class lead after the driver changes had cycled through and brining the car home 1.358 seconds ahead of Josh Smith in the #4 Tolman Motorsport entry.
“It’s good to be back!” said a jubilant Seb Morris after the race. “We’re just carrying on where we left off. We were a bit weak on BoP this weekend but we can’t blame anyone as it’s the first time we’ve run this new car. We struggled in qualifying but we thought, let’s take what we can get this weekend.”
TF Sport’s #2 Aston Martin, piloted by Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim, struggled in the opening round with Farmer spinning on the opening lap and then driving into Ian Loggie’s stricken Mercedes. The #2 car then got a one-second stop/go penalty for a short driver change.
Race Two gets underway at 15:35 in Monday April 22.