Barwell Motorsport’s Liam Griffin and Adam Carroll made the most of a hectic pit-stop window and subsequent delays to win the opening race of British GT’s Oulton Park double header this morning, while Optimum Motorsport’s Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson secured the GT4 category spoils thanks to a serene lights-to-flag victory.
Joe Osborne’s superb rearguard effort helped he and AmDTuning.com co-driver Lee Mowle finish second ahead of Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris aboard their Team Parker Racing Bentley. Elsewhere, Generation AMR Macmillan Racing’s Jack Mitchell and Matthew Graham secured their first GT4 podium ahead of RCIB Insurance Racing’s William Phillips and Jordan Stilp.
GT3: PIT-STOP GAMBLE PAYS OFF FOR GRIFFIN AND CARROLL
Griffin and Carroll secured Lamborghini’s first British GT victory since 2010 at Spa-Francorchamps with a measured drive from second on the grid, not to mention a clever pit strategy, in the day’s first one-hour race.
The sister Barwell-run Huracan driven by Jon Minshaw led away from pole but was closely followed by Parfitt Jnr’s Continental GT3, which had muscled its way past Griffin at Old Hall on the opening lap.
A Safety Car period with only three laps gone lasted until just 10 minutes before the pit window opened. Minshaw’s seven second pit-stop success penalty for finishing runner-up at Rockingham meant the chasing Bentley only had to sit tight in order to theoretically inherit the lead post-driver changes. But that was without reckoning on the tight Oulton Park pit-lane, which caused issues for several outfits when most elected to stop on the same lap.
One of those was Team Parker Racing’s Seb Morris who - having taken over from Parfitt Jnr - found himself blocked in behind Rob Bell’s Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren. Morris eventually emerged just ahead of Phil Keen, who had relieved Minshaw, but crucially lost track position to those not caught up in the driver change dramas.
One of those was Carroll’s Lamborghini, which had run a solid third under Griffin’s watch before stopping later than the majority of its GT3 rivals, thus avoiding the packed pit-lane. With faster rivals stuck in the chasing pack, the Northern Irishman was able to comfortably pull clear en route to Barwell’s first victory of the season.
AmDTuning.com were the biggest winners through the pit-stops and duly finished second as a result. Mowle had been seventh but crucially stopped a lap early thanks to the pit window opening just as he approached the start/finish straight. Co-driver Osborne and the ageing BMW Z4 was unable to keep pace with the Lamborghini up front but produced a wonderful defensive display to keep at bay the rapidly advancing Morris, who had earlier dive-bombed Jon Barnes’ Aston Martin for third.
Barnes, who shared the car with Mark Farmer, was reeled in by TF Sport team-mate and championship leader Jonny Adam in the closing stages but, in a similar vein to Osborne, held firm under immense pressure.
Rollcentre Racing’s all-Am pairing of Richard Neary and Martin Short avoided the slew of stop/go penalties that affected others to finish sixth, while Keen recovered from his - for a pit-lane infringement - to bring the pole-winning and stint one race-leading Lamborghini home seventh. It was a similar story for Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse’s Bell and Alasdair McCaig, who had run a strong fifth pre-pit-stops before being pinged for their part in Team Parker’s blockage, while Tolman Motorsport’s Ginettas completed the top-10.
TF Sport’s Adam set consecutive fastest laps in his pursuit of Barnes, a 1m34.895s ultimately proving the quicker of the two.
Liam Griffin, Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “I struggled a little with the tyres at the start of my stint before they came back in towards the end, so I wasn’t as close to the other Lambo as I’d have liked. But we knew that if we weren’t within a certain time that we’d do an extra lap, which worked out for us in the end. I guess we were fortunate to get the jump and come out with a nice healthy lead. Clearly anything can happen in the pit-stops so we’re not completely out of it in race two, even with the success penalty.”
