Feature – 2020 Donington Park 1 – Car by Car

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The McLaren 720S GT3 of Dean Macdonald (GBR) and Angus Fender (GBR) run by new entrant 2 Seas Motorsport at Schwanz on the Donington Park Grand Prix circuit during the third round of the 2020 Intelligent Money British GT Championship season. Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

The third and fourth rounds of the 2020 Intelligent Money British GT Championship season are now in the books. WPI Motorsport, Team Parker Racing and HHC Motorsport all recorded their first entries in the win column for the year. The #95 TF Sport Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 meanwhile, became the season’s first double winner.

As listeners and readers will be aware, the British GT Fans Show has recently linked up with TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk. Our partnership means that rather than duplicate written content, we will no longer do fully written race reports. Instead we are working with the British GT Fans group on Facebook to bring a different style of race report. Working in reverse class drivers championship order; here is our rundown of the weekend that was:

GT3 – New Winners All Round

15th – #51 AF Corse UK Ferrari 488 GT3 EVO

The AF Corse UK Ferrari 488 at Fogerty Esses on the Donington Park GP Circuit.
Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

Only Dennis Lind, who didn’t make the trip to Donington Park, sits lower in the championship table than AF Corse UK‘s Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin. The thing is, no-one really knows why! It was just rounds 3 & 4 of complete anonymity for the only Ferrari 488 GT3 EVO in the field.

1.5 points for finishing the two hour encounter in tenth was a gift really, a troubled run for the Team Parker Racing Bentley dropping the #66 behind the #51 at the flag. Even that was only by 4.416 seconds. Of course the Stewart Proctor driven McLaren struggled massively in the opening encounter, the conditions not suited at all to learning a new GT3 car. A lack of pace from Proctor saved Griffin and Cameron complete from oblivion on the time sheets.

Tenth in race 2 was also gifted to the team. RAM Racing‘s #6 had more than its share of troubles, placing eleventh at the end of the race. Two cars finished laps down and in retirement. It did mean that an untroubled run would give a single point at least, and a single point was what the Ferrari gained.

The only thing we can really say about the #51 is that they kept their nose clean throughout. Given the challenging conditions that’s nothing to sneeze at but it’s not what you expect from AF Corse and the Griffin/Cameron combination.

The crew are missing Brands Hatch as they are committed to the ELMS race at Paul Ricard in preparation for their run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That means that the duo have ceded the championship before they unloaded at Oulton, but we still expect more from a full season GT3 entry.

13th – #36 Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3

The Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 in the garage ready to race.
Credit: Andrew Brightman

Beware the cautionary tale of the tortoise and the hare. This parable sums up the situation at the bottom of the championship table perfectly.

Ahead on points of the 14th placed Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO of JMH Auto‘s John Seale and Marcus Clutton, the McLaren of Stewart Proctor and Joe Osborne had a better result from Donington Park than even they probably expected. JMH by the way, were racing in GT Cup at Silverstone which is why they didn’t attend Donington.

The tortoise and the hare story comes in with the Ferrari above. A car which should have been much faster ends up 6.5 points down.

Round 3 was never going to go well for Balfe. A new driver, recently graduated from GT4 cars in the Pure McLaren series, tackling a wet and intimidating circuit for the first time. For much of the first hour Proctor battled to stay in the lead of GT4!! The experienced and super-quick young guns from TF Sport’s Aston Martins actually being held up in the corners by the putatively faster GT3 machine.

The team played a master-stroke though, leaving Proctor in the car as long as they could to gain knowledge and experience before handing off to Osborne. They wrote off the big one for a better result in race 2.

Come race 2, Osborne started on slicks and battled hard with Scott Malvern for the lead of the race. With faster tyres, no success penalties and no expectations, the #36 held position throughout the opening stint. When Osborne handed over to Proctor, who had to do at least 25 minutes of the hour long race, the car was well set and defending is easier than overtaking. Proctor held out for fifth place at the line, losing out to Pro/Am pairing Balon and Keen and the two silver cup McLarens of 2 Seas and Optimum.

A very strong result given the circumstances and encouraging for their next appearance.

12th – #9 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3

The 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren in the pit lane at Donington Park.
Credit: Andrew Brightman

Angus Fender celebrated his birthday on raceday at Donington Park. Right, that’s the good news for the #9 car out of the way.

