Barwell’s Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind put the disappointment of Donington Park behind them by bouncing back into the Intelligent Money British GT Championship lead with a commanding victory at Spa-Francorchamps.
They were joined in the winners’ circle by Balfe Motorsport’s Jack Brown and Ashley Marshall (McLaren) who overcame steering damage to beat Newbridge Motorsport’s Matt Topham and Darren Turner. The Aston Martin took the chequered flag first but had 30s added to its race time in lieu of a drive-through penalty for multiple track limits infringements. Championship leaders Will Burns and Gus Burton (Century Motorsport, BMW) completed the podium.
Ahead, WPI Motorsport’s Lamborghini driven by Michael Igoe and Phil Keen finished second overall, albeit 48s behind Barwell’s Huracan, while Balfe’s Stewart and Lewis Proctor scooped Silver-Am honours in third.
GT3: FLAWLESS BARWELL ROMP TO VICTORY
Pole. Fastest lap. Victory by almost 50s. And back on top of the championship standings. It’s fair to say Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind rather enjoyed their Spa mini break on a weekend when their title rivals suffered mixed fortunes.
The two-hour race began with a literal bang even before the field had reached La Source when Richard Neary’s fast-starting Mercedes-AMG went for a gap between Ian Loggie and Adam Balon that rapidly diminished. The contact ended Team Abba Racing’s hopes there and then, RAM Racing’s Mercedes-AMG was forced to pit for lengthy repairs, and Barwell’s Lamborghini emerged relatively unscathed. However, the same incident triggered further contact that also eliminated Team Rocket RJN’s GT3-spec McLaren and one of its GT4 entries.
Racing resumed 15 minutes later with Machitski leading Andrew Howard and Stewart Proctor who’d risen to third from sixth as a result of lap one’s incident. And the battle between Balfe’s McLaren, Michael Igoe’s Lamborghini and the Huracan of Adam Balon would prove one of the most exciting throughout the opening hour.
Try as they might the two Lamborghinis could not find a way past the determined Proctor who remained in touch with Howard despite the unwanted attention from behind. There was a little respite when the Huracans swapped places – Balon taking advantage of Igoe’s mistake at Pif Paf before relinquishing fourth on the run towards Eau Rouge – before Igoe’s focus shifted solely to Proctor when his pursuer took a trip through the Campus gravel trap.
Up front, Machitski had already pulled 20s clear of Howard when Beechdean AMR brought their Aston Martin in one minute before GT3’s pit window opened. The time lost and subsequent 10s Success Penalty ensured the battle between Balfe and WPI would now most likely decide who finished second.
The two cars exited the pitlane as they had entered it with Lewis Proctor fractionally ahead of Phil Keen. The McLaren’s straight-line speed had kept it out of the Lamborghini’s clutches throughout the opening hour, but when GT4 traffic baulked Proctor through Eau Rouge Keen used his extra momentum to draft past along the Kemmel straight.
By that point Lind was already more than 40s up the road after setting his third Sunoco Fastest Lap in four rounds. The presence of three squabbling GT4 cars, which temporarily boxed in the Lamborghini, was his only cause for concern during a lonely but very effective stint that resulted in his maiden British GT victory, as well as Machitski’s first since 2006.
WPI’s title ambitions were also boosted by finishing second, while Balfe’s McLaren completed the overall podium.
Behind, Beechdean recovered from its pitstop indiscretion and a stop-go penalty to narrowly beat Barwell’s second Lamborghini. Sandy Mitchell threw the kitchen sink at Ross Gunn over the final 25 minutes but simply could not find a way past the Vantage. 30s was ultimately added to the reigning champion’s race time for track limits violations but it mattered little given RAM Racing’s patched up Mercedes-AMG took the chequered flag eight laps down.
Indeed, the team worked wonders to ensure title contenders Loggie and Yelmer Buurman at least scored some points on a day when the championship battle took another twist.
GT4: BROWN AND MARSHALL SAVOUR MAIDEN WINS
Balfe Motorsport duo Ashley Marshall and Jack Brown picked their way through a chaotic two hours of racing to snatch their maiden British GT4 victories at Spa, as well as McLaren’s first of the season.
Marshall and Brown benefited from a late penalty for the race-leading Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin to sweep to a breakthrough win after a superb performance while nursing mechanical issues.
The start-line collision not only accounted for a handful of GT3 cars but also hugely affected the GT4 pecking order as cars dodged left and right to avoid the chaos.
Marshall, who started fourth, was initially lucky to get through unscathed and assume an early second place behind Will Burns in the pole-sitting Century Motorsport BMW. But he was then involved in a second collision at La Source, which immediately knocked the tracking out and affected the McLaren’s throttle control.
Regardless, he was able to continue and not only kept the car going but moved it well and truly into contention by hounding Burns for the lead throughout the first half hour, before finally getting a run alongside the M4 into Eau Rouge and sweeping into the race lead on the inside line at Les Combes.
Marshall then got the hammer down in clean air and managed to pull a gap of three seconds over Burns before diving into the pits to hand across to Brown. But, as a Silver Cup pairing, the additional 26s stationary in the pits closed things up and brought other cars into play, specifically the Newbridge Aston of Matt Topham and Darren Turner.
Topham was stone last at the end of the first lap after slamming on the brakes to avoid Abba’s stricken Mercedes-AMG at the start. But once up to speed he enjoyed a controlled stint and repeatedly benefited as rivals hit trouble to run seventh before pitting for Turner. The shorter stop was a huge help to the Aston, and Turner vaulted several cars to re-join in third.
Once installed, Turner took chunks out of those ahead, first passing Katie Milner’s Team Rocket RJN McLaren – which had enjoyed an impressive opening stint in the hands of Harry Hayek who’d hounded Burns before the pit window opened – for second, before then closing in on Brown in the lead McLaren.
Turner lapped up to two seconds faster than the hobbled 570S and eventually made a brave move for the lead around the outside of Pouhon, completing the job into Fagnes.
Things then looked settled until Turner was pinged for track limits offences in the final minutes and given a 30s penalty in lieu of a drive-through. That handed the laurels back to Marshall/Brown, with Turner/Topham retaining second, just ahead of championship leaders Burns and Gus Burton who were delayed by a 20s Success Penalty.
Second overall was also enough for Topham/Turner to secure the Pro-Am class victory.
Matt Cowley came out on top of a tight scrap over fourth in the Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang he shares with Will Moore, the pair just escaping from a tight pack consisting of Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke/Chris Salkeld’s Century BMW and Richard Williams/Sennan Fielding’s Steller Audi R8. Team Rocket RJN’s McLaren of Milner/Hayek was classified sixth despite stopping at the Bus Stop Chicane after a puncture.
The high rate of attrition after the start accounted for many others. Team Rocket RJN’s other McLaren of Michael Benyahia/Alain Valente was heavily damaged off the line, while suspension damage from the incident put Assetto Motorsport’s Ginetta of Mark Sansom/Charlie Robertson out shortly after.
The next to fall victim was Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s Supra, which had to stop to have a snapped suspension damper replaced. That car would re-join to claim second in the Pro-Am class in the hands of John Ferguson/Scott McKenna. The latter also collected the Sunoco Fastest Lap Award.
2021’s Intelligent Money British GT campaign reaches its halfway mark at Snetterton on August 7/8 with the first two of this year’s hour-long sprint races.