Team Parker Racing’s Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris secured theirs and Bentley’s maiden British GT Championship victory at Oulton Park this afternoon thanks to a commanding performance in the day’s second hour-long race. Meanwhile, Optimum Motorsport’s Mike Robinson and Graham Johnson made it back-to-back wins after also overturning a pit-stop success penalty.
Alasdair McCaig, Rob Bell and Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse celebrated their first series podium since switching to McLaren’s 650S, while the GT3 rostrum was completed by Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen. Further back Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton fought through from eighth on the GT4 grid to claim the Maserati MC GranTurismo’s maiden British GT podium ahead of RCIB Insurance Racing’s Aaron Mason and Rob Barrable, who also visited the top-three for the first time.
The race finished five minutes early after Anna Walewska, who had been leading the GT4 class, crashed her Century Motorsport Ginetta at Lodge.
GT3: BENTLEY BOYS BOSS IT AT OULTON
Third place in the day’s earlier race ensured pole-sitter Morris would not only need to hold on to first but also build a five second lead if he and Parfitt Jnr were to have any chance of making amends for losing the opening encounter after being blocked in the pits.
That they did so handsomely had everything to do with an opening stint in which the Welshman bolted clear at the start and never looked back. Bell, whose McLaren had blocked the Bentley in race one, gave chase but couldn’t prevent Morris from building a 13.5 second lead before the mandatory driver changes.
Parfitt Jnr and McCaig jumped aboard their respective charges one lap apart before emerging from the pit-stop cycle nine seconds apart, a gap that would remain fairly static until the chequered flag. Indeed, just 10.5 seconds covered the pair at the finish.
Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen started and finished third, but not before some shuffling had taken place. The latter actually dropped to fifth at the start after Beechdean AMR’s Ross Gunn and Barwell team-mate Adam Carroll jumped ahead, but both eventually fell back to give the #33 Lamborghini its second podium in three rounds.
Championship leader Jonny Adam had been looking to secure a record-equalling 11th British GT3 victory this weekend but eventually had to settle for fourth in the day’s second race after a solid fifth in the opener. The Scot slipped behind Carroll at the start to run sixth in the early stages before TF Sport co-driver Derek Johnston profited from a second stint drive-through penalty for Andrew Howard, who’d taken over the Beechdean AMR V12 Vantage from Ross Gunn, as well as Barwell’s pit-stop success penalty, to secure more solid points.
Indeed, Liam Griffin and Carroll’s race one victory ensured they, like Morris and Parfitt Jnr, would have to serve additional time during their mandatory driver change. Their 10 second handicap was only sufficient to drop them one place after Carroll’s fast start helped him claim two positions on the opening lap.
Howard and Gunn had the pace to finish on the podium before Beechdean AMR’s pit-lane infringement and subsequent penalty dropped them to sixth, one place ahead of Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes’ TF Sport Aston.
Richard Neary and Martin Short again belied their all-Am status to finish eighth, two places lower than the Team Abba by Rollcentre Racing BMW Z4 GT3 had managed in the opening race, while AmDTuning.com’s Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne were unable to replicate their podium from earlier in the day and eventually came home ninth after a late unscheduled stop. Phil Dryburgh and Ross Wylie’s Motorbase Performance Aston Martin completed the points paying places.
Morris’ efforts to build a big enough advantage during his stint resulted in him also winning the Sunoco Fastest Race Lap of the Weekend Award. His best of 1m34.804s was marginally quicker than Jonny Adam’s race one benchmark and seven tenths up on the previous Oulton Park GT3 record.
Elsewhere, Jon Minshaw won the Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend Award for securing GT3 Am pole, leading throughout his race one stint and finishing third in the second.
Seb Morris, Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “I pushed really hard, to the absolute limit in fact all the way through the stint. The car was amazingly balanced. The team and Bentley have done such a good job, especially to get the car working well in the traction zones. We’ve had an amazing weekend with this and third place in race one. However, I just want to mention Andrew Palmer. As a fellow Bentley and racing driver, and on behalf of Team Parker Racing, I want him to know we’re all thinking of him after his accident in America on Saturday.”
Alasdair McCaig, Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 650S GT3: “I’m really happy that we managed to peg the Bentley in the second stint, which is a feat in itself because it’s so damn quick! We’ve had some bad luck since the start of the season but hopefully this is a sign of the tables turning. I guess we’ll see at Silverstone.”
Today’s results mean Johnston and Adam have retained their lead in the drivers’ championship, although Griffin’s race one victory has seen him close the gap to 21.5 points. Parfitt Jnr and Morris are only seven further back in third.
