Motorsport

Burns/Burton seal British GT4 title as O’Sullivan waits to be crowned in GB3

Five cars remain in mathematical contention for the British GT3 title following two eventful one-hour sprints at Oulton Park.

Guesting RAM Racing Mercedes drivers Kevin Tse and Tom Onslow-Cole took a comfortable victory in the opener, the 42-year-old Macanese taking to the undulating Cheshire circuit like a duck to water on his series debut. Michael Igoe and Phil Keen (WPI Lamborghini) then splashed to their first win since the Brands Hatch season opener in the soaking second race.

But the biggest winners were Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind, the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini pair extending their championship lead by seven points to 13.5, with 37.5 up for grabs at the finale.

The weekend had started badly for 2006 champion Machitski, who shunted out of FP1 and missed the entire second practice session. Eighth in qualifying for race one wasn’t a bad effort, not least because nearest title rival Ian Loggie (RAM Mercedes) was one place behind him. He would gain another position when Beechdean Aston Martin driver Andrew Howard (level on points with Loggie) needed a new chassis following a qualifying shunt of his own, the resulting 10-place grid penalty sending him to the back of the 11-car grid.

With Howard’s co-driver Jonny Adam unable to set a lap and also starting race two from last, Beechdean’s weekend was thoroughly compromised and would yield just six points for two ninth places. Machitski bided his time in the opening stint of race one, keeping a train headed by Loggie at bay, and gained two spots to nab fourth when Morgan Tillbrook spun his Enduro Motorsport McLaren at Cascades, forcing Igoe onto the grass in avoidance.

Up ahead, Tse had caught polesitter Kelvin Fletcher and took the lead on lap 11 when the Paddock Motorsport Bentley had to dodge a GT4 skirmish at Old Hall. Fletcher also lost second to Richard Neary – back after missing Snetterton due to the damage sustained to his Abba Mercedes at Spa – before the pitstops, when he was baulked in traffic exiting Cascades.

The entire GT3 field (barring the delayed Tillbrook) followed Tse in as soon as the pit window opened on lap 14, the top three emerging in the same order with Onslow-Cole leading Sam Neary and Martin Plowman. Neary briefly challenged, but series returnee Onslow-Cole soon pulled away for a maiden British GT victory.

Leo Machitski/Dennis Lind (Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO) British GT, Oulton Park 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

But with the winning crew ineligible to score, the battle for second was worth the full complement of 25 points. In determined mood, Lind zeroed in on Plowman and took third decisively into Old Hall on lap 21 out of 37. Neary then looked vulnerable to the marauding Dane, but repeatedly repelled his challenges in a superb defensive display, finishing 0.692 seconds ahead.

A five-second success penalty carried over from Snetterton dropped Keen behind race two polesitter Scott Malvern (Team Parker Porsche) in the pits, but he still salvaged fifth place after Plowman was hit with a 30s penalty for repeated track- limits abuse and dropped to 10th.

After a safety-car start due to the poor visibility, Malvern controlled the early stages of race two from Lind and the second Barwell Lamborghini of Sandy Mitchell, who eventually passed his team-mate into Old Hall on lap 11. Keen ran sixth, behind Loggie’s co-driver Yelmer Buurman and Marcus Clutton (Enduro McLaren).

An off for Onslow-Cole at the Island Bend on the same tour brought out the safety car and scrambled the order again as RAM got Loggie (whose 10s penalty carried over from Snetterton had limited himself and Buurman to seventh in race one) out in the lead. But, having been pushed out of his pit stall early, Loggie had to slow dramatically before crossing the timing beam in order to meet the minimum pitstop time, which is against the rules. He was therefore hit with a drivethrough penalty, dropping him back to sixth.

Igoe thus led from Mitchell’s co-driver Adam Balon, Nick Jones (in for Malvern), Machitski and Neary. But Loggie was on a charge and, after Neary dropped back with an off at Shell Oils, he stormed back to third by passing Machitski and Jones, the Porsche driver also succumbing to Machitski before the flag.

