The 2022 season kicked off in style with victories for #22 Balfe Motorsport Audi GT3 and #42 Steller Motorsport Audi GT4 in race 1 while race 2 saw a maiden victory for #11 Paddock Motorsport McLaren GT3 #27 Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin GT4
Pole-sitter Shaun Balfe in his Balfe Motorsport McLaren lead lasted until the first corner as Richard Neary battled hard to squeeze his Team ABBA Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 through Old Hall and into the lead. Graham Davidson also made his way through at Cascades but given the tight nature of Oulton Park and the closeness of the pack, the slight loss of momentum meant that Balfe ended lap 1 back in sixth.
For the next 20 minutes the top 3 ran close together with Morgan Tilbrook keeping the top 2 honest. Unfortunately Davidson didn't make the pit stop window as contact with Neary ended with the Rocket RJN McLaren in the tyre barrier at Clay Hill. The stewards deemed that Neary was at fault and handed the team a stop-go penalty and also slapped another stop-go for the Neary's for having a short pitstop. This ended the father-son teams hopes of a victory.
Tilbrook missed his pit box and was subsequently handed a stop-go and with this a chance of victory had gone for Marcus Clutton who had taken over the Enduro Motorsport McLaren.
2 Seas Mercedes were now leading the race, but they too were handed a stop-go penalty. This left the Audi of Balfe Motorsport leading the race as they had leap-frogged the Sky Tempesta Mercedes during the pitstops.
Adam Carroll was enjoying a carefree race out in front, but that was soon about to change. Jules Gounon had taken over the RAM Racing Mercedes from Ian Loggie emerging 7th after the pitstops. With those in front having to serve their respective penalties and Gounon overtaking Phil Keen and Jamie Stanley, he was on the chase of the lead Audi.
The Mercedes soon loomed into the mirrors of Carroll, his 3.6s advantage whittled down to nothing as Gounon tried to make his move on the penultimate lap. As they crossed the line to start the last lap Gounon was a mere 0.5s ahead. Carroll kept his nerve and the inside line into Old Hall to emerge in front and from there took the chequered flag.
Completing the podium was Jamie Stanley in the Fox Motorsport McLaren, who with co-driver secured the teams first podium since 2016. Nick Halstead started back in 8th, but kept out of trouble and while others had penalties.
The Steller Motorsport Audi of Richard Williams started on pole but a slight gap emerged and that was all the invitation Benji Hetherington needed to squeeze his Valluga Porsche through and into the lead. The two managed to open a gap to the rest of the GT4 pack but Hetherington defended all he could but the Audi still managed to get a slip stream and Williams made his move into Old Hall.
As soon as the pitstop window opened Williams went to straight in to hand driving duties over to Sennan Fielding. It was a slick stop, but a bit too slick. The stewards deemed that the team had mis-calculated the stop by 6s and subsequently made to serve a stop-go for those 6s. This would have normally meant that the victory was out of reach but pit stop penalties were handed out to a fair few of the GT4 field.
Penalties befell Newbridge Motorsport, Toyota Gazoo Racing and the Team Parker Racing who were all enjoying top 3 positions when the Audi had to serve its own penalty. They all deemed to have short pitstops and once they had all pitted to serve the stop-gos, the Audi was now back in the hunt. Chasing Ross Wylie's Porsche, Fielding made his move and into a lead that he enjoyed when the chequered flag fell some 20 minutes later.
Wylie was comfortable in P2, but Josh Miller in the R Racing Aston Martin soon came into play to challenge for the runner-ups spot. Miller made his move on the penultimate lap and became the youngest driver pairing to be on the podium, 33 yeas and 14 days.
RAM Racing Gounon started on pole alongside Carroll and held onto the lead ahead of the Audi. Sandy Mitchell's Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini tried to challenge Carroll for the position but dropped back to P6 after the attempt failed. Will Tregurtha and Phil Keen also made contact going into Cascades which resulted in the Bentley spinning Keen's Lamborghini around.
Due to a coming together between 2 GT4 cars, the safety car was sent out so the marshals could clear the track. The track was clear just before the GT3 pitstop window opened and while the Pro drivers like to squeeze as much as they can out of their stint rain had started to sweep across the circuit, heavier in places. Some of the teams stopped as soon as possible to get the drivers onto wets others stayed out. The race though was soon stopped as first, the RAM Racing Mercedes left the circuit and into the barriers, it was soon followed by Lewis Proctor's McLaren as it went over the barriers.
Once racing resumed again the AM drivers all lined up behind the safety car in the order just before the pitstop window opened and Success Penalties to be served after the race. This meant that Loggie and Balfe had to create a gap of 7s and 10s over the chasing pack to take the top 2 steps of the podium.
Mia Flewitt in her 7TSIX McLaren soon dropped away from the top 2 and it looked like it was possible. Kelvin Fletcher in his Paddock Motorsport soon dispatched Flewitt and was off in pursuit. Having started 14th and with others serving penalties or suffering problems they were now in the hunt.
With 2 minutes left on the clock the 10s gap had closed to 7.1s and with Loggie having to pick his way through GT4 traffic, Fletcher took the maiden win for Paddock Motorsport on corrected times.
This also enabled Team ABBA Racing of Richard Neary to claim P2 after passing Flewitt on the final lap, and with GT4 traffic Flewitt ended up P6 at the flag.
That final podium spot went to Kevin Tse in the Sky Tempesta Mercedes AMG GT3 on corrected times.
RAM Racing are appealing the race result.
Darren Turner started from pole but Fielding got a slighter better start dragged past the Aston Martin. With 10s Success Penalty to serve, Fielding had to get his head down and pull out a sizeable gap to the rest of the GT4 pack. Turner though was keeping him honest and the pair soon pulling further away.
The safety car was dispatched after Freddie Tomlinson and Moh Ritson had a coming together at Shell Oils and that gap that Fielding and Turner had built up had now vanished. Once all cleared up, racing continued for the GT4 pack but a red flag due to couple of GT3 accidents curtailed the action.
With the race to be resumed with the second drivers in the car, it meant that the GT4 field didn't have to undertake their pitstops, instead times would be adjusted post race. This meant that to claim a second win, the Steller Motorsport Audi had to finish 24s (10s Success Penalty plus 14s due to a Silver Cup entry) ahead of the field on the track.
Williams lead the GT4 pack and while he built up a lead over Matt Topham and Jack Brown it wasn't enough to take the win on adjusted times even though it was the first GT4 car to take the flag and subsequently P3. Victory went to Topham in the Aston Martin and P2 was claimed by Century Motorsport of Brown.
The next race takes place at Silverstone May 7th - 8th for its 3 hour Silverstone 500 event. This is also when points and a half will awarded for the very first time this year.