GT4: DOUBLE TOP FOR OPTIMUM’S JOHNSON AND ROBINSON
After a dominant win in the day’s opener PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport’s Johnson and Robinson were made to work much harder in the second race. Indeed, that they did owed much to Walewska crashing out of the lead in the closing stages.
Robinson started on pole but was swallowed up by Simpson Motorsport’s Scott Malvern, who started alongside, and Generation AMR SuperRacing’s Matthew George on the run to Old Hall on lap one.
Malvern was able to pull out a small gap over his pursuers but wouldn’t reach the pit-stop window after power-steering failure sidelined the Ginetta. That promoted George into the lead, where he’d remain until handing over his Aston to British GT debutant James Holder.
A little further back a lightning first lap from Abbie Eaton, as well as Malvern’s subsequent retirement, helped the Ebor GT Maserati MC GranTurismo lie third and within striking distance of Robinson. The pair continued to circulate together never more than a second apart while maintaining a comfortable advantage over Nathan Freke’s Century Motorsport Ginetta.
Holder emerged from his stop with a small advantage over the chasing pack, but his inexperience on debut meant it wasn’t long before Walewska - who’d also made up two places through the pits - had taken the lead, before Johnson and Hoggarth also made their moves on the following lap.
What followed was 20 minutes of nose-to-tail racing between all three drivers. At least that was the case until the closing moments when Walewska, under immense pressure from Johnson, oversteered wide and into the Lodge barriers. With the Ginetta unable to be moved safely and so little time on the clock the officials took the decision to red flag the race with five minutes left.
That gave Johnson and Robinson their second win of the weekend, and third in four races, despite having to serve a 10 second pit-stop success penalty, while Hoggarth and Eaton’s Maserati scored what they considered to be an unlikely podium at a circuit where the MC GT hadn’t been expected to shine.
The final step on the rostrum went to Rob Barrable and Aaron Mason, who secured RCIB Insurance Racing’s second third place of the weekend. The Ginetta pair had started only 11th but dodged the issues that affected others en route to both driver’s first British GT podiums, a feat especially impressive for double VW Racing Cup champion Mason who was making his series debut this weekend.
Ciaran Haggerty and Sandy Mitchell brought the Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S GT4 home fourth after a tough weekend, while the second RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta driven by Jordan Stilp and William Phillips completed the top-five after the latter tangled with Holder’s Aston Martin, which retired as a result.
Beechdean AMR duo Jack Bartholomew and Jordan Albert finished sixth despite serving a drive-through penalty for a pit-lane infringement.
With GT4 laps slower in race two, Scott Malvern’s best time from the opener - a 1m43.915s - secured him the Sunoco Fastest Race Lap of the Weekend Award. His Simpson Motorsport outfit were also victorious, winning the PMW Expo Team of the Weekend prize for their efforts to rebuild their Ginetta on Saturday between Nick Jones’ free practice accident and qualifying, which allowed Malvern to set the second fastest time in his Pro session and lead race two.
Mike Robinson, PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “The Aston made a great start while I got bunched on the inside, so it was a case of letting them go or having a big shunt! After that I tried to get my head down, especially given the 10 second success penalty we’d have to serve, but the guys ahead had mega pace. Plus we had a bit more understeer than in race one. Thankfully I handed over with us still in the hunt, and after Graham passed the Aston he applied just enough pressure to force Anna [Walewska] into a mistake. I can’t believe what a great weekend we’ve had. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Marcus Hoggarth, Ebor GT Maserati MC GranTurismo GT4: “I genuinely think we had the pace to win it today. I was just starting to get up a head of steam when the red flags came out, so I’m a bit gutted actually that I didn’t get the chance to have a go. Whether we’d have won is a different matter of course! We’ve only done a couple of tests in the car so we’re still learning every time we go out. Plus we knew the first few tracks wouldn’t really suit the Maserati that well. We’re definitely expecting it to go better at Silverstone, so the only way is up!”
Rob Barrable, RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta G55 GT4: “We always knew the pace would be there or thereabouts given Aaron’s experience. His input’s certainly been very good with the set-up. It was more a case of how long it would take to gel, and to be fair that didn’t happen immediately. But we gambled a bit and it paid off in the second race when the car felt really balanced. I think a lot of people underestimate how competitive this championship is. It’s so strong and it’s taken us a little while to get our head around it. But we’re getting there now.”
Johnson and Robinson’s 50-point maximum has helped them leapfrog Bartholomew and Albert at the top of the GT4 standings, with Phillips and Stilp up to third.
The British GT Championship returns in less than two weeks for its blue riband three-hour Silverstone 500 event.