Michael Igoe and Phil Keen began their Intelligent Money British GT Championship challenge in fine style by securing a dominant win for WPI Motorsport and Lamborghini in today’s two-hour season opener at Brands Hatch where Gus Burton and Will Burns headed a Century BMW one-two in the GT4 class.
Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam couldn’t convert their pole position into victory but still came away with a handy points haul after holding off Barwell Motorsport’s Lamborghini shared by Leo Machitski and a charging Dennis Lind.
Team Abba Racing’s Richard and Sam Neary collected Silver-Am honours in fifth overall.
Behind, the GT4 battle was turned on its head with just five minutes to run when Charlie Robertson was forced to pit with a puncture, which opened the door for Burton and Burns to take a well-deserved win. The latter dominated early proceedings but was unable to rebuild a sufficient lead that would have negated the Silver Cup crew’s longer minimum pitstop time after the second Safety Car period.
However, Burton drove superbly to work his way back up to second and then inherit the lead when Assetto’s Ginetta hit trouble. Pro-Am winners Chris Salkeld and Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke joined their team-mates on the overall podium, while James Kell and Jordan Collard completed the top-three aboard Team Rocket RJN’s McLaren.
Having just missed out on pole yesterday, Igoe made the most of his front row grid slot by initially tracking and then passing Andrew Howard who had converted Beechdean AMR’s pole position into an early lead.
But any hopes of establishing a significant advantage were dashed by two Safety Car periods that punctuated the opening stint. The first involved contact between Chris Salkeld and John Ferguson, which sent Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s Supra into the Hawthorns gravel trap, and the other a clash between James Cottingham and Adam Balon that resulted in both cars beached at Paddock Hill.
Igoe managed the first restart perfectly and received a slice of luck with the second when a lapped GT4 car acted as a buffer between himself, Howard, Leo Machitski and Richard Neary. The subsequent scrap that saw Barwell’s Lamborghini relieve Beechdean’s Aston of second at Surtees only further enhanced Igoe’s advantage, which stood at four seconds when the pitstop window opened after 62 minutes.
His co-driver, Phil Keen, emerged with a familiar foe for company after a broken GPS unit delayed Barwell’s pitstop, dropping Dennis Lind two places and handing second to Jonny Adam. The championship’s two most successful drivers traded times for the best part of 40 minutes – the gap fluctuating between 2.5s and 3.5s throughout – before Beechdean’s Aston began to fade.
Instead, Adam’s attention switched to Lind who claimed the Sunoco Fastest Lap before also dispatching Yelmer Buurman with a brilliantly opportunistic three-wide move in traffic while approaching Westfield with 28 minutes remaining. The Dane rapidly closed in but caught the Vantage too late to suss out a potential passing place. Just three tenths separated them at the finish.
Buurman and Ian Loggie came home fourth thanks to a solid performance from RAM’s reigning Pro-Am champions. Their Mercedes-AMG lacked the pace of either the Lamborghini or Aston Martin but executed a fault-free race after starting seventh.
Team Abba Racing’s Mercedes-AMG was in the thick of the action throughout an opening stint in which Richard Neary climbed from sixth to fourth and then slid back down the order before the pit window opened. His son, Sam, was particularly eye-catching in the second hour when he chased down Buurman, while Silver-Am victory and fifth overall was a just reward for an encouraging weekend.
Nick Jones and Scott Malvern (Team Parker Racing) also avoided the pitfalls of others to make up five places from where they qualified en route to sixth, but JRM will be left ruing what might have been after a drive-through penalty dropped Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman out of podium contention. Their Bentley finished seventh, while Proctors Stewart and Lewis completed the top-eight for Balfe.
GT3 debutants Simon Green Motorsport took the chequered flag in ninth but received a post-race 30s penalty in lieu of a drive-through for making avoidable contact with G-Cat Racing’s Porsche. Greg Caton and Shamus Jennings therefore moved up one place at the expense of the Lamborghini, which collected the final point in 10th.
Barwell and RAM’s second entries also appeared on course for decent finishes before Cottingham and Balon’s collision at Paddock Hill ended their fantastic scrap over sixth.