Morris and Parfitt retain points lead to clinch GT title at Donington Park
Bentley claimed its first British GT Championship title at Donington Park, Seb Morris and Rick Parfitt Jr holding their nerve to hang onto a slender points advantage during the series finale in September.
Team Parker Racing Bentley drivers Morris and Parfitt might have had a 10.5-point lead going into the two-hour mini-enduro, but they also knew that the victory previous time out at Brands Hatch came with a 20-second ‘success’ penalty to be taken in the pits. The Bentley Continental GT3 duo’s rivals for the crown, Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw, were unburdened by any time penalties for their Barwell Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
The Lambo duo fought back from Minshaw’s early spin to finish third, just ahead of the Bentley, though it wasn’t nearly enough for them to overhaul their points deficit. Keen and Minshaw were subsequently excluded for a yellow-flag infringement, which promoted Morris and Parfitt to the final podium spot.
“It’s not been a bad year!” said Morris. “We’ve had a few wins, a few podiums, a few fastest laps and a big old pot at the end, which is always nice.
“To win this championship you have to put every link in the chain together and I think we did that this year.”
Morris and Parfitt also won the pro-am title, while Parfitt was awarded the Gentlemen’s Trophy as best amateur. The title for teams went to Barwell, with Parker in third place.
TF Sport Aston Martin dominated the Donington event on the way to a one-two finish for its pair of V12 Vantages. Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam, last year’s champions, took the win by just under seven seconds from the sister car shared by Jon Barnes and Mark Farmer.
Lamborghini collected an armful of silverware when the Blancpain GT Series climaxed at Barcelona in October. It claimed the Endurance Cup drivers title, as well as the overall prizes for drivers and teams.
It wasn’t plain sailing for factory drivers Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli and Christian Engelhart, even though the Grasser team’s lead Huracán GT3 qualified 27 places ahead of their only rivals for the Endurance crown. Bortolotti put the Lambo second on the grid, while Maxime Soulet could only qualify the best of the M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3s 28th.
Engelhart went backwards at the start of the three-hour race, while Vincent Abril made progress in the Bentley he shared with Soulet and Andy Soucek. The title battle was finely poised until Caldarelli jumped from seventh to fourth in one swoop after a virtual safety car in the middle hour of the race.
The championship was heading firmly in the direction of the Lamborghini drivers when Soucek retired the Bentley with transmission problems shortly after half- distance. Despite failing to trouble the scorers, Bentley and M-Sport still wrapped up the Endurance Cup title for teams.
The race was won by the French Auto Sport Promotion team’s Mercedes-AMG GT3, shared by Daniel Juncadella, Felix Serralles and Tristan Vautier.
The British Wessex Vehicles team proved there is still life in its ageing Lamborghini Gallardo, on a rare outing in the International GT Open series. A car that can trace its origins back to the beginnings of the GT3 category in 2005 triumphed against the latest generation of machinery at Monza in September.
Craig Dolby and guest driver Seb Morris took victory for the Gallardo R-EX in race one at the home of the Italian Grand Prix. The pairing finished ahead of one of Lamborghini’s latest Huracán GT3s and a McLaren 650S GT3.
“The Gallardo has got much less aero than the latest cars because it was aimed at amateurs like me,” said team boss and car owner Nigel Mustill. “But when you put some top drivers in it at a place like Monza, you can show what it can do.
“We won in Lamborghini’s backyard, so we probably upset a few people because we didn’t do it in one of the latest Huracáns.”
RATEL LIMITS PROS
GT3 founder and Blancpain GT Series boss Stéphane Ratel has moved to reinforce the place of the amateur in the championship.
He has placed a limitation on the number of cars with all-professional driver line-ups in the BGTS Endurance Cup for next season. A maximum of 26 full-season entries will be allowed in the Pro Cup from 2018.
“I’ve been down the route of an all-pro championship on two occasions in the past and I know it doesn’t work,” said Ratel, referring to the FIA GT Championship in 1997-98 and the FIA GT1 World Championship in 2010-12. “When we started the championship [as the Blancpain Endurance Series in 2011] we had 10 or 11 pro cars, now we have 30. If we continue this way, we could have 36 cars next year and no pro-am cars.”
FELIX EYES DOUBLE
Formula E frontrunner Felix Rosenqvist is to bid to become only the second driver to win both the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix and the Chinese venue’s blue-riband GT3 event.
The Swede will be attempting to emulate Edoardo Mortara when he takes the wheel of a Ferrari 488 GT3 run by US entrant Scuderia Corsa in the FIA GT World Cup in Macau on November 18/19. Mortara, like Rosenqvist a two-time winner of the F3 event, took a hat-trick of victories in the Macau GT Cup in 2011-14 before it was awarded FIA world status for 2015.
Rosenqvist will head a strong World Cup line-up, which includes factory-supported machinery from race regulars Audi, Mercedes, Porsche and BMW, as well as from Honda with its NSX GT3.
FERRARI’S IMSA TITLE
The Scuderia Corsa Ferrari team cemented an IMSA SportsCar Championship double for Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen in the season-ending Petit Le Mans enduro at Road Atlanta in October.
The Ferrari duo could only take ninth place in the GT Daytona class for GT3 cars, sharing their Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 with Matteo Cressoni, after a major delay for suspension repairs. But with nearest rival Jeroen Bleekemolen finishing fourth in his Riley Motorsports-run Mercedes-AMG GT3, the title was theirs for a second season in a row.
The German Land Motorsport Audi team added a class victory at Petit to its overall triumph at the Nürburgring 24 Hours in May. It triumphed with a GT Daytona class Audi R8 LMS shared by two of its winning drivers from the ’Ring, Christopher Mies and Connor De Phillippi, and Sheldon van der Linde.