British GT3 - Optimum's Aston sails to trouble free victory in Spa

British GT3 - Optimum's Aston sails to trouble free victory in Spa

21.07.2019: Bradley Ellis finally ended an 11-year wait for his next British GT3 win by claiming a near-lights-to-flag victory at Spa with co-driver Ollie Wilkinson, who converted pole position into

Bradley Ellis finally ended an 11-year wait for his next British GT3 win by claiming a near-lights-to-flag victory at Spa with co-driver Ollie Wilkinson, who converted pole position into a lead he’d maintain throughout the opening stint.



But while Optimum’s Aston Martin broke clear at the front, the chasing pack were busy tripping over one another during a fraught opening lap that saw Rick Parfitt Jnr penalised for spinning Sam De Haan and championship leader Adam Balon collect a stop/go penalty for his startline infringement.


Michael Igoe also slipped from second to fifth in a shake-up that featured Ian Loggie bursting through from fourth to second, Ryan Ratcliffe remaining third and Graham Davidson climbing six positions to fourth.



Wilkinson’s metronomic pace ensured Optimum’s Aston was never troubled by the chasing pack, which swapped places as the pit window approached. First, Ratcliffe moved up to second at the expense of Loggie who was then also passed by Davidson and Shaun Balfe – another driver who made significant progress over the first hour – when RAM’s Mercedes-AMG was spun around at La Source.



With no Pitstop Success Penalties for the top-two, Bradley Ellis and Glynn Geddie emerged from their stops in the same order as their co-drivers had pitted, albeit with an increased margin over Jonny Adam and Rob Bell whose TF Sport Aston Martin and Balfe McLaren had served 20s and 15s handicaps for finishing first and second at Donington.



Adam’s progress was then further impeded by a 10s stop/go penalty for Davidson’s earlier transgression, which left Bell free to reel in the heavier Silver/Silver crews ahead. He emerged from the pits with a 31s deficit but was right behind Geddie as the race ticked towards its final 10 minutes.


Both had been catching Ellis, whose lead was down to six seconds at one point before the Bentley’s repeated rebuffs of Bell allowed both the Aston Martin to pull clear and Macleod to close in behind.



A grandstand finish was in prospect, and all three played their part in what will be remembered as one of the best overtaking manoeuvres in championship history: Geddie, Bell and Macleod three-wide into Eau Rouge. While all somehow made it through without contact, it was Macleod who picked up two places in the same incredible move to seal second for himself, Loggie and RAM.



Behind, Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim battled back after being spun around in the first stint to finish fifth. Their TF Sport Aston Martin set the Sunoco Fastest Lap courtesy of Thiim, who completed a particularly eye-catching pass on Adam Christodoulou through Eau Rouge. Team ABBA’s Mercedes-AMG, which was at the heart of the action throughout, completed the top-six.



Behind, all seemed lost for De Haan after his opening lap spin sent Barwell’s Lamborghini to the tail of the field. However, his incredible comeback drive – for which he was awarded Blancpain Driver of the Day – helped Jonny Cocker salvage seventh despite also serving a 10s Success Penalty. That, coupled with their team-mates’ retirement, sees the #69 crew replace Adam Balon and Phil Keen on top of the standings by just 0.5 points with two rounds remaining.



A brake issue consigned Davidson and Adam to eighth after the initial stop/go penalty dropped their Aston Martin to fifth. They were followed home by WPI Motorsport and Century’s #9 BMW whose Pros – Dennis Lind and Jack Mitchell – enjoyed a fierce battle.






Brands Hatch hosts British GT’s penultimate round of the season in just two weeks’ time (August 3/4) when Drivers’ Championship titles could, theoretically, be decided for the first time this year.
 



  

 

- Benjamin Franassovici,  photo SRO

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21.07.2019 / MaP

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