British GT comes through rain and shine at Snetterton as GB3 debuts

Audria Easterly

The 0.004 seconds splitting Dennis Lind and Yelmer Buurman in qualifying at Snetterton proved crucial in deciding the outcome of the second of last Sunday’s British GT one-hour sprints, held on a freshly soaked track.

Buurman’s silver lining to missing pole was to take the rolling start from the outside lane, setting him up perfectly to take the preferred wet line at the first turn. Barwell Lamborghini driver Lind knew it too and attempted to crowd Buurman’s RAM Mercedes into Riches, but the unflappable Dutchman powered ahead.

Buurman was handed another crucial advantage when the safety car was deployed just after he’d lapped Darren Turner’s delayed GT4 Aston Martin, one of several victims of lap one antics that required barrier repairs at Turn 3. With Turner an unwitting roadblock that Lind could not pass until the restart line, Buurman was gifted a 3.5s lead. It was extended still further when Lind made “a pure driving mistake” at Riches and ran wide in his haste to close, dropping behind Charlie Eastwood (TF Sport Aston Martin) and Barwell team-mate Sandy Mitchell.

That set reigning Pro-Am champions Buurman and Ian Loggie up for an overdue first win of 2021 after a puncture had dropped them from race-one contention. With series leaders Lind and Leo Machitski only scoring points for fourth – they finished fifth on the road behind the guesting Eastwood and Ahmad Al Harthy – there are just 6.5 points between the top three crews with three races remaining.

“We always had good confidence in our capabilities, but everything has to go your way,” said Buurman. “The first race we were a bit unlucky; Spa [hit by Richard Neary at the start] we were a bit unlucky; so let’s hope the unlucky part is done and we have a good end to the season.”

Buurman handed over to Loggie 8s ahead of Mitchell, who had cleared Eastwood with a clever cutback move on the exit of Agostini on lap 10 and then pumped in the fastest laps of the race to date. Mitchell’s co-driver Adam Balon got to within 4s of the Mercedes, but never truly threatened.

Ahmad Al Harthy/Charlie Eastwood (Aston Martin Vantage) British GT Snetterton 2021

Ahmad Al Harthy/Charlie Eastwood (Aston Martin Vantage) British GT Snetterton 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

A shower just before the pit window meant a switch to slicks was out of the question, but a clear dry line had emerged by the closing laps, bringing a charging Michael Igoe into play. Igoe took over the WPI Motorsport Lamborghini started by Phil Keen one lap sooner than his rivals, and made full use of his warm rubber by ducking past Andrew Howard’s Beechdean Aston fresh out ofthe pits at Riches, deposed Machitski at Agostini, and then disappeared into the distance. Machitski was powerless to prevent Al Harthy repeating the move he’d pulled one lap earlier on Howard around the outside of Coram into Murrays, ending up 36s down at the flag.

“We have a very good car underneath us in the dry and then quite the contrary in the wet,” said Lind. Barwell’s Chris Needell confirmed that the two cars were running slightly different set-ups, a by-product of limited data with the new Pirelli wet, only introduced at the Spa 24 Hours last month.

Al Harthy had only been behind the race two Machitski-Howard battle because of a 10s success penalty for utterly dominating race one. A full 0.84s clear of the field in qualifying after “one of the cleanest” laps of his life, the Omani made hay on his return to the series while Kelvin Fletcher’s Paddock Motorsport Bentley in second held up a clearly faster Igoe.

“I think I could have been on pace with the [Al Harthy] Aston,” said Igoe. “The Bentley backed me up in the corners and just used his acceleration for the straights.” In traffic on lap 12, Igoe sensed his chance at Agostini, but only succeeded in half-spinning Fletcher. With bodywork rubbing against his right-front tyre, Igoe stayed behind as both headed to the pits – “I thought if I didn’t take advantage, there would be no penalty and it would just be a racing incident” – but a 10s stop/go came Keen’s way regardless.