Balon spun by himself at Old Hall starting the final lap, but gathered it up with enough time in hand to hold onto second, while Igoe brought home a victory that puts himself and Keen right back into the title hunt.
Yet the crew holding all the cards heading to the Donington finale is Machitski and Lind, whose fourth place means they have no success penalties hanging over them. With closest challengers Loggie/Buurman set to serve 10s, Igoe/Keen 20s and Balon/Mitchell 15s, the Barwell crew will have a crucial advantage. But, as Mark Lemmer’s team well knows, nothing in British GT is ever certain…

British GT4: Burns and Burton secure outright title

Will Burns/Gus Burton (BMW M3) British GT, Oulton Park 2021

Will Burns/Gus Burton (BMW M3) British GT, Oulton Park 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Century Motorsport BMW pair Will Burns and Gus Burton clinched the GT4 title in style with one round to spare, thanks to taking an unlikely victory in race two.

The pair had earlier finished second in the opening race, Burns taking the lead from polesitter Matt Topham’s Newbridge Aston Martin at the start and leading until the pitstops, where a 14-second shorter pitstop for the Pro-Am Aston meant Darren Turner emerged with a healthy margin over Burton’s Silver Cup M4. Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding (Steller Audi) completed the podium, Williams having spent the first stint bottled up behind Will Moore’s Mustang, which was sidelined by a starter motor failure during its stop.

With a seven-second pitstop success penalty for race two, the runaway championship leaders didn’t look a strong bet to win, particularly when Burton ran fourth in the opening stint while 2020 champion Jamie Caroline (subbing for Scott McKenna in the Pro-Am Speedworks Toyota) built up a healthy lead over Fielding and Turner.

But Caroline’s hard work was dashed when the safety car appeared following Tom Onslow-Cole’s off, while Newbridge and Steller blundered by leaving their charges out one lap longer than their competitors, dropping to the back after completing one extra slow lap in the safety car queue.

Mark Sansom’s Ginetta (which ran fifth early on in the hands of Charlie Robertson) was the surprise leader when the race resumed, ahead of fellow amateur John Ferguson (in for Caroline), but they were easy prey for the Silver drivers whose pitstop deficits had been wiped out.

Team Rocket RJN McLaren driver James Kell – in for Jordan Collard – scythed his way to the front, tracked closely by team-mate Michael Benyahia and Burns. But, despite the BMW’s heated windscreen not working, Burns was clearly quicker than the pair in front and Benyahia knew it, prompting a clumsy lunge for the lead at Knickerbrook on lap 25. Kell was knocked sideways but somehow kept going, while Burns needed no further invitation to capitalise on Benyahia’s loss of momentum to snatch second on the approach to Druids.

Burns then sized up Kell, making the pass stick at Old Hall two laps later before pulling away to a third win of the season. The struggling Benyahia dropped back in the closing laps, falling behind Moore and Jack Brown, who had earlier been taken out of race one at Lodge by the second Century BMW of Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke.

Oulton Park GB3: O’Sullivan waits to be crowned

GB3 Championship, Oulton Park 2021

GB3 Championship, Oulton Park 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Zak O’Sullivan all but secured the GB3 Championship crown during a highly eventful penultimate round at Oulton Park.

The Carlin driver put in his strongest qualifying performance of the season to secure a double pole, and had been almost half a second clear of the field before series debutant Luke Browning closed the gap to just over 0.1s on his final two laps of the session. Browning tried to wrestle the lead away from his former British Formula 4 rival through the first few corners of the opening race but, after resisting the pressure, O’Sullivan set a series of fastest laps to pull clear and take the win by almost four seconds.

After his car was found to have excessive skid-block wear during post-race scrutineering, Browning was disqualified from second place. That promoted the in-form pair of Ayrton Simmons (Chris Dittmann Racing) and Roberto Faria (Fortec Motorsport) to second and third, while their fellow rival for second in the standings, Christian Mansell, was fifth after sitting on the tail of Bart Horsten throughout.

Browning would enjoy a reversal in fortunes in race two. O’Sullivan led away from pole again, but a better exit out of Old Hall allowed Browning’s Fortec car to draw alongside and take the lead on the inside of Cascades. The pair ran nose to tail in the opening laps, with Faria lurking close behind in third. O’Sullivan eventually went for a move around the outside at Hislops but the gap disappeared, and he ended up spearing into the barriers after taking to the grass.

