British GT3 - Victory helps De Haan and Kujala take Championship lead

British GT3 - Victory helps De Haan and Kujala take Championship lead

20.09.2020: Intelligent Money British GT Championship Donington Park Sunday, September 20th 2020 Spinning at turn one on the opening lap is never the preferred way to win a motor race. But RAM Racing proved it was possible on a day when the Safety Car an

Intelligent Money British GT Championship
Donington Park
Sunday, September 20th  2020

Spinning at turn one on the opening lap is never the preferred way to win a motor race. But RAM Racing proved it was possible on a day when the Safety Car and Success Penalties, as well as the speed of Sam De Haan and Patrick Kujala, kept the #69 Mercedes-AMG in contention.

The brief caution period triggered by separate spins for De Haan and Michael Igoe also allowed Barwell Motorsport to swap Adam Balon for Phil Keen at the end of lap one, which added another intriguing strategic dimension to a three-hour encounter in which all teams had to make at least three driver changes.

James Baldwin initially converted pole position into an early lead over Rob Collard who spent most of the opening stint holding off Optimum’s Lewis Proctor and Angus Fender (2 Seas Motorsport). The Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren enjoyed a 17s advantage by the time World’s Fastest Gamer Baldwin pitted after 47 minutes.

Further back, De Haan was able to re-join the tail of the field thanks to the Safety Car before embarking on a stellar comeback over the first 45 minutes. Indeed, the Mercedes-AMG was already up to sixth by the time Kujala climbed aboard for the first time.

Baldwin’s pitstop had, by now, promoted Collard into P1. And, just like at Donington in August, Barwell opted to run their #78 Lamborghini as long as possible before stopping for the first time. Sandy Mitchell jumped aboard after 65 minutes but was forced to make an unscheduled stop just 20 minutes later to replace a slow puncture. The compromised strategy allied to a 20s Success Penalty served at the third and final stop effectively ended #78’s podium chances.

Instead, Barwell’s prime focus shifted to their Pro/Am entry, which – with Keen behind the wheel – took the lead once everyone else pitted for the first time. Of course, an early first pitstop also necessitated an early second, which dropped Balon back down the order until the second round of driver changes began.

Instead, Optimum’s long second stint saw Ollie Wilkinson lead most of hour two from O’Brien who could find no way past the orange McLaren. In fact, Optimum didn’t make their second pitstop until the start of the final hour when strategies began to converge.

Balon now lead but was rapidly chased down by Wilkinson’s team-mate Proctor. However, the Am driver’s stern defence was just enough to keep Barwell ahead when Keen and Wilkinson took over their respective cars one lap apart.

Ahead, RAM were the chief beneficiaries of Jenson Team Rocket RJN’s 15s Success Penalty, as well as the time spent bottled up behind the long-running Wilkinson. De Haan and Kujala were both able to take time out of the #2 McLaren before the Finn made what would be the decisive move on O’Brien at Redgate with 33 minutes remaining.

Having established an eight-second advantage, Kujala was now out of range for Keen who quickly homed in and passed silvers Jack Mitchell and O’Brien after Barwell’s final pitstop. Just 3.4s separated the top-two at the finish.

O’Brien and Baldwin made it back-to-back podiums while Mitchell and Jordan Witt benefitted from a rear suspension issue that side-lined their 2 Seas team-mates Fender and Dean Macdonald in the final hour.

Optimum’s strategy, which gambled on a late Safety Car that never came, ultimately netted Wilkinson and Proctor fifth.

Behind, Mitchell and Collard slipped to second in the standings after completing the top-six.

Steller Motorsport’s Audi gave Optimum’s McLaren a hard time in the middle of the race before Sennan Fielding and Richard Williams came home seventh, one place ahead of ABBA Racing’s Richard and Sam Neary who enjoyed a solid run to eighth.

RAM’s other Mercedes-AMG shared by Ian Loggie and Yelmer Buurman ran second early on but was delayed by a spin and stop-go penalty. It came home ninth, one place ahead of WPI Motorsport’s Marco Mapelli and Igoe whose early spin was compounded by a drive-through penalty for track limits infringements.

Elsewhere, Phil Keen’s early charge netted him the Sunoco Fastest Lap Award and a new British GT3 lap record of 1m27.529s.

All of that leaves De Haan and Kujala nine points clear of Mitchell and Collard but also with the caveat of serving the maximum Success Penalty in Snetterton’s first race next time out. Balon and Keen are a further 8.5 points behind with three races remaining.

British GT now travels to Snetterton for two one-hour sprint races on October 3/4.

- Tom Hornsby photo SRO


20.09.2020 / MaP

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