This was the dream scenario for SRO and MSV, organisers of British GT and BRDC British F3: an alliterative final round title decider at Donington Park. Back on tour together after a year’s hiatus, the relationship was rekindled when Jonathan Palmer’s F4 morphed into ‘Formula 3’ courtesy of a spike in power in the back of the spec Tatuus chassis.
British GT has recovered from its not-so-distant doldrums, though it’s slipped from the GT3 heyday of the early 2010s. Two-thirds of its grid is now filled by the less dramatic – but much more affordable – GT4s, something that will be levelled up next season according to the promoter.
The two-hour GT encounter was set up perfectly in the qualifying drizzle. TF Sport’s Jonny Adam and Derek Johnston combined for pole, 0.5sec and one car ahead of championship leaders Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw on the grid but 11.5 points behind in the standings.
But the decider turned into a damp squib after 40 minutes when Minshaw pirouetted into the wall and out of the race midway through the Craner Curves in traffic. Donington decider disappointingly diluted, provided Adam and Johnston could last the remaining 80 minutes.
Adam took over from Johnston, Rob Bell in the McLaren took over the lead courtesy of British GT’s pitstop success penalty system, and Adam cruised home untroubled 10sec or so behind in second place to secure his second title in as many years.
“I took it pretty easy to manage the gap, because Donington is tough on brakes,” Adam said. “It was a lot like last year, when Marco Attard crashed out and we just needed to finish ninth to win it. Derek kept his head down and did exactly what he needed to do.”
That the 11-car GT3 field was soon into single figures only aided TF’s cause. At the exit of Hollywood for the first time Mark Farmer was tapped into the barrier by Liam Griffin’s wobbling Lamborghini Huracán, and when two Aston Martins, a Ginetta and a BMW converged at Goddards, Phil Dryburgh and his Aston’s oil reservoir came off worst and retired. A good haul of points was thus guaranteed for the finishers.
Adam became the first driver in British GT history to win back-to-back titles, and he did so with a new team having won with Beechdean in 2015. “They’re both Aston Martins, but every team has a different way of working so to do it feels great,” added the Scot.
Sandy Mitchell and Ciaran Haggerty ensured an Ecurie Ecosse McLaren double with a dominant performance in the GT4 class in the new-for-2016 570S. Third place for Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson in their Ginetta G55 was enough for the class title.
Title hopeful Jack Bartholomew of Beechdean AMR kept the championship leaders in sight for the best part of an hour, but couldn’t force a move. GT3 racer and outgoing GT4 champion Ross Gunn was parachuted in alongside him for the final two rounds, but they were unable to overturn the 2.5-point deficit. Brake problems caused them to sink to sixth in class at the flag.
In British F3, a frantic Saturday for Carlin’s pre-weekend championship leader Ricky Collard handed Matheus Leist of Double R Racing the advantage. Collard’s day ended in the gravel, his Sunday then hamstrung by a five-place grid penalty for contact. Leist meanwhile claimed victory and a 20-point championship lead with two races to go.
Collard made slow progress in the reverse-grid race two, gaining the attention of the stewards again on the way to 10th when he clashed with Enzo Bortoleto for the second time in two days – the Brazilian being tipped into a slow roll at Melbourne.
Leist moved steadily into the top five to all but seal the title, adding an additional five points to his championship lead. Ninth place in race three would be enough for him to become Double R’s first British F3 champion since Mike Conway exactly 10 years ago – and the first F3 champion since Martin Cao beat a handful of rivals in 2014.
Unlike Adam and Johnston, Leist was happily buried in the thick of the action in the finale going wheel-to-wheel with Collard in the opening laps. Leist had no plans to let him by, instead claiming a nervy fifth ahead of Collard to wrap up the title.
Toby Sowery, who entered the weekend with the slimmest of chances for the title and the season as one to beat, dominated Sunday by winning both races comfortably. Jack Phillips