#97 Oman Racing with TF Sport. Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3. Ahmad Al Harthy. Charlie Eastwood. 2021 Intelligent Money British GT Championship Round 5 Snetterton 300 FP1 ©2021 Ian Musson. All Rights Reserved

Oman Racing with TF Sport’s Ahmad Al Harthy and Charlie Eastwood took victory in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship’s opening race of the day at Snetterton, while Jordan Collard and James Kell claimed GT4 honours for Team Rocket RJN.

The guest-entered Aston Martin beat Paddock Motorsport’s Bentley shared by Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman who bagged full championship points as GT3’s first full-season entry home. The latter resisted late pressure from Barwell Motorsport’s charging Lamborghini of Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind who relieved Jonny Adam of third place on the final lap.

In GT4, Kell and Collard bounced back from their Spa disappointment, as well as that of team-mates Alain Valente and Michael Benyahia whose own chances were dashed by a puncture, to celebrate Team Rocket RJN’s first win of the season. The pair vaulted past Century’s championship leaders Will Burns and Gus Burton during the pitstops and left the BMW to fend off a late challenge from John Ferguson and Scott McKenna’s Toyota Gazoo Racing UK Supra.

It was Collard’s third GT4 victory in as many years at Snetterton, while McLaren also maintained its record of winning in each of the six seasons the 570S has raced in Norfolk.

There was much to admire in an opening race that saw Ahmad Al Harthy claim his first British GT win since 2014, and Charlie Eastwood record his maiden triumph, on Oman Racing’s return to the series. It was also a breakthrough of sorts for Paddock Motorsport, which collected maximum points courtesy of Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman, while Dennis Lind’s thrilling stint helped Barwell’s #63 crew extend their championship lead.

Pole position and no Success Penalty meant this was always the TF Sport-run Aston Martin’s race to lose, but it enjoyed a faultless 60 minutes in which Al Harthy first broke away from the chasing pack and then handed Eastwood a comfortable advantage at mid-distance.

Instead, the action centred on who would complete the podium.

Fletcher’s career-best qualifying helped Paddock’s Bentley start on the front row, and it maintained second throughout an opening stint in which Michael Igoe – up two places from fifth – proved a constant distraction. But things got too close on the stroke of the pit window when WPI’s Lamborghini ran into the Continental. Both cars continued in second and third, albeit with the Huracan nursing front-end damage.

A seven-second Success Penalty and subsequent 10s stop-go for causing a collision ultimately dropped WPI out of contention and left Martin Plowman with a slight cushion over Enduro’s pursuing McLaren after the stops.

That became more comfortable when the 720S was black flagged for failing to serve a drive-through penalty incurred following a pitstop infringement.

Further back, Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind’s maximum Success Penalty had seemingly dropped the championship leaders out of contention. But Barwell failed to inform their rapid Dane who set his fourth fastest lap in five races while chasing down Yelmer Buurman and team-mate Sandy Mitchell.

RAM’s puncture removed the Mercedes-AMG-shaped obstacle before Mitchell’s stint-long brake issue created a gap just large enough for Lind to nip through at Wilson. Next up was Jonny Adam who resolutely defended a net third place until the final lap when GT4 traffic helped the Lamborghini get a run on Beechdean AMR’s Aston Martin.

Job done, Lind just ran out of time to attack Plowman who crossed the line 0.3s ahead of the Huracan, while Adam collected third place points with fourth overall to keep Andrew Howard firmly in title contention.

Indeed, Oman Racing with TF Sport’s race-by-race status means the full-season entries in second, third and fourth must serve 10, seven and five-second Success Penalties this afternoon. Al Harthy and Eastwood will also be stationary for the maximum extra 10 seconds.

Mitchell and Adam Balon will compete without the added time after finishing fifth overall, while Balfe’s McLaren shared by Stewart and Lewis Proctor overcame its qualifying gremlins to make it five different manufacturers in the top-six.

WPI were classified seventh overall, RAM’s puncture-hit Mercedes-AMG completed the top-eight, and G-Cat’s Porsche finished ninth.

#2 Team Rocket RJN. McLaren 570S GT4. James Kell. Jordan Collard. 2021 Intelligent Money British GT Championship ©2021 Ian Musson. All Rights Reserved

Jordan Collard and James Kell produced the best possible fightback from their disappointing last outing at Spa by scorching to a first GT4 win of the season in their Team Rocket RJN McLaren. A testing accident prevented the #2 570S from racing in Belgium, but the duo bounced back with their borrowed chassis in superb style to maintain McLaren’s six-year victory streak at Snetterton.

Having started fourth on the grid, Kell used a strong first lap to vault past Will Moore’s Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang. And that became second after 15 minutes when a front-left puncture cost team-mate Alain Valente the lead.

Valente’s misfortune also helped Century’s #57 BMW initially inherit top spot. But with Will Burns and Gus Burton having to serve an additional five seconds in the pits as ‘reward’ for their Spa podium, Kell and the newly installed Collard emerged with a three-second advantage, which grew to an impressive 21s by the chequered flag.

With Collard away up the road, the fight for the remaining podium places was anything but settled. Burton resumed in second place but soon found himself under pressure at the head of a four-car train.

Chief among his pursuers was Scott McKenna who’d charged up the order in Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s Supra after taking over from John Ferguson. He first pulled a great move around the outside of Coram to snatch third from Harry Hayek’s #4 Team Rocket RJN McLaren, and then closed right in on Burton for second. The pair circulated within inches of each other for the final few minutes when Burton’s defence also allowed both Hayek and Charlie Robertson’s Assetto Motorsport Ginetta to home in.

Impeccable racing and Burton’s staunch defence were just enough for Century’s BMW to hold off the Pro-Am class-winning Toyota, while Hayek claimed fourth in the car he shares with Katie Milner from the Robertson/Mark Sansom Ginetta.

Matt Cowley brought the Academy Mustang he shares with Moore home in sixth but could have been much higher had he not been elbowed wide in traffic. Spa winners Jack Brown and Ashley Marshall were seventh in Balfe’s McLaren after serving the maximum 10s Success Penalty, and Fox Motorsport’s Nick Halstead and Jamie Stanley completed the Pro-Am podium in eighth overall.

Newbridge Motorsport’s Matt Topham and Darren Turner crossed the line ninth but were handed a 40-second penalty post-race in lieu of a 10s stop-go for causing a collision with Steller Motorsport’s Audi, which retired as a result of suspension damage.