GT3 #DoningtonDecider preview: Optimum duo on the cusp of history
> GT3 and GT4 titles up for grabs
> 32 cars across all classes
> Entry list: Donington Park
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. After 375 laps lasting 13 hours spread across eight races and six rounds the 26th annual British GT Championship boils down to 120 more minutes at Donington Park this weekend (September 22/23) when the GT3 and GT4 Drivers’ and Teams’ title winners will be crowned.
The 12-turn, 2.498-mile former Grand Prix circuit has seen it all before, of course, for this year’s edition will be the seventh in succession and 10th in total that British GT’s season finale has taken place at the Leicestershire venue. So who holds all the aces, and which crews are in search of a miracle? Step right this way…
GT3: OPTIMUM DUO EYEING HISTORY
Rarely has a GT3 crew headed to the final round with a bigger advantage than Flick Haigh and Jonny Adam enjoy over their nearest rivals this weekend. In fact, you have to go back to 2014 to find a more comfortable pre-finale cushion than the Optimum Motorsport duo’s current 27.5-point lead.
A run of three podiums, including victory last time out at Brands Hatch, has helped ignite the pair’s championship challenge just as their rivals have faltered. What’s more, Adam in particular knows a thing or two about claiming titles at Donington after doing so in 2015 and ’16, before also winning there 12 months ago. And with its championship rivals contemplating must-win weekends, the odds are firmly stacked in the #75 Aston Martin’s favour.
History can also be rewritten, with Haigh aiming to become the first woman ever to win a British GT title outright and Adam chasing a third overall crown – with as many different teams, no less – in four years. No other driver has won three.
Done and dusted, then? Well, not quite. Haigh and Adam’s 20s pitstop success penalty offers the likes of Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen some hope, while Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim must overcome their own 10s handicap if they’re to have any chance of stopping Optimum. Both crews – trailing by 27.5 and 28.5 points, respectively – have to win and rely on Haigh/Adam finishing seventh or lower to retain any chance of pinching the crown. In TF Sport’s case, a tie would see Farmer and Thiim win the title by virtue of their three victories to Optimum’s brace.
There’s also the matter of this year’s Teams’ championship. TF Sport currently enjoy a 31-point lead over reigning champions Barwell who, just like their rivals, have been compromised by a pitstop success penalty following Sam De Haan and Jonny Cocker’s second place at Brands Hatch. The responsibility to score big points thus falls on both teams’ non-handicapped entries: title-chasers Minshaw/Keen and Derek Johnston/Marco Sorensen.
Johnston certainly won’t require any extra motivation to perform following his retirement announcement last week. The 2016 champion lists Donington as his favourite circuit having won his first British GT race there in 2015 before wrapping up the Drivers’ title 12 months later and winning at the same venue last season. Climbing the top step one more time would prove a fitting farewell.
ERC Sport’s Lee Mowle and Yelmer Buurman, who occupy fourth in the standings, could yet finish second overall, while Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard and Darren Turner will be eager to score their first rostrum since Snetterton back in May. Equally, a second win of the season for Graham Davidson and Maxime Martin might be sufficient for the Jetstream crew to jump from seventh to fourth in the final reckoning.
Elsewhere, Rick Parfitt Jnr makes his final appearance as reigning British GT champion before handing over the baton, while Balfe Motorsport’s McLaren returns in the hands of GT4 front-runners turned GT3 debutants Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson. RJN’s Nissan is also back and, for the first time, designated as a Pro/Am entry thanks to Chris Buncombe joining Struan Moore.
Donington also sees British GT welcome its first GTC entry since Silverstone 2013, with JMH Auto running a Ferrari 488 Challenge for John Seale and Marcus Clutton.
Watch British GT’s #DoningtonDecider live on the championship’s website and Facebook page from 13:35 this Sunday.
Saturday 22 September
09:40 – 10:40: Free Practice 1
11:50 – 12:50: Free Practice 2
15:45 – 15:55: Qualifying – GT3 Am
15:59 – 16:09: Qualifying – GT3 Pro
16:13 – 16:23: Qualifying – GT4 Am
16:28 – 16:38: Qualifying – GT4 Pro
Sunday 23 September
09:35 – 09:45: Warm-up
12:30 – 13:00: Pitwalk and driver autograph session
13:35 – 15:35: Race
GT3 - 1m28.233s - Jonny Adam - TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 - 2016
GT4 - 1m36.753s - Joe Osborne - Tolman Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4 - 2017
PITSTOP SUCCESS PENALTIES
20s - #75 Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 - Haigh/Adam
15s - #69 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 - De Haan/Cocker
10s - #11 TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 - Farmer/Thiim
20s - #501 Balfe Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4 - Johnson/Robinson (not competing)
15s - #42 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 - Green/Tuck
10s - #53 UltraTek Racing Team RJN Nissan 370Z GT4 - Fletcher/Plowman
TYRE INFORMATION – PIRELLI
Pirelli supplies the GT3 class with the P Zero DHD2 tyre, which was introduced at the start of the 2018 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: “We are looking forward to another exciting British GT Championship decider at Donington Park. The circuit is similar in nature to the venue of the previous round, Brands Hatch. It is a fast and flowing track, something best demonstrated by the Craner Curves early in the lap: high-speed bends that subject the tyres to high lateral forces.”