Titles on the line as Brands Hatch prepares to host British GT's penultimate 2017 round
> Minshaw/Keen enjoy 12-point GT3 lead over Parfitt Jnr/Morris
> Barwell on cusp of GT3 Teams’ crown
> GT4: tight at the top between Tregurtha/Middleton and Reed/Pittard
> Download: Brands Hatch entry list
Brands Hatch plays host to British GT’s penultimate round of 2017 this weekend (August 5/6) and, with the points standings as they are, there’s a chance that more than one champion could be crowned with a race to spare.
While the total number of points available still makes Donington the more likely title deciding destination, Barwell Motorsport’s lead in both the GT3 Drivers’ and Teams’ tables will certainly give the outfit cause for optimism ahead of Sunday’s two-hour contest. GT4 is much narrower, with just 2.5 points covering the top two crews in the overall standings, although there’s a strong chance that its Pro/Am class could also be settled on Sunday.
It’s a far cry from last season when the nine-turn, 2.433-mile Grand Prix layout opened the campaign in early spring. The circuit has since switched back to its more traditional summer date when the challenging tree-lined GP loop - loved by drivers and fans alike - will be at its most picturesque.
GT3: PARFITT JNR/MORRIS OUT TO DENY MINSHAW/KEEN
The British GT3 Drivers’ title might well be won at Brands Hatch this weekend if results fall in favour of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen. The Barwell Motorsport pair have led since April’s opening round and extended their advantage over Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris to 12 points at Spa-Francorchamps last time out.
True, that’s not a huge amount, but with this Sunday’s winners pocketing the full 37.5 points, it does raise the possibility of Minshaw, Keen and Lamborghini claiming their maiden British GT3 titles. For instance, a fifth victory of the campaign combined with their Team Parker Racing rivals finishing sixth would see the #33 Huracan’s crew amass an unassailable 37.5-point advantage. And although winning Donington’s 2017 finale might mathematically allow Bentley drivers Parfitt Jnr and Morris to tie, they would still finish second on count-back thanks to fewer victories across the season.
Incidentally, victory for Minshaw and Keen would see the pair become the winningest drivers in British GT3 history. Both notched up their 11th wins at Spa to draw level with Jonny Adam, Hector Lester and David Ashburn.
The title will also be settled if Minshaw and Keen claim second overall, Parfitt Jnr and Morris finish no better than 10th, and James Littlejohn/Jack Mitchell fail to win.
Of course, such scenarios depend on Parfitt Jnr and Morris enduring a tough time at Brands Hatch, and - in terms of pure pace there last season - that looks unlikely. Indeed, both drivers topped their respective qualifying sessions before only the vagaries of a Full Course Yellow period denied the Team Parker-run Continental GT3 a near-certain victory.
Equally, both championship-chasing line-ups head to Brands without a pitstop success penalty after finishing outside the top-three in Spa’s second race last month, thus promising an uncompromised head-to-head showdown. For Minshaw and Keen, it’s a chance to wrap up or at least take a significant step towards securing this year’s crown, while Parfitt Jnr and Morris will spy an opportunity to claw back precious points ahead of Donington’s season finale.
Both teams have another bullet in each of their respective chambers, but it’s Team Parker’s Ian Loggie and Callum Macleod who head to Brands full of confidence after sealing their maiden British GT victories at Spa. Another strong showing will be hindered by their 20-second pitstop success penalty, though, which opens the door for Barwell Motorsport to also, potentially, wrap up this year’s GT3 Teams’ crown. The Surrey-based squad, neither of whose Lamborghinis carry a success penalty, needs only to extend its current championship lead by 17.5 points in order to clinch a third British GT Teams’ title before Donington.
Macmillan AMR’s James Littlejohn and Jack Mitchell are up to third in the GT3 standings after claiming their fourth podium in six races at Spa, and will be eager to maintain that form at Brands Hatch this weekend. The Silver-graded crew’s extra ballast means they’re unlikely to be pole position contenders, while a 10-second pitstop success penalty will also hinder their progress during the race. Nevertheless, the two-hour format offers both drivers an opportunity to stretch their legs, and especially in the opening stint against Pro/Am’s amateur contingent. The scale of progress over the first hour will likely determine whether they head to Donington as title contenders.
It’s been a tough season for reigning Drivers’ and Teams’ champions TF Sport who began their triumphant 2016 campaign with victory at Brands Hatch. Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam stood on the top step that day, and must do so again while hoping other results go their way if they’re to harbour any hopes of retaining their crown. The duo currently lie fourth in the standings and 57 points adrift of Minshaw and Keen with a maximum of 75 still available from the remaining two rounds.
Positions five through seven are covered by just 5.5 points, with Liam Griffin and Sam Tordoff’s Barwell Lamborghini heading a pack featuring TF Sport’s Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes, and the Spirit of Race Ferrari driven by Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin. The latter pairing could be one to watch this weekend after a practice accident ended their Spa outing early and dropped them from third to seventh in the GT3 Drivers’ standings.
This weekend’s race features two additional GT3 entries. One of Century Motorsport’s two Ginetta G55s competes in the hands of a new line-up to be announced this Wednesday, while Mike Brown and Matt Manderson - who contested several British GT rounds last season - return with their Aston Martin V12 Vantage.
However, there is disappointment for AmDTuning.com whose Mercedes-AMG GT3 is unable to race at Brands Hatch after sustaining chassis damage.