Problems for the effort started in warm up, which the team took far too literally. A fire at the rear of the McLaren caused extensive damage, so much so that the car was finally repaired and ready to race 17 laps into the 2 hour endurance encounter. There was nothing to be achieved at that point except track time. Which the crew set to gaining with skill and speed.

Race 2 didn’t go well either. Dean MacDonald started on slicks which should have been a passport to good things but a small mistake at Old Hairpin sent the car spinning onto the grass. Slick tyres + wet grass = waiting for help from the boys and girls in orange. That help arrived fairly promptly but not before the #9 McLaren 720S GT3 had lost several laps and all hope of a result.

11th – #8 Team ABBA Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3

The Team ABBA Racing Mercedes-AMG being chased at Donington Park.
Credit: Richard Towler Photography

Team ABBA Racing had a strange weekend. A strong performance in the opening race, where conditions were the trickiest, meant that Richard Neary handed the only older Mercedes-AMG in the field over to son Sam Neary in a respectable position. Bear in mind that Richard is an Am in a field of mainly silver drivers; he advanced from 12th to 6th by the pit stops.

Sam then set to scaring the bejaysus out of the competition. Several outright fastest laps of the race were banged in on the way to sixth place overall and a dearly needed 12 championship points.

Race 2 saw the car shooting forward in the opening stint again, Sam Neary rising five places from 10th on the grid to place best of the wet tyre runners at the pit stops. Of course with the demonstrated performance of the slicks, the crew shed the wets whilst installing Richard for the second stint. An early spin for the #8 was joined by at least one more. The car took damage and Richard had to retire. Its a shame, the weekend could have brought a strong result.

10th – #66 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3

The Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 at Donington Park
Credit: Lee Fisher

The Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 hates the wet. It’s a well known fact. So its not surprising that the #66 of Nick Jones and Scott Malvern struggled in the wet 2 hour race to start the day. Eleventh place and out of the points wasn’t what the team had hoped for but it wasn’t particularly unexpected.

Race two more than made up for the disappointment of the morning race though. Scott Malvern made the call to start the race on slick tyres, from the outside of the front row. When the lights went out Malvern drag raced Joe Osborne to Redgate, then held it out on the still soggy outside line to claim the lead of the race. Initially the car dropped back, falling victim to wet-shod competitors but within three laps the slicks came into their own and Malvern drove away into the sunset.

Nick Jones took over at the stops and impressed throughly. He obviously inherited a decent advantage but he picked his battles, timed his overtakes and drove a measured run to the pair’s first win in GT3. All while being chased down by vastly more experienced competition behind.

9th – #6 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO

The RAM Racing Mercedes hunts the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini at Donington Park.
Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

A disappointing second race for the #6 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO saw Ian Loggie looking at the scenery on occasion which was reflected in the result. Eleventh place put them out of the points despite all a fired up Yelmer Buurman could do.

Race 1 went better for the crew. A race long battle with Adam Balon and Phil Keen saw places switch on a regular basis. Neither Am could get an advantage in the opening stints and they lapped as an 8 wheeled V18 monster for much of the earlier race.

When Loggie handed over to Buurman it didn’t change. One of Mercedes-AMG’s finest factory drivers met his match in the hotshot from Lamborghini Squadra Corse. Come the end of the race, 0.884 seconds split the two cars, RAM Racing taking the advantage.

8th – #10 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3

The 2 Seas Motorsport car in the gravel at Foghety Esses at Donington Park.
Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

Just looking at the pictures, you would assume that the #10 was 2 Seas Motorsport’s problem child but its just not the case. Jack Mitchell and Jordan Witt started the endurance race at the back of the field but made swift progress through the pack. In fact the only real problem the crew faced was a spin at Fogarty Esses, it was just more to the team’s misfortune that photographers were there to catch it.

Strong pace throughout the 2 hour race was rewarded with seventh place come the end, damage limitation for sure, netting welcome points.

In race 2 the crew duplicated the tactics of GT4 McLarens and the AF Corse UK Ferrari, starting the race on slicks and capitalised. Third place in the final race brought much needed points to the crew, the team’s only double points finish so far this season, the team is already 40.5 points behind second place in the team’s title fight.

7th – #2 Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren 720S GT3

The Team Rocket RJN McLaren at Coppice on the Donington Park GP circuit.
Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

Championship leaders as the transporters parked in the Donington Park paddock, Jenson Team Rocket RJN have to be licking their wounds after a disastrous rounds 3 & 4. The wet was not kind.

