After entering the British GT Championship for the first time in 2019, WPI Motorsport took its first win in the premier domestic GT racing series when Andre Caldarelli took the chequered flag in the #18 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 he shared with Michael Igoe, the 2019 Blancpain GT Series champion deputising for team regular Dennis Lind. Caldarelli and Igoe won Race One of the Donington Park double-header 6.349 seconds ahead of Patrick Kujala, teammate to Sam De Haan, in the #69 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Completing the overall podium positions was the sister #6 RAM Racing Mercedes piloted by Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman, the Dutchman finishing 17.341 behind the #69 car after taking third place in the final five minutes of the two-hour endurance race.
The GT4 class saw a 1 – 2 for TF Sport with the #95 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 pairing of Patrick Kibble and Connor O’Brien finishing ahead of the sister #97 car piloted by Jamie Caroline and, driving the second stint, Daniel Vaughan.
The GT4 class podium positions were completed by the #23 Speedworks Motorsport Toyota GR Supra GT4 driven by James Kell and Sam Smelt.
There was drama even before the assembly of the cars on the grid with the non-appearance of the #9 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3. The team reported that an issue had been found at the front end of the car that needed attention before the car could be released.
Due to the wet track conditions, the two-hour race started behind the Safety Car, the pack led by Michael O’Brien in the pole-sitting #2 Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren GT3.
By lap six, O’Brien had pulled out a gap of over a second ahead of Rob Collard, at the wheel of the #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3. Sam De Haan in the #69 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 was third overall, 2.519 seconds back.
As the race approached the 30-minute mark, the top three had settled down and the gap between O’Brien and Collard remained steady at 1.6 seconds.
In the Pro/Am battle, Adam Balon in the #72 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini had led from the start but Michel Igoe in the #18 WPI Motorsport Lamborghini was keeping the #72 car under pressure and after 5 minute had passed Balon for the class lead.
In the battle for the overall lead, Collard passed O’Brien on lap 23 and immediately started to pull away from the #2 McLaren. With 15 minutes to the driver changes had extended the gap to over 2.5 seconds, the ex-BTCC star clearly focused on overcoming the 15-second success penalty the #78 car had been awarded from Oulton Park.
Driving with caution in the wet conditions and his rear tyres losing grip, O’Brien was passed by Sam De Haan in the #69 Mercedes and, with Michael Igoe under four seconds behind, was risking losing three places before the pit window opened.
De Haan was pushing hard as the driver changes approached and put in the fastest lap to that point with a 1:41.672.
In the Pro-Am class, Ian Loggie in the #6 Mercedes moved into second position and was just under seven second behind Michael Igoe.
Adam Balon was the first of the leading cars too pit, heading the #72 Lamborghini over to teammate Phil Keen.
With no designated driver change window, race leader Rob Collard decided to stay out and with 50 minutes remaining, had extended that gap to the now-second placed Lewis Proctor in the #96 Optimum Motorsport McLaren to nearly 40 seconds. Collard and Proctor pitted from race lead with 39 minutes remaining..
After all the driver changes had cycled through Patrick Kujala, now at the wheel of the #69 RAM Racing Mercedes, held a 4.40 second lead over Sandy Mitchell in the #78 Lamborghini.
Andre Caldarelli was now in third overall and also held the Pro/am class lead ahead of Yelmer Buurman. It was at this point that the Italian GT ace demonstrated his mastery of the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and passed Sandy Mitchell on lap 50 to begin chasing down Patrick Kujala for the lead.
Caldarelli was lapping over half a second quicker the leading Mercedes and by lap 55 the lead had reduced 3.362 seconds. Caldarelli was clearly on a charge, putting in the fastest lap of the race with a 1:39.7839 in lap 60.
Crossing the line at the end of Lap 63, Caldarelli briefly put the nose of his Lamborghini in front of the #69 Mercedes but Kujala held his line into Redgate. The inevitable, however, happened seconds later with Caldarelli taking the lead and immediately starting to pull out a gap to Kujala.
Yelmer Buurman passed Sandy Mitchell for third in the closing minutes, allowing Phil Keen through into fourth and relegating Mitchell’s #78 car to fifth.
Jamie Caroline in the #97 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage MR GT4 dominated the opening laps and after 20 minutes had pulled out a gap of 4.781 seconds over second-in class Patrik Matthiesen in the #58 HHC Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4.
By lap 11, the main battle in GT4 was for second place, Caroline now having extended his lead to over 10 seconds. Patrick Kibble, having lost out at the start, was now pressuring Matthiesen with James Kell in the #23 Speedworks Motorsport Toyota GR Supra GT4 also in the mix, less than half a second behind Kibble.
Kibble passed Matthiesen on lap 15 to move into second and set about chasing down Janie Caroline’s rapidly disappearing Aston Martin, now nearkly11 seconds ahead.
The driver changes saw a change in the lead, Connor O’Brien in the #95 Aston Martin he had taken over from Patrik Kibble holding the class lead, nearly 11.5 seconds ahead of Daniel Vaughan in the sister #97 car and the positions were maintained to the chequered flag.
Lamborghini Squadra Corsa driver Caldarelli knew that the overall victory was a possibility after the driver change.
“We know that the Huracan is always very quick in the wet and we have a lot of confidence in the car,” said Caldarelli. “After the pit stop I didn’t know where I was in terms of position but when I saw the Barwell car and the Mercedes in front I said ‘OK, we have to do it”. Michael had done an amazing job in the first stint so we had to do it for the team. Thanks to WPI and to Lamborghini Squadra Corsa for the fantastic car.”