Zak O'Sullivan heads off the track, GB3, Oulton Park 2021

Zak O’Sullivan heads off the track, GB3, Oulton Park 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Faria was left to take the fight to his Fortec team-mate and, when Browning made a poor exit from Lodge, Faria was able to edge ahead as the pair started the penultimate lap. Browning tried to fight back on the inside of Old Hall but both simultaneously ended up off the road, with Faria’s race ending in the barriers.

Bart Horsten inherited the lead before the red flags were shown, but the Hitech GP driver would miss out on a maiden series win. Officials reinstated Browning on countback more than an hour after the race, giving him a victory on his first weekend in GB3. Faria was not classified given he had retired at the time of the red flag, meaning Horsten took second ahead of close pursuers Mansell and Simmons.

Heavy rain greeted the drivers for the final race of the weekend, with Mikkel Grundtvig leading away at the start of the fully-reversed-grid encounter from Roman Bilinski, who made a great start from fourth.

Arden driver Bilinski moved to the front on the inside of Cascades before pulling clear and taking his third victory of the season by over eight seconds from Grundtvig, who scored his third reversed-grid podium of the year. Frederick Lubin finished third – his best result so far – ahead of Javier Sagrera, the pair having passed Sebastian Alvarez late on.

O’Sullivan climbed from 16th on the grid to finish sixth, giving him a 112-point championship lead over Simmons, with Mansell three points further behind. While not enough to officially secure him the title, O’Sullivan could be crowned champion before he next sits in the car. With points awarded for positions gained in the reversed-grid race, the potential maximum on offer at the Donington Park finale is dependent on the number of cars that enter.

Brands Hatch 750MC: Short and Yarrow complete title quests

Ben Short (right) just missed out on race-one win to Ben Abbitt, but picked up the MX-5 Cup title. Brands Hatch 2021

Ben Short (right) just missed out on race-one win to Ben Abbitt, but picked up the MX-5 Cup title. Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Ben Short and Ryan Yarrow secured their respective MX-5 Cup and Sports 1000 championships on the 750 Motor Club’s second visit of the season to Brands Hatch’s Indy circuit. As several points leaders hit trouble, other competitors edged closer to titles to be won at Oulton Park, Mallory Park or Snetterton next month.

The 5 Club Racing Mazda promotion was a tale of three Bens, for Abbitt scored his first campaign win on Saturday, Short took Sunday’s early stanza, and outgoing champ Hancy matched Abbitt’s feat in the reversed-grid race. When challenger Michael Comber – second in the opener – was beached in the gravel on the rise to Druids in the middle race, marque maestro Short was almost home and dry. Finishing on Hancy’s bumper last time out made sure.

Reigning champion Yarrow’s task was aided when French title rival Victor Neumann (Mittell MC-53) was pushed from fifth on Saturday’s grid. Michael Roots utilised his Mittell’s straightline speed to finish 0.24 seconds behind Yarrow’s Spire on Saturday. Spiremen Rich Miles (GT3S, from pole) and Sporting Cup class winner Matthew Minett (GT3) chased them in. Roots outran Miles and Yarrow in the sequel, red-flagged inside a lap when Ian Hutchinson’s Spire clonked Jonathan McGill’s amidships, splitting its oil cooler. The restart was truncated when Minett’s engine grenaded.

James Harridge was quickest in Formula Vee qualifying, but his bid to land back-to-back crowns was hit when his Maverick’s engine ran its bearings. Forced to miss Saturday’s drama-laced race – won by Dan Hands in the AHS Dominator development car – Harridge fitted a new motor for Sunday and was leading when it blew.

“I was gutted,” he said, but damage to his aspirations was minimal since the leading lights all had nightmares. Harridge’s closest challenger Craig Pollard had been ‘meatball’ flagged for dropping oil when his Bears GAC slowed exiting Druids in the opener and Peter Belsey (Spyder) couldn’t avoid contact.

Both were back out for Sunday’s leg, stopped almost immediately when Matt Harbot’s Dominator arrived at Druids with its throttle jammed open and was launched over Maurice Gloster’s GAC. Harbot escaped injury. After the restart, leader Hands’s clutch failed, forcing retirement, and Pollard was summoned in again. Belsey charged home a surprised but delighted winner, over Ian Buxton, Gloster and Andrew Cooper, who was swallowed at the lights but fought back to where he’d started.