Eighth place in World’s Fastest Gamer James Baldwin‘s first wet race netted only 3 points. It was purely pace too, with no obvious issues with the car or spins whilst on track. It looked good, just slow.

Race 2 went worse, tyre choice on the grid playing a large part in the lack of performance, with ninth the best the #2 car could muster. Michael O’Brien and James Baldwin need a better result from Brands Hatch or their silver cup title hopes will be shattered.

6th – #96 Optimum Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3

The front tyre of the Optimum Motorsport McLaren shifting water during the British GT Championship at Donington Park.
Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

The opening race of the weekend at Donington Park looked to be a good start for Optimum Motorsport‘s defending Silver Cup champion and his new for 2020 team mate Lewis Proctor. The crew were battling at the head of the silver pack for the first 70 minutes before pitting to hand over to Ollie Wilkinson.

With 50 minutes to go, Wilkinson hit the track and continued work his way towards the front. He was the unfortunate victim of contact at the Melbourne hairpin though, which caused suspension damage and put paid to any hopes of advance. He ended the race ninth overall.

The second race saw the duo start on the slick tyres and move forward into a race long duel with Jack Mitchell and Jordan Witt. Positions were traded regularly but the Optimum car held the advantage at the stops and again when the clock dropped into the last five minutes. A move by Witt in the dying minutes displaced the #96 car to 4th place overall, second in the Silver Cup class.

4th & 5th & 16th – #18 WPI Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO

The WPI Motorsport Lamborhgini
Credit: Tom Whitmore

4th, 5th and 16th, how can one car hold three championship positions I hear you ask.

Round 1 & 2 saw Michael Igoe joined by Dennis Lind for two races at Oulton Park, neither of which went particularly well. Rounds 3 & 4 saw Igoe accompanied by Andrea Calderelli, who despite having no experience of Donington Park, only 2 days to get embedded with the team, and a poor qualifying session, dazzled the crowds with pace and tenacity to take WPI Motorsport‘s first overall British GT win.

Don’t blame the success fully on the 2019 GT World Challenge Sprint and Endurance champion. Michael Igoe shares the credit for the big trophy, the #18 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO setting impressive pace and eclipsing officially faster drivers on his way up the order. Installing Calderelli just turned a quick car in to a guided missile, with the chequered flag it’s target.

Sixth place in race 2 was a combination of success seconds in the pit stops and tyre choice. We can be sure that the WPI Lamborghini is going to be a force to be reckoned with later in the season.

3rd – #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO

The Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini of Collard and Mitchell.
Credit: David Brown.

From 5 minute short oval blasts to 20 minute touring car crash fests, Rob Collard‘s racing career to date hasn’t done much to prepare him for endurance racing, expect little during round 3 of the championship.

Erm, scrub that.

75 minutes plus at the wheel of a GT3 car saps even seasoned endurance racing pros, Rob Collard did it at the first attempt, leading for much of the way too. He just kept pounding round and round, and it was remarkable.

The long stint was no doubt down to a bad strategy call. The team appeared to be holding out for slick rubber weather which just never arrived. By the time it became obvious that it wasn’t going to arrive it was too late and all they could do was keep him out and hope.

When Sandy Mitchell finally got a go in the car he shares with the touring car legend he set about repairing some of the damage but he could only claim fifth place, 8 seconds behind the team car in fourth and almost half a minute off the race winning Lamborghini.

The second race saw the Lamborghini hidden from view by faster and more exciting battles around. A low key run to sixth place gives them title hopes but no guarantee.

2nd – #69 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO

Sparks fly from the Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO of RAM Racing.
Credit: Neil Pearce

Two races at Donington Park and twice the Silver Cup #69 has bettered the Pro/Am #6 from RAM Racing. Sam de Haan was demon quick in his stints in both races, pushing his way through the order to join the battle for the win in race 1.

When he handed to Patrick Kujala, the car continued to lap at impressive pace but Andrea Calderelli in the WPI machine was closing. Kujala held off the #18 for over a lap which was very impressive given the disparity in pace but in the end it wasn’t to be. Calderelli struck with the one-shot, one-kill accuracy of a sniper and romped off into the distance.

Race 2 bought success seconds and tricky tyre choice. Both RAM machines opted for wets on the grid which proved to be short term gain for long term pain. A long race to 8th wasn’t what the doctor ordered, nor was finishing again behind Andrea Calderelli and Michael Igoe.