GT4: LITTLE SEPARATING TREGURTHA/MIDDLETON FROM REED/PITTARD
Like British GT’s senior class, the 2017 GT4 title has, realistically, been whittled down to a two-horse race. In the blue corner, HHC Motorsport’s Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton, and in the red Lanan Racing’s Alex Reed and David Pittard.
2.5 points cover the Silver Cup crews after Tregurtha and Middleton’s double podium at Spa helped them re-establish their lead following consecutive mid-season DNFs. Reed and Pittard also tasted champagne in Belgium, but only in Race 1, meaning they’ll compete pitstop success penalty-free this weekend. How their rivals overcome the 15-second handicap, as well as an additional 14-second penalty served by all Silver Cup entries, will determine which Ginetta crew heads to Donington Park with one hand on the 2017 GT4 title.
Of course, a DNF for Lanan’s pair - it would be their first of the season - and an against-the-odds victory for HHC’s teenagers would see Tregurtha and Middleton crowned British GT’s youngest ever championship-winning crew. Their combined 35 years and 61 days would eclipse the record currently held by Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn, who - incidentally - also won the GT4 title with a race to spare in 2015, by 269 days.
The scale of both crews’ achievements can also be seen in the GT4 Teams’ standings where HHC and Lanan occupy first and second despite competing against several squads fielding two cars.
A number of Pro/Am entries could also emerge as serious victory contenders this weekend.
Reigning champions and 2016 Brands victors Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson remain, mathematically at least, in GT4 title contention but will likely need a first win of the season to have any chance of bridging their current 38-point deficit. The Optimum Motorsport duo certainly have a knack of salvaging strong results from otherwise tough race weekends but haven’t been near the front in recent rounds to score significant points towards GT4’s overall title.
That’s not the case in Pro/Am, though, where they currently enjoy a 29-point lead over fellow McLaren drivers David Pattison and Joe Osborne. The Tolman Motorsport pair were less than five minutes away from overall GT4 victory at Spa before a puncture cruelly denied them, and although they rallied to clinch Pro/Am victory and third overall in Race 2, those earlier lost points could prove crucial to Johnson and Robinson wrapping up the class title this weekend.
Track-club’s Adam Balon and Adam Mackay travelled to Spa occupying second in GT4’s overall standings after adding Silverstone 500 victory to their win at Oulton Park. But a dismal trip to Belgium, which saw their McLaren 570S fail to score a point after several issues, has dropped them to fourth in the overall standings and third in Pro/Am, 34.5 points behind Johnson and Robinson. Expect both drivers to come out fighting this weekend as they attempt to rescue a rollercoaster of a campaign.
Others to look out for include Black Bull Garage 59’s Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell, who lie fifth in the overall standings, as well as Academy Motorsport and Macmillan AMR’s Aston Martin entries.
There are also several new names on this weekend’s entry list, the biggest of which concerns Rob Boston Racing which is making its British GT debut with a Ginetta G55. The Gainsborough-based squad, which currently competes in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup and Lotus Cup, will run Jason Baker and Adam Gore, two drivers with previous experience of RBR’s national programmes.
In2Racing’s #14 McLaren features an all-new line-up courtesy of former Porsche Carrera Cup GB champion Will Goff and current Porsche driver Daniel McKay. Jacob Mathiassen is joined by a new co-driver - to be announced this Wednesday - in Century’s #43 Ginetta, while Chris Milford makes his GT4 debut alongside Matt Chapman in Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing’s #63 G55 GT4.
Elsewhere, GPRM’s Invitation-entered Toyota GT86 returns for a second time this season in the hands of Richard Williams and Stefan Hodgetts.
British GT returns to TV, computer, smartphone and tablet screens this Sunday thanks to live coverage of the championship’s two-hour enduro and support races. Front Runner TV will be showing the race on Sky (channel 469), while British GT’s Facebook page and website, plus SRO’s GT World Youtube channel, will also broadcast live coverage from 12:30.
TYRE INFORAMTION - PIRELLI
Pirelli supplies the GT3 class with the P Zero DHD tyre, which was introduced at the start of the 2017 season for GT racing around the world. The GT4 class uses the P Zero DH tyre. In the event of rain, both classes will use the Cinturato WH wet-weather tyre.
Jonathan Wells, Pirelli UK motorsport manager: “Brands Hatch provides a great challenge for drivers with fast, flowing and undulating corners making it a particular technical circuit with little room for error. We have already visited Brands Hatch this year for the Blancpain GT Series so we have a lot of knowledge about how the tyres perform on this track. Wear is not particularly high, mainly due to the low amount of traction and braking. Temperatures are unlikely to be high so we are expecting consistent tyre performance over the race.”
LAP RECORDS - BRANDS HATCH GP
GT3 - 1m24.695s - Jonny Adam, TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 - 2016
GT4 - 1m33.165s - Jordan Stilp, RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 - 2016
PITSTOP SUCCESS PENALTIES
20s - #7 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 - Loggie/Macleod
15s - NOT COMPETING
10s - #24 Macmillan AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 - Littlejohn/Mitchell
20s - NOT COMPETING
15s - #55 HHC Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 - Tregurtha/Middleton
10s - #56 Tolman Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4 - Pattison/Osborne
BRANDS HATCH SCHEDULE
Saturday 5 August
09:30 - 10:30: Free Practice 1
12:05 - 13:05: Free Practice 2
16:25 - 16:35: Qualifying - GT3 Am
16:40 - 16:50: Qualifying - GT3 Pro
16:55 - 17:05: Qualifying - GT4 Am
17:10 - 17:20: Qualifying - GT4 Pro
Sunday 6 August
10:00 - 10:10: Warm-up
14:10 - 16:10: Race