#DoningtonDecider Preview: GT3

#DoningtonDecider Preview: GT3

385 laps, 146 days, 21 winners and eight races after it began, the 2016 British GT Championship campaign comes to its conclusion this weekend at Donington Park (September 10/11), but not before its GT3 and GT4 champions have been crowned.


An entry list packing 29 cars will provide a fitting spectacle around Leicestershire’s 12-turn, 2.498-mile former GP venue where all eyes will be on who can finally snare this year’s titles. Plenty remains up for grabs: not only are the class championships on the line but also the GT3 Gentleman Driver, GT4 Pro-Am and GT4 Silver crowns, as well as both category’s teams’ accolades and, potentially, a little bit of British GT history, too.


All of which leaves just one question unanswered: who wants it most? 


GT3: Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Bentley prepare for title showdown


Three teams. Three manufacturers. Three crews. But only one can secure the 2016 British GT3 Championship drivers’ title at Donington Park this weekend.


Recent form suggests championship leaders Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen don’t just hold a numerical advantage, heading the title chase as they do by 11.5 points. The pair also became the first since 2010 to win two British GT3 races on the same weekend last time out at Snetterton, helping maintain their run of impressive results since non-scoring at the opening round.


Indeed, their second and third victories of the campaign were enough to overhaul season-long championship leaders Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam who have added just 61 points to the maximum 75 they scored over the opening two races. It was certainly the TF Sport pair’s title to lose post-Rockingham, and without a tangled seatbelt at Snetterton they would have likely gone into this weekend’s final round still marginally ahead.


However, both can take comfort from the events of 12 months ago at Donington where Johnston recorded his maiden British GT win and Adam, then alongside Andrew Howard, overturned a two-point deficit to pinch the crown. Nevertheless, the Scot - who is also aiming to notch up a record-equalling 11th GT3 victory this weekend - will be fully aware that no driver has ever retained the senior British GT title.


But, with a maximum of 37.5 points still available, there remain many ways of winning this year’s title. For instance, the Aston Martin pair could finish as low as sixth and snatch the crown provided Minshaw and Keen don’t score, while Barwell's Lamborghini crew might also miss out if they finish third or lower, although that would hinge on Johnston and Adam winning.


The GT3 drivers’ fight is complicated further by the presence of Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris who, 27 points adrift, must take their second win of the season at Donington to have any chance of gatecrashing the championship party. Do so and they would also rely on Minshaw and Keen finishing no better than seventh and Johnston and Adam fourth or lower to pull off a remarkable triumph.


That might sound far fetched but the Team Parker Racing pair do have one ace in their deck: success penalties. While their rivals must remain stationary for 20 and 15 seconds longer during the mandatory pit-stop for winning and finishing second at Snetterton, the Bentley’s fifth place sees it race handicap-free. Four pole positions from a possible eight this year also suggests Parfitt Jnr and Morris will be starting near the sharp end.


Second place could actually see the crew tie with Minshaw and Keen, but in that event Barwell's drivers would win the crown by virtue of having scored more victories this season.


So far so very unpredictable. And that’s without factoring in the role of Barwell and TF Sport’s second entries, both of which have won races this season. Not only will Liam Griffin and Alexander Sims’ Huracan, and Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes’ V12 Vantage be gunning for individual glory, not to mention helping their respective squads win the 2016 teams’ championship, but they will also be an important variable in deciding who claims this year’s drivers’ crown, especially as neither have pit-stop success penalties to serve.


On the subject of teams’ titles, reigning champions Barwell might lead the drivers’ standings but they trail TF Sport by 14.5 points in the teams’ race. However, with a maximum of 64.5 still available that particular scrap really does remain wide open.


Other entries that could play a role this weekend include AmDTuning.com’s Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne who came agonisingly close to winning their first British GT race together at Snetterton. The BMW went well at Donington last season and, 10-second pit-stop success penalty aside, should be a factor again at a circuit where they finished fourth in 2015.


Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse came to Donington this time last season leading the drivers’ standings but have endured a tougher time in 2016 and would dearly love to end their season with a good result. Alasdair McCaig and Rob Bell have demonstrated plenty of potential but only have one podium result to show for their efforts thus far. Perhaps that will change this weekend.


Reigning champion Andrew Howard relinquishes the #1 plate after this Sunday but will at least be on the grid after skipping Snetterton due to crash damage sustained at Spa. With regular co-driver Ross Gunn again aiding Beechdean AMR’s GT4 title challenge, the team has drafted in 2015 title challenger and British GT race winner Rory Butcher to fill the Pro role.


Elsewhere, this year’s Pro-Am title boils down to the same three contenders as the overall championship, while Johnston and Parfitt Jnr must chase down Minshaw if they’re to win the Blancpain Gentleman Driver Trophy.


Victory, fastest lap and pole position would also give Morris a handy cushion atop the Sunoco Whelen Challenge standings. The Welshman, who currently leads the race to win a seat at the 2017 Daytona 24 Hours, will be the competition’s first front-runner to set a final average score before having to wait and see what his rivals from other series can muster during their own end-of-season run-ins.

Reserve your tickets of this weekend’s British GT #DoningtonDecider here, or watch the race live from 12:30 this Sunday on Motors TV. 




GT3 / 1m29.273s / Benny Simonsen / Rosso Verde Ferrari 458 GT3 / 2015

GT4 / 1m37.298s / Gavan Kershaw / Stratton/UltraTek Lotus Evora GT4 / 2015





Saturday 10 September

09:40 - 10:40: Free Practice 1

12:20 - 13:10: Free Practice 2

16:15 - 16:25: Qualifying - GT3 Am

16:29 - 16:39: Qualifying - GT3 Pro

16:43 - 16:53: Qualifying - GT4 Am

16:58 - 17:08: Qualifying - GT4 Pro


Sunday 11 September

09:35 - 09:45: Warm-up

13:00 - 15:00: #DoningtonDecider






20s - Minshaw and Keen (#33)

15s - Johnston and Adam (#17)

10s - Mowle and Osborne (#7)



20s - Bartholomew and Gunn (#407)

15s - Johnson and Robinson (#50)

10s - Reed and Foster (#51)



Click here to download the Donington entry list




Jonathan Wells, Pirelli British GT race engineer, said: “Donington Park is a track with a similar fast and flowing nature to the season-opening track, Brands Hatch. The most famous section of the track is without doubt the Craner Curves which feature early in the lap. These high speed curves put a high level of lateral force through the tyres as the cars carve downhill to the Old Hairpin. Braking energy is highest at the end of the back straight, as the cars scrub off speed to enter the Esses. As is common with our tracks in the UK, the track is very technical, so needs to be driven very precisely to get the best from the car and tyres. We are expecting yet another strong performance from our DHC products and DH products over the course of the weekend, with our sights on yet another lap record for both classes.”