11 points off the overall championship lead and just 1.5 points off the Silver Cup title leader is a strong result though and the Mercedes will be free of success penalty when the transporters unload at Brands Hatch in a couple of weeks time.

1st – #72 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO

The Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO
Credit: Adrian Wraith

Fourth place in the wet race to start the day was a good save for the Adam Balon and Phil Keen driven Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO which now leads the championship. Balon proved to be a safe pair of hands, making steady progress early on before becoming locked into battle with the #6 Mercedes. Phil Keen we know makes a Lamborghini go as quick as its possible for it to go. It was no surprise then that he claimed the fastest lap of the opening race on the final tour of the circuit.

In fact the only real surprise there is that he lost the fastest lap in the first place.

Tyre choice in race 2 ended any hopes of a victory for the crew but Phil Keen’s impressive pace with wet rubber on a drying track kept the car in contention. Adam Balon took over and the car was still flying, scrapping with the #10 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren for a while before liberating the second step of the podium.

By the time he had passed Jordan Witt’s machine, he was too far down on the Team Parker Racing Bentley. The gap was reduced in the dying minutes but there just wasn’t enough time to assure Barwell of victory.

GT4 – Honours Split

7th – #43 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4

A BMW GT4 car with BMW branding at McLeans on the Donington Park Grand Prix circuit.
Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

The #43 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 of Andrew Gordon-Colebrook and Ben Hurst continued a disappointing start to the season at Donington Park. The duo didn’t seem to have problems during the race, they just lacked pace which resulted in two last place finishes, points being granted only due to the lower numbers of entries in 2020.

Even qualifying pace was down, Gordon-Colebrooke qualifying ahead of the HHC Motorsport McLaren of Gus Bowers, while Ben Hurst managed to pip only Mia Flewitt to take 7th in class.

6th – #61 Academy Motorsport Ford Mustang GT4

A Ford Mustang GT4 from Academy Motorsport.
Credit:Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

Fourth place in the endurance format 2 hour race to start Sunday was almost poor reward for an entertaining run which saw the Academy Motorsport crew battling for the lead at points. Matt Cowley and Jordan Albert looked to be on the pace throughout but dropped to 17 seconds behind the eventual race winner by the close.

The one hour encounter netted 6th place in a race full of strategy and intrigue. He, (or she) who went to slick tyres first on a drying track would take the spoils. That all but the class leaders were lapped by the final lap of the race, and therefore the #61 shows as a lap down in class is just the history books being unfair.

A much stronger result after a very challenging Oulton Park.

5th – #23 Speedworks Motorsport Toyota GR Supra GT4

Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

At last Sam Smelt and James Kell can celebrate their first podium with the new for 2020 Toyota GR Supra GT4. The sodden race 1 saw the Toyota fighting at the front throughout, pushing past the early pace setters in the McLarens and keeping the TF Sport Aston Martins honest.

In fact had the Toyota and the #97 Aston spent less time fighting and more time chasing the eventual winner, it could have been much closer and possibly an even better result for the Speedworks team.

Fourth in the 4th round of the championship wasn’t as good a result but it does make the Toyota the first non-McLaren in the GT4 order. It also puts the less experienced team ahead of multiple champion teams like TF Sport and Century. A strong weekend for the Japanese machine.

4th – #21 Balfe Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4

A McLaren racing against other GT cars at Donington Park.
Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

After claiming the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4’s first victory at Oulton Park, 7th in class in the Endurance encounter would seem like a poor reward. Bear in mind though that Mia Flewitt is the only Am in the GT4 field, and she had to start the race and you start to see why a strong result at Donington was pushing their luck.

Of course once Euan Hankey climbed aboard, as the only ‘proper’ Pro in the class, the car picked up speed but it was too late to do anything other than pass the #43 Century BMW.

Come race 2 and it was much easier for the pair to shine. First, Euan Hankey started the race so the benefit of a pro over a silver was given full airing. On a greasy, inconsistent track, the #21 romped away. At the pit stops, Mia Flewitt climbed aboard and it is much easier for a slower driver to defend than attack.

Flewitt let one car past in her half an hour at the wheel. An astonishing result given that every one of her competitors was a silver graded driver. Second overall in GT4 is a great result from a remarkable effort.

