GT3 & 4 titles on the line as British GT approaches home straight at Snetterton
3rd August 2016
This year’s British GT Championship enters its final third at Snetterton this weekend where two one-hour races could go some way to deciding the 2016 GT3 and GT4 drivers’ titles.
The Norfolk venue’s 13-turn, 2.969-mile ‘300’ layout certainly has recent form given that Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn clinched the junior crown there 12 months ago. However, that’s the only time in series history that a British GT title has been decided at Snetterton.
Indeed, it’s also where 2015’s long-time GT3 points leaders Barwell Motorsport/Ecurie Ecosse stuttered, leaving the door ajar for Beechdean AMR’s Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard to clinch the crown one round later.
The shoe is very much on the other foot this weekend, though, when Adam and TF Sport co-driver Derek Johnston attempt to reassert their authority in a GT3 title scrap now featuring three crews covered by just 10.5 points. Meanwhile, Beechdean AMR’s Jack Bartholomew arrives as the aggressor eager to bridge his GT4 points deficit to PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport’s class leading pair of Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson.
But with 50 of the remaining 87.5 points up for grabs at Snetterton, there’s still every chance fresh contenders could emerge…
GT3: Top four within victory of championship lead
While any number of 10 crews can still mathematically win this year’s drivers’ crown, the most likely candidates comprise three line-ups representing as many teams and manufacturers: TF Sport’s Derek Johnston and Jonny Adam (Aston Martin), Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen (Lamborghini), and Team Parker Racing’s Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris (Bentley).
Just 10.5 points cover the trio after Parfitt Jnr and Morris took advantage of tough weekends for their rivals by finishing second at Spa. A resulting 7-second success penalty might check their progress in the opening race at Snetterton but any subsequent lost points could be regained in the second, especially given that Morris – who has four pole positions to his name this season – will qualify and start the Continental GT3 second time around.
Meanwhile, the championship-leading Aston Martin is most definitely due a result after failing to finish on the podium since winning the opening two rounds. Reigning champion Adam certainly knows his way around Snetterton; he won there 12 months ago to make sure of his place in the title decider. And, with co-driver Johnston also part of a TF Sport double podium there last season, there’s no reason why the championship leaders won’t be at the sharp end.
Minshaw and Keen’s quiet but consistent progress since failing to finish on the opening weekend at Brands sees them lie just 8.5 point behind the V12 Vantage. While they and Barwell Motorsport finished second at Snetterton last season, they also witnessed the sister car lose a large chunk of its championship lead, which ultimately had a significant bearing on the final outcome. The pair can also take plenty of confidence from finishing third in the 24 Hours of Spa’s Pro-Am class last weekend.
But what of the comparative outsiders? Well, Liam Griffin won at Snetterton last season to put him in the title frame at the final round, and he’ll need a similar result this time around if he’s to close the 24.5 points that currently stand between him and top-spot. He’ll also be hoping Barwell co-driver Alexander Sims can display the same sort of pace that helped him claim Pro pole position there in 2015, as well as 24 Hours of Spa victory last weekend.
TF Sport’s second Aston Martin driven by Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes lies fifth in the standings, just two points behind Griffin, following a popular victory at Spa last time out. The pair also secured their best British GT result of the 2015 campaign at Snetterton, and a similar showing this time – albeit with the hinderance of a first race 10-second success penalty – might also put them in the championship frame at Donington.
Elsewhere, few would discount Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne who come into the weekend 35 points adrift of the championship lead, 12.5 fewer than at the same stage of last season. A decent weekend – likely featuring their maiden GT3 wins – could well see them heading into the final round with it all still to play for.
This weekend’s GT3 field also features Ultimate Speed’s Mike Brown – joined for the first time by Matt Manderson – who returns for his second outing of the year after competing at Silverstone, while Tolman Motorsport’s Ginetta of Luke Davenport and David Pattison also returns after missing Spa due to the latter’s business commitments.
British GT3 Am drivers in Intercontinental GT Challenge title contention post-Spa
As well as British GT drivers and teams scoring impressive race results at last weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, a number of the championship’s gentleman drivers also collected valuable points towards the new Intercontinental GT Challenge, which concludes with the Sepang 12 Hours on December 8-11.
