+ Cottingham/Adam and 2 Seas lead top-four covered by just 1.3s
+ Moore and Nicoll-Jones’ slick gamble pays off en route to Academy one-two
+ Race 1 Result
2 Seas Motorsport’s Jonny Adam won on his 100th appearance and James Cottingham scored his maiden victory in a race that will surely go down as a bona fide Intelligent Money British GT Championship classic in wet/dry conditions at Oulton Park this morning.
Will Moore and Matt Nicoll-Jones were also winners despite starting from the pitlane after correctly selecting slick tyres and then benefitting from fortuitous Safety Car timing that helped them finish a lap clear of Academy’s other Mustang shared by Erik Evans and Matt Cowley. Raceway’s Tom Holland and Michael Crees completed GT4’s overall podium.
But all eyes were on the GT3 leaders who circulated together on the final lap before Adam and Beechdean AMR’s Ross Gunn ran side-by-side and then wide at Lodge. Positions didn’t change but both drivers were lucky to scrabble back on ahead of Marcus Clutton (Enduro Motorsport) and Jules Gounon (2 Seas Motorsport) who completed a top-four separated by 1.3s.
GT3: SEASON OPENER LIVES UP TO THE HYPE
Rain before the start prompted most GT3 drivers to start on wet weather tyres. And that decision was vindicated when one of only two not to – Simon Orange – spun into the gravel and triggered the first of the race’s two Safety Car periods after five minutes.
Racing resumed soon after with pole-sitter Cottingham leading Ian Loggie and Richard Neary who’d earlier passed Kevin Tse into Old Hall on lap one. 2 Seas’ Mercedes-AMG was able to edge clear as its pursuers battled between themselves, Howard ultimately getting the better of both with a sumptuous late move down the inside into Old Hall.
The top-four remained unchanged until the pitstops when Beechdean AMR’s pit crew managed to release Gunn just ahead of Gounon, who’d taken over from Loggie.
Century’s BMW had also moved into contention and, in Dan Harper’s hands, was soon hustling Gounon for third after both passed Tse’s Sky Tempesta co-driver Chris Froggatt.
Race 1’s second Safety Car, required while Sam Neary’s beached Team Abba Racing Mercedes-AMG was pulled clear of the gravel, then bunched up the leaders and set the foundations for a grandstand finish.
Gounon lost two places at the restart to Harper and Clutton after appearing to brake just before the start/finish line, possibly to avoid passing the out-of-position GT4 car ahead before racing officially resumed. However, Harper passed 2 Seas’ Mercedes-AMG before the line, which triggered a drive-through penalty.
The track was now completely dry, and remained so until the final 10 minutes when a heavy shower blew in. Adam, Gunn, Clutton and Gounon were unwilling to pit, though, instead relying on their wits to keep the two Mercedes-AMGs, Aston Martin and McLaren pointing in the right direction.
Gunn was all over his Aston Martin factory counterpart Adam who was in the unfamiliar surroundings of a Mercedes-AMG but couldn’t prise open the door until the pair ran side-by-side into Lodge for the final time. Both ran deep, but it was Adam’s defensive line on the inside that ultimately helped him emerge ahead of both the Vantage but also Clutton and Gounon who took the chequered flag less than a tenth apart.
RAM Racing’s Mercedes-AMG was the only other GT3 entry to line up on slicks. But despite a tentative start John Ferguson was able to hand over to Raffaele Marciello in 11th from where the Swiss worked his way up to fifth by the finish.
Harper and his Century co-driver Darren Leung slotted into sixth after their penalty but will start Race 2 on the front row – ironically alongside Gounon – without compensation time. The BMW’s pace surely makes it a victory contender this afternoon.
Three McLarens were next up with Optimum finishing ahead of RACE LAB and Paddock, while James Kell and Iain Campbell (RACE LAB) took Silver-Am spoils in 10th overall.
GT4: ACADEMY’S GAMBLE PAYS OFF HANDSOMELY
Academy Motorsport was conspicuously absent as the grid formed up ahead of the first race of the season, as Matt Nicoll-Jones’ squad opted to keep both its Mustangs in the pits as long as possible to make a call on whether to fit wet or dry-compound Pirellis.
Slicks ultimately won out, which allowed both Mustangs to muscle their way to the front before the regulation pitstops began.
Initially, things didn’t look like going that way at all with the majority of the field forming up on wets. Jack Brown led the opening stages in Optimum’s pole-winning McLaren from Aston Millar’s DTO Artura, Zac Meakin’s Team Parker Porsche, and Josh Miller’s R Racing Aston Martin.
Things began to change around at quarter distance when those that had taken the gamble to start on slicks began to find the heat and grip needed as the track gradually dried. This is when the Mustangs made their move, Moore and Cowley running in formation as they sliced their way up the order to eventually run one-two just as the GT4 pit window opened after 28 minutes.
Academy, unlike the wet-shod runners, kept its Mustangs out until the end of the window, with Moore being last to stop – an inspired decision as it turned out thanks to the timing of the second Safety Car period. It sparked a race against time for Academy to get the car serviced and back out before the pack came around behind the Safety Car and closed the pit exit. Nicoll-Jones got the leading car back on track just before the pit exit light turned red, and in doing so gained a lap on everybody to put the result all-but beyond doubt.
Evans was less fortunate with the timing of his stop but ran second regardless, albeit with the DTO McLaren now in the hands of Josh Rowledge and Optimum’s Artura driven by Charles Clark right on his tail. DTO lost ground when the car was handed a drive-through for pitting outside the mandatory window, leaving Clark to chase Evans for second. He had just worked his way past when the rain returned and he slid off track down the order to sixth.
That opened the door for Raceway Motorsport’s Ginetta of Michael Crees and Thomas Holland to snatch the final podium spot. Crees made superb progress on slicks during the tricky early stages, which also laid the foundations for his team’s Pro-Am victory.
Carl Cavers and Lewis Plato’s Century BMW M4 was fourth overall ahead of the sister car shared by Michael Johnston and Chris Salkeld. The Paddock Motorsport McLaren Artura of Kavi Jundu and Tom Rawlings finished seventh on the road but was promoted to sixth in the final classification at Optimum’s expense. It could have been far higher, though: Jundu started on slicks and ran second by the pit window, but the car missed the green pit exit light by just three seconds.
Oulton’s second 60-minute race gets underway at 15:50 BST. Watch it live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel and Sly Sports F1.