Keen battles past Littlejohn for third GT3 win of 2017
> HHC’s Middleton pips Pittard to GT4 spoils
> Result: Race 1
Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen made it three victories in this season’s first four British GT races at Snetterton earlier today following a thrilling battle with Macmillan AMR’s James Littlejohn and Jack Mitchell.
GT4 was just as close, but there was no denying HHC Motorsport’s Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton who extended their championship lead after overcoming the full 10-second success penalty to claim their second consecutive class victory in a 60-minute contest that served up a wonderful example of hard-fought but fair racing.
GT3: KEEN AND LITTLEJOHN’S BATTLE LIGHTS UP SNETTERTON
The combination of pitstop success penalties and a Silver Cup crew starting from pole sowed the seeds for a thrilling first race of the day at Snetterton in which Minshaw and Keen ultimately prevailed over Barwell team-mates Liam Griffin and Sam Tordoff by 3.8s.
But the part played by Macmillan AMR’s Littlejohn and Mitchell will also live long in the memory. Their Silver Cup-entered Aston Martin started from pole and, in Mitchell’s hands, duly scampered away from the Am contingent during the opening stint. He was 14.2s clear of Minshaw when the pitstop window opened, but – with an additional five-second success penalty to serve as a result of finishing third at Rockingham – the team’s advantage was somewhat diminished once Littlejohn rejoined.
Indeed, Barwell opted to pit at the first opportunity, and with no additional time to serve Keen set about slashing the team’s deficit. Fastest in both practice sessions and Pro qualifying, it was no surprise to see his Lamborghini break its own GT3 lap record and soon hustle Littlejohn’s ballasted V12 Vantage for the lead.
Catching is one thing and passing very much another, though, and so ensued a masterclass in defensive driving from Littlejohn who continued to resist Keen’s numerous advances. But with time on his side the Barwell driver was content to pick his moment, and eventually snuck through at Oggies with nine minutes remaining.
Further back, Griffin had run fourth during his opening stint before co-driver Tordoff took advantage of Team Parker Racing’s pitstop success penalty to emerge third. The lead battle then allowed Barwell’s second Huracan to close in over the closing laps before Tordoff claimed second with a decisive sweep around the outside of Littlejohn at Palmer.
Team Parker Racing’s Rick Parfitt Jnr qualified and ran third initially before the 10-second success penalty dropped co-driver Seb Morris to fourth after the stops. There he’d remain until the chequered flag, but ultimately had 30 seconds added to his race time in lieu of a drive-through as a result of the team’s short pitstop.
That promoted AMDtuning.com’s Lee Mowle and Ryan Ratcliffe to fourth overall. The Mercedes-AMG muscled past Mark Farmer’s TF Sport Aston Martin on the opening lap and ran fifth for much of the race thereafter.
Both TF Sport Astons endured a tough day at the office. Reigning champions Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam were never in the fight en route to fifth, while Farmer and Jon Barnes suffered a wheel issue in the first stint that dropped them a lap down. Spirit of Race’s Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin’s seven-second success penalty contributed to their sixth place ahead of Parfitt Jnr and Morris’ demoted Bentley, while Team ABBA with Rollcentre Racing’s Richard Neary and Martin Short prevailed in a close battle for eighth over Ian Loggie and Callum Macleod.
Minshaw and Keen claimed a famous double at Snetterton last season, and with the latter starting this afternoon’s race from pole few would bet against a repeat in 2017. Importantly, victory in today’s opening race takes their GT3 tally to 10, second-equal with Jonny Adam and one shy of Hector Lester and David Ashburn.
GT4: NO STOPPING TREGURTHA AND MIDDLETON
Pitstop success penalties ensure very few pairings win consecutive British GT races, but Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton overcame their 10-second handicap for winning at Rockingham last month to extend their championship lead with victory in the day’s first race at Snetterton.
Lanan Racing’s Alex Reed qualified on pole but had lost his lead to Tregurtha by the end of lap one. The latter extended that to almost five seconds before the stops but, with 10 seconds to serve, HHC Motorsport co-driver Middleton was back behind David Pittard – who’d taken over from Reed – after the pit sequence had shaken out.
Much like GT3’s lead battle, Middleton had soon reeled in Pittard before engaging in a game of nose-to-tail racing that subsequently included Ciaran Haggerty who’d taken over Black Bull Garage 59’s McLaren from Sandy Mitchell. Less than a second covered the trio at one point before Middleton began his decisive move for the lead at Brundle and finally made it stick exiting Nelson.
He took the chequered flag 1.4s ahead of Pittard, while Haggerty completed the podium another 2.2s further back.
Track-club’s Adam Balon and Adam Mackay claimed the Pro/Am spoils after starting and finishing fourth, but not before Will Moore had occupied the position throughout the opening stint. He and Academy Motorsport co-driver Matt Nicoll-Jones came home fifth ahead of reigning champions Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson, and Tolman Motorsport’s David Pattison and Joe Osborne who start this afternoon’s race from pole.
Phil Keen, #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “I had a lot of fun! James [Littlejohn] is an old friend – we raced together in Radicals – so it was good to have a battle together. I was in no rush – there was a big gap back to Sam [Torfoff] – so I didn’t need to take any risks and just waited for his tyres to go off a bit. After that I got a run out of Hamilton and into Oggies so it was fairly straightforward. Barwell and Lamborghini have done a great job with the car, which makes our lives easier. Snett seems to suit the Lambo – we went well here last year, but we’re using all our good circuits up early in the season!”
Stuart Middleton, #55 HHC Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4: “There was some GT3 traffic coming through at the time so when the opportunity to pass Pittard arose I didn’t waste it. I’m amazed by the result. It was always going to be close – I had Haggerty’s McLaren right behind me after the pitstop so had to play it cool, gap him a little bit and catch Pittard. To catch him in the time we had felt awesome! I’m really, really pleased with the team’s, Will [Tregurtha]’s and my performance today.”
The day’s second 60-minute race begins at 16:00. Watch it live on Front Runner TV and British GT’s Facebook page.
GT3: 1m48.498s – Phil Keen – Barwell Motorsport – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 – 2017
GT4: 1m58.704s – Matthew George – Generation AMR SuperRacing – Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 – 2016
PITSTOP SUCCESS PENALTIES – RACE 2
10s – #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini – Minshaw/Keen
07s – #6 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini – Griffin/Tordoff
05s – #24 Macmillan AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 – Mitchell/Littlejohn
10s – #55 HHC Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 – Tregurtha/Middleton
07s – #51 Lanan Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 – Reed/Pittard
05s – #100 Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren 570S GT4 – Mitchell/Haggerty