> McLaren 570S claims its second win in three races
> Johnson and Robinson finish third to win drivers’ title
> RCIB Insurance Racing crowned teams’ champions
Sandy Mitchell and Ciaran Haggerty scored theirs and Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse’s second British GT4 Championship victory in three races at Donington Park earlier today, while Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson wrapped up the class title by finishing third aboard their PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta.
The McLaren 570S crew were untouchable after Mitchell jumped from second to first at the start before eventually sealing victory by 10.6s from Generation AMR Macmillan Racing’s Jack Mitchell and Matthew Graham, who equalled their best result of the season and scored a third podium in four rounds.
Jack Bartholomew, who trailed Johnson and Robinson by just 2.5 points at the start of the day and was the only other driver still able to win the title, started from pole but finished only sixth after the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin he shared with Ross Gunn suffered a brake issue during the second half of the race.
Johnson and Robinson’s GT4 title was the first for an Optimum Motorsport and Ginetta crew since 2013, and also broke Beechdean AMR and Aston Martin’s two-year stranglehold over the class.
Meanwhile, RCIB Insurance Racing wrapped up the teams’ title in their first season of GT racing.
How it unfolded:
Bartholomew’s pole position offered the perfect opportunity to build a gap over the course of his opening stint before serving the 20-second pit-stop success penalty for winning at Snetterton. But that situation never materialised after the V8 Vantage’s poor start saw it swallowed up by the chasing pack into Redgate.
Instead, it was Mitchell’s McLaren that assumed the lead before clearing off into the distance once the two-lap Safety Car period to retrieve a stranded GT3 entry ended.
With namesake Jack Mitchell moving from fourth to second, all eyes were on a chasing pack comprising Johnson, Joey Foster’s Lanan Racing Ginetta, the RCIB Insurance Racing G55 of Jordan Stilp and Bartholomew, who was back up to sixth soon after racing resumed.
With so few points between Johnson and Bartholomew in the championship, the destination of this year’s class crown would boil down to whoever was ahead at the finish. And when both Foster and Stilp passed Johnson that battle appeared well and truly joined. However, despite running in close proximity the Aston Martin was never able to mount a challenge and instead dived into the pits at its first opportunity after 50 minutes.
Johnson was in a lap later, safe in the knowledge that co-driver Robinson would emerge at least five seconds ahead of Gunn after serving a 15-second success penalty. But the gap was ultimately more than 10 seconds and, crucially, featured three cars between them.
Gunn clearly had work to do but was soon helped by William Phillips spinning ahead. And with Alex Reed taking a trip across the gravel in avoidance, the Beechdean Aston now only had Jamie Stanley’s Fox Motorsport Ginetta between it and Robinson. Gunn needed no second invitation when a GT3 car block-passed Stanley, and with the two championship contenders third and fourth on the road, albeit 14 seconds apart, a grandstand finish looked in store.
Sadly, it never came to pass, the Aston’s fading brakes hindering Gunn to such an extent that he was soon losing positions rather than making up ground. With Stanley retiring soon after, Reed was the first to re-pass the Vantage before Abbie Eaton’s Maserati and Nathan Freke’s Ginetta followed suit.
Haggerty reeled off the final stint in sublime fashion despite battling an injured hand to cross the line comfortably ahead of Graham, while champion-elect Robinson was a further 18 seconds back at the chequered flag. That ensured he and Johnson claimed the GT4 crown by 13 points from Bartholomew, while Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse’s young duo jumped from sixth to third in the final reckoning.
RCIB Insurance Racing, whose Ginettas are run by Team HARD, won the GT4 teams’ championship by five points from PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport despite having their #45 car excluded post-race as a result of Stilp overtaking under yellow flags. A similar fate befell Foster who, along with Reed, slipped from fourth to sixth in the class standings as a result.
Johnson and Robinson also won the Pro-Am title by 37 points from Hoggarth and Eaton, whose fourth place this afternoon was enough to give them fourth in the overall standings.
Meanwhile, Bartholomew might have missed out on the outright title but his season-long efforts were rewarded with the Silver Cup crown after beating Mitchell and Haggerty by 41 points. Phillips and Stilp finished third.
Sandy Mitchell set the Sunoco Fastest Lap of the Race, and RCIB Insurance Racing’s efforts were also rewarded with the PMW Expo Team of the Weekend Award following Aaron Mason’s heavy accident in qualifying. The car he shared with Robert Bearable subsequently recovered from dead last to finish seventh in class.
Sandy Mitchell, #59 Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S GT4: “It’s amazing. And to claim third in the championship as well after all the bad luck we’ve had this year is an incredible achievement. Two wins over the final two weekends is a fantastic way to sign off; it doesn’t get too much better than that! Thanks to the team and McLaren for giving us a great car today.”
Ciaran Haggerty, #59 Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse McLaren 570S GT4: “It was really tough all the way through, basically using my left hand the whole time. I just tried my best to maintain the gap and hang on. It’s great that McLaren can go to customers and say the 570S is a proven race winner now. I’ve loved being a part of that.”
Jack Mitchell, #42 Generation AMR Macmillan Racing Aston Martin V8 Vantage: “It was exactly what we’d been looking for because we’ve been quick over the second half of the year. This weekend was about remaining consistent and staying out of trouble. We managed to do that and finished up with a second place. We’ve learnt a lot this year and can hopefully take that into next season.”
Graham Johnson, #50 PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “Beechdean looked like a threat at the start but clearly their pace just disappeared. There was a period at the end of my stint where I thought Jack [Bartholomew] must have been messing with me because I was pulling away from him! For me, the most special thing is to have won it with Mike, who’s been my best mate for 15 years. We work together and spend a lot of time together, so it means a lot. I couldn’t watch his stint though; I went and hid in the garage!”
Mike Robinson, #50 PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “My car was just so consistent, which meant I could lap at the same pace at the end as I did at the start. That’s what made the difference today. I thought Beechdean would have better race pace than us but it turned around. They’re tough to beat but Optimum responded. I think our pit-stop was better than theirs, but I wasn’t comfortable knowing Ross [Gunn] was still in contention. It was the longest stint but I’m absolutely delighted.”