Machitski spent much of the first stint frustrated behind Morgan Tillbrook’s Enduro Motorsport McLaren before capitalising on a mistake at Williams to pit from fourth, only for Lind to rejoin eighth after the 10s penalty carried over from Spa. But with Buurman (puncture) and Keen (penalty) falling out of contention, and Marcus Clutton (in for Tillbrook) black-flagged for ignoring a pit infringement drivethrough, Lind sensed a podium chance.

He passed Mitchell, who was suffering from brake problems that caused him to repeatedly run wide at Wilson, then capitalised on Adam being baulked on the final lap by GT4 battlers Jamie Stanley and Turner to claim third as Eastwood headed Fletcher’s team-mate Martin Plowman. “This feels like a win to get the first podium with the team,” said Plowman.

British GT4: New winners take to the top step at Snetterton

British GT4, Snetterton 2021

British GT4, Snetterton 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Despite losing a nailed-on win to a penalty, Century Motorsport BMW duo Will Burns and Gus Burton stretched their GT4 championship lead as two new crews took to the top step of the podium at Snetterton.

Team Rocket RJN McLaren driver Alain Valente dominated qualifying for race one and had a clear lead over Burns when a flat left-front brought the Swiss to the pits on lap eight. RJN team-mates James Kell and Jordan Collard took up the fight, Kell close enough to Burns to ensure that Collard would jump Burton after the BMW had served its five-second success pitstop penalty from Spa.

Such was his pace advantage that Collard would likely have won anyway, finishing over 21s clear as Burton – who didn’t change tyres at his stop – came under heavy pressure from Pro-Am leader Scott McKenna’s Speedworks Toyota.

McKenna was gifted fourth when Matt Cowley spun the Academy Motorsport Mustang started by Will Moore onto the Coram infield, then fought past Harry Hayek’s third RJN McLaren. He cruised up behind Burton, but couldn’t breach the BMW’s staunch defences and settled for third. “I was shouting as I was crossing the line; it was three laps of white-line defending basically,” said Burton.

McKenna was again in the thick of the action at the start of race two. While diving around the outside of leader Darren Turner into Wilson, he made contact that punctured the Newbridge Aston’s left-front and sent him wide, rejoining on a collision course with Jake Giddings (Ciceley Mercedes) and the Assetto Ginetta of Charlie Robertson, who was judged at fault by the officials.

Through the chaos, Collard led from Burton, while Cowley dropped to fifth behind Valente’s team-mate Michael Benyahia and the second Century BMW of Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke after an off at Turn 3. It didn’t look like being Academy’s day but, after taking over from Cowley, Moore crucially followed Burns past Chris Salkeld (in for Gordon-Colebrooke), then was in line to profit when leader Burns had to serve a drivethrough penalty for a fractionally too short pitstop.

Sole remaining Pro-Am runner Nick Halstead (Fox McLaren) had taken advantage of a 14s shorter stop than anybody to vault into the lead, but Moore soon passed him and the Mustang drifted to victory on the increasingly drying track. Valente took too long to clear Kell to stand a chance of catching Salkeld for second. Halstead’s gradual slide nullified the impact of his 40s post-race penalty for a mechanic dropping a wheelnut into the fast lane during his stop.

Snetterton GB3: Bearman bags a win on return as British F3 changes name

Oliver Bearman (Fortec) GB3 Championship, Snetterton 2021

Oliver Bearman (Fortec) GB3 Championship, Snetterton 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Oliver Bearman showed why he is dominating two of Europe’s junior single-seater series when he made his mark at Snetterton in the first event since the mid-season rebranding of BRDC British F3 as the GB3 Championship.

The Briton, who leads the German and Italian Formula 4 championships, seamlessly returned to the category for the first time since the opening Brands Hatch round, and took a commanding victory in the first race after comfortably qualifying on pole in a rain-affected session.

Tom Lebbon failed to capitalise on his front-row start, suffering a right-rear puncture in contact from Elite Motorsport team-mate Javier Sagrera into the Wilson hairpin. Brazilian Roberto Faria had already moved into second place and secured Fortec Motorsport a 1-2, with Roman Bilinski completing the podium in his Arden machine after an impressive rise from ninth.

