Feature: Car by Car – Snetterton 300

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Credit: Euan Kennedy

The penultimate meeting of the 2020 Intelligent Money British GT Chamiponship season is now in the history books. Two one hour races on the 300 layout of MotorSport Vision‘s Snetterton Circuit, left us with battles in seven of the 8 championships heading into the final round at the Silverstone 500.

As has become our pattern, we are going car by car through the field, in reverse drivers championship order, looking at the performance of each crew in the 2 races:

GT3:

Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

17th : #51 AF Corse UK Ferrari 488 GT3 EVO – Duncan Cameron & Matt Griffin

Returning from a trial in Le Sarthe, Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin travelled with their bad luck packed safely and ready for use again. The #51 Ferrari from AF Corse UK had a desperately poor weekend in Norfolk, turning in two sets of no points finishes in the overall battle where the only coverage the car really got was when Phil Keen came to lap them in the second race.

In fact the only saving graces for the duo, who run the only 488 GT3 EVO in British GT, came in the form of reasonable qualifying pace, 8th for race 1 and 7th for race 2. Add to that the lack of entries in the Pro/Am class netting 8 and 10 points respectively in that battle and its a very thin silver lining to this cloud.

4.5 points overall puts the duo 132 behind the title leader and well out of contention. In their Pro/Am class its almost worse, 55 points puts them 121 behind the title front runner in a class where any finish almost guarantees points.

16th place is occupied by John Searle and Marcus Clutton’s JMH Auto Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO which didn’t contest the Snetterton rounds.

Credit: Laborne Action Photography

15th: #36 Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720s GT3 – Stuart Proctor & Joe Osbourne

The planned 2020 programme for the Balfe Motorsport GT3 crew is now over which means that the part time crew of Stuart Proctor and Joe Osbourne will score no more points this year. Despite that, given past performance, it’s unlikely they will drop further in the overall championship table. The white and orange McLaren 720s GT3 took 9th and 10th places, netting 3 points in total in the overall battle is indicative of an anonymous drive amid tantilising battles up front.

Anonymous is the perfect word. Excluding grids and final results, five pages of notes on two hours of racing reference the #36 twice. Once when another car had a problem and it gained as a result and once when it headed to the pits for a routine stop.

It’s not a criticism of Stuart or Joe either. Their previous outings have come with notice because Osbourne was so quick, or Proctor so slow. Not every track suits every driver, not all drivers are adept at the very challenging conditions we faced at Snetterton. Joe Osbourne not taking chunks out of the race leaders is not a cause for shame. Given the conditions though, Proctor not going several laps down is a cause for pride in his last race of an abbreviated season, with little testing and bypassing British GT4 completely.

Their advantage in the GT3 Pro/Am battle is not as secure as the overall battle. Whilst the points lead over the Ferrari is greater, the chance of a big score is higher. It’s likely that AF Corse UK will have at least one championship position gain to celebrate at the end of the final 3 hours of racing.

14th place is held by Franck Perera alone who raced a single round in the #18 WPI Motorsport Lamborghini but was not present at Snetterton.

Credit: Laborne Action Photography

13th: #9 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren 720s GT3 – Angus Fender & Dean MacDonald

With 2 Seas Motorsport team mates in the #10 car still in the Silver Cup championship battle, Snetterton was a double header where Angus Fender and Dean MacDonald needed to execute well. Exempting a stop and go in the second race for a pit stop less than a second below the minimum time, the team did their part this weekend. Even a breakdown on the way to the grid for race 1 didn’t seem to throw the still new crews off their game.

Instead that duty unfortunately fell to Fender & MacDonald who did a strong job of clearing the GT4 traffic after a pit lane start in race 1 but then caught note mainly for tending the Snetterton grass than for exploits on the race track. The sole exceptions to that rule was when Fender narrowly avoided a massive accident at the hands of a rejoining #66 Bentley and an overtake on the disappointingly slow Ferrari at Bomb Hole.

