British GT3 at Brands Hatch - So neary yet so far

British GT3 at Brands Hatch - So neary yet so far

12.09.2022: It’s impossible not to feel sorry for Richard and Sam Neary who would have claimed their second career British GT victories without a fuel pump failure that struck Abba’s race-leading Mercedes-AMG as it began the penultimate lap.

It’s impossible not to feel sorry for Richard and Sam Neary who would have claimed their second career British GT victories without a fuel pump failure that struck Abba’s race-leading Mercedes-AMG as it began the penultimate lap.

Instead, Enduro’s Tillbrook and Clutton suddenly found themselves standing atop the podium and heading to Donington with a slim chance of also winning the GT3 drivers’ title.

Three Safety Car periods before the pitstops began prevented poleman James Cottingham from establishing a lead that his pace warranted and that would also have negated some or all of 2 Seas’ 15-second Success Penalty. Instead, the Mercedes-AMG headed for the pitlane just ahead of Enduro’s Tillbrook and Richard Neary who made up three places on the opening lap.

The shake-up should have seen Clutton emerge ahead of Sam Neary but it was Abba’s slick pitwork that helped the Mercedes-AMG take the lead as the GT3 gaggle headed back out.

The pair remained little more than a second apart over the following 50 minutes as Clutton attempted to prise open the door. Neary was having none of it, though, and was fast enough to prevent any meaningful move for the lead. But that all changed moments before the chequered flag when the green and black Merc slowed dramatically as it approached the start/finish line.

With the championship-leading car down in seventh up to that point, Clutton required a victory to keep Enduro’s hopes alive. And he gratefully accepted it by reeling off the final two laps without drama despite Mitchell rapidly closing in behind.

Barwell’s Lamborghini had earlier appeared an unlikely podium candidate after Balon and championship leader Ian Loggie came to blows at Surtees. The contact was light but enough to spin Balon around and damage the RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG’s splitter and steering. Both were able to continue but the same incident also sent Nick Halstead into avoiding action that resulted in Fox’s McLaren beached in the gravel travel trap, which necessitated the second Safety Car period.

Loggie resumed in sixth and well clear of Balon who’d slipped to ninth. However, the pair were both back inside the top-six by the time they stopped together on the hour mark as a result of passing several cars once racing resumed.

Success Penalties served by RAM and 2 Seas, as well as Century’s five-second handicap for changing both drivers prior to the event, helped Mitchell resume on his own in third, and the 2020 champion began chipping away at the two cars ahead. But it wasn’t until Abba’s late demise that the Lamborghini picked up another place.

That also helped Century’s BMW claim its maiden British GT podium. Debutant Dawes lined up seventh and completed an exemplary first stint while several more experienced drivers hit trouble. The car would have emerged third without its penalty but Sims still underlined its potential by setting fastest lap, just as he did on his last British GT appearance at Brands in 2015.

Without so many Safety Cars Cottingham and Lewis Williamson might well have converted pole position into their first British GT wins. However, their Success Penalty ultimately restricted 2 Seas to fourth overall.

7TSIX’s McLaren went under the radar en route to fifth, Mia Flewitt enjoying an entertaining scrap with the recovering Balon prior to the stops before Euan Hankey passed Callum Macleod early in the second stint. That dropped RAM’s championship-leading car to sixth, which might have become seventh had Scott Malvern’s intense pressure forced an opening.

As it is Loggie heads to the Donington Decider 24.5 points ahead of Balon/Mitchell with Cottingham/Williamson 8.5 points further back. Tillbrook/Clutton’s late good fortune also leaves them as mathematical contenders, albeit 34 points off the lead with 37.5 available for winning the final race of 2022.

Team Parker’s Porsche hustled Macleod all the way to the finish while Abba’s retirement handed Silver-Am class victory to Team Rocket RJN’s Simon Watts and James Kell who finished eighth overall.

- Tom Hornsby photo SRO


12.09.2022 / MaP

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