3rd – #57 HHC Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4

A HHC McLaren at McLeans corner on the Donington Park Grand Prix circuit.
Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

Chris Wesemael and Gus Bowers entered the second meeting of the championship thirteen points down on their team mates in the #58 machine. The HHC duo held their own in the early part of the first race but couldn’t find the pace to stick with the front engined battle pack which eventually put them back into 5th.

The shorter sprint race paid off handsomely, a win for the pair, bettering the Pro/Am Balfe Motorsport machine in the second stint. The #21 put up a good fight but wasn’t able to hold off the HHC machine. They got even luckier at the end of the race as the Team Parker Racing Bentley managed to catch and lap all their competition by the line, gifting the duo a lap’s lead in the final standings.

3rd – #58 HHC Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4

A HHC Motorsport McLaren leads a pack of GT4 cars at Old Hairpin on the Donington Park GP circuit.
Credit: Richard Towler Photography

Patrik Matthiesen and Jordan Collard took their first win of the season in the second race at Donington Park. As with the #21, the team opted to change tyres after the lap to the grid, which made them start from pit lane but put them in a good position for the opening stint.

It was a good job too as the wet race which started the day didn’t suit the McLarens particularly well and sixth was the best the pair could extract from the 2 hour encounter.

The final laps of the sprint format race though were thrilling, with Matthiesen hunting down and eventually passing Mia Flewitt for the win. It tied them on points with their team mates who couldn’t get past the Balfe car. Of course the first race result aided the HHC machines, with no success seconds to serve and a shorter race, the faster Aston Martins had less time to limit the damage.

2nd – #95 TF Sport Aston Martin V8 Vantage AMR GT4

A TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT4 tries to keep up with a GT3 car over the Melborne Loop.
Credit: Nick Smith/RacingPhotographic.co.uk

The only car in the field to claim two victories in 2020 so far, Patrick Kibble and Connor O’Brien did excellent work in the 2 hour race to limit the damage from their round 2 retirement. 37.5 points from the 2 hour race leaves them trailing team mates Caroline and Vaughan by just 1.5 headed to Brands Hatch.

The second race didn’t go as well for the crew. 7th place was the best they could achieve with success seconds and the wrong tyres contributing to a less than stellar run. Still, the duo managed to minimise the impact and are set for a strong performance in the 2 hour race on the Grand Prix circuit in Kent.

1st – #97 TF Sport Aston Martin V8 Vantage AMR GT4

The championship leading TF Sport Aston Martin races at Coppice corner on the Donington Park GP Circuit.
Credit: Nick Smith/Racingphotographic.co.uk

Second in round 3 for Jamie Caroline and Daniel Vaughan was about the best the pair could hope for. Their team mates in identical machinery, were unencumbered by success seconds whilst a podium in the final race at Oulton Park left the #97 on pit road for longer.

10 points from race 2 courtesy of fifth place on the road could have been worse. The Academy Motorsport Mustang held off the sister car in a battle which covered only half a second from fifth to seventh at the line. Had the #97 made up that final place, the title lead would be theirs.

It shows, even at this early stage of the championship the need for consistency though. The only double race winning crew trail their team mates four rounds in.

Want to read more?

If you want to read a more detailed and traditional race report, visit TCF Sportscars on TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk for more:

Race 1 – http://www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk/2020/08/wpi-motorsport-snatch-dramatic-win-at-donington/

Race 2 – http://www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk/2020/08/team-parker-bentley-wins-donington-race-2/

Do you want to get involved in our race coverage?

Joining in is simple. You will notice that 9 of the 21 cars are showing photos which weren’t taken by our very own Nick Smith. Working with the British GT Fans group on Facebook, we are offering fans at the track the chance to get their photos published.

All you need to do to take part and hopefully get your images published is:

  • Join the British GT Fans group on Facebook.
  • Snap away at the racetrack.
  • Find your best shots and pop them in the thread on the British GT Fans group.
  • Check back mid-week after the race to see if your photos have been used.

You’ve got more chance at Brands Hatch too as Nick isn’t going. Hopefully all the photos used for Round 5 will be fan shot images. To maximise your chances, shoot all the cars. We had loads of photos of the Bentley from Donington Park and very few, in fact only one of the GT4 runners. Give us something no-one else does and we are more likely to use it.

Nick Smith is a time served motorsport journalist and photographer specialising in the British GT Championship. The originator of the idea behind the British GT Fans Show, Nick works to bring all the parties together.

Outside of motor racing Nick is a articulated lorry driver, qualified transport manager, and brass musician.

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