Minshaw’s class podium sees him occupy fourth place after the opening two rounds, just 10 points behind the class leader. And with a maximum of 25 up for grabs in Malaysia, the British GT Championship contender could also be a threat on the global GT stage.
2012 British GT champion Daniele Perfetti is just one place and three points further back in fifth, while the likes of 2014 title winner Marco Attard and runner-up Ahmad Al Harthy also retain chance of stealing the crown.
GT4: Johnson & Robinson aiming to emulate Chadwick & Gunn
For the second consecutive season the British GT4 title could be settled at Snetterton. 12 months on from Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn’s record-breaking crown it’s Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson’s turn to visit Norfolk at the head of the standings.
In fairness their chances of wrapping up the class title with a round to spare look a lot slimmer than the teenage duo’s did last season. While the Beechdean AMR crew enjoyed a 42.5-point advantage, Johnson and Robinson lead by a comparatively slender 17.5, 20 short of the total required to claim the title before Donington. And the likelihood reduces still further when factoring in their opening race 7-second success penalty for finishing as runners-up at Spa.
Nevertheless, with a total of 50 points available across both one-hour races, it’s not impossible that the PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport crew could become the first Ginetta drivers to win a GT4 crown since Rick Parfitt Jnr and Ryan Ratcliffe in 2013.
Since then it’s been a Beechdean AMR and Aston Martin lock-out, a trend that Jack Bartholomew and his new co-driver – none other than Gunn – would dearly like to prolong in 2016. While a victory isn’t strictly necessary, scoring the full 25 points from at least one of Sunday’s contests would at least give his Ginetta rivals something to think about. Doing so would also make them the first V8 Vantage crew to win a British GT4 race at Snetterton.
Although this year’s title looks set to be played out between those two cars, just 6.5 points cover positions three to seven in the standings, any number of which could force their way into title contention this weekend.
Century Motorsport’s Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke currently occupy third overall, 39.5 points shy of top-spot. They’ll need to lower that deficit by two over the course of the weekend if they’re to travel to Donington’s finale with any hope of contesting the title.
Half-a-point further back lie the first of RCIB Insurance Racing’s contenders, Jordan Stilp and William Phillips, whose consistent approach has kept their mathematical hopes alive. Marcus Hoggarth and Abbie Eaton’s Ebor GT Maserati is next up thanks to a similarly stealthy season, while the winners of British GT’s last two races – Lanan Racing’s Alex Reed and Joey Foster, and RCIB Insurance Racing’s Rob Barrable and Aaron Mason – also find themselves in the mix.
A Lotus Evora started on pole and won on ‘home’ ground last season, and one of the models returns to the British GT4 fold this weekend thanks to Stratton Motorsport, Richard Taffinder and Martin Plowman. Meanwhile, Bradley Ellis and Ade Barwick re-unite in a Ginetta, run by Simpson Motorsport.
BRITISH GT LAP RECORDS: SNETTERTON 300
GT3 1m50.398s Jonny Adam Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage 2015
GT4 1m59.458s Marcus Clutton ABG Motorsport KTM X-Bow 2011
BRITISH GT SNETTERTON TIMETABLE
Saturday 6 August
09:25 – 10:25: Free Practice 1
12:15 – 13:05: Free Practice 2
16:10 – 16:20: Qualifying GT3 Am
16:24 – 16:34: Qualifying GT3 Pro
16:38 – 16:48: Qualifying GT4 Am
16:53 – 17:03: Qualifying GT4 Pro
Saturday 7 August
09:30 – 09:40: Warm-up
11:50 – 12:50: Race 1
16:05 – 17:05: Race 2
PIT-STOP SUCCESS PENALTIES
10s – Farmer and Barnes (#11)
07s – Parfitt Jnr and Morris (#31)
10s – Reed and Foster (#51)
07s – Johnson and Robinson (#50)
05s – Graham and Mitchell (#42)
Track Days / Test Days / MotorsportDays.com