Five separate trips on to the grass are noted across 2 races, mostly at Fenders hands. High points are few and far between but the one thing we can be certain of this time, it’s not the fault of the team who impressed thoroughly across the weekend.

11th in the first race ahead of just the Ferrari and 9th in the second race assured the crew of only 2 points from Snetterton. It’s their second points of the season and leaves them with 17 headed into the final round for the overall title. 57 points in the Silver Cup class put them 89 points behind their team mates and well out of contention.

12th place is held by the Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO crew of Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding. The Steller Performance team didn’t make the trip to Snetterton.

Credit: Lisa Lynch

11th: #66 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 – Nick Jones & Scott Malvern

So infrequently were the #66 crew rising to attention during the Snetterton weekend, even the lead circuit commentator forgot Jone’s name and started calling him Neal! That said, aside from a scary off at Palmer in race 1 for Nick Jones and an equally troubling coming together for Scott Malvern at Brundle on the opening lap of race 2, the Bentley actually did better than expected given the conditions.

Jone’s off was a no-harm-no-foul affair, though he missed the armco protecting BGTFShow team members Andrew and Gaz on post 11 narrowly and nearly rejoined the track at Oggies. He kept it rolling though, meaning our colleagues didn’t have to leave the shelter of their hut to push a Bentley off the sodden grass. His rejoin caught more note, nearly spearing the #9 2 Seas McLaren in the side but even that is almost understandable. If he had stopped to let the McLaren go, he wouldn’t have found traction on the grass, and with mud on his tyres, he had little more grip on the tarmac!

Malvern’s issue was the bigger one, partly because it made the former F3 ace the subject of two investigations, but also because it beached the Bentley broadside on at the curbs at the apex of Nelson. Marshals were quickly on the scene to attend the car which made it back to the pits without affecting the lead battle but both the Bentley (7 laps) and one of the two other cars involved, the #57 HHC Motorsport McLaren 570s GT4 (3 laps) lost time and any hope of a good result in the pit lane.

Their saving grace was even greater misfortune for their class rivals in 10th place, it means that their 21 point overall tally gives them a chance of breaking into the championship top ten at Silverstone. An 8.5 point gap in the Pro/Am standings gives them a reasonable chance of showing improvement in that title battle too, especially if Andrea Calderelli sits the finale out in the WPI #18.

Credit: Andrew Leonard Warnes

10th: #8 Team Abba Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: Richard Neary & Sam Neary

For father and son team Richard and Sam Neary it was a weekend to forget. A well known phrase in motorsport is that nothing good comes of warm-up. A truism which stung hard for the little team from St Helens.

Richard Neary was at the wheel after the first red flag of warm-up, when he lost control of the Mercedes in very tricky conditions. Unlike the issue for the #2 McLaren, Neary speared to the inside of the track and clouted the barriers hard. He came to a rest in the field on the outside of the run from Riches to Wilson.

It would soon become apparent how hard he had hit too, the team reporting shortly after that the impact had damaged the carbon fibre tub of the Mercedes. It wouldn’t be possible to repair locally. The team was out before the racing even began.

It brings the battle for 10th in the overall drivers standings down to just 4 points between the Abba car and the Team Parker Racing Bentley. In Pro/Am its an easier to swallow 11.5 points which means assuming the Mercedes scores at all, the Bentley must finish at least 4th to overhaul them.

9th place is held by Andrea Calderelli alone after selected rounds in the #18 WPI Motorsport Lamborghini. Andrea’s performance will be discussed along with full season driver Michael Igoe.

Credit: Stuart Palmer

8th: #96 Optimum Motorsport McLaren 720s GT3 – Lewis Proctor & Ollie Wilkinson

Race 1 was a great result for Optimum Motorsport with Lewis Proctor and Ollie Wilkinson at the wheel. A punchy start from Proctor put the car up into second place an even trying for the lead early on. A steady performance thereafter saw the car in a very strong 2nd by the stops and Wilkinson mounted an astonishing defence against a hard charging Sandy Mitchell in the #78 Lamborghini.

