The #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVOII was never headed during the first of two one-hour races on the Snetterton 300 circuit this morning. Shaun Balfe and Sandy Mitchell enjoyed the closest thing the British GT Championship has to an easy race while the horde of battling GT3 and GT4 cars behind entertained.
Both Balfe and Mitchell have won races in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship, but this is their first race win as a team.
In GT4 it was similar for Freddie Tomlinson and Stuart Middleton. Tomlinson started the Raceway Motorsport Ginetta G56 GT4 before handing it over to the former GT4 champion. Middleton has won in British GT before but for Tomlinson and the team, it was a maiden visit to the top step.
GT3 – Sun Brings Heat, Barwell Play it Cool
Victory for the #78 Lamborghini was almost never in doubt, with Shaun Balfe starting the car by far the most experienced Am on the grid had the pole. The race was almost won in the steward’s room where James Cottingham’s appeal against a five-place grid penalty denied the Mercedes-AMG 1st on the grid.
That being said, Shaun Balfe still had to win it. The conditions were favourable, but Balfe drove a flawless stint, staying out as the pack behind pitted, to ensure the #78 led every lap of the race.
Once through the first sector, Balfe settled into building a gap of six seconds before the mandatory pit stop and handing over to Sandy Mitchell. The 2020 champion built the lead to 11 seconds then settled into cruise mode to bring the car home for the team’s first overall win of the year.
Behind the serene Lamborghini, if such a thing can exist, was a swarm of battling BMW, McLaren, Mercedes and Aston Martin GT3 cars. Simon Orange was the revelation of the first half of the race, carving his way through the traffic to pressure Darren Leung’s Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 coming to the stops.
The #67 Orange Racing by JMH Mclaren 720S GT3 EVO couldn’t maintain the performance though as an unsafe release after handing over to Michael O’Brien netted a drive-through penalty. It was one of many penalties handed out as a result of the stops in the small and very busy Snetterton pit lane.
Another impressive run was from GT3 debutant Matt Topham, who ran with the big boys throughout his stint. The Enduro Motorsport McLaren picked up a stop-and-go penalty for their pitstop. This also affected the #42 RACELAB McLaren, the #11 Paddock Motorsport McLaren and later, the #86 Toro Verde GT Ginetta.
The big mover in the pits was Sky Tempesta Racing, who entered in fifth and came out in second place, with Chris Froggatt taking over from Kevin Tse. Froggatt, a silver-graded driver, would eventually succumb to pressure from Dan Harper’s BMW M4 and fell to third. Rob Bell secured third later in the race with the Sky Tempesta car a strong fourth.
A great debut for the newly EVO’d #8 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Team Abba Racing saw dad and lad team Richard and Sam Neary secure second in Silver-Am, behind the Tse/Froggatt pairing, and fifth overall. Sam Neary crossed the line ahead of the recovering Jonny Adam, whose #4 Mercedes-AMG held off Ross Gunn’s Aston Martin to take sixth place.
The Beechdean AMR machine would later fall to 17th from seventh as a result of a 45-second penalty for accident responsibility.
GT4 – Middleton Magnificent to Secure Raceway Motorsport Victory
One team whose season turned around at Snetterton was Raceway Motorsport. The Ginetta G56 GT4, from both teams, has had an underwhelming season to date but a combination of Stuart Middleton’s masterful handling of the opening stint and Freddie Tomlinson’s controlled drive in the latter part of the race meant the #56 machine from Raceway took the team’s maiden win.
Capping off the dream race for the team, Michael Crees and Tom Holland worked their way to the lead of Silver Cup by the end of the race, and to second place in GT4 overall.
Behind Middleton in the first stint, Josh Miller and Aston Millar for R Racing and DTO Motorsport respectively reprised their qualifying battle. The duel turned against them at the stops, when the fifth-placed Raceway Pro-Am car leapfrogged the Silver Cup runners ahead by virtue of the compensation time for a silver/silver driver lineup.
The second half of the race was highlighted by a four-way scrap for the final step of the podium which was eventually claimed by R Racing’s Seb Hopkins.
The DTO Motorsport McLaren Artura GT4 and both Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4s tried for the entire stint to get past the Aston Martin. Despite firm but fair racing, and a bit of intra-team rubbing from the #22 on the back of the #14, the result didn’t change.