The unusual qualifying result had left championship protagonists Zak O’Sullivan and Reece Ushijima down the pecking order, and the pair collided for the second time this season. Ushijima was deemed at fault for the lap-two collision, in which he made contact with O’Sullivan’s left-rear into Wilson, and was handed a five-place grid penalty for the second race. Carlin driver O’Sullivan pitted to have a flat tyre replaced, while Ushijima was out with damaged suspension.

Bearman was set to double up in race two after getting the jump on poleman Sebastian Alvarez off the line, but was cruelly denied another victory when a split radiator at the end of the opening lap eventually forced him into retirement. This allowed Alvarez to take his maiden win in the series, the Hitech GP driver sustaining race-long pressure from O’Sullivan and Bilinski.

After starring at the championship’s Spa visit, where he took his first win in the series, Bilinski continued his impressive form and finished on the top step again in the full reversed-grid third race. Fourth at the start, he was second by the end of the opening lap, before making a move on Mikkel Grundtvig on the exit of Riches.

The Fortec driver became something of a cork in the bottle for the chasing pack as first Sagrera and then O’Sullivan both had turns probing the Dane’s defences, but it was Bearman who broke through first, after climbing from 11th on the grid.

O’Sullivan then pulled off a sensational pass around the outside of Sagrera into Riches for fourth before displacing Grundtvig with a similar move at Brundle a lap later. Third then turned into second when, with rain falling, Bearman went off at Riches on the penultimate lap. Faria was promoted to third and Alvarez fourth. O’Sullivan now heads Carlin team-mate Christian Mansell by 99 points with three events remaining.

Silverstone 750MC: Mittell celebrates birthday in style with victory

Scott Mittell (Mittell MC-41R), Silverstone 2021

Scott Mittell (Mittell MC-41R), Silverstone 2021

Photo by: Steve Jones

Scott Mittell celebrated his birthday in style on Saturday, overturning Bikesports rival Joe Stables’s morning advantage to win race two in his eponymous Suzuki Hayabusa-powered car. The icing on his cake was Dan Gore’s first F1000 victory since 2019 in his Mittell Racing-run Jedi.

Double champion Stables (Radical PR6) had the handling advantage to resist Mittell in the Bikesports opener, buta heavy shower provided a tyre quandary in race two. Those who opted for slicks, including Stables, had to start from the pitlane but he still finished second, half a lap adrift of Mittell, whose tweaks between the races dialled in dad Ian’s chassis design.

Lee Morgan slashed Elliott Mitchell’s F1000 points lead from 25 to 15 by winning the opener, then went top after Mitchell retired from the sequel, but he didn’t win it. Gore caught Morgan napping when the field was released from a Code 60 after Robert Welham, unsighted, could not avoid clipping front-row starter James Hills’s car, which had stalled on the grid.

Aided by a full-course caution as the pit window opened, Andy Marston led the Roadsports 45-minute enduro throughout in his bewinged BMW E46 M3, this season’s major upgrades finally doing the trick. “The car’s been a bit of a pig but it felt mega for the first time,” he said. “There was a bit of understeer at the beginning but, when the rain came, it went.” A 1m13.32s (90.83mph) class lap record doubled his joy.

Other E36 M3s led the chase, with Chris Mills/David Gardner 10 seconds behind, but well clear of Matthew Weymouth. The latter’s sparring partner Tony Rodgers (SEAT Supercopa) and Neil Savage – who spun his Lotus Elise at Farm on the opening lap, then again onto the Hangar Straight – were both excluded for overtaking under yellow flags, promoting Nick Vaughan’s trusty Audi A3, with 250,000 miles on the clock, to fourth.

Buoyed by stemming Hot Hatch leader Alistair Camp’s unbeaten record in the final leg of Brands Hatch’s triple-header, Philip Wright repeated first time out. Poleman Camp started the second cautiously too, but battled ahead on lap four of nine, keeping Wright behind to notch his seventh win from nine. Chris Smith took third again to round out an all-Honda Civic podium, with Ryan Polley staving off Jack Ashton’s rapid MG Metro in a four-car scrap for fourth.