That defence was ultimately doomed to failure, but no-one told Wilkinson who somehow held off the black bullet until the final corner. A drag race to the line favoured the Lamborghini but by the slimmest of margins. Wilkinson took third.

In race 2 the car didn’t seem as well suited to the conditions, but that affected al the McLarens, not just Optimum’s. It left Wilkinson battling Fender for 8th place, the 2 Seas machine trying to pass the Optimum car. The #96 did a great job of defending, only to lose out after almost 20 minutes of constant harassment. The #9, so pleased to have completed the move finally, promptly threw it off and gave the place back which then gave Wilkinson mirrors full of #2 McLaren.

It was a second race of damage limitation, especially with success seconds in the pit lane. 3rd and 8th overall was a good return from a trip to Norfolk, even if the #10 machine stole 7th away on the final lap of the race.

Points wise, Snetterton left the Optimum Motorsport car one of the top three without a chance at the title, meaning that our only defended championship will definitely go to a new home. None of the 8 drivers in contention have won in Silver Cup before. 56 points adrift in the overall title battle also means that the crew won’t be able to claim the big prize either. Silverstone is for pride, and hopefully an improvement in the lesser places.

Credit: Dom Vincent

7th: #6 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO – Ian Loggie & Yelmer Buurman

RAM Racing had a hell of a job at the weekend, managing 2 cars fighting for 3 championships between them. They executed perfectly. Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman also had a monstrous task, keeping within shouting distance of the car and driver pairing which as of Sunday evening, have claimed 3 of the last 4 races on the 300 layout. They executed almost flawlessly.

Both Buurman and Loggie had offs at Williams during the second race but that was the only blot on a great weekend. They pulled a further 6 points ahead at the end of the first race, benefitting from a spin for Balon in the opening lap of the encounter.

The second race, Buurman spent the whole of his stint fending off advances from Andrea Calderelli, while Loggie fought off the attentions of Michael Igoe for his stint. It didn’t matter, no-one had an answer for the Adam Balon and Phil Keen Lamborghini in the afternoon, keeping the loss to just 10 points was an epic result for the team and leaves them a single point off the lead of the Pro/Am title fight.

The overall battle is a different story. At 52.5 points behind their team mates in the #69, Loggie and Buurman are out of the fight for the big prize. Their result kept the team’s fight alive too, so all in all a good weekend in a soggy Snetterton.

Credit: Stephen Rix

6th: #18 WPI Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO – Michael Igoe

Coming away from Snetterton still in the hunt for the championship is a great result, bearing in mind the last time Michael Igoe arrived at Snetterton with a Lamborghini it was the first time he had driven the car in anger. Seventh in qualifying for the first race left Igoe and co-driver Andrea Calderelli left them with a mountain to climb.

Especially as that mountain included getting past the title leading Mercedes of Sam de Haan and Patrick Kujala. 9 laps of concentrated battling between Calderelli and Kujala saw the Lamborghini have a good few sniffs but the brute power of the 6.3l V8 kept the #96 ahead.

4th place on the grid of the second race put them in a much better position but again, the Lamborghini was again behind the 6.2 litre drag racer of a Mercedes, this time with Yelmer Buurman at the wheel to fight off Calderelli’s advances. Igoe wasn’t able to get out of the pits ahead of Ian Loggie, which left the Lambo giving the best he could but it wouldn’t be enough.

That being said, the #18 car is still in the title fight and with more than a passing chance at the Pro/Am victory. Unfortunately the results do mean that Michael Igoe is out of the overall title running.

Credit: Ian Cutting Photography

5th: #10 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren 720s GT3 – Jack Mitchell & Jordan Witt

When the #10 McLaren of Jack Mitchell and Jordan Witt secured the inside of the second row in qualifying it was one of the team’s stronger performances. Blasting past the #78 at the first corner and dicing for a few corners then taking the lead from the #69 at Murrays. From then on it was never headed, though a concerted effort from the #96.

Victory was almost a foregone conclusion from the half way mark.

