Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen overcame treacherous weather conditions, three Safety Car periods and made the most of Barwell Motorsport’s inspired pit strategy to win their first British GT Championship race of the season at Silverstone this afternoon.
It was the Lamborghini pairing’s second podium in as many races and first series win since 2014’s Donington Park season finale. Meanwhile, Joe Osborne’s cracking final stint saw he and AmDTuning.com co-driver Lee Mowle make it two second place finishes at the same venue in 12 months, while a similarly combative performance from FF Corse’s Adam Carroll helped he and Marco Attard give the Ferrari 488 GT3 its first British GT podium on debut.
Impressively, seven different manufacturers filled the first seven GT3 positions.
Minshaw and Keen’s victory owed much to both drivers’ skills in the rain and spray but also hinged on their team’s alternative strategy. The inclement weather forced race organisers to begin the three-hour, 500-kilometre encounter behind the Safety Car, and Barwell reacted accordingly by pitting all three of its Lamborghinis after just two laps under reduced racing speed. That meant Keen - the #33 crew’s Pro - was up against mainly Am drivers once racing began in earnest one lap later.
That discrepancy in pace was especially noticeable in the wet conditions when the difference between Pro and Am times were often 10 seconds. However, with three mandatory stops and driver changes required over the three hours, Minshaw and Keen’s advantage wasn’t fully apparent until the final stint.
Tolman Motorsport’s split-strategy helped both of its Ginetta G55 GT3s lead the middle phase of the race after a second Safety Car, deployed with just 34 minutes gone, elevated Mike Simpson - who’d also climbed aboard after only three laps - jump to first in the queue. His and team-mate Luke Davenport’s spectacular pace in the wet conditions thereafter resulted in respective Am co-drivers Ian Stinton and David Pattison running one-two after a third and final caution period ended with 55 minutes of the race remaining.
However, their wet tyre-shod Ginettas were no match for Keen who had by then switched to slicks as the conditions improved.
Those circumstances also ensured that new podium challengers emerged over the final hour. AmDTuning.com’s Mowle had shown well in the early wet conditions, and his contribution plus Osborne’s final stint heroics helped the BMW Z4 GT3 claim a sensational second place despite making two pit-stops in quick succession after wrongly switching to rain tyres before the final run.
Having cleared the wet-shod Ginettas Osborne set about catching and passing Carroll’s Ferrari and Rob Bell’s McLaren, which were enjoying their own scrap. It wasn’t long before he’d passed both and set off in pursuit of Ryan Ratcliffe’s Optimum Motorsport Audi. With just 14 minutes left and 27 seconds to find the assignment looked unlikely, but such was his pace - including the 2m04.374s effort that netted him Sunoco Fastest Lap of the Race - Osborne completed the task with two laps remaining.
Carroll and Bell’s enthralling battle was a prominent feature of the closing stint, but both were still lapping quickly enough to also catch and pass Ratcliffe on the final tour. Just a second covered the pair at the finish, while Ratcliffe - whose co-driver Will Moore picked up 10 places over the opening stint - came home fifth.
Phil Dryburgh’s excellent first stint not only laid the foundations for his and Motorbase Performance co-driver Ross Wylie’s sixth place finish but also earned him the Blancpain Gentleman Driver of the Weekend Award.
Tolman’s Simpson and Stinton eventually finished seventh ahead of Mark Farmer and John Barnes’ TF Sport Aston Martin, Beechdean AMR’s V12 Vantage driven by Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn - whose decision to pit for wets during the short shower backfired - and the second Ginetta of Pattison and Davenport.
That Minshaw and Keen didn’t face stiffer opposition en route to a 45-second victory owed much to the issues that sidelined a number of their fancied rivals.
Barwell’s other full-season Lamborghini had also been going well in the hands of Liam Griffin and Alexander Sims. Indeed, the latter had already made up a pit-stop’s worth of time racing in the worst of the conditions against the Ams before a second Safety Car period was required after 34 minutes to remove debris on track. However, the #6 Huracan’s afternoon would end in the garage with broken steering after Griffin was hit by a GT4 European Series entry, which was excluded as a result.
The pole-sitting Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 slipped back in the early stages with Rick Parfitt Jnr onboard before Seb Morris took over. The Welshman was up to third on the road when he was forced wide running out onto the Wellington Straight grass, breaking the car’s front-splitter and radiator in the process.
Derek Johnston, who came into the weekend leading the GT3 points, started third but lead the race early on before an accident at the Maggotts/Becketts combination sidelined his and co-driver Jonny Adam’s Aston Martin.
But despite their non-score the TF Sport pairing still lead the GT3 standings, albeit by a reduced margin of 11.5 points over today’s winners Minshaw and Keen. Griffin is 10 points further back in equal third with former co-driver Carroll.
Elsewhere, Team Parker Racing’s efforts to repair their #31 Bentley after its warm-up off and then return the #24 Continental GT3 to the race after suffering damage netted them the PMW Expo Team of the Weekend Award for the second time this season.
Jon Minshaw, #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “I can’t remember the last time I was on the top of the podium! We knew if we could get in and out of the pits and rejoin the Safety Car crocodile without being lapped that we’d be ok. Race Control made the right call with the middle Safety Car because it was pretty treacherous. Without slowing the race down and clearing the track could have resulted in carnage.”
Phil Keen, #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “Jon did all the hard work in the middle stints; I just had to cruise around and make sure the rest didn’t get too close. Liam [Griffin] going out with contact really helped because he and Alex [Sims] would have been our main competitors.”
Joe Osborne, #7 AmDTuning.com BMW Z4 GT3: “We probably lost a minute with the extra stop but I’ve always liked racing in wet conditions, right back to my time in karting. The track seemed to be changing on every lap and I could see the gap to Adam [Carroll], Rob [Bell] and Ryan [Ratcliffe] was diminishing. In those circumstances you just have to go for it. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Race Control got their Safety Car decisions spot on today. The conditions were dreadful at times.”
Marco Attard, #2 FF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3: “It was great to be out there in the Ferrari. Adam drove a great race while I focused on staying safe in the tricky conditions. It’s been a great weekend with a great team and co-driver, so I’m really happy. But Adam was the star today!”
Round six of this year’s British GT Championship takes place at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on July 8/9.