Barwell expands to three Lamborghinis as Cocker and Machitski make British GT returns
Reigning British GT Teams’ champions Barwell Motorsport will expand to three full-season Lamborghini entries in 2018 after confirming two former title winners amongst its revamped GT3 driver line-up.
While there’s continuity in the form of 2017 runners-up Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen, who remain with the squad for a fourth season, Barwell has brought in 2004 champion Jonny Cocker to partner young amateur Sam De Haan. The team’s third Pro/Am-entered Huracan will be driven by Patrick Kujala and 2006 GT3 Drivers’ champion Leo Machitski who were both part of Barwell’s 2017 Blancpain GT Series squad.
“It’s terrific to be announcing three such quality line-ups,” said team principal Mark Lemmer. “Jon, Keeny, Leo, Jonny and, more recently, Patrick have all enjoyed enormous success with us over the years, and we warmly welcome Barwell’s ‘new boy’, Sam De Haan. British GT3 will be a steep learning curve for him but I have every faith in his potential.”
The familiar red and green Demon Tweeks Lamborghini returns in 2018 with Minshaw and Keen hoping to make it third time lucky in the GT3 Drivers’ standings. The pair have finished second in each of the last two seasons despite winning seven of British GT’s previous 15 races, while Keen was also named 2017’s Sunoco’s Fastest Driver of the Year.
“I love driving the Huracan GT3 with Keeny, and British GT continues to be the best Pro/Am championship in Europe, which is why I’ll be back to challenge for another year,” said Minshaw.
Meanwhile, Cocker is set to make his first British GT appearance since making two stand-in appearances with Barwell in 2014. While his overall title came aboard a GruppeM Porsche some 10 years earlier, the now-31-year-old did later finish second in the ’07 standings racing a Barwell Aston Martin DBRS9 with Paul Drayson. He has since won the European Le Mans Series GTE title and also contested the Le Mans 24 Hours.
“I’m extremely happy to be joining Barwell Motorsport again for what will be my fifth season’s racing with the team, and going back into a championship with so many great memories,” he said. “I’ve been working with Sam now for a little while and he’s already showing strong potential, so I’m expecting our 2018 effort to continue this potential towards achieving some good results. I can’t wait!”
His expertise will prove vital to De Haan who has been building his experience aboard a Barwell-run TCR-spec Audi RS3 in recent months, including during Brands Hatch’s Britcar round.
“I’m really excited about my first season in GT racing with Barwell,” he said. “I know I’m going to be the ‘new kid on the block’, but with both a previous championship-winning team and pro driver in my corner I’m confident of getting up to speed pretty quickly.”
Elsewhere, Machitski and Kujala team up for their first British GT assault together after spending this year on opposite sides of Barwell’s Blancpain GT Series garage. Machitski claimed the 2006 GT3 crown aboard a Barwell-run Aston Martin DBRS9 that, at times, also featured Cocker, and has spent the last two seasons racing across Europe in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. Kujala, meanwhile, produced some impressive performances en route to three Pro/Am victories in the same championship, as well as making a one-off British GT appearance at Spa.
“I’ve always felt that I’ve got unfinished business with British GT, as I didn’t stay around in 2007 to defend the GT3 title I won in ’06,” confessed Machitski. “So I’m definitely not coming back to make up the numbers! Patrick has already proven how fast he is in the Huracan GT3, so I’m confident we will be in good shape.”
His Finnish co-driver was more forthright, suggesting that only the GT3 title would suffice.
“I’m very happy to be going into another season with Barwell, and to team up with Leo for the first time,” he added. “Our goal is to win the championship and if everyone works hard throughout the season then I’m confident we can achieve this.”
British GT’s 2018 campaign begins at Oulton Park over Easter Bank Holiday Weekend (March 31-April 2). Reserve your tickets here.
DID YOU KNOW?
Jonny Cocker remains the youngest winner of an outright British GT title after wrapping up the 2004 championship at Thruxton aged just 18 years and six days old. It’s a record that has remained untroubled ever since, although Jamie Chadwick did lower the mark for British GT class titles when she and Ross Gunn claimed the GT4 crown at Snetterton in 2015.