Lee Deegan outdragged polesitter Adam Shepherd at both Type R Trophy starts, but the former Civic Cup and BMW M3 champion – back with the 750 Motor Club after a Ginetta G55 GT campaign – demoralised Deegan by breezing past and leading home. With the ABS light on second time out, Deegan tried a reset, but the brake balance was awry, kicking his EP3’s tail out as chasers ganged up. Shepherd thus extended his run to seven wins from eight. Novice Luke Rosewell and Clio 182 convert Mark Balmer netted a third apiece.

Previous champions Danny Hands (AHS) and Craig Pollard (GAC) repeatedly passed each other in the Formula Vee opener. Hands, joint third in the points behind Pollard, took victory by just 0.20s as veteran Ian Buxton (GAC) progressed rapidly to third. Reigning champion and series leader James Harridge’s Maverick refused to run in qualifying, forcing him to start at the back of the 32-car grid. Nineteenth inside a lap, he carved through to fourth, and could have made the podium had the safety car not picked him up instead of the leaders. The crocodile was released with time for a single lap.

Danny Hands (AHS Dominator Mk2), Formula Vee, Silverstone 2021

Danny Hands (AHS Dominator Mk2), Formula Vee, Silverstone 2021

Photo by: Steve Jones

Saturday’s finale promised a repeat until two cars tangled at Village on lap one, triggering a red flag. Although the drivers escaped injury, with medics in attendance, both ambulances displaced and the circuit curfew imminent, a restart was impossible.

Sunday’s sprint races majored on one-make double-headers, always busy on a circuit that compresses tight packs three times per lap. In the first Clio 182 contest, Jack Kingsbury moved to sole leadership of the championship with a double win, to Jack Dwane’s fourth and fifth. Jason Pelosi bounced back from his Brands roll to hound Kingsbury, and encouragingly led race two for a couple of laps in his Deranged Motorsport car. Scott Edgar led their pursuit both times.

Reigning Toyota MR2 champion and points leader Aaron Cooke outran four-time title winner Shaun Traynor initially as Mk3 Roadsters congregated at the sharp end of the grid. Traynor evened honours in a more unruly second stanza. Both were overtaken by Nick Williamson under yellow flags with Rhys Dorman’s Roadster in the gravel before Club. Williamson was excluded, and Paul Cook sanctioned for outbraking himself and nerfing Mk2 standout Cam Walton – third in the opener – into a spin at Club. Adam Lockwood completed a Roadster 1-2-3 ahead of Sam Harper (Mk2).

Irishman Niall Bradley bagged a BMW Car Club brace, overcoming fast starter Rick Kerry’s One Series V8 second time out. How he saved “a really, really, big moment” exiting Club he’ll never know, however. Brad Sheehan (E46), a retiree in the opener, and Michael Cutt (who, from the back, had passed half the pack by Abbey only to find the gravel trap in his E36) charged to third and fourth in the finale. Gary Burstow and Ben Pearson scored class doubles.

Radical converts Joe Lock and Ash Hicklin won the 100-minute Club Enduro in Tim Gray Motorsport’s BMW M3, breaking Carl Swift and Rob Baker’s monopoly. Baker’s SEAT Leon Supercup needed new front brake pads at the mandatory stop – handily during a safety car – but an obstinate wheelnut left them fighting for third, behind Marston’s M3. Without the fastest lap point, Oulton Park’s finale will decide the crown’s destiny. Three-time Le Mans 24 Hours racer David Mercer (M3) finished fourth.

From sixth on the grid, James Plant burst his caricature Healey-Chevrolet through a mighty miscellany to win the Bernie’s V8s race. Adam Southgate’s Boxster bested the concurrent Porsche Trophy posse, while British Touring Car Championship ace Josh Cook thundered Pete Hallford’s Boss Mustang back to sixth post-stop.

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

Andy Marston (BMW E46 M3), Silverstone 2021

Andy Marston (BMW E46 M3), Silverstone 2021

Photo by: Steve Jones

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