Rick Parfitt Jnr, Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3: “Being blocked in by the McLaren really cost us the race, which had been going exactly to plan up to that point. We needed to get past [Liam] Griffin because he wouldn’t be serving a pit-stop success penalty, which we did. I felt like I had the pace on Minshaw but Jon is very good around Oulton. I knew that just sticking close would be enough to jump him in the pits. It should have been easy! Sure, the McLaren got a 10 second penalty but that didn’t help us. That’s racing I guess. Seb drove a blinder after that to at least limit the damage.”
Lee Mowle, AmDTuning.com BMW Z4 GT3: “We lucked in, to be honest. Oulton’s been a lucky circuit for us; last season we started 13th and finished second. Our BMW doesn’t have the raw pace of the newer cars so we were fortunate, both before and during the stops. Pitting first just as the window opened really helped us. Then it was a case of survival for Joe, who did a phenomenal job to keep Seb Morris at bay. He drove a stonker, especially through sector two where we don’t have the grunt.”
GT4: NO STOPPING OPTIMUM’S JOHNSON AND ROBINSON
In stark contrast to the issues up front the GT4 class proved relatively straightforward for pole-sitters Johnson and Robinson. The former led away from the start, survived the Safety Car period and subsequent pressure from RCIB Insurance Racing’s William Phillips before stopping later than his rivals to avoid the packed pit-lane and hand his Ginetta G55 over to Robinson with a manageable advantage. The gap had grown to 23 seconds at the chequered flag.
It was a little less orderly further back after a collision at the Safety Car restart removed Alex Reed’s Lanan Racing Ginetta from the equation and also knocked Sandy Mitchell’s podium-chasing Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S down the order.
Instead it was Generation AMR Macmillan Racing’s Jack Mitchell who survived the early exchanges to bring the Aston Martin V8 Vantage into contention before Matthew Graham completed the team’s good pit work, which helped it emerge almost on the tail of Robinson’s Ginetta.
The race’s biggest battle was taking place a little further back between three Ginettas. Jordan Stilp, who’d taken over from fast-starting Phillips - up four places from his grid slot - was repeatedly attacked by Nathan Freke in the Century Motorsport G55 Anna Walewska had pitted from fourth in class. Simpson Motorsport’s Scott Malvern also joined the battle late on, but there was no dislodging Stilp who held on to score his and Phillips’ second British GT podium of the season. Just seven tenths covered the trio at the finish.
A difficult race for Beechdean AMR saw Rockingham GT4 race winners Jack Bartholomew and Jordan Albert finish sixth after starting second, just ahead of Generation AMR SuperRacing’s James Holder and Matthew George. Aaron Mason and Rob Barrable brought the second RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta home eighth ahead of the delayed Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren, which stopped for repairs and was subsequently excluded for its part in the restart accident that retired Lanan’s Reed.
Meanwhile, Malvern posted the GT4 class’ fastest lap aboard his Simpson Motorsport Ginetta: a 1m43.915s.
Graham Johnson, PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “The first couple of laps were quite easy but then Will [Phillips] started way faster than I thought he would! So I had to pull my finger out and push a lot harder. The car felt great; it’s so consistent. And because of that it’s easy for me to be consistent. I was desperate to make up for what happened at Rockingham and let Mike bring it home. Optimum have done a brilliant job to repair the car since then.”
Jack Mitchell, Generation AMR Macmillan Racing Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4: “I knew we’d be in the hunt when Matty [Graham] pitted from P3, but I was a bit surprised to get back out in second! I knew the Optimum Ginetta would be really quick after that so I just worked at trying to maintain a set pace and keep the gap to third. It’ll be harder in race two with all the Pros starting and us having the pit-stop success penalty, but we’ll do our best to do the same again: stay out of trouble, pick off a few people and see where we end up.”
William Phillips, RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta G55 GT4: “I made a mega start and just went down the middle of everyone in one move! We’ve struggled in qualifying so far this year but always had the race pace, so I was confident of converting the start into a good result after that. It’s great to be back on the podium after our problems at Rockingham.”