Barwell Motorsport’s Liam Griffin and Adam Carroll made the most of a hectic pit-stop window and subsequent delays to win the opening race of British GT’s Oulton Park double header Sunday morning, while Optimum Motorsport’s Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson secured the GT4 category spoils thanks to a serene lights-to-flag victory.
Joe Osborne’s superb rearguard effort helped he and AmDTuning.com co-driver Lee Mowle finish second ahead of Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris aboard their Team Parker Racing Bentley. Elsewhere, Generation AMR Macmillan Racing’s Jack Mitchell and Matthew Graham secured their first GT4 podium ahead of RCIB Insurance Racing’s William Phillips and Jordan Stilp.
Griffin and Carroll secured Lamborghini’s first British GT victory since 2010 at Spa-Francorchamps with a measured drive from second on the grid, not to mention a clever pit strategy, in the day’s first one-hour race.
“I struggled a little with the tyres at the start of my stint before they came back in towards the end, so I wasn’t as close to the other Lambo as I’d have liked.” said Griffin post race.
“We knew that if we weren’t within a certain time that we’d do an extra lap, which worked out for us in the end”.
The sister Barwell-run Huracan driven by Jon Minshaw led away from pole but was closely followed by Parfitt Jnr’s Continental GT3, which had muscled its way past Griffin at Old Hall on the opening lap.
A Safety Car period with only three laps gone lasted until just 10 minutes before the pit window opened. Minshaw’s seven second pit-stop success penalty for finishing runner-up at Rockingham meant the chasing Bentley only had to sit tight in order to theoretically inherit the lead post-driver changes. But that was without reckoning on the tight Oulton Park pit-lane, which caused issues for several outfits when most elected to stop on the same lap.
One of those was Team Parker Racing’s Seb Morris who – having taken over from Parfitt Jnr – found himself blocked in behind Rob Bell’s Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren. Morris eventually emerged just ahead of Phil Keen, who had relieved Minshaw, but crucially lost track position to those not caught up in the driver change dramas.
“Being blocked in by the McLaren really cost us the race, which had been going exactly to plan up to that point.” said Parfett. “We needed to get past [Liam] Griffin because he wouldn’t be serving a pit-stop success penalty, which we did.
“I felt like I had the pace on Minshaw but Jon is very good around Oulton. I knew that just sticking close would be enough to jump him in the pits. It should have been easy!
“Sure, the McLaren got a 10 second penalty but that didn’t help us. That’s racing I guess. Seb drove a blinder after that to at least limit the damage.”
Carroll’s Lamborghini however had run a solid third under Griffin’s watch before stopping later than the majority of its GT3 rivals, thus avoiding the packed pit-lane. With faster rivals stuck in the chasing pack, the Northern Irishman was able to comfortably pull clear en route to Barwell’s first victory of the season.
“I guess we were fortunate to get the jump and come out with a nice healthy lead.” Griffin added “Clearly anything can happen in the pit-stops so we’re not completely out of it in race two, even with the success penalty.”
AmDTuning.com were the biggest winners through the pit-stops and duly finished second as a result. Mowle had been seventh but crucially stopped a lap early thanks to the pit window opening just as he approached the start/finish straight. Co-driver Osborne and the ageing BMW Z4 was unable to keep pace with the Lamborghini up front but produced a wonderful defensive display to keep at bay the rapidly advancing Morris, who had earlier dive-bombed Jon Barnes’ Aston Martin for third.
“We lucked in, to be honest.” said a happy Lee Mowle. “Oulton’s been a lucky circuit for us; last season we started 13th and finished second.
“Our BMW doesn’t have the raw pace of the newer cars so we were fortunate, both before and during the stops.
“Pitting first just as the window opened really helped us. Then it was a case of survival for Joe, who did a phenomenal job to keep Seb Morris at bay. He drove a stonker, especially through sector two where we don’t have the grunt.”
Barnes, who shared his Aston Martin with Mark Farmer, was reeled in by TF Sport team-mate and championship leader Jonny Adam in the closing stages but, in a similar vein to Osborne, held firm under immense pressure.
Rollcentre Racing’s all-Am pairing of Richard Neary and Martin Short avoided the slew of stop/go penalties that affected others to finish sixth, while Keen recovered from his – for a pit-lane infringement – to bring the pole-winning and stint one race-leading Lamborghini home seventh.
It was a similar story for Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse’s Bell and Alasdair McCaig, who had run a strong fifth pre-pit-stops before being pinged for their part in Team Parker’s blockage, while Tolman Motorsport’s Ginettas completed the top-10.