Race two was never going to be as good. Starting in the final points paying position, and with tricky weather conditions which didn’t suit the McLaren at all, the highlights of the race were taking fifth on the opening couple of corners, before dropping back and taking 7th on the final lap. The lowlight a trip across the grass with fifteen minutes to go which put the car back down the order.

The crew, perhaps surprisingly given the problematic season 2 Seas Motorsport have endured, still hold a hope of claiming the Silver Cup title with one round to go.

Credit: Euan Kennedy

4th: #2 Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren 720s GT3 – James Baldwin & Michael O’Brien

Two points scoring finishes in variable conditions is surprisingly a poor showing from the Gamer turned Racer James Baldwin and McLaren specialist Michael O’Brien. The Jenson Team Rocket RJN crew actually dropped a spot in the first race, starting 6th and finishing in 7th but didn’t rise to attention from the broadcast.

The second race went much better, the crew actually making up 6 places. It’s not that hard when you start in the final GT3 grid position. Once agian though, the progress was below the radar. Again, there was no noticeable coverage of the #2 car on the live stream.

The crew does remain one of three cars which have a shot at two titles. It’s a long shot though, both at the overall title and the Silver Cup championship.

Credit: Colm O’Laoi

3rd: #72 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO – Adam Balon & Phil Keen

Firstly, Adam Balon is almost guaranteed, barring a non-scoring finish, to be the highest placed Amateur driver in the overall title fight. The first race started off with Balon fighting off the advances of Angus Fender in the #9 McLaren, holding off a charge from the back of the grid after starting 9th. An early spin dropped the Lamborghini to tha back of the pack.

It put Phil Keen on a recovery drive which recovered the car to seventh.

Race 2 was like night and day. Starting on the outside of the front row Keen put Sandy Mitchell in his shadow at the first corner. From then on it was a pretty smooth run to the flag. The battle between the #6, #69 and #18 gave Balon all the time he needed to bring it home, despite losing 2 seconds a lap to a charging Michael Igoe.

It was a result which kept the #72 with a solid chance at the Overall title but with work still to do at Silverstone. Meanwhile any finish above 6th in Northampton ensures the Pro/Am title returns to Barwell’s workshop for a second year.

Credit: Paul Vallance

2nd: #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO – Rob Collard & Sandy Mitchell.

Starting second for the first race was a great result for Rob Collard. Losing out at the Wilson hairpin, countering at Palmer then losing out again wasn’t the way the plan was written though. A determined defence against the #69 Mercedes was vital in maintaining a manageable gap to the leading Mercedes in the title fight.

First lap losses in the second race was also not the plan, though at least this time it was a loss to the team mate car who didn’t overtake them in the overall title battle. Losses later in the race took them down to fifth place overall, behind Silver Cup rivals from RAM Racing. The losses will hurt a lot more as the car which started a place behind and is run by the same team took the overall victory.

It was pit stop problems which caused the issues, the belts getting trapped during the driver change cost 20 seconds and did most of the damage.

Credit: Dom Vincent

1st: #69 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Sam de Haan & Patrick Kujala.

Pole for the first race was a great start to the weekend, losing out to a pair of McLarens in the opening lap wasn’t. Staying ahead of their team mates through the stops was vital as was holding off the #18 WPI Motorsport Lamborghini for almost ten laps at the end of the race.

Given that the #10 machine had an almost insurmountable advantage, the only real blot on the #69’s copybook was that title rivals Collard and Mitchell outscored the Mercedes at the end of race 1.

Fifth place on the grid for race 2 wasn’t as much of a thing to celebrate, but a determined battle to pass the factory driven #18 machine was a turning of the tables from race 1 but silver ranked Kujala didn’t disgrace himself against the professional opposition. Turnaround in the pits and in the immediate battle thereafter put the #18 ahead and chasing down the leading Lamborghini. Sam de Haan was left to hold off Ian Loggie to the flag.

Leading both the overall title fight and the Silver Cup championship going into the final round is the best possible position to be in.

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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