Danny Hands (AHS Dominator Mk2), Formula Vee, Brands Hatch 2021

Danny Hands (AHS Dominator Mk2), Formula Vee, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Trailing Jack Kingsbury by 17 points heading to Kent, Jack Dwane’s rich vein of Renault Clio 182 form continued with two consummate victories making it four from five. Kingsbury, Scott Edgar and Jason Pelosi led Saturday’s pursuit. With Dwane clear on Sunday, Kingsbury was penalised two seconds for clouting Anglesey winner Josh Larkin’s door in a bundle into Druids, which advantaged Larkin’s Deranged Motorsport team-mate Pelosi. The imposition dropped Kingsbury to 11th, bringing Dwane even closer going to Snetterton’s decider.

Table-topper Peter Bove’s quest for a sixth 750 Formula gong were hobbled by his faithful Darvi’s mysterious lack of rear-end grip at Druids and Clearways, thus depended heavily on rival Chris Gough’s fortunes. Annoyed at throwing his CGR2 into the gravel at Druids on the first lap of Sunday’s opener, Gough jostled back from last to fifth and third in the races, in both of which the frustrated Bove placed sixth. Ed Pither won the first, from battling Bill Cowley, who led from seventh, and Mark Glover (Racekits Falcon).

When Pither retired from the curtain closer, his PRS overheating, Cowley grabbed gold in the eponymous car originated by his grandad in 1968, from 10-time champ Mick Harris in wife Sue’s Darvi.

Centaur drivers Martin Depper and Trefor Slatter claimed Historic 750 Formula honours as Tim Sage (U2-Ford Mk4) threw away a win on the road with a jumped start – which attracted a 10s penalty – then spun at Clearways in race two. Depper, sans third gear, apologised for rotating Graham Wilson (Time 3B) at Druids as the lead tussle in the latter intensified.

Bidding for a Sport Specials championship hat-trick, Andy Hiley shook off Paul Boyd and Clive Hudson (Eclipses) and title rival Anton Landon (Cyana) in Sunday’s opener. Hiley “dropped it” at Druids in race two but, despite “getting scraped on both sides”, his Chronos was not mechanically wounded. Boyd and Hudson traded the lead but finished in that order, with Hiley closing and Brian Chandler fourth, hustling a new MEV along.

Martin West and Andrew Tait arrived equal on points in the fight for Locost gold. Two tremendous wins for West – the first by 0.01s, following a perfectly timed lunge past Tait to the line, with David Martin, Greg Smith and Geoff Peek in tow – left their score at five to three, with two rounds remaining. Tom Parker, Peek and Martin separated West from Tait later.

Aaron Cooke (Toyota Roadster) Brands Hatch 2021

Aaron Cooke (Toyota Roadster) Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Driving a replacement Rogue Roadster drafted in when his regular car lacked performance in Friday testing, Toyota MR2 championship leader Aaron Cooke repassed the faster-starting Shaun Traynor in both bouts, then left him breathless. “Credit where it’s due, Aaron’s been phenomenal all weekend,” said Traynor, who must now produce something special for Oulton Park’s final arbiters. Cam Walton and Paul Cook, best of the two-litre Mk2 drivers, grabbed a third apiece in frenetic chase packs.

Biggin Hill’s David Shead won both Armed Forces Race Challenge sorties in ‘Frankenstein’, his 3.2-litre M3-engined BMW Compact. The monster emitted a mighty bang, accompanied by an intense flash of white light, at the weekend’s first chequer. “It sometimes backfires when happy with its win,” explained veteran Shead. Mark White (Honda Civic EP3) and the impressive Jonathan Candler (Peugeot 306) claimed seconds in the races, which featured spirited combat among an interesting miscellany of armament.

Twenty-five BMW E87s populated an entertaining 116 Trophy enduro and, despite fuel valve issues striking frontrunners Tim Crighton and Mark Burton, most of the pack completed the 90 minutes. Lewis Tindall and Alan Corfield beat James Redish by 18s, with Tom Sibley a similar distance behind on the lead lap.

Reports by James Newbold, Steve Whitfield and Marcus Pye. Photography by Jakob Ebrey Photography/Motorsport Images and Gary Hawkins. Want more reports from the world of national motorsport? Subscribe today and never miss your weekly fix of motorsport with Autosport magazine.

Clio 182 Championship, Brands Hatch 2021

Clio 182 Championship, Brands Hatch 2021

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

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