The #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 of Rick Parfitt and Seb Morris won the 3rd round of the 2017 British GT Championship at Rockingham, after the #21 Spirit of Race SA Ferrari F488 GT3 of Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin were handed a post-race penalty for avoidable contact with Seb Morris in the 2nd stint.
Matt Griffin, whose Ferrari was carrying a 5 second penalty due to Duncan Cameron exceeding track limits in the car’s first stint, worked hard from behind to try and secure the lead proper. Seb Morris initially squeezed past the leading #24 Macmillan AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 of James Littlejohn and Jack Mitchell (in the car at the time) at the final corner on Lap 61, with Griffin following the Bentley through. Griffin then passed the #31 on Lap 63, passing around the outside of Pif Paf. In the urgency to make up for lost time, contact was made up by Chapman curve. That was announced to be under investigation after the race, adding to what was a long evening for Race Control, following a controversial call to allow the Ferrari, along with the #51 Lanan Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 ahead of the pack under the final safety car.
With 26 minutes of the race left to run, the Safety Car had to be called for as the #63 Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing car of Sam Webster and Matt Chapman had ended its day in the gravel at Yentwood. With the Safety Car catching the first car in the pack, which at the time was the Ferrari, confusion reigned with us in the Media Centre, along with teams and drivers alike, not knowing what was happening (due to the 5 second penalty added ‘in race’, not retrospectively) when the two cars were released. This gifted the #21 a 30 second lead, and took the race victory by 26 after 2 hours of racing. However, recall the investigation that was mentioned? It was voted to be deliberate contact, and a post-race drive through penalty was awarded, to give the Bentley a 0.9 second victory.
The opening stint of the 2-hour affair was less controversial, but by no means less exciting. Starting 8th, James Littlejohn in the #24 Aston Martin V12 Vantage had made the best of anyone to make 5 positions – up to 3rd by the end of Lap 1. Lap 2 saw the #69 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT3, with Harry Gottsacker at the wheel, lock up and get the car stuck in the gravel at Yentwood. That called for the Safety Car, but it also saw the #72 Track-Club McLaren 570S of Adam Balon and Adam Mackay. A stone had managed to damage the car’s charge cooler, and thusly became the first retirement. The #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen, with Minshaw onboard, tried valiantly to repeat some of the heroics he performed at Oulton Park several weeks ago, but by Lap 22, Littlejohn took the inside line coming into Deene, and the Aston Martin was gone and away into the lead. It lead after the pit stops, too, but Seb Morris and Matt Griffin were too quick for Jack Mitchell to hold off, but 3rd meant they were the best of the Aston Martins. Phil Keen, meanwhile would eventually set fastest lap with 1m 19.095, but 4th place overall would see them further back than they’d enjoy.
Speaking of further back than they’d enjoy, TF Sport’s elation after Qualifying turned to disappointment. From Qualifying 1-2, the #11 car of Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes would finish down in 7th, just 1.352 ahead of the #1. Whilst Mark Farmer started off well, a spin later on in the race would trouble them, whilst Derek Johnston would collect a 5 second time penalty for exceeding track limits. Sound familiar? Nonetheless, they scored, which is more than could be said for the GT3 Ginettas. Obviously, we’ve accounted for the #69 (which did go back out, also collecting 5 seconds of trimming-the-grass penalty time), but the #19 of Parker Chase and Charlie Robertson also endured reliability niggles, ending a sour day for Century Motorsport in GT3.
Whilst the GT3 Ginettas struggled, the GT4 spec G55s surged. The #51 Lanan car initially lead the field, but it would eventually be left between the #55 HHC Motorsport car of William Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton to win, battling all race with the #100 Black Bull Garage 59 McLaren 570S of Sandy Mitchell and Ciaran Haggerty. Whilst the end gap was nearly 9 seconds, that doesn’t show how tight the GT4 battle was. At one point, it was the #100, followed by the #55 by 2 car lengths, followed by the #501 car, followed by the #51… In all seriousness, however, the 4 drivers showed just how competitive GT4 is, and with Snetterton again set to suit the G55, the title race is going to hot up in both classes.
After all of that action, Rounds 4 and 5 of the British GT Championship head to Norfolk for another brace of 1 hour races. Pick a winner for Snetterton? You first…
Images c/o Nick Smith/theimageteam.com
Results c/o tsl-